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With the 2018 NFL Draft in the books, we have another class of rookies that plan to make an impact in the fantasy world. Here is my list of rookies to target in redraft and dynasty leagues.
1. Saquon Barkley
Going back to 2012 every RB that has been drafted in the top 10 of the NFL draft has also finished as a top 10 RB in fantasy football their rookie year and I don’t think that changes this season. The additions of Solder, Omameh and Hernandez during the offseason should drastically improve their 26th ranked OL (according to PFF) from last year and with defenses having to worry about Beckham, Shepard and Engram in the passing game defenses won’t be able to stack the box. Barkley is also a very efficient receiver catching 54 passes last year for Penn State and will be the perfect dual-threat RB for owners in PPR leagues. You can draft him in the first round with no regrets.
2. Royce Freeman
Last year, the Broncos ranked 12th in rushing offense but struggled in the red zone ranking 25th in the NFL with eight rushing TDs. Meanwhile, Freeman compiled 64 TD’s in his career at Oregon and has already found the end zone twice this preseason. With CJ Anderson getting shipped off to Carolina Freeman’s only competition in the backfield is Devontae Booker, who has a career average of 3.6 YPC and has shown a lack of explosiveness with only one career run of 20+ yards. With offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s run-first offense, which has ranked top 10 in the NFL five times in eight years, and Freeman’s ability to pass block on third down, I see “Rolls Royce” being the Broncos bell cow back this season and being talked about as this years Kareem Hunt. Currently holding a 5th-6th round ADP, don’t be scared to jump on him in the 4th to assure he’s on your team.
3. Michael Gallup
Drafted 81 overall in the 2018 Draft, Michael Gallup landed in the perfect situation in Dallas. With Dez Bryant getting released, Jason Witten retiring, and no true #1 WR on the team Gallup has stepped up early in camp and has gotten 85% of the first-team reps in the first two games of the preseason. This has landed Terrence Williams on the hot seat and continued production from Gallup in the teams final two preseason games will likely lead to him getting leapfrogged on the depth chart. I could easily see Gallup leading the Cowboys in receiving yards by years end and is my #1 WR to draft in dynasty leagues.
4. Ronald Jones
Ronald Jones has struggled this preseason rushing 12 times for 11 yards and a TD his first two games which has allowed Peyton Barber to steal the starting gig by default. Jones was a second-round pick however, at No. 38 overall, so the Buccaneers have a strong investment in him. I expect him to start the year as a change-of-pace back and slowly work his way into a 50/50 timeshare. Jones does need to improve his hands though if he expects to see the field on third down. With Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers both being free agents at the end of the year I see Ronald Jones being a solid dynasty stash with handcuff upside and big year potential in 2019.
5. Kerryon Johnson
The Detroit Lions backfield is very reminiscent of the Giants “Earth, Wind and Fire” backfield from 2008 that was led by Jacobs, Bradshaw and Ward. Blount is expected to get the bulk of the goalline carries while Riddick comes in for passing down situations, but the best pure runner in this group is Kerryon Johnson. I expect him to get a good amount of work between the 20’s and more carries as the season goes on. Ameer Abdullah looks to be the odd man out here and with his injury history looks to be out the door in 2019. I expect Johnson to be a matchup and game flow dependent flex option this year, and by 2019 I see him being the bell cow for Detroit.
6. Calvin Ridley
Another WR who landed in a great position, Calvin Ridley will get the opportunity to line up alongside All-Pro WR Julio Jones in an offense led by former MVP Matt Ryan. With a healthy running game and defenses looking to double-team Jones, Ridley is somewhat of a forgotten man in the offense and will have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of that early in the season. I expect a 750 yard 4 TD rookie campaign and a slight bump in those numbers his sophomore year if Julio decides to hold out yet again come 2019.
7. D.J. Moore
Taken as the #1 WR off the board in the 2018 Draft, D.J. Moore is a player with big-play ability and is someone who can stretch the field for a team that only had two 40+ yard completions to their WR’s last year. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Carolina with McCaffrey, Olsen and Funchess but Moore will easily separate himself from Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright as the season goes on. Cam Newton’s accuracy issues could hurt his short-term fantasy stock but with the lack of depth at the position he is worth the risk in the middle rounds, especially in dynasty leagues.
8. Rashaad Penny
Rashaad Penny recently returned to practice this week after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his finger and is expected to be ready for week 1. Chris Carson however, is expected to be the starting RB to open the season. With the Seahawks investing a 1st round pick in Penny I still expect him to have a sizeable role but one thing that worries me is the 16lb’s he gained since the Combine. If Rashaad is out of shape going into the year it could spell trouble for his production. On the bright side though, Rashaad Penny led the FBS in YPC after contact last season and now finds himself behind an offensive line that ranked 27th in the NFL (according to PFF) and was near the bottom of the league in yards before contact. If Carson fails to find open space when the season begins you could see Carroll altering his strategy and giving Penny the starting job. At this point in time, Rashaad Penny’s 67 ADP is too rich for me but if he falls in your draft he could be a solid handcuff/flex option down the road.
9. James Washington
James Washington broke out in a big way against the Packers in preseason compiling 5 catches, 114 yards and 2 TDs. Expected to start right away in three-receiver sets, Washington could be a valuable late-round flex play. In 2017 Brown, JuJu and Bryant all logged at least 50 receptions. JuJu Smith-Schuster was able to turn that into a 917-yard season. Washington, who averaged 20 yards per reception in college could realistically surpass that number if given the same opportunity. Currently ranked outside the top 200 in most fantasy leagues, Washington is a steal in the mid to late rounds and will far outperform his preseason ADP.
10. Nick Chubb
Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson are both ahead of Chubb on the Brown’s depth chart, but he could realistically get a chance at the starting job at some point this year. Injuries are always a risk with Hyde, who in his four-year tenure in the NFL has only been able to get through an entire 16 game season once in his career. Johnson, on the other hand, is expected to mostly be used as a pass catching and 3rd down back. Chubb has shown promise in the preseason, compiling 110 yards in the first 3 games and is worth a stash in the later rounds.
11. Christian Kirk
Rated the #1 slot receiver in this year’s draft, Christian Kirk now finds himself in Arizona getting to learn from all-time great Larry Fitzgerald. Playing under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Kirk will have a high-volume role as the #2 receiver option in the Cardinals offense that could see him get an upward of 80 targets. I expect him to finish the season with roughly 800 yards and 5 TD’s and is someone I am gunning for in dynasty leagues with Fitzgerald’s future in question.
12. Sony Michel
Currently nursing a knee injury that forced him to have his knee drained earlier this month, Sony Michel will miss all of the preseason and is expected to miss the first couple weeks of the regular season as well. Even so, Michel is still a viable late-round gamble. With Dion Lewis now in Tennessee and Burkhead dealing with a knee injury of his own the Patriots first-round pick has an ample opportunity to pick up where Dion Lewis left off. With Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola leaving in the offseason and Julian Edelman suspended the first four weeks of the season New England will rely heavily on their backfield to produce yardage. Currently a late round stash with mid to late season flex appeal.
13. Courtland Sutton
Courtland Sutton has impressed this offseason, winning the teams #3 WR job heading into the year. With Sanders lining up in the slot in 3 wide sets and Sutton lining up outside, to take advantage of his big size and frame, he could be a big contributor this season, especially in the red zone. As for dynasty leagues, come 2019 Sanders and Thomas will both be on the final year of their contract and will be a combined $30mil cap hit. With both receivers being over 30 years old it is very possible that one, if not both, receivers are gone and will open the door for Sutton to take over as the teams #1 WR. With a 140 ADP he is someone I’d draft closer to round 10 in dynasty leagues.
14. Nyheim Hines
Hines drew a lot of praise in training camp and sounded like a lock to be the team’s passing-down back and primary kick returner. Then he went and coughed up the ball four times in his first two preseason games. Hines has a lot of work to do to regain the coaching staff’s trust, but his versatility is a perfect fit for this Colts offense. Highly driven by the passing game, Hines has the ability to be a PPR nightmare lining up in the slot, out wide, and catching out of the backfield. Expected to be in the doghouse to start the year, if Mack and company don’t produce early on we could see a highly motivated Nyheim Hines who some have called the next Darren Sproles. He’s currently a bench stash with RB2/flex PPR upside if he fixes the fumble issues.
15. Anthony Miller
The Bears traded up to get Anthony Miller in the second round of the 2018 Draft and are hoping he becomes what they imagined Kevin White would have been. Miller adds a much needed deep threat to this team that was lacking last season and has been getting work with the first-team offense. Allen Robinson is coming off an ACL tear and is still a question mark as to how he’ll perform. Meanwhile, newcomer Taylor Gabriel has missed all of the preseason with a nagging foot injury. If Miller continues to perform it is possible we’ll be seeing him start week one against the Packers. If Trubisky can fix his accuracy issues Miller, who currently has an ADP of 150, could easily outperform his projection.
- QB Sam Darnold (New York Jets)
- QB Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
- QB Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
- RB Derrius Guice (Injury) (Washington Redskins)
- RB Kalen Ballage (Miami Dolphins)
- RB Jordan Wilkins (Indianapolis Colts)
- RB Mark Walton (Cincinnati Bengals)
- WR Dante Pettis (San Francisco 49ers)
- WR Antonio Callaway (Cleveland Browns)
- WR DJ Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars)
- WR Tre’Quan Smith (New Orleans Saints)
- WR Keke Coutee (Houston Texans)
- WR Marque Valdez-Scantling (Green Bay Packers)
- WR Trey Quinn (San Francisco 49ers)
- WR Braxton Berrios (New England Patriots)
- TE Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins)
- TE Hayden Hurst (Baltimore Ravens)
- TE Dallas Goedert (Philadelphia Eagles)
- TE Mark Andrews (Baltimore Ravens)
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