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5 Rookie Players You Need to Know in 2016

Fantasy Football Rookies 2016

With a new fantasy football season just around the corner, it is worth noting that a whole host of new faces are about to enter the NFL. Whether they were drafted early on day one, or had to wait for a call from a team only after Mr. Irrelevant was chosen to sign as an undrafted free agent, change is very much afoot. With all of these new faces, it can be easy to get confused as to which newbies deserve our focus for this upcoming fantasy season.

The following are five fantasy football rookies you need concern yourself with this years fantasy draft season. Now, I not saying you should reach for these players as not all rookies produce in their first year in the NFL, but you should at least learn a little bit about them before drafting them blind.

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys | RB

Ezekiel Elliott CowboysWidely predicted to be the best rookie running back since Todd Gurley all those months ago, Elliott has landed in an ideal situation for fantasy owners in 2016. The Cowboys are hoping to return to the model that worked so well for them in 2014, namely running the ball a ton. They finished third in rushing attempts in 2014, thanks to the force-feeding of Demarco Murray. Even last season, a year in which they went 4-12, they were still able to amass the ninth-most rushing yards in the league.

Elliott has competition in the Cowboys backfield, but with Darren McFadden recovering from an injury that may or may not be connected to a new iPhone, and Alfred Morris an absolute nonfactor in the passing game, Elliott should start the season as the man in situ. He is no mere two down plodder, having reeled in 27 and 28 passes in his last two seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Cowboys writer David Helman predicts a 280-300 carry season for the rookie, and if you throw in his receptions (McFadden say 40 catches last season, Murray 57 the year before) he should see the type of workload that makes fantasy owners very happy.

Sterling Shepard

New York Giants | WR

A favorite of wide receiver guru Matt Harmon, Shepard has the skills required to get open no matter a defense does to try and stop him. When writing about draft eligible receivers earlier this year, Harmon noted that “over a full Reception Perception sample, Shepard posted SRVC (Success Rate Versus Coverage) numbers akin to that of some of the best wide receivers in the NFL.” Shepard has quickly won the hearts and minds of pretty much everyone involved in the running of the New York Giants offense, from coaches to fellow players, and is likely to see plenty of snaps early and often. He saw most of his action in the slot at Oklahoma, and this is a position the Giants have struggled to fill since Victor Cruz first got injured back in 2014.

The Giants utilized three wide receiver sets more than any team in the league last season, aside from the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers, the former team of current Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. Whether he plays inside or outside, Shepard gives Eli Manning an additional weapon alongside the dynamic Odell Beckham. The drafting of Shepard at pick 40 marked the highest the Giants had taken a receiver since selecting Beckham, who posted a 91/1305/12 stat line in his rookie campaign. His presence is likely to make these numbers unachievable for Shepard, but he should still be able to push WR2/3 numbers in a pass heavy offense.

Corey Coleman

Cleveland Browns | WR

One of the surest indicators of professional success is past performance, and Coleman was certainly productive in college. In 2015, the Baylor standout led the nation with 20 receiving touchdowns. Another favorite of Matt Harmon, Coleman is a big play waiting to happen when the balls in his hands. Harmon’s Reception Perception work on Coleman reveals a player who is poised to silence the doubters who bemoan Baylor wide receivers inability to “run a full route tree” when they make it to the pros. Coleman was a productive deep threat, and also effective when used as a ground receiver close to the line of scrimmage (screens, crossing routes).

The Browns are starved for talent in so many areas, so a talent like Coleman should see plenty of the ball from whoever wins the QB job. With the team likely to struggle in 2016, they should be forced to pass the ball an awful lot. This should give Coleman ample opportunities to show his suitability for the NFL, and to justify his selections in any fantasy leagues.

Laquon Treadwell

Minnesota Vikings | WR

Some may question the inclusion of a rookie wide receiver on a roster built to run the ball, but even with limited opportunities, Treadwell should be able to show some return a fantasy investment. The number one prospect among the 2016 wide receiver class, he was eventually the fourth wideout taken behind Coleman, Will Fuller and Josh Doctson. Not exactly blessed with burning speed (his 4.63 40 yard dash time generated more than its fair share of unnecessary worry), he won’t be used to stretch the field for the Vikings. His main job will be to help them score in the opposition red zone.

The Vikings, with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, made it into the opposition red zone on 31% of their drives last season, good for 14th in the league. However, of these possessions, they were able to convert just 59% into touchdowns, the 8th lowest of all teams. Treadwell’s 6’2, 220lb body, should help Bridgewater immensely when it comes to scoring. Of QBs who attempted at least 50 passes inside the opposing 20-yard lines last season, only Jameis Winston of the Buccaneers had a lower completion percentage than Bridgewater’s 41%, while the nine scoring passes thrown by Teddy was the fewest of any signal caller with at least 50 attempts. Treadwell is unlikely to see a large volume of work, but his touchdown upside makes him a name to consider.

Austin Hooper

Atlanta Falcons | TE

Falcons
Check out: NFC Red Zone NFL Target Breakdown

Go big, or go home, a wise man once said. While it is an oft repeated fact that tight ends are rarely productive enough to warrant Fantasy consideration in their rookie season in the pros, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Hooper can buck this trend. Like the Vikings, the Atlanta Falcons were among the league’s most efficient teams with regards getting into the red zone, with a healthy 33% of their offensive possessions making it into the scoring area. This mark was good for 10th best in the league. However, in converting just 58% of these drives into touchdowns, they found themselves behind all but five teams.

With players of the caliber of Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman to get the Falcons moving between the 20s, Hooper has legitimate touchdown upside at fantasy football’s most volatile position. Only steady and reliable Jacob Tamme stands between Hooper and the starting job in Atlanta but given Tamme scored just once last season he may be lucky to see the five red zone targets he saw last year again in 2016. This work could, and should, go to the rookie.

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About the author

Neil Dutton

Neil's been playing fantasy football for ten years, including a victory in 2014 in a league arranged by NFL.com Fantasy expert Adam Rank. Huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and follows the fortunes of the England cricket team, usually with his head in his hands for both. Neil lives with his fiancé Kate and their daughter Zoe. He is an atrocious Words with Friends player.

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