NFL Draft Prospect

7 NFL Rookies With Fantasy Value You Should Know

NFL Rookies

Top 7 Fantasy Rookies You Should Know

After the Super Bowl wrapped up the 2022-2023 NFL season last weekend, we’re left with a long wait of nearly six months until the next meaningful football game is played, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any action happening on the fantasy football front. Free agency will start in just a few short weeks, and the NFL Draft will follow that in late April. It’s common to see a number of rookies become relevant fantasy contributors in their first year in the NFL, so today, we’ll be giving you everything you need to know about some of the top rookies in this year’s class to help prepare you for your dynasty and rookie drafts this off-season

Bijan Robinson – RB, Texas

  • 6’0″, 220 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: Mid-late first round

Robinson is as close to a consensus 1.01 as you’re going to get for rookie drafts. Entering the draft this year, many analysts are touting him as the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and for good reason. He logged 1,889 total yards and 18 touchdowns in just 12 games for the Longhorns this year, and he did it all with stellar efficiency running behind a mediocre offensive line.

For fantasy, he will be valuable for two main reasons: His pro-readiness and his projected draft capital. Running back is a position that usually has a pretty smooth transition to the NFL, and he has more than enough talent to be a top 20, or even top 15, player at the position immediately. Most project him to go sometime in the first round, and backs drafted with that type of capital almost always end up in a workhorse role. I like to compare him to Josh Jacobs coming out of college, and the path to success for him in the NFL is very clear.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba – WR, Ohio State

  • 6’1″, 200 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: Mid-late first round

To me, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is one of the most interesting players in this draft. He had an outstanding season in 2021, amassing over 1,600 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns on an Ohio State roster that featured two future first-round wideouts in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Smith-Njigba out produced them both that year, but this year, he totaled only four catches due to a hamstring injury that left him sidelined for most of the season. He stands out with how refined, intelligent, and mature he is as a receiver, but there are some concerns about his injury history and his straight-line speed.

There’s not one clear standout in this class of receivers for fantasy purposes at this point in the process, but Smith-Njigba is the one garnering the most hype so far. He’s the most pro-ready receiver in this class, and he will be a solid contributor one day one for whatever team he lands on. He has also proven to be effective as a high-volume possession receiver, and that gives him some really nice upside in PPR leagues. He isn’t a physical anomaly like some other players in this class, but if any WR prospect is a ‘lock’ to be a productive player at the next level, it’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Quentin Johnston – WR, TCU

  • 6’4″, 215 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: Early-mid first round

Johnston may have the highest ceiling of any skill position player in this draft. He stands at an impressive 6 feet 4 inches tall, and he still projects to run close to a 4.40 40 yard dash time despite his size. He holds a lot of potential with that frame, but he’s shown that he’s still very raw in many aspects of his game. He too often lets himself catch the ball with his body, and he doesn’t high point the ball as well as you’d expect for someone with his size. Johnston could be the type of prospect that takes a few years of development before he becomes a highly-productive player.

Most draft projections have him going in the top-15 picks of the first round, so some team will likely invest heavy capital into his potential. If you have a dynasty team that’s in win-now mode, he may not be the best pick for you. He needs some time to develop and may have a slow start to his NFL career, so he would be a better pick for a rebuilding team that isn’t in heavy contention. The TCU product can be best classified as a prototypical ‘high-risk, high-reward’ player for rookie drafts this year.

Jahmyr Gibbs – RB, Alabama

  • 5’11″, 200 lbs
  • Age: 20
  • Projected: Early second round

Drawing many comparisons to Alvin Kamara over his time at Alabama, Jahmyr Gibbs has proven to be one of the most dynamic players in all of college football. He totaled over 1,300 all-purpose yards in just 12 games played this season, and his most impressive trait has to be his pass-catching ability.

The potential value Gibbs brings to the table in PPR formats is immeasurable. He is one of only a few players with a true three-down skill set, and his versatility will allow him to thrive in any system he’s in. We’ve seen running backs with high receiving upside blow up the fantasy world over the past five or six seasons, and he is just as capable of doing the same as any running back we’ve seen enter the draft in years. Depending on your team’s needs and the needs of other teams in your league, Gibbs could go as high as the second pick in most rookie drafts this season.

Jordan Addison – WR, USC

  • 6’0″, 175 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: Mid-first round

No other receiver will come into this draft with more college production than Jordan Addison. He was honored with the Biletnikoff Award while at Pittsburgh in 2021, which is given annually to the nation’s top receiver. He transferred to USC for the 2022 season, where he continued to produce at a high level as the top receiving option for Heisman winner Caleb Williams.

As a player, Addison has a few shortcomings. He has great speed, solid route running, and has displayed the versatility to play out of the backfield or in motion. One concern for him moving forward is his size, however. He’s a smaller receiver and didn’t play against much press coverage in college, so there’s some concern that he will be limited to a slot role in the NFL. We’ve seen slot receivers become terrific fantasy options over the past few seasons, however, so that won’t necessarily be a major hindrance for his fantasy if that’s the case. Overall, Addison possesses a good mix of safety and potential that makes him an attractive top-five option in rookie drafts this season.

Michael Mayer – TE, Notre Dame

  • 6’4″, 265 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: Mid-late first round

Travis Kelce has been by far the most valuable tight end in fantasy football over the past five years or so, but if you don’t have him, you’ve likely been out of luck. No other TE’s have gotten close to his sustained success, but Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is the type of player that could play in the same ballpark as Kelce in the future. Simply put, he’s a great prospect. He’s the most complete tight end to come out of college since Kyle Pitts a few years ago, and Mayer seems like one of the few ‘can’t miss’ prospects in this draft class.

His skillset is similar to Kelce’s. He isn’t a freak from an athletic standpoint, but he plays with a high football IQ and can find the soft spot in any zone coverage. He also has the strong and steady hands that are ideal for a PPR monster, and he’s a competent-enough blocker to see the field consistently in year one. He’s a high-end prospect at the tight end position, and he could be worth a top-five rookie pick, given the value that a premier tight end option holds in fantasy football.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFaS5HPXIbI

Zay Flowers – WR, Boston College

  • 5’10”, 180 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Projected: late first round – early second round

Despite coming out of a smaller school in Boston College, Zay Flowers has been one of the biggest risers over the past few months. He’s impressed fans and scouts alike with his craftiness as a receiver and shiftiness with the ball in his hands, and he plays like a big receiver despite standing at just 5’10″. Naturally, many are concerned with how his size will translate to the NFL, so if he ends up dropping down draft boards, that will likely be the reason why.

Flowers’ draft stock is sitting in fringe first-round territory right now, and he could be a great fantasy asset if he’s picked as a late day-one guy. He projects to play almost exclusively from the slot at the NFL level, and he would be primed for year-one success if he’s drafted to a contender with a need at the receiver position. He doesn’t have the physical upside that someone like Quentin Johnston has, but it’s hard to see a future where Flowers isn’t at least a solid contributor in the NFL, so he comes in as one of the safer picks for rookie drafts.

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