Analyzing the Rookies
As the NFL Draft approaches, fantasy analysts and fans alike try to predict which rookies will have the most significant impact in fantasy football leagues. Rookies have not been added to NFL rosters yet, so it allows us to look at them in more of vacuum. However, after this weekend that will no longer be the case. Each rookie will be on an NFL roster and with that comes a lot of change. In this article, I will offer the best potential fantasy landing spots for NFL rookies. I will not look at specific rookies but instead look at NFL teams that have the most potential for opportunity for a rookie to thrive. Whether that be because of a rookie’s potential workload and their role on a potent offense that allows them to succeed.
Seattle Seahawks – Wide Receiver, Running Back, and Tight End
So who exactly is left on the Seattle Seahawks offense? Well, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and that pretty much sums it up. They lost Thomas Rawls, Paul Richardson, and Jimmy Graham in free agency, so there is a big void in the offense. I like Seattle for any offensive rookie because I think the opportunity is there for them to step in and produce. Wilson has shown that he can produce even with less than stellar talent around him, so any rookie that earns a starting role should become fantasy relevant.
Consider this: Tyler Lockett is the number two wide receiver, Chris Carson/Mike Davis are competing for the number one running back spot, and Ed Dickson is the best tight end left. It may not be too hard for a rookie to climb the depth chart. Lastly, throw in the fact that the Seahawks defense looks to be on a steady decline, Wilson could be dropping back to throw 40 plus times per game. Remember garbage points still count in fantasy!
Denver Broncos – Wide Receiver, Running Back, and Tight End
The Broncos have made a lot of changes this offseason to their offense. Case Keenum is the new quarterback, and C.J. Anderson will be on a different team. John Elway as already said according to BroncosWire “It’s a deep running back class as I’m sure you’ve heard,” Elway said. “[When we will select one] goes back into seeing how the board goes in that point in time and where everything is. It’s hard to predict where they are going to end up. It is a deep class. We feel good about the fact that we’ll be able to get a good one.”
There is an opportunity for a rookie running back here in Denver. Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson are the only two other running backs on the depth chart. Considering Anderson rushed for an acceptable 4.1 yards per carry last year, I am not concerned about the offensive line underperforming. A solid running back will be able to produce in this offense.
I also think that if the Broncos bring in a rookie tight end or rookie wide receiver, there could be value in deeper leagues. The number three wide receiver spot is up for grabs, and both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are 30 or older. Could be an excellent opportunity for the rookie receiver to find a role especially if they can play the slot. For a tight end, unless Jake Butt can return back to a pre-injury form that position is also wide open. Keenum used Kyle Rudolph a ton in the red zone last season with the Vikings, so that is also something to pay close attention to.
Washington Redskins – Wide Receiver, Running Back, and Tight End
This roster is honestly very underwhelming. No wide receiver really stands out as a number one, and it’s anybody’s guess who will become Alex Smith’s favorite target. That opens an equal opportunity for a rookie to come in and attempt to establish chemistry with Smith.
In 2009, Smith targeted rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree 86 times which was second highest on the team that season. Then in 2014, Smith heavily targeted Travis Kelce who essentially was rookie, because he missed his first season due to injury. And most recently rookie Tyreek Hill in 2016, that also received the second most targets that season. If a rookie has talent, Smith will utilize him.
Concerning running back, I highly anticipate the Redskins investing a moderately high pick. Rob Kelley is just an average back, Chris Thompson has a limited role, and I am not convinced the Redskins are all that impressed by Samaje Perine. The team as a whole rushed for 3.7 yards per carry, the third worst in the NFL last season. Any running back taken by the Redskins in the NFL Draft I will be targeting in fantasy. Running backs playing alongside Smith have always produced well in fantasy.
Oakland Raiders – Wide Receiver, Tight End, Running Back
Since becoming the head coach, Jon Gruden has shaken up the Oakland Raiders roster. I believe that this trend will continue into the 2018 NFL Draft. With so many holes to fill on both sides of the ball, I am sure that many Raiders rookies will find themselves on the field very frequently. On the offensive side of the ball, a rookie could step in and become a starter at wide receiver, running back and/or and tight end. The starters that they have in place beside wide receiver Amari Cooper could be outperformed. Heck, even Cooper could be beaten out if he plays like he did last year.
One note, is I do not particularly like the Raiders’ offense as whole going into 2018. However, I like the situation that a rookie could find themselves in there in terms of workload. A lot of potential there in Oakland.
San Franciso 49ers – Wide Receiver
The 49ers did not sign any marquee wide receivers during the free agency period, so it appears they will be addressing the position in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon are the two starters. Trent Taylor looks like the slot guy. Behind that though, they do not have much. A rookie wide receiver has a real opportunity because of their depth at the position. Additionally, playing in a dynamic offense with Jimmy Garropolo and Kyle Shanahan offers a ton of upside.
Green Bay Packers – Wide Receiver
If Green Bay take a wide receiver in the NFL Draft, you have to like the upside with Aaron Rodgers. However, it is essential to keep in mind that Rodgers has not always produced well with rookie receivers. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and Ty Montgomery all had less than 40 receptions and 500 receiving yards in their rookie seasons with Rodgers at the helm.
Houston Texans – Tight End, Running Back
The Texans have Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson as their starting tight ends. They both have limited upside. A more athletic and natural pass-catching tight end with Deshaun Watson at quarterback is much more interesting. For running back Lamar Miller is a snoozefest, and there is no guarantee D’Onta Foreman will be ready come Week 1. Houston is a sneaky good landing spot for a rookie running back.
Miami Dolphins – Tight End, Wide Receiver
DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, and Kenny Stills lead the Dolphins receiver room. A.J. Derby/MarQueis Gray lead the tight ends. Bleh. Considering Parker and Amendola will be hurt by Week 5, there could be potential for a rookie wide receiver. With little competition at tight end, a rookie tight end would be in a similar spot. One can only hope Adam Gase can get another Julius Thomas like in good ol’ Denver.
New York Giants – Running Back
Current running backs on the roster: Johnthan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Terrell Watson, Jalen Simmons. Considering this group ran for a combined 3.9 yards per carry and just 0.4 touchdowns per game, they could upgrade. With newly acquired Nate Solder at left tackle, I like the potential of a rookie running back here as well.
Arizona Cardinals – Wide Receiver, Tight End
There is David Johnson, there is Larry Fitzgerald, and then there is…nothing! Not an offense that I am excited about with quarterback combo of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, but opportunity never the less.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Running Back
All a rookie needs to do is beat out Peyton Barber in camp to get the starting gig. In an offense that could end up being pretty good if Jameis Winston stays healthy, a rookie running back has opportunity and production upside if he lands in Tampa Bay.
Dallas Cowboys – Wide Receiver
No Dez, no problem. Look for the Cowboys to invest highly in a wide receiver in the NFL Draft. He could easily be the number one target by season’s end in Big D.
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