Make or Break Rookies RB’s
It’s always tough to predict which rookie RB will have the biggest impact in the NFL in his first season. It’s even tougher when trying to narrow down the players who are actually worth spending one of your high fantasy draft picks on. Rolling the dice on a young unproven player can be risky, but it’s immensely rewarding if it pans out. Personally, I would rather take a chance on a rookie later in the draft to avoid any backfire. As for every Ezekiel Elliott, there’s a Laquon Treadwell who makes you regret ever drafting them.
Elliott has driven up rookie expectations this year despite 2017 being another strong draft class of rookies. Nevertheless, the following are four Fantasy running back rookies that could make or break your season.
Scouts have been salivating over the professional debut of Leonard Fournette since he was at LSU. Now the bruising RB will take the field for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and many are wondering if he could be the next Ezekiel Elliott. Fournette was selected 4th overall in the 2017 NFL draft, the same exact spot as Zek the year before.
Elliott was a revelation for Dallas last year, but beyond his freakish athletic abilities, he had the luxury of playing behind perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL. The O-line for the Jaguars is ranked 13th in the NFL and shouldn’t be able to provide anywhere near the protection the Cowboys did for Elliott.
With running backs like Lamar Miller, Isaiah Crowell, and even Todd Gurley all being draft around the same position, it’s hard to buy into a rookie RB that plays for the Jaguars. The offensive line is average at best, and the Jaguars are still a team in a rebuilding mode. How much will Fournette be used when the team is trailing by three scores in the second half? The hype on Fournette to be this year’s next first round rookie stud could backfire if you’re not careful.
- Average Draft Position (Standard): 2.07, RB12
- Average Draft Position (PPR Scoring): 2.11, RB12
- Fantasy Risk: Medium
Joe Mixon has a very strong chance of being the starting back at the beginning of the season and could be a key component of the Bengals offense in 2017. However, much like Fournette, the Bengals offensive line isn’t great. Recently, Pro Football Focus graded the Bengals as having the 31st worst ranked offensive line in football.
Giovani Bernard (ACL) could be held out of the “first couple of regular season games” but is still expected to be part of the offense when he returns. In the meantime, Jeremy Hill will fill the void and Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official website, expects Jeremy Hill also to be a factor on offense for Cincinnati this season.
There are a lot of questions to be answered in training camp, which makes Mixon such a gamble in the middle of the 3rd round in drafts.
- Average Draft Position (Standard): 3.07, RB15
- Average Draft Position (PPR Scoring): 3.11, RB16
- Fantasy Risk: Medium to High
2016 was a rough year for the Carolina Panthers. There’s almost always an inevitable hangover after a Super Bowl appearance, but few could have predicted the team’s precipitous drop-off.
Running back Jonathan Stewart, who believe it or not, was a strong choice for Super Bowl MVP in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50, actually put up a solid performance in 2016 for a team bereft of offensive weapons. But that was all quickly forgotten the second the Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey.
The Stanford phenom is a versatile playmaker who’s particularly well-regarded for his route running abilities and should make for a perfect complement to Stewart. McCaffrey should receive a decent amount of playing time out of the gate but is unlikely to have a huge fantasy impact. Consider him a value pick if he falls in a PPR league, but a high risk nonetheless.
The Panthers’ website expects Jonathan Stewart to “see the bulk of the carries” despite the addition of Christian McCaffrey.
- Average Draft Position (Standard): 3.10, RB16
- Average Draft Position (PPR Scoring): 3.10, RB15
- Fantasy Risk: High
Dalvin Cook was positively electric for Florida State and is expected to be a big part of the 2017 Minnesota offense. Now that the Adrian Peterson era is over for the Vikings, it’s time to pass the torch.
Cook has explosive speed, great footwork and could surprise a lot of people. However, the Vikings also have a troublesome offensive line. The Vikings ranked 14th by PFF, just behind Jacksonville. The team spent time and money rebuilding the line with the signing of Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in the offseason. However, it’s important to remember that Remmers was exposed as a player woefully out of his depth for the Panthers in 2016, and he’ll have to do much better to impress for Minnesota.
Cook also still needs to beat Latavius Murray for the starting job. Murray, a very unpopular player in the fantasy football community with inflated stats, signed with the team in the offseason. Despite being a veteran player, it’s Murray’s job to lose and not one he’ll give up without a fight.
- Average Draft Position (Standard): 5.08, RB26
- Average Draft Position (PPR Scoring): 6.06, RB29
- Fantasy Risk: Medium
Fantasy owners love to take risks with rookies, but I’m not sure these four players are worth the gamble in 2017 considering where they are being drafted. I would much rather take a chance on a player like Marlon Mack (11.11), Jamaal Williams (10.08), Kareem Hunt (8.06) or Samaje Perine (7.09).
Mike is the founding member at Gridiron Experts with over 1000+ articles credited to his name. With over 25 years of fantasy experience, Mike has a very unique style when picking sleepers and gems. He has always had an outside the box look on the NFL and rarely gets sucked into the hype over players or buzzing offenses. Mike has three kids and lives on the West Coast. He’s happily married to a beautiful woman who also loves sports. Sundays are spent with friends and family watching games from opening kickoff to well into the evenings.