The True Impact and Value of Fantasy Football Rookies

Impact of Fantasy Rookies

Are Fantasy Football Rookies Worth Their Investment?

In redraft leagues very few days of the football season are more exciting than the draft itself. It is the Christmas Day of fantasy football. Just like on the December holiday fantasy owners enter their draft looking to score some new toys, and just like when we were kids, the newest toys the industry has to offer is high on our list.

Often many fantasy owners find themselves drawn to the newest crop of rookies throughout their fantasy draft but the big question is, whether or not drafting rookies is a winning formula in redraft leagues?

In this article, I breakdown the statistics of fantasy rookies position by position to see just how valuable they are in their first season in the NFL.The data used for this in-depth look at the impact that rookies make on the fantasy landscape is from the previous 10 NFL seasons.

Learn more about this year’s crop of fantasy football rookies

Quarterbacks

Over the last 10 seasons 33 rookie quarterbacks have scored at least 70 fantasy points, and for the most part, those first-year signal callers made little impact on the fantasy football landscape.

Analysis:

Of the 33 rookie quarterbacks, only two of them did not meet or exceed the fantasy football average draft position (ADP) placed on them prior to their first season. Meaning that 31 of those signal callers provided value based on where they were being selected in fantasy drafts before playing a down in the NFL.

Despite a vast majority of these rookies providing value based on ADP, very few of them had a standing impact on fantasy in that first season. Only five of these 33 rookies finished inside the top-12 of fantasy scoring at their position in their first year in the NFL: Cam Newton (3rd), Robert Griffin III (5th), Russell Wilson (9th), Andrew Luck (10th) and Vince Young (9th).

Furthermore, no rookie quarterback since 2012 has finished inside the top-12 of scoring at the position, with the closest being Jameis Winston in 2015. The Buccaneers’ passer finished last season having scored the 13th-most fantasy points among quarterbacks.

With only five of 33 rookie quarterbacks making an impact in their first season, it’s easy to say that a rookie QB’s are hard to trust. But a deeper look suggests that you can in fact get decent production out of a rookie QB if they can run with the football. We all know we should wait on QB’s in fantasy drafts, we also know that QB’s that use their legs to pick up yards running are obviously worth more than a pocket passer. What is interesting is of the five rookie quarterbacks that finished inside the top-12 of fantasy scoring all rushed the ball with success in that first year in the NFL. All five of these signal callers finished inside the top five of rushing yards for quarterbacks in their first season.

Player Year Team Total FP PPG Played
Cam Newton 2011 CAR 368.3 23.02
Robert Griffin 2012 WAS 317.5 21.17
Russell Wilson 2012 SEA 277.6 17.35
Andrew Luck 2012 IND 276.5 17.28
Jameis Winston 2015 TAM 272.7 17.04
Vince Young 2006 TEN 209 13.93
Andy Dalton 2011 CIN 206.1 12.88
Marcus Mariota 2015 TEN 204 17
Geno Smith 2013 NYJ 193.7 12.11
Derek Carr 2014 OAK 192 12
Matt Ryan 2008 ATL 192 12
Sam Bradford 2010 STL 187.8 11.74
Ryan Tannehill 2012 MIA 182.9 11.43
Teddy Bridgewater 2014 MIN 179.7 13.82
Joe Flacco 2008 BAL 176.1 11.01
Blake Bortles 2014 JAX 168.2 12.01
Brandon Weeden 2012 CLE 165.6 11.04
Mike Glennon 2013 TAM 158 12.15
EJ Manuel 2013 BUF 133.5 13.35
Matt Leinart 2006 ARI 130.8 10.9
Mark Sanchez 2009 NYJ 128.4 8.56
Matthew Stafford 2009 DET 123.5 12.35
Christian Ponder 2011 MIN 116 10.55
Blaine Gabbert 2011 JAX 110.4 7.36
Tim Tebow 2010 DEN 97.9 10.88
Jason Campbell 2006 WAS 89.6 12.8
Bruce Gradkowski 2006 TAM 89.5 6.88
Colt McCoy 2010 CLE 88.9 11.11
Josh Freeman 2009 TAM 88.4 8.84
Nick Foles 2012 PHI 86.2 12.31
Matt McGloin 2013 OAK 78.6 11.23
Trent Edwards 2007 BUF 78.1 7.81
Zach Mettenberger 2014 TEN 70.89 10.13

 

Quarterback RushYards Rank
Cam Newton 706 1st
Robert Griffin III 815 1st
Russell Wilson 489 3rd
Andrew Luck 255 5th
Vince Young 552 2nd

Conclusion: If you are going to draft a rookie quarterback in your redraft fantasy leagues, be sure that he is mobile as the ability to gain rushing yards is the key to quarterback’s fantasy success in their first season in the NFL.

QB ADP Data breakdown

 

Running Backs

Doug Martin

58 rookie running backs have scored at least 75 fantasy points in their first year in the NFL in the last 10 years.

Analysis: Rookie running backs can be useful pieces as you build your fantasy roster, but keep in mind that when drafting a rookie ball carrier you are more likely adding depth than adding a back to anchor your fantasy lineup. Most rookie running backs finish the season ranked 21st or lower in fantasy scoring at the position.

The rookie RB position is safe. 74% of these 1st year running backs exceeded their fantasy football ADP

If you are targeting a rookie running back to be a RB1 or RB2 for your fantasy team, you best check where the ball carrier sits on his team’s depth chart. Albeit a simple analysis, it is all about opportunity when determining which rookie running backs will be worth targeting in your fantasy redraft leagues. Starts are the best indicator of fantasy success for running backs in their first season as a pro.

Of the top-10 fantasy performances by a rookie running back in the last 10 season, eight of them were by runners who started at least 12 games for his team. With the top three rookie running backs in the last 10 seasons (Martin, Forte, Morris) getting the starting gig in all 16 games for their respective teams.

Conclusion: Running back is a position where you can target rookies as you construct your fantasy roster, but if you want to find a RB1 or RB2 with your selection, draft ball carriers that are hands down the team’s top and only option in the running game.

RB data

Running Backs Year Tm GS TotalFP PPG Rank
Doug Martin 2012 TAM 16 262.6 16.41 2
Matt Forte 2008 CHI 16 242.5 15.16 4
Alfred Morris 2012 WAS 16 241 15.06 5
Adrian Peterson 2007 MIN 9 234.9 16.78 3
Maurice Jones-Drew 2006 JAX 1 226.7 14.17 8
Steve Slaton 2008 HOU 15 222.9 13.93 6
Chris Johnson 2008 TEN 14 207.8 13.85 11
Eddie Lacy 2013 GNB 15 207.5 13.83 6
Trent Richardson 2012 CLE 15 203.7 13.58 9
Todd Gurley 2015 STL 12 187.4 14.42 5
Jeremy Hill 2014 CIN 8 183.9 11.49 10
Marshawn Lynch 2007 BUF 13 176.2 13.55 12
Reggie Bush 2006 NOR 8 174.7 10.92 17
David Johnson 2015 ARI 5 173.8 10.86 7
Kevin Smith 2008 DET 12 172.2 10.76 18
Le’Veon Bell 2013 PIT 13 171.9 13.22 14
Knowshon Moreno 2009 DEN 9 166 10.38 17
Zac Stacy 2013 STL 12 157.4 11.24 18
Ryan Grant 2007 GNB 7 157.1 10.47 17
Jahvid Best 2010 DET 9 139.2 8.7 23
LeGarrette Blount 2010 TAM 7 134.1 10.32 24
Mike Bell 2006 DEN 3 130.5 8.7 30
Andre Williams 2014 NYG 7 127.1 7.94 28
Andre Ellington 2013 ARI 1 126.3 8.42 24
Jeremy Langford 2015 CHI 2 125.6 7.85 23
Ben Tate 2011 HOU 2 124 8.27 28
Tim Hightower 2008 ARI 7 121.6 7.6 32
T.J. Yeldon 2015 JAX 12 119.9 9.99 27
Tre Mason 2014 STL 9 119.3 9.94 24
Ryan Mathews 2010 SDG 9 119.3 9.94 31
DeMarco Murray 2011 DAL 7 119 9.15 30
Thomas Rawls 2015 SEA 7 118.6 9.12 25
LeSean McCoy 2009 PHI 4 118.5 7.41 36
Roy Helu 2011 WAS 5 117.9 7.86 32
Vick Ballard 2012 IND 12 114.6 7.16 25
Isaiah Crowell 2014 CLE 4 113.4 7.09 27
Karlos Williams 2015 BUF 3 113.3 10.3 31
Leon Washington 2006 NYJ 8 113 7.06 35
Branden Oliver 2014 SDG 7 109.3 7.81 28
Duke Johnson 2015 CLE 7 103.3 6.46 34
Terrance West 2014 CLE 6 101.7 7.26 31
Javorius Allen 2015 BAL 6 100.7 6.29 36
Selvin Young 2007 DEN 8 100 6.67 38
Darren McFadden 2008 OAK 5 99.4 7.65 42
Chris Ivory 2010 NOR 4 99.3 8.28 36
Wali Lundy 2006 HOU 8 93 6.64 41
DeAngelo Williams 2006 CAR 2 92.4 7.11 42
Ameer Abdullah 2015 DET 9 92 5.75 43
Peyton Hillis 2008 DEN 6 88.2 7.35 48
Keiland Williams 2010 WAS 3 86 5.73 45
Kenton Keith 2007 IND 1 84 5.25 47
Alfred Blue 2014 HOU 3 82.1 5.13 38
Mark Ingram 2011 NOR 4 81 8.1 45
Bryce Brown 2012 PHI 4 80 5 42
Bishop Sankey 2014 TEN 9 78.2 4.89 41
Kendall Hunter 2011 SFO 1 77.8 4.86 46
Tashard Choice 2008 DAL 3 77.7 4.86 51
Melvin Gordon 2015 SDG 13 75.3 5.38 53
Ray Rice 2008 BAL 4 71.7 5.52 53

RB ADP DataClick image to Enlarge

 

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Wide Receivers

Over the last 10 season the NFL has seen 53 rookie wide receivers score at least 80 fantasy points in their first season in the league….

Continue Reading The True Impact and Value or Rookies

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Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson

Over the last 10 season the NFL has seen 53 rookie wide receivers score at least 80 fantasy points in their first season in the league.

Analysis: The 2014 wide receiver class may have ruined the expectations for rookie pass catchers. Prior to that unbelievable group of wideouts, fantasy owners did not have much belief in the first year wide receiver. From 2006-2014 just one rookie pass catcher had been drafted inside the top-20 in fantasy drafts, Calvin Johnson who had an ADP of exactly 20.

This hesitation to select rookie pass catchers by fantasy football owners created value in the position. 86% of the rookies at this position returned value based on their ADP and their final fantasy position rank.

Following the 2014 class that saw five receivers put together seasons that finished inside the top-12 of all time rookie wide receiver performances, a jump in expectations for rookie wideouts took place. For example, the Raiders’ Amari Cooper was being chosen in fantasy drafts in the second round with an ADP of 17, making him just the second wide receiver to be targeted inside the top-20 of fantasy drafts in the last decade.

This new view of wide receivers takes a lot of the value out of drafting rookies. In Cooper’s case he let owners down because he finished as the 24th ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2015.

With the value now gone in drafting rookie wide receivers, fantasy owners need to be more exact when targeting a first year pass catcher in their fantasy drafts. Of the top-10 rookie fantasy performances by a wide receiver in the last 10 years, six were by players that were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. So fantasy players need to start by targeting first round draft picks but that is not enough. Six of the top-10 rookie wide receivers also played for teams that had a defense that ranked in the top-half of the league in points allowed so that could be an angle. But the one thing each of these ten rookie pass catchers had in common was getting targets. Each of the pass catchers received at least 16% of their team’s passing attempts with nine of the 10 seeing at least 19%.

Wide Receiver Year TM G GS Total FPPG
Odell Beckham 2014 NYG 12 11 204 17
Mike Evans 2014 TAM 15 15 177.1 11.81
Mike Williams 2010 TAM 16 16 159.4 9.96
Kelvin Benjamin 2014 CAR 16 15 152.8 9.55
A.J. Green 2011 CIN 15 15 152 10.13
Marques Colston 2006 NOR 14 12 151.8 10.84
Keenan Allen 2013 SDG 15 14 148.6 9.91
Julio Jones 2011 ATL 13 13 148.5 11.42
Amari Cooper 2015 OAK 16 15 140.7 8.79
Eddie Royal 2008 DEN 15 15 138.9 9.26
Jordan Matthews 2014 PHI 16 10 135.2 8.45
Sammy Watkins 2014 BUF 16 16 133 8.31
T.Y. Hilton 2012 IND 15 1 131 8.73
Dwayne Bowe 2007 KAN 16 15 129.5 8.09
Torrey Smith 2011 BAL 16 14 129 8.06
Percy Harvin 2009 MIN 15 8 127.5 8.5
Justin Blackmon 2012 JAX 16 14 120.8 7.55
Mike Wallace 2009 PIT 16 4 115.4 7.21
Hakeem Nicks 2009 NYG 14 6 113.8 8.13
DeSean Jackson 2008 PHI 16 15 112.8 7.05
Calvin Johnson 2007 DET 15 10 109.8 7.32
Austin Collie 2009 IND 16 5 109.7 6.86
Josh Gordon 2012 CLE 16 13 108.5 6.78
Cordarrelle Patterson 2013 MIN 16 6 104.7 6.54
Anthony Armstrong 2010 WAS 15 11 104.1 6.94
Martavis Bryant 2014 PIT 10 3 104.1 10.41
Allen Hurns 2014 JAX 16 8 103.7 6.48
Denarius Moore 2011 OAK 13 10 102.9 7.92
Doug Baldwin 2011 SEA 16 1 102.6 6.41
Tyler Lockett 2015 SEA 16 8 102.4 6.4
Terrance Williams 2013 DAL 16 8 102 6.38
Jeremy Maclin 2009 PHI 15 13 100.6 6.71
Titus Young 2011 DET 16 9 99.2 6.2
John Brown 2014 ARI 16 5 99 6.19
Donnie Avery 2008 STL 15 12 98.3 6.55
Jarvis Landry 2014 MIA 16 11 97.4 6.09
Stefon Diggs 2015 MIN 13 9 97.3 7.48
Marlon Brown 2013 BAL 14 12 96.2 6.87
Kenny Stills 2013 NOR 16 10 95.1 5.94
Chris Givens 2012 STL 15 12 91 6.07
Santonio Holmes 2006 PIT 16 4 90.7 5.67
DeAndre Hopkins 2013 HOU 16 16 90.2 5.64
Dez Bryant 2010 DAL 12 2 90.1 7.51
Kenny Britt 2009 TEN 16 6 87.1 5.44
Brandin Cooks 2014 NOR 10 7 86.3 8.63
Kendall Wright 2012 TEN 15 5 85 5.67
Tavon Austin 2013 STL 13 3 84.9 6.53
Greg Little 2011 CLE 16 12 84.4 5.28
Jacoby Ford 2010 OAK 16 9 83.5 5.22
Dorial Green-Beckham 2015 TEN 16 5 80.9 5.06
Robert Woods 2013 BUF 14 14 80.3 5.74
Greg Jennings 2006 GNB 14 11 80.2 5.73

 

Player Drafted DEF Points Allowed % of Team’s Passes
Odell Beckham 1st RD 10 21.42%
Mike Evans 1st RD 8 22.98%
Mike Williams 4th RD 24 26.11%
Kelvin Benjamin 1st RD 12 26.61%
A.J. Green 1st RD 24 21.50%
Marques Colston 7th RD 20 19.83%
Keenan Allen 3rd RD 22 19.30%
Julio Jones 1st RD 15 15.99%
Amari Cooper 1st RD 11 21.45%
Eddie Royal 2nd RD 3 20.81%

Conclusion: As a result of the 2014 season, drafting rookie wide receivers is trickier than ever. But targeting first year pass catchers that were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, who will play for a team with a bad defense and are in position to see a lot of targets is a good starting point.

Tight Ends

21 rookie tight ends have recorded at least 50 fantasy points in a season in the last 10 years.

Analysis: Rookie tight ends should not be found anywhere near a pre-fantasy draft cheat sheet. The first year in the NFL, this position tends not to result in a big fantasy performance. In fact only three rookie tight ends in the last 10 years finished the season ranked inside the top-12 at the position in fantasy points scored.

And even that is a bit deceiving because two of those three played with New England’s Tom Brady. Both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez benefitted from playing with the Patriots’ quarterback in their first season in the NFL. In 2010 the signal caller threw half of his touchdowns to tight ends. This figure is pretty rare and even more rare for it to happen with two rookie tight ends on the receiving end.

Conclusion: Leave the rookie tight ends for the others in your fantasy league. The lack of production out of the first year tight ends over the last 10 years suggests struggles are expected during their rookie campaign.

Tight End Year Tm G GS FPoints FPPG
Rob Gronkowski 2010 NWE 16 11 113.6 7.1
Aaron Hernandez 2010 NWE 14 7 97 6.93
John Carlson 2008 SEA 16 9 92.7 5.79
Tim Wright 2013 TAM 16 8 87.3 5.46
Tony Moeaki 2010 KAN 15 15 73.6 4.91
Dustin Keller 2008 NYJ 16 6 71.5 4.47
Jermaine Gresham 2010 CIN 15 10 71.1 4.74
Zach Ertz 2013 PHI 16 3 70.9 4.43
Dwayne Allen 2012 IND 16 16 70.6 4.41
Jordan Reed 2013 WAS 9 4 69.7 7.74
Owen Daniels 2006 HOU 14 12 65.2 4.66
Jimmy Graham 2010 NOR 15 5 64.9 4.33
Joseph Fauria 2013 DET 16 2 64.7 4.04
Mychal Rivera 2013 OAK 16 3 64.7 4.04
Will Tye 2015 NYG 13 7 62.4 4.8
Zach Miller 2007 OAK 16 16 60.4 3.78
Tyler Eifert 2013 CIN 15 15 56.5 3.77
Greg Olsen 2007 CHI 14 4 53.1 3.79
Tony Scheffler 2006 DEN 13 5 52.9 4.07
Martellus Bennett 2008 DAL 16 7 52.3 3.27
Clive Walford 2015 OAK 16 2 50.9 3.18

TE ADP Data

Final Breakdown

While rookies are appealing to fantasy football owners, drafting a first year NFL player comes with some risk. To help negate some of the risk be sure to follow the data about rookies from the past 10 NFL seasons:

  • QB – Draft rookie quarterbacks that are mobile
  • RB – Target first year running backs that are expected to be a starter or not buried on the Depth Chart.
  • WR – Rookie pass catchers drafted in the first round of the NFL draft that land on teams with bad defenses are the way to go
  • TE – Avoid rookies at this position at all cost
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Learn more about this year’s crop of fantasy football rookies

About the author

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Wes Anderson

After participating in fantasy football for over a decade and a half, Wes started to share from his experiences and began his fantasy football-writing career at TodaysPigskin.com in 2013. There he has provided draft strategies, a deep analysis inside the numbers of each week’s matchups as well as winning FanDuel lineups ever since.
While Wes is a big believer in the numbers, he also understands that the eye in the sky does not lie. So instead of just reading box scores, Wes also watches the tape of each NFL game that is played each week to help stay ahead of the pack in his quest to provide top-notch fantasy football information on a weekly basis.

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