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
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.
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|
|Robert Griffin III||815||1st|
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.
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.
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
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%.
|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.
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.
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
Learn more about this year’s crop of fantasy football rookies