Without seeing even one preseason game this year, this may be a futile experiment in trying to gauge which players may add the biggest fantasy football punch in their first years as pro’s. Last year, players like Todd Gurley, Devontae Freeman, Jameis Winston, or even Marcus Mariota made significant strides in their fantasy impact.
This year, rookies coming in will try and make their marks as well. Below, we will take a look at the top 5 rookie candidates to have potential breakouts similar to the aforementioned names above in their first seasons.
1. EZEKIEL ELLIOT (COWBOYS)
This may be the most obvious pick here due to the success that Gurley and Freeman had last season with their respective teams. There is a slight difference, however and a caveat that both Gurley and Freeman did not have to compete too hard to earn starting roles. While it is assumed that Elliot may get the lions share of carries, he will have to compete with last years starter, Darren McFadden who broke the 1,000 yard mark and Alfred Morris who in his first three years rushed for well over 1,000 yards but having a down year with just 751 yards last season.
The depth here at running back for the Cowboys could possibly hinder Elliott some statistically of course, however, if he can showcase that he is a once in a decade type of running back like Jerry Jones and company believe he is, then he could very well become the bell cow shortly in to the year.
2. WR – LAQUON TREADWELL (VIKINGS)
While Teddy Bridgewater had Adrian Peterson to lean on last season, as well as Stephon Diggs, he will now have a big target (not named Kyle Rudolph) to get the ball to. Treadwell’s catch radius is enormous. Quarterbacks love wide receivers that can help them look better. Treadwell, outside of Rudolph will be a major RedZone threat due to his height and ability to win the 50/50 balls thrown.
It’s tough to say at this point how well he will do but I think he very well could be a steal if you’re looking for a great flex option in the mid to later rounds of your FF draft.
3. QB – JARED GOFF (RAMS)
Goff was the number one overall pick in the entire draft. If he does not replicate what Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota did last year, it will be considered a major underachievement. Goff will be playing behind an offensive line who ranked 25th in the NFL in pass protection per Pro Football Focus (advanced stats). With that in to consideration, Goff was one of the most efficient quarterbacks under fire at Cal of any other quarterback in the history of college football. He completed more passes and threw more touchdowns with pressure in his face than anyone. Now, there is a pretty big gap between the NFL and NCAA in the speed of the game but Goff has proven that pressure doesn’t rattle him.
I do believe there will be some growing pains for this player but it may be worth a flier later on in your starting quarterbacks bye week if the matchup works out favorably for Goff in the defense he plays that week.
4. TE – HUNTER HENRY (CHARGERS)
Phillip Rivers thrives when he has great tight ends. Antonio Gates is a shell of his former self and it’s time for some new blood to take over at that position. Henry will most likely be an immediate impact due to his athleticism and incredible ability to catch the ball. Much like Treadwell in Minnesota, Henry could be a likely target in the RedZone. He will be getting passed on information from one of the all-time greats in Gates. With all that to his advantage, it is with very little doubt that I believe Henry could come in to the NFL and have immediate fantasy value.
It’s quite conceivable that Henry could be your starter at the tight end position. I think his transition to the NFL will be seamless from NCAA to the Pro’s.
5. WR – COREY COLEMAN (BROWNS)
Unless Josh Gordon is reinstated to the NFL in August when he is eligible to file, it appears on the surface that Coleman was drafted to be the Browns number one target on offense. If that is the case, his numbers will be dramatically increased due to the high volume of looks he will get from Robert Griffin (assuming he gets the nod). Though both these players played for Baylor, they never got a chance to hook up at the collegiate level. But the former Baylor quarterback could very well favor the former Baylor wide receiver and establish a new relationship.
The Griffin-Coleman duo could be one of the very best in football. It’s easy to imagine that Coleman could wind up with 70+ catches, 1,000+ yards, and anywhere from 5-10 touchdowns. Much like Treadwell, Coleman could be a steal for your flex spot.
While I only covered 5 players here, chances are some other lower round pick will emerge as a star. That’s just the nature of how the NFL and Fantasy Football works. Throughout the course of the year, things will happen. Injuries and things like that will occur.
I want to here at the end just throw out some honorable mentions. With the Jacksonville Jaguars getting Fowler back, and their drafts of Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, their defense is set up to be in a lot better shape than they were last season. The Jags could very well be a wise pick while everyone else is picking the Broncos, Seahawks, Cardinals, and teams that already have well established defenses.
Though he will have to share carries with DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry is a player that could go either direction. But if you were to draft him on your bench initially, and if he pans out, it could wind up being a huge steal. Same goes for Devontae Booker who was drafted to the Super Bowl Champ, Denver Broncos. While on the subject of the Broncos, Paxton Lynch might actually be better than Brock Osweiler would have been there. He has a very solid offensive line and strong run game to lean on; and I won’t get started on the confidence that defense will give him.
*Other second round selections that could have some fantasy value: Wide Receiver – Sterling Shepard (NY Giants), Wide Receiver – Michael Thomas (Saints), Wide Receiver – Tyler Boyd (Bengals).
*Third round sleepers: Running Back – Kenyan Drake (Dolphins), Tight End – Austin Hooper (Falcons), Wide Receiver – Braxton Miller (Texans), Running Back – C.J. Prosise (Seahawks).