By Jim Weidner. Just like the real teams in NFL Draft, every fantasy football owner loves a good bargain in their fantasy football draft. Sure, every team owner wants to get the best skilled offensive player they can on their team, but as we all know, that just isn’t possible. Often, you will get one maybe two players at the top of the fantasy football draft board, but then you need to fill out your roster with players you believe will help contribute to your roster.
Finding bargains, or steals, in your drafts are what might push your team into your league’s championship. That is where rookies come into play. Rookies are sometimes overlooked because most fantasy football team owners are enamored with drafting an established veteran player. But an unknown commodity like a rookie might do the same, or more than an established veteran could do and you might not need to spend a high pick on that player.
Take last year’s standout rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. For the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns. Elliott wasn’t an unknown commodity, he was drafted with the fourth overall NFL draft pick, but as a rookie, he might have been on the board later than more established running backs. For those who drafted Elliott in fantasy football, their team most likely succeeded in some fashion.
However, not all rookies are worth drafting for your fantasy football teams.
For instance, with rookie quarterbacks, fantasy football team owners must make sure they are standouts and have a high chance of success in their rookie campaign. A player such as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was a solid choice going into his rookie season because there wasn’t much doubt he would be the starter when he entered camp and that he had the tools to possibly thrive. This year’s draft class doesn’t have a player that is the caliber of Luck. Truthfully, there isn’t a quarterback in this year’s draft with much fantasy football value at all.
The position that has the best chance to produce a viable fantasy football player in their rookie season is at running back. Although it is never easy for a rookie to adapt to the pro game as well as stay healthy over an entire sixteen game season, rookie running backs have the best chance to do so. Wide receivers and tight ends are next, but you need a special player at those positions to make their mark in their rookie campaign.
Here are six rookies you should note in this year’s draft for when you draft your fantasy football team this fall. It will help if these players are drafted to a team that runs the right system. But on talent alone, these players should succeed come this fall.
Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
Back in December, The Fantasy Greek took a look at Fournette and even back then believed he might be the top running back selected in this year’s draft. Fournette has been compared to Hall of Fame bound running back Adrian Peterson and the comparison is good. Fournette can be a three down back and be productive as soon as he takes the field in the NFL. With his ability, he shouldn’t leave the field even as a rookie. Fournette has a good chance to be drafted high in most fantasy football drafts in drafted by the right team, especially if a team makes him their three-down starter.
Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
McCaffrey is another running back The Fantasy Greek highlighted earlier this offseason. McCaffrey isn’t the same running back as Fournette, but he should be just as productive as Fournette for fantasy football purposes. Although there are questions if he can take the pounding needed running between the tackles like Fournette can, McCaffrey should be a gold mine for PPR leagues. Some scouts believe even though McCaffrey is a running back, he might be the best route runner in this year’s draft class. To go with his rushing and receiving ability, McCaffrey has showed he could return kicks in college.
Delvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State
While at Florida State, Cook illustrated he is a home run threat. In his three years at Florida State, Cook averaged a staggering 6.5 yards per carry. In the past two seasons, Cook rushed for 38 rushing touchdowns. Cook has baggage, but if he gets in the right offensive system, he could be a solid player in fantasy football.
Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma
Mixon might be the most talented running back in this draft class, but he also might be the riskiest. Mixon was arrested for assaulting a female while at Oklahoma. There is no overlooking the seriousness of his action. But for this article, we are discussing what he might bring to fantasy football. Mixon will not be drafted in the early rounds. But, the talent Mixon possesses makes him a player that might draw attention in fantasy football drafts.
OJ Howard, Tight End, Alabama
Howard is the most polished tight end in this year’s draft class. He is an above average pass catcher and has the speed to extend the middle of the field. Howard can split out wide like a wide receiver and if he is drafted by a team that understands how to get the ball to a tight end, he might be a major asset for fantasy football team owners.
Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
Some draft experts have Clemson’s wide receiver Mike Williams as the top wide receiver in this year’s draft. Williams might be selected first, but Corey Davis might be the most productive rookie wide receiver in this year’s draft. Davis played lower level competition while at Western Michigan, but he dominated and has the speed and size to be productive at the next level, even in his rookie season. If Davis is drafted by a team that already has a proven number one wide receiver, Davis might catch opposing defenses by surprise and be productive for fantasy football team owners.