Rookies always make an impact in fantasy football and if you make a smart pick on a first-year player he could help you get over on your fantasy competition. Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Amari Cooper were big contributors last season as rookies. Odell Beckham Jr. probably won a championship for some of you the year before as a rookie for the Giants. Here’s a look at some new talent that will make an early impact.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: This list has to start with Zeke. The buzz around him leading up to the draft increased daily and the Cowboys eschewed conventional wisdom to select what they must think is a special player. He has all the traits you want in an every-down back. He’s tough, with good size and has the speed to break off long runs. He can even catch the ball well out of the backfield. Add to that the fact he’ll be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the game and you could see why he could put up big numbers. The biggest obstacle to him impacting the game early on is the fact that he’s in a crowded backfield. Darren McFadden is still in town, and he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time since 2010 last year. But it was just his second time playing all 16 games. Add to that, Alfred Morris was signed as a free agent and Lance Dunbar is expected to fill a third-down role. That’s got to show how much the Cowboys think of Elliott, given that there’s barely room in the backfield. We think he’ll be the lead back early on and put up the best numbers of any rookie this season.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings: With a young quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, you’ll want a receiver who can win 50/50 balls. Treadwell is that kind of player, drawing comparisons to guys like DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has produced with no-name qbs and Treadwell actually has a decent one in the backfield. We think he’ll produce the biggest numbers of rookie wideouts.
Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins: If anyone has a shot to be better than Treadwell as a rookie, it’s Doctson. He’ll be playing with the best quarterback of the rookie receivers on this list in Kirk Cousins. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will hold the WR1 and WR2 spots, but Jackson has missed eight games over the last two seasons and Garcon will be entering his ninth season.
Corey Coleman, WR, Browns: He’s obviously in a bad place to win, but with the Browns needing lots of help at receiver, he should end up getting the lion’s share of targets. With no proven quarterback in town, his outlook isn’t great, but we could see him contributing to your team in your stars’ bye week or against a good matchup.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: A.J. Green will be on the opposite side of the field and all Boyd will have to do is beat out Brandon LaFell, a player who has only caught more than 50 passes just once in five seasons. If Boyd can step up, he could start bringing in WR2-type numbers. With Green as the big-play threat, Boyd could fit in nicely as a possession receiver.
Derrick Henry, RB Titans: He’ll backup DeMarco Murray, but we just don’t trust Murray to stay healthy all season given that he’s done so just once in his five-year career. Henry should make an impact even if Murray is healthy because the Titans should run a lot.
Will Fuller, WR, Texans: His main role with Houston will be to free up DeAndre Hopkins by running off defenders. But that doesn’t mean he won’t hit the big play occasionally. He’s got the speed to run by anyone, though his hands are a bit of a liability. He won’t be a WR1 or WR2, but he could end up as a flex alternative if the Texans face a bad secondary that gives up the big play every once in a while.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks: Though Thomas Rawls was awesome last season, he’ll have more pressure to perform. Prosise’s value is in his pass-catching ability, but if Rawls struggles to perform as the starter, keep an eye out. We think Prosise is the logical handcuff to Rawls. The Seahawks must not be too confident in Rawls since they drafted three running backs.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: If Victor Cruz has trouble coming back from injury, Shepard could find himself with WR2 numbers. Even if Cruz ends up bouncing back, Shepard can do some real damage in the slot. You can’t reach on him, but after you’ve got your top two receivers, feel free to go speculating.
Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With the Matt Forte era over in Chicago it looks like Jeremy Langford who will fill the role. Don’t be surprised if Howard finds his way into a running-back-by-committee situation. He’s a bruising runner and if he’s not slow to the line he’ll be effective. He’ll put pressure on Langford not to falter.
Other likely contributors:
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos
Paul Perkins, RB, Giants
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
Braxton Miller, WR, Texans
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints