NFL rookies ready to make a fantasy impact

The NFL draft has come and gone and with it the expectations have been set for the incoming rookie class. Here’s a look at the rookies who can make an impact in your fantasy football leagues.

Early contributors

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — He passes the eye test and has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson. I have a few doubts about that comparison, but he’s in a good spot and I’d expect him to get the share of carries next season despite the presence of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. Last year’s running back picked at No. 4 (Ezekiel Elliott) turned out all right. Fournette is at least an RB2 in my book, and could end up being a top-8 running back by the time the season is over. He’ll probably go in the second or third rounds of fantasy drafts.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers — This is a great situation for the rookie; Jonathan Stewart is entering his 11th year and McCaffrey has the versatility to take over touches from the other backs on the roster. If what he did in college is any indication, he’ll be starting outright soon enough. McCaffrey will be expected to take a lot of pressure off Cam Newton, likely acting as an outlet in the passing game. Look for him to go in the second or third rounds if he’s taken early. He may end up putting up flex-to-RB2 numbers.

Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal scores on a nineteen yard touchdown run against the Rice Owls in the third quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers — Outside of Keenan Allen, who is a walking injury waiting to happen, the Chargers have a lot of mediocre options at the position. Williams can make an early impact if he makes the most of his targets. He’s likely to go in the sixth or seventh round.

O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers — This could end up being more beneficial to Jameis Winston, who now has Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and now Howard as targets. Howard can line up almost anywhere on the field and will be a matchup nightmare. He might not be a TE1 to start the season, so don’t reach, but he could be a valuable late-round pick.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings — The offensive line is in rough shape, though they did address the need in the draft. If it improves significantly then Cook has a chance to produce. His ability to take it to the house on any play makes him an enticing pick. I see him as a flex player at this point, so he can be taken as early as the fifth, but maybe the sixth or seventh rounds are more appropriate given that Latavius Murray is in the picture.

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles carries the ball in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins — Matt Jones is still in the doghouse, but Rob Kelley is the likely starter. Perine can be an instant short-yardage and goal line specialist, which could prove to be valuable for fantasy. He’s got the size to handle a lot of touches so he may end up as Kelley’s handcuff.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans — The Titans have Rishard Matthews as their No. 1 wide receiver but Davis has the opportunity to become the new No. 1. He’ll have a chance to prove himself early and that’s a big factor for rookie success. He has WR2 potential.

Needing some seasoning

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints — Draft experts saw him as the fourth best running back in the draft, but going to the Saints where Mark Ingram has been the starter and Adrian Peterson just entered the picture doesn’t bode well for early production.

Alvin Kamara #6 carries the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 45-34. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals — So many questions surround this pick. From character issues to the fact that he enters a crowded backfield with a bruiser and a pass catcher already in play. That said, if he gets the opportunity he may end up being the value pick of the draft. People will shy away for various reasons, but the talent is there to be an RB1. It will take some mock drafting to figure out where, if at all, you’re willing to take him.

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans — Lamar Miller will be the starter once the season gets going, but he’s had a history of getting run down in the latter part of the season. If Foreman makes a mark early, he can have a solid floor of production, even as a situational back.

Texas RB D’Onta Foreman goes through some pass catching drills as he performed for NFL scouts Tuesday March 28, 2017 during Pro Timing Day at the University inside the team practice bubble.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zay Jones, WR, Bills — He can turn into a possession receiver if he can click with Tyrod Taylor early. Sammy Watkins is the best option on the team, but Jones can turn into the No. 2 WR if he can outplay Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes.

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Jets — With Brandon Marshall moving on to the Giants, there’s room for a new playmaker to rise to prominence. Stewart’s ability after the catch can help him carve a role with the Jets, but is Josh McCown going to play well enough for it to matter?

Possible sleeper

Joe Williams, RB, 49ers — Bad play-calling in the Super Bowl notwithstanding, Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru and he was very happy grabbing Williams in the fourth round. Williams is definitely a risky pick, which is why you have to make sure your starting spots are filled before taking a flyer on him.

Let’s talk quarterbacks

The top four taken at the position all entered situations where they’ll sit or have to win a starting job. Not one is in a plug-and-play situation. Don’t draft any of them, but monitor closely. The key isn’t to wait on a big game before picking them up off the waiver wire. You have to see signs first. Then, only if you have room on your roster, you take a chance on the wire.