Whether they are immediate starters, guys who provide depth or just a late-round flier, rookies play an essential role in fantasy football. Drafts kick into high gear this weekend, so here are the rookies you should be targeting. (Based on 12-team, PPR league)
Saquon Barkley: Barkley walks into a great situation if everyone stays healthy on the offensive side of the ball. A 1,200+ yard and seven TD season is not out of the question.
Royce Freeman: Freeman’s situation reminds me of Kareem Hunt’s last year: going to a team where the incumbents are nothing special. Freeman racked up over 5,000 yards and 60 scores on the ground in college.
Rashaad Penny: Seattle did not spend a first-round pick on Penny for Chris Carson to start. Not only is Penny effective in the ground game, he will play a prominent role in the passing game. Currently rehabbing from a broken hand, Penny is on track to return Week 1.
Nick Chubb: Yes, Carlos Hyde will open the year as the starter and Duke Johnson is the third-down back, but Chubb is the future. It may take half the year before Chubb becomes the starter but in the interim he will serve as the goal line back, which has plenty of value in itself.
D.J. Moore: Moore is exactly the type of big, fast receiver that Cam Newton needs to take his game to the next level. A key staple to a Norv Turner offense is going downfield, which is ideal for Newton’s arm strength and Moore’s playing style.
Calvin Ridley: Playing behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Ridley will be the third option and will not draw the opposing team’s top corner. Look for him to have a big role in the short and intermediate game and an expanded role in the red zone. His yards maybe limited this year but Ridley is a solid play in PPR.
Sony Michel: Never trust a New England running back. Don’t get me wrong, Michel will flash, but will he be a consistent option? Remember last year, when Mike Gillislee was all the rage? How about Rex Burkhead? They are all still there, along with James White and Jeremy Hill.
Kerryon Johnson: The backfield is crowded in Detroit. LeGarrette Blount will get the goal line carries and vulture TD’s, Theo Riddick will be the third down back and when Ameer Abdullah is healthy he isn’t half bad. Not sure where Johnson’s touches come in.
James Washington: Washington is limited in his routes, mostly running the fly route. Without a doubt, he will have a game or two where he catches three balls for 90 yards and a TD, but he is not worth a draft pick no matter how well the Steelers develop wide receivers.
Ronald Jones: With Jameis Winston suspended, a coach and QB on the hot seat and a crowded backfield, Tampa Bay seems like a hot mess now where you can trust no one. I am staying away from Jones.
Michael Gallup: With Dez and Witten gone, there are 220 targets up for grabs in Dallas. They signed Allen Hurns, who has played a full season just once in his career (2014) and Tavon Austin, a yearly fantasy disappointment. Gallup could end up being WR1 in Dallas.
Anthony Miller: If there is one WR in this class who has the potential to break out, it’s Miller. In three years at Memphis, Miller racked up 3,500+ yards and 37 TD while opposing defenses knew he was the only offensive weapon. Matt Nagy is creative and will find a way to get Miller on the field and the ball.
Tre’Quan Smith: You have to take a flier on a Saints receiver, right? A speedster, Smith has big play abilities any time he touches the ball.
Christian Kirk: Kirk gets the pleasure of learning and playing opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. Without much competition, Kirk will be the number two option in Arizona.
Mike Gesicki and Hayden Hurst: These two are lumped together for the simple reason they fall into the same situation: going to teams that love to use tight ends, with little competition ahead of them. The tight end position in fantasy is thin, and these guys are worth a look in the last few rounds.
Dynasty/Keeper League Picks
Brexton Berrios: Berrios is in line to be the long-term slot receiver in NE. His fantasy impact may be limited this year but he does have a chance to get on the field early with Julian Edelman suspended for the first four games. Berrios is worth one of your last two picks in keeper or dynasty leagues.
Lamar Jackson: He is the Ravens’ QB of the future and could get on the field as early as next season. With no fantasy value this year, I am using a late pick in all my keeper and dynasty league on what could be a top 10 fantasy QB in 2019.