Fantasy football owners tend to overvalue rookies. While some are ready to contribute right away, others still have much to learn about playing in the NFL. Below is a list of 17 NFL newcomers who have a decent chance at helping fantasy owners win his or her fantasy title.
Not only do I expect Kyler Murray to contribute, I think there is an outside chance that he becomes a bona fide star. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury handpicked Murray to lead his air raid offense and Murray could produce huge stats as a rookie. I am conservatively projecting Murray to contribute 3,600 passing yards and 25 TDs this season (he could easily have 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs in this offense). Add to that another 700 yards rushing and 6-7 rushing TDs and you are looking at an impact player with QB1 upside.
Admittedly, I was annoyed as much as any Giants fan when the team took Jones with the sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. That said, Jones has looked pretty good in training camp and was exceptional in his first preseason game against the Jets. Jones still has a ton to learn, but he should get a chance to contribute later in the season after the Giants decide to move on from Eli Manning.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins (ADP: N/A)
Haskins is neck deep in a quarterback battle against veteran QB Case Keenum. The Redskins have no shot at winning the division and although Haskins struggled in his first preseason outing (two interceptions), I don’t doubt that the rookie will assume the starting role by Week 4. The Redskins will attempt to run the ball as much as possible with Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, but Washington will fall behind pretty quickly in most games. Haskins has a cannon and will be forced to throw the ball 30-plus times per game. I expect Jordan Reed and Trey Quinn to be safety blankets for the young quarterback. If Josh Doctson takes a step forward this season, Haskins could be a decent backup quarterback this coming fantasy football season.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 41)
I wrote about Jacobs in my breakout article and I feel strongly that he could be the three-down back the Raiders have been desperately seeking. I am projecting Jacobs for about 1,300-plus total yards from scrimmage, which should make him worth his third-round draft grade.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (ADP: 43)
It feels like many fantasy football experts are ready to erect a statue for Montgomery in Soldier Field before he even plays his first game. And while I like him, I do have my doubts that he should be drafted as high as the third round. The Bears are very deep on offense and Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis will also see time in the backfield. I do think that Montgomery will excel in short yardage situations and will see his role grow as the weather gets colder, but be careful going “all-in” on him as there are many mouths to feed in the Bears’ offense.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 77)
I love this fit for the Eagles. Sanders was Saquon Barkley’s backup for much of his time at Penn State but when he was finally given the chance to start, he ran for more than 1,200 rushing yards and had 24 receptions. Sanders will start his rookie season as Jordan Howard’s backup, but Howard’s days as an elite starter appear to be over. Howard often looked like he was running with cement shoes last season with the Bears. Once the Eagles’ coaching staff sees how good Sanders looks in games, he will be near impossible to take out of the lineup.
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 82)
Henderson is a must-handcuff for Todd Gurley owners, and owners can expect the rookie to carve out a nice opportunity off the bench with the Rams’ commitment to keeping Gurley healthy. With 150-plus touches, Henderson will gain over 900 yards with some value in TDs and catches. I see a combination of Todd Gurley, Chris Johnson, and Marion Barber in his game.
Henderson turned in an impressive season in 2018 for Memphis (2,204 combined yards with 25 TDs and 19 catches) despite only receiving 233 touches. He gained 8.9 yards per rush and 15.5 yards per catch, which was even better than his 2017 collegiate campaign (1,380 combined yards with 11 TDs and 24 catches while gaining 8.9 yards per rush).
No matter what Gurley’s status is in 2019, Henderson will make an impact in the world of fantasy football. If Gurley is relatively healthy, the rookie can still be a strong flex play in the Rams’ explosive offense.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 115)
A few years ago when the Saints drafted Alvin Kamara, fantasy owners wondered when Kamara was going to play considering that both Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram were in front of him on the team’s depth chart. Well soon enough, talent prevailed, and Kamara entered the lineup and never came out. I see Singletary this season the same way. Once the Bills realize that he is more talented than over-the-hill veterans LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, Singletary will just have to prove to the Bills’ coaching staff that he is more talented than T.J Yeldon, which shouldn’t be too difficult of a task.
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 133)
Dalvin Cook is an exciting, game-changing RB who the Vikings are counting on to produce for them this season. But in his short NFL career, Cook has shown a propensity for getting injured. He has missed 17 games over the span of his first two seasons due to a torn ACL and hamstring injuries. Mattison was a workhorse back in college and has the size to be a tremendous short-yardage specialist for Minnesota. Mattison might not be a stud as a rookie, but I can see him starting at least three to four games this season with Cook sidelined for one ailment or another.
D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 122)
Have you ever seen a picture of Metcalf? He looks like a Marvel superhero more than he does a football player. He is a genetic freak who is 6'3" and runs a 4.33 40-yard dash. He should excel on deeper pass patterns and be able to outjump most cornerbacks on fade patterns in the red zone. Metcalf lacks agility and is not going to come up with the difficult grab too often, but if the Seahawks can manage to get him in one-on-one situations, he could end up with 10 TDs on 40-plus receptions.
N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots (ADP: 123)
In 2019, the Patriots have a lot of moving parts at the wide receiver position behind Julian Edelman. The loss of Rob Gronkowski and weak replacement at tight end opens up a massive opportunity in chances at the wide receiver position. The new shining star in Harry will be worked into the offense quickly so long as he dedicates himself to learning the playbook and getting on the same page as Tom Brady.
New England snatched Harry up at the end of the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft. Harry comes into the league with size (6'2" and 225 lbs.), which instantly gives him the inside track to be the top-scoring receiving option on the roster. Harry plays with power and strength, creating his edge in tight coverage. He makes some incredible catches with plus hands. I expect him to be the WR2 in New England’s offense with the tools to be a fantasy WR2 in his rookie year. His best play should come late in the year when fantasy football championships are on the line.
Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 135)
I am very excited to see how the Cardinals’ offense plays this season. Kyler Murray has many pass catchers to target, including second-round speedster Andy Isabella. Isabella has 4.31-speed, but moreover, he has terrific Wes Welker-type hands in the slot. He is a mismatch for almost any opposing cornerback and has shown instant chemistry with Murray in training camp. The biggest negative with Isabella might also be his biggest positive. With Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson, the Cardinals have five talented receivers who can also catch passes and run after the catch. This hurts the overall targets that Isabella might see in this offense. However, all this talent around Isabella will prevent opposing defenses from double teaming him, which should result in ample opportunities to make huge plays downfield. I would be ecstatic if I could draft Isabella as my WR5 in 2019.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 158)
The rookie out of South Carolina could easily start opposite Dante Pettis in the 49ers’ offense. Samuel should establish a role as the 49ers WR3 at a minimum. In his first preseason game, he produced 61 yards receiving yards and 14 rushing yards. He has the ability to line up all over the field.
Marquise Goodwin is not a lock to make the 53-man roster and Trent Taylor is dealing with an injury. If Samuel can earn enough playing time and also develop some chemistry with Jimmy Garroppolo, he could be special in his debut season in San Francisco.
His game is built on power more than finesse. In the open field, he can make big plays with respectable speed (4.48 40-yard dash in the NFL combine) for his size (5'11" and 214 lbs.). He plays with an edge to his game, which made me think of Hines Ward. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished as a top-50 WR in 2019. I’m expecting 50-plus catches for approximately 700 combined yards and a handful of touchdowns.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 165)
Before Tyreek Hill’s potential suspension, Hardman was going in Rounds 11-13. Now with Hill back, Fantasy owners are forgetting about him. I would advise against that as Hardman has blazing speed and opposing defenses are not going to be able to cover Hill, Hardman, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams at the same time. Hardman reminds me of Taylor Gabriel—not a consistent threat each week, but certainly a guy who can make one or two big plays per game.
Hunter Renfrow, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 213)
Renfrow is not the tallest receiver (he’s only 5'10"), or the fastest, but he has a knack for getting open and he will be an invaluable target for Derek Carr in the slot. Renfrow is being overlooked in fantasy drafts, and he is a rookie with upside on a team that will be playing plenty of garbage time in most of its games.
T. J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (ADP: 184)
Reports out of Lions camp have Jesse James as the starting tight end over the talented rookie. That is to be expected, as James has significant NFL experience and Hockenson needs to learn to do a better job in pass protection. The good news is that Hockenson is so talented that he won’t remain on the bench for long, and I expect that he will become one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets at some point later in the season.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (ADP: 211)
Fant is currently second on the team’s depth chart at tight end, but there is a good chance that he will become the starter by the end of training camp. At the very least, even if he doesn’t start, he will play on obvious passing downs, as his speed is a mismatch against most opposing linebackers. Drew Lock to Noah Fant will eventually be a deadly combination—it just might take until 2020 for that to come to fruition. Still, Fant should be drafted in all but the shallowest redraft leagues in 2019.
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