Fantasy football rankings 2019: Rookies to target, avoid in your draft

Nick Goss
NBC Sports Boston

One of the hardest aspects of fantasy football is projecting which rookies are going to make a real impact on their teams' success.

Luckily for you, we're here to help.

Finding the most productive rookies is all about situation. Who's ahead of them on the depth chart? Which injuries to veteran players could open the door for more opportunity? These are some of the factors fantasy owners must weigh before taking a chance on a first-year player with zero NFL experience. 

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Let's look at five rookies to draft, and five to avoid in your fantasy football draft.

Rookies to Draft

N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
The Patriots need Harry to be a factor offensively this season given their lack of quality depth at wide receiver and tight end. Harry is a big, strong wideout who's able to make tough catches in traffic. He caught 53.2 percent of his contested targets for Arizona State last season, and that ranked second among wide receivers in the 2019 draft. Harry's ability to outleap defensive backs could make him a valuable red-zone target for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It's possible Harry becomes the team's No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman by the end of the regular season.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions
The Lions used the No. 10 overall pick on Hockenson, so they must really think he can make a difference as a rookie. There's good reason to believe he's up the challenge, too. Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns at Iowa in 2018. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Hockenson already has NFL size and should be a reliable red-zone target for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who doesn't exactly have a lot of good wide receivers to target in the passing game. 

Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
Jacobs is expected to be the starting running back for the Raiders in Week 1, and that automatically makes him quite valuable. Jacobs was one of Oakland's three first-round picks after an impressive 2018 season at Alabama during which he tallied 847 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. The Raiders bolstered their offensive line with the free-agent signing of left tackle Trent Brown and upgraded their receiving corps by trading for Antonio Brown. Oakland's offense should be much improved in 2019, and Jacobs should benefit from opposing defenses not stacking the box because they're worried about being beat through the air.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Murray has solid value as a starting QB, particularly in leagues that start two quarterbacks. He also has some weapons in Arizona, including a top-tier wideout in Larry Fitzgerald and a serviceable tight end in Charles Clay. Veteran running back David Johnson should still have another solid season in him as well. Murray ran for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns during his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Oklahoma in 2018, so it's quite possible he makes a solid fantasy impact on the ground as a rookie. He also completed 69 percent of his passes last year, which is pretty impressive. And let's not forget rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn't afraid to throw a ton during his time as Texas Tech head coach. Don't be surprised if he unleashes Murray right from the start of the season.

David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
Montgomery ran for 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns at Iowa State last season, and he could get a huge share of the carries in Chicago in tandem with Tarik Cohen. Cohen ran the ball just 99 times last season, so he's not the traditional workhorse running back that Montgomery can be. Chicago's 16 rushing touchdowns were tied for the sixth-most in the league last year, which bodes well for Montgomery, particularly at the goal line with his impressive strength. He also made a good impression in training camp going against the league's top defense from 2018, as seen in the video below:

Rookies to Avoid

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins
Haskins is a solid pick in keeper or dynasty leagues, but not so much otherwise. He has impressive talent, but the situation in Washington isn't great from a fantasy perspective. Even if Haskins beats out Colt McCoy and Case Keenum for the starting job, he won't have much to work with on offense. The unproven Josh Doctson is the Redskins' top wide receiver, and veteran tight end Jordan Reed is far from an elite playmaker. Washington ranked 28th in passing yards last season behind an offensive line that allowed the 12th-most sacks. The running back depth chart, led by veteran Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, also won't get fantasy owners excited. It's best to avoid Haskins if you're drafting for 2019 only.

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Sanders has great talent, but how many touches will he get in an Eagles offense where trade acquisition Jordan Howard should receive most of the carries and veteran Darren Sproles is likely to be on the field in most third-down passing situations? The running back depth chart is just too crowded in Philly for Sanders to make a profound fantasy impact in 2019, but he does have nice long-term value if you play in a keeper league.

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
The Giants surprisingly drafted Jones No. 6 overall, and he likely will one day replace Eli Manning as their starting quarterback. However, the Giants have been pretty stubborn about sticking with Manning, so it's hard to see Jones earning the No. 1 job early in the season. When Jones does play, he's not going to have much talent around him. Sure, Saquon Barkley is among the league's best running backs, but the options in the passing game are pretty weak after the departure of elite wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Jones completed just 60.5 percent of his passes at Duke last season -- how is he going to fare in an NFC East division against three good defenses in Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia?

Bryce Love, RB, Washington Redskins
Love was a Heisman Trophy-caliber player in 2017 with 2,118 rushing yards, but he was awful in 2018 with just 739 yards on the ground. The Stanford product already is battling a knee injury in training camp, and he has to beat out Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice and Samaje Perine for carries in the Redskins backfield. Don't expect Love's 2017 dominance to show up in Washington this season.

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings
Smith is the future at tight end in Minnesota, but the current No. 1 tight end for the Vikings is veteran Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph, who recently signed a contract extension, is one of the most reliable fantasy tight ends with four consecutive seasons of four or more receiving touchdowns. (Only Travis Kelce has a longer active streak). Unless you're in a keeper league, it would be wise to pass on Smith. His value drops with a top 10 tight end ahead of him on the depth chart.

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Fantasy football rankings 2019: Rookies to target, avoid in your draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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