Top fantasy rookies to draft in 2019: Running back class, Kyler Murray offer major upside

Every year and every fantasy football season, rookies emerge to make massive impacts. These first-year players get their chance and run away with it, giving the fantasy gamers who rostered them — via the draft or the waiver wire — a young, exciting weapon. This year will be no different. Our Yahoo Fantasy experts make their picks for top rookie this season.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

Andy Behrens: If I didn’t claim David Montgomery in this piece, then Brad would have written about him for the 194th time. And no one wants that. Montgomery doesn’t quite have Josh Jacobs’ unobstructed path to a zillion touches, nor is he likely to match the full-season point total of Kyler Murray. He’s been a high-buzz rookie throughout the offseason, however, thanks to runs like this...

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Bears coaches and staff have done a terrible job hiding their enthusiasm for Montgomery this summer. It’s clear he’s going to have a huge role in a backfield in which Jordan Howard’s 270 touches are up for grabs. Montgomery is a tackle-breaking machine, well-positioned to outproduce his Yahoo ADP (59.2).

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Brad Evans: The combined age of Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy rivals that of Gandalf plus Dumbledore. Outside of Singletary, the Bills’ backfield is mummified, which bodes well for the younger, fresher rookie. Though he didn’t play against stiff competition at Florida Atlantic, the 5-foot-7, 203-pound fire hydrant routinely extinguished the competition. His 42.2 percent broken tackle rate and 70.2 percent of yards generated after initial contact were almost unfathomable. Also accomplished as a receiver, it’s only a matter of time before he buoys to the top. Running with confidence this preseason, he’s one of the finer late-round stashes in the game. It would be no surprise if he started five games or more.

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

Dalton Del Don: The Rams appear to have the best system for running backs right now, evidenced by C.J. Anderson’s dominant stretch run last season after literally coming off his couch. Todd Gurley, meanwhile, has an arthritic knee condition that’s going to limit his touches moving forward at best and prevent him from playing altogether (like it did at times during the team’s most crucial moments last season) at worst. Enter Henderson, whom the Rams traded up for to draft after he finished his career at Memphis with a college football record 8.2 YPC mark. Henderson can be plenty valuable in an “Alvin Kamara type role” as a receiver, but he also possesses league-winning upside unlike any other mid-round pick should Gurley’s knee condition worsen (it’s not getting any better) and as an ideal fit in LA’s system.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Matt Harmon: Among all of the players listed in this piece, the one most likely to land within the Top-10 at his respective position is Murray. Of course, he will do so at a far less valuable and deeper position than his peers but nevertheless, Murray’s ceiling makes him appealing even within the replaceable quarterback group. Make no mistake, there is a still a tantalizing high-end on the range of outcomes here even after a shaky preseason. We have not seen the true Cardinals offense yet, not even close. The Kliff Kingsbury scoring unit may not revolutionize the league in Year 1 but they will operate from the shotgun on the vast majority of their snaps, play uptempo and throw the ball a ton. The volume alone makes Murray intriguing. His rushing ability makes him certifiably intoxicating. He ran for 1,000 yards and 12 scores last year. Those totals aren’t realistic in the NFL but even 600 to 700 yards would push him into the back-half of the QB1 group. At the very least there will be many weeks we want to deploy Murray in fantasy as a streamer. At best, he can be a difference-maker that finishes in the Top 8 at the position.

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Scott Pianowski: I hate to soft pedal a player I chose, but Montgomery was off the board and I’m not as Cuckoo for Kyler as some are. Honestly, I’m not in love with Jacobs, either, but what’s important is that the Raiders like him and think he can play in all situations. Doug Martin doesn’t have much left and Jalen Richard is merely a pass-catching specialist. It’s going to be a boring volume grab — and the Raiders offensive line could be troublesome — but Jacobs will play too much not to be a key fantasy factor in 2019.

That all said, the rookie backs I’m excited to draft are the lottery tickets, the guys like Alexander Mattison, Devin Singletary, and Darwin Thompson. You can’t really choose them in this exercise because they have no floor, but oh, what an upside. That’s a discussion for another day.

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