Spearheaded by Saquon Barkley, Royce Freeman and Kerryon Johnson, this year’s batch of first-year players is deep and talented. What other rookies could rise to the occasion and become fantasy roster staples? Our intrepid Yahoo fanalysts investigate.
Andy – D.J. MOORE (127.9 ADP, WR45). When Carolina selected Moore as the first receiver off the board in the 2018 draft, the team made the right call. Moore was an almost unstoppable player last season at Maryland, but he was trapped in a dismal quarterback mess. He still somehow managed to average 86.1 receiving YPG for a team that passed for only 161.7 yards each week. Here’s a glimpse of his after-the-catch ability, from the Panthers’ preseason opener. Moore is legit, and it’s not a stretch to think he’ll quickly emerge as Carolina’s No. 1 receiver. He’ll deliver an easy profit at his ADP.
Dalton – MIKE GESICKI (187.96 ADP, TE25). With Jarvis Landry out of town, and Devante Parker once again disappointing before getting hurt, there’s opportunity for the rookie to step in and be a big part of Miami’s offense right away. Tight end isn’t the easiest position for rookies to transition to, but Gesicki’s workout metrics were insanely impressive, and the Dolphins badly need playmaking receivers, so any shortcomings in pass protection likely won’t keep Gesicki off the field. He’s developing a nice rapport with Ryan Tannehill and is in the right situation to make an immediate impact as a rookie.
Liz – COURTLAND SUTTON (191.6, WR68). A former tight end who plays at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Sutton is a physical player with a luxe catch radius. Drafted by the Broncos in the second round, the SMU product has been a standout in camp and is slated to enter 2018 as Denver’s No 3 WR. While it’s unlikely Sutton’s volume will be enough to make an immediate impact, his role could blossom rapidly as the season unfolds. Working behind two 30-year-old starters (one of whom has already been dinged up) and with little tight end talent, the 22-year-old has long-term break-out appeal.
Scott – ANTHONY MILLER (172.9, WR64). There are several moving parts with the Bears offense. New coach, new coordinator, new tight end, new featured wide receiver. So accept up front, there’s a wide range of outcomes here. Heck, we’re still not sure how good sophomore QB Mitchell Trubisky is, or can be.
All that established, Miller looks ready for an immediate role. The Bears moved up in the second round to secure him on draft day, and he’s quickly taken control of the primary slot role, where the coverage is generally easier to beat. Trubisky also has shown particular skill and affinity for throwing to the middle of the field, which funnels perfectly to Miller’s skill set. Miller has also flashed in preseason action.
I generally don’t expect a lot from rookie wideouts, though they practically broke the game in 2014. But Miller’s entering the NFL as a polished product, after three productive years at Memphis (238-3590-31). The Memphis coaching staff all but wrote sonnets about Miller, so impressed with his competition level, intelligence and work ethic. Get some pen and paper ready for the Chicago staff.
Matt – MICHAEL GALLUP (181.4 ADP, WR 68). Drafted into the best spot for immediate opportunity among any rookie wide receiver, Michael Gallup is capitalizing on his chance. The third-round wideout has been on the field for 85 percent of Dak Prescott’s plays through the first two weeks of the preseason. It’s all but official he will be a starter for the Cowboys offense.
Gallup is one of the best 50/50-ball receivers to come into the draft over the last few years. He saw a contested catch attempt on 27 percent of his targets in the collegiate games sampled for Reception Perception and posted a sterling 80 percent conversion rate. He’s also a solid route-runner on the Michael Crabtree/Michael Crabtree axis. He fits better with Dak Prescott’s game as a timing-route player than a jump ball receiver like Dez Bryant. Operating in Bryant’s vacated X-receiver spot, Gallup could push for 100 targets this season and lead the Cowboys in receiving.
Brad – CHRISTIAN KIRK (193.0 ADP, WR69). It seems the hype surrounding the youngster was swallowed hole by one of the Sonoran’s many enveloping haboobs. Few people are talking or drafting him, even in the deepest of leagues. Still, with a clear path to a sizable target share and reportedly in contention for one of Arizona’s starting wide receiver gigs, Kirk is worth your time in the double-digit rounds.
The Texas A&M product is compact (5-foot-10, 201 pounds), shifty and highly explosive (4.47 40-yard dash). Last season with the Aggies, he finished No. 9 in deep ball receptions and racked an appreciable 5.4 yards after contact per completion. He’s best suited for the slot, but with Larry Fitzgerald entrenched in that role, Mike McCoy will move the rookie about to enhance mismatches and take advantage of Kirk’s acceleration and elusiveness in the open field. If used creatively, it’s possible he could entice 17-19 percent of the target share this fall chipping in occasional WR3/FLEX worthy outputs, especially in return yardage leagues.