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Top 5 2017 Rookies (Fantasy Football)

May 4, 2017

Can Christian McCaffrey become Carolina’s lead back this year?

We can finally settle in and take a breather following all of the pre-draft buildup as picks unfolded and players’ futures were realized. All that’s left now is the preseason excitement, as NFL coaching staffs and fantasy gamers alike try to unlock the potential that this year’s rookie class brings to the table for the 2017 NFL season.

While some players fell to dismal locations, and won’t have much to offer in the way of fantasy impact, others will run up draft boards and produce as early as Week 1. This article covers the top five players to eye in your 2017 redraft leagues based on their current landing spots in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR)
Perhaps one of the most exciting picks in this year’s draft came when the Carolina Panthers selected Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick. McCaffrey could be a perfect fit for the Carolina Panthers, who could be looking to quickly phase out embattled veteran Jonathan Stewart, who will be 30 years old at the start of this season, and underwhelmed in 2016 to the tune of 218 carries for 824 yards, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Stewart has not played a full 16 game season since 2011 and has only one 1,000+ yard season to his name over his nine-year career.

Enter Christian McCaffrey, who was a Swiss Army knife type player for Stanford, making plays on the ground, through the air, and in the return game. He finished his time at Stanford with 632 carries for 3,922 yards and 21 touchdowns while also posting 99 receptions for 1,206 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. McCaffrey also averaged 26.2 yards per return as a kick returner and had a blistering 11.2 yards per return as a punt returner.

His value on offense may result in him being underutilized in the return game, but there is no doubt that Christian McCaffrey will easily be viewed as a three-down back for the Panthers. He has a chance to flourish with a quarterback like Cam Newton, who can extend plays and find ways to get him the ball, and creates headaches for opposing defenders in the open field.

Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
Unfortunately, controversy surrounds Joe Mixon the person following a domestic assault case from 2014 with a woman in a restaurant. That being said, there is no doubting his talent on the field, and his ability as an every-down back.

Mixon going to the Bengals might have been one of the most predictable picks of the draft, given the team’s history of willingness to take on troubled players such as Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, and the late Chris Henry. Heading into the 2017 season, Joe Mixon will have a chance to be the bell cow for the Bengals right out of the gate. With veteran running back Giovanni Bernard still recovering from a torn ACL, and incumbent Jeremy Hill unable to produce at the level he did in his rookie season, Mixon is a prime candidate to fill the early down and third down roles in Cincinnati’s offense.

Mixon’s landing spot becomes that much better when you consider the efficient play of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in the passing game, and the fact that the Bengals boast a defense that is capable of holding opposing offenses at bay. Joe Mixon can break open games when needed, and also sustain drives late in the game when looking to hold onto a win. He could be an easy candidate to log 20-plus touches early and often, and should be a favorite among fantasy gamers looking to find late-round picks that provide high volume.

Corey Davis (WR – TEN)
The Tennessee Titans bolstered an already prolific offense in the first round of this year’s draft with the selection of Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis who has been widely regarded as the best receiver in the draft. At six-foot-two, 205-pounds, Corey Davis possesses elite size as a red zone threat and could be a perfect pairing with third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has yet to throw an interception in the red zone. Another year of balanced running between DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should only open then passing game that much more for Davis, who should find plenty of room to run while opposing defenses try to also zone in on tight end Delanie Walker and wide receivers Tajae Sharpe and Rishard Matthews.

Davis faces scrutiny given his small school history, and matchups against underwhelming talent during his time at Western Michigan, but as a first round pick there is no doubt that his chances to make plays for Tennessee will come early and often. He’ll be a late-round pick in re-draft leagues who could lead to early upside in PPR leagues on a weekly basis.

Mike Williams (WR – LAC)
The Los Angeles Chargers made a surprising move and selected Clemson wideout Mike Williams with the seventh overall pick, bolstering a wide receiver corps that already features Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and the recently re-signed Dontrelle Inman. The Chargers aren’t going to waste time implementing Williams into their offense given his high draft stock, and he should fit nicely in an offense that features Phillip Rivers and possession receiver Keenan Allen.

Williams is a big-bodied wide receiver (six-foot-four, 218-pounds), and has the potential to be a dynamic red zone threat in 2017. The Chargers also have perennial red zone targets in Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, which will force defenses to cover multiple areas of the field inside the 20.

Jeremy McNichols (RB – TB)
This one may need to be utilized as a stash early on in the season, but Jeremy McNichols could be worth the wait. The rookie running back out of Boise State was selected in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will have to prove his worth in camp just to see the field early, but there’s no doubting his ability as a dual-threat back in the passing game and on the ground.

McNichols dominated his three years at Boise State to the tune of 571 carries for 3,205 yards and 44 touchdowns while hauling in 103 receptions for 1,089 yards and 11 scores. Despite the early reports on Doug Martin coming in looking like a top-tier back, there’s no overcoming his 2.9 yards per carry average during an injury-riddled 2016 season that ended with the veteran running back being suspended for a positive drug test.

The Buccaneers have no reason to be tied down to Martin at the start of 2017, and an underwhelming start to this year’s campaign could lead to a boost in McNichols’ stock. He has the size and athleticism to carry the load for Tampa Bay if given a chance and plays in an offense that will yield favorable playmaking opportunities. Owning McNichols may take patience for fantasy owners early in the season, but could yield late season success come fantasy playoff time.

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Zachary Krueger is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive or follow him @FFTroglodyte.

Draft Prep, NFL, NFL Draft