Best Ball Rookie Risers and Fallers (Fantasy Football)

May 6, 2018

Mike Gesicki’s receiving skills should give him a clear path to playing time on the Dolphins

April fading into May brings with it the last lull until football-related activities before the start of the season. In a few weeks, the NFL will permit a three-day rookie training camp, and we’ll have a bit more chatter to work with during the summer’s NFL dry-spell. However, with best ball leagues and dynasty drafts happening all the time, it’s important for instant reaction and staying on top of this pool of new players and their respective landing spots. Rookies will be shuffled and re-shuffled a few times between now and the beginning of the season, but the following guys are ones that should take precedent as their landing spots have a significant and clear effect on their current stock.

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Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG): Pre-Draft ADP: 8.5
When your ADP starts as high as Barkley’s, it’s hard to imagine him climbing after the draft, but landing in New York provides him with a very good opportunity for production. At first glance, New York’s 2017 campaign would make you think their offense does not provide much hope for any prospect, however, with Beckham Jr. back to full health and an offensive line now improved with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez, and there is the potential for a perfect place-and-produce situation for Barkley. There is an assumption that Pat Shurmur will be able to wring out whatever production is left inside of Eli Manning, but the receiving skills of Barkley fit incredibly well. Barkley should see that ADP creep up to at least six or seven overall, now that his fit is seen.

Royce Freeman (RB – DEN): Pre-Draft ADP: 160.4
The Broncos cut C.J. Anderson roughly two weeks before the NFL Draft. The timing of this departure tells us quite a few things that are relevant to deciphering Freeman’s future role. Most importantly it shows that they felt whoever they were to acquire in the draft would be a better option than Anderson. 

This is important because Anderson had gained the RB1 role over Devontae Booker (meaning any replacement for Anderson should have the upper hand in gaining the role from Booker as well). With Freeman in a solid position to be Denver’s RB1 going into the season, his ADP is sure to rise. Evan Silva has him as his RB31 in his early rankings, which projects a significant jump from his pre-draft price tag.

Christian Kirk (WR – ARI): Pre-Draft ADP: 202.5
The placement for Christian Kirk gets a bit tricky because his ideal role is at slot receiver. However, Larry Fitzgerald has primarily dominated slot receiver duties for some time, now, in Arizona. So what is the big jump for Kirk? 

Well, for one, he goes to a team with a rather weak WR crew. After Fitzgerald, Brice Butler and J.J. Nelson are the options, meaning Kirk will likely add value right away (even if it’s found on the outside or in less-than-optimal roles). His pre-draft ADP was so low that he’s a prime candidate to keep your eyes on towards the end of best ball drafts. If there’s a chance to grab him in the last three or four rounds, he’s worth your consideration.

James Washington (WR – PIT): Pre-Draft ADP: 210.5
When the Steelers sent Martavis Bryant to the Raiders, it was clear they’d be in the market for his replacement in this year’s draft. James Washington should get an early chance to claim the spot left by Bryant and plug-in alongside Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The WR3 on the Steelers should see opportunities this year and is worth far more than his current ADP (which currently has him going in Round 17 or 18 of 12-man drafts.

Michael Gallup (WR – DAL): Pre-Draft ADP: 215.8
A consensus All-American in his last two years of college, some inside the Cowboys organization viewed Gallup as a potential second-round pick. When he fell to them in the third, it was a perfect union. The Cowboys currently have only two players on their roster who played more than 160 snaps for them last year (Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley), so the opportunity will be there. It will be up to Gallup to leverage his talent to make it count.

Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA): Pre-Draft ADP: 194.2
One thing we’ve gotten to see from Gesicki throughout this draft process is his ability to contribute as a receiver (in a role similar to that of Evan Engram). It is for this reason that there’s a clear path to playing time. 

The drafting of the blocking-proficient TE Durham Smythe suggests that Gesicki won’t be asked to block frequently and could see time split out in the slot. Gesicki’s a great late-round flier and should see plenty of opportunities. Now that he’s in Miami, he’s bound to go earlier than his pre-draft ADP of 194.2.


Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL): Pre-Draft ADP: 201.4
Lamar Jackson fell in the first round of the NFL Draft, and he’ll continue to fall in best ball drafts this summer as well. Ideally, he would have been drafted earlier by a team with an immediate need for QB. Joe Flacco, regardless of merit, is the starting QB for Baltimore in 2018, barring injury. Due to that realization, Jackson shouldn’t be expected to start right away and that significantly weakens any argument to draft him in best ball leagues.

Derrius Guice (RB – WAS): Pre-Draft ADP: 41.1
Guice was another player who slid on draft day. His slide stopped when Washington picked him up in the second round, and he landed on a team where he will be a two-down back (at best). Jay Gruden has shown no reservations about rolling out a committee for his running back position in the past, and it is assumed that Chris Thompson will continue to retain his role as the third-down back. With that being the case, Guice should not go as high as the pre-draft hype had him. His value will start to drop and align more closely with his actual role in Washington.

Sony Michel (RB – NE): Pre-Draft ADP: 59.9
Okay, so this one will be hard to gauge, as any running back in Bill Belichick’s offense is only as good as his last series it seems. The main hesitation in loving Sony Michel, this season, is his landing spot in a very unpredictable backfield. With Rex Burkhead being healthy and James White still expected to be a factor at times, it’s hard to understand that role that Michel will play, as of now. It could become clearer in the coming months, but right now, he is not worth a pick in the first five rounds of a 12-team draft.

Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN): Pre-Draft ADP: 179.9
The Broncos drafted two stellar wide receivers to learn behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, however, the odds of Sutton finding an immediate, meaningful role within the current offense is questionable. This, combined with raw talent that many GMs thought needed further development is why he could be sliding out of best ball drafts for 2018.

It’s always enticing to play with the shiny new toys and rookies entering the NFL are just that. However, using good discernment to analyze their respective situations will undoubtedly help produce better results in any format of fantasy (best ball or otherwise). So as the summer months grow long in the absence of football, keep your eyes peeled for shifting circumstance and expanding opportunities for all players.

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Ethan Sauers is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ethan, check out his archive and follow him @ethansauers.

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