Impact Dynasty Rookies (Fantasy Football)
Most of the questions I get throughout the offseason are often focused on dynasty leagues, but more specifically, which players to target in rookie drafts. While I did release my top-50 dynasty rookie rankings earlier this week (read that article here), it’s really a loaded question.
When going into a rookie draft, you have to understand your roster and be honest with yourself about it. You can’t always just take the best player available, just like your favorite NFL team can’t always take best player available. You have to understand the holes on your roster and attack them heavily in the draft. It could make the difference between winning a championship and simply having depth on your roster.
With that being said, there are some of you out there who will be competing for a dynasty championship in 2018 and want to know the players who can help you immediately. While it’s impossible to grab just anyone (because your draft slot may not allow you to get them), I’m going to list some players who should be considered immediate contributors in fantasy.
Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
This one is literally too obvious, but I’d get yelled at if he wasn’t on this list. He’s going to walk in and be given over 300 touches in his rookie year. Playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram will have its benefits, as it’s going to be hard for defenses to load the box just to stop him. If you can get him on your roster, it immediately becomes better.
Ronald Jones (RB – TB)
While I think he’s worthy of the 1.03 pick in rookie drafts, you might want to consider him at 1.02 if you’re playing for a championship this year. Similar to Barkley, he’ll walk into an offense that’s filled with playmakers on the field. Jones may not have been used much in the receiving game at USC, but it doesn’t mean he won’t with the Bucs. As of now, he should walk into 15-plus touches a game and be an immediate contributor.
Sony Michel (RB – NE)
I have Michel as my No. 2 running back in my dynasty rankings, though he comes with slightly more risk than Ronald Jones does. Why? Well, he plays for the Patriots, who has historically been tougher to predict than most teams. He has also had fumbling issues in the past, something Bill Belichick doesn’t stand for. Still, the Patriots have finished as a top-three scoring offense every year since 2010 and you don’t use a first-round pick on a running back unless you’re planning to use him.
Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
He’s going to have more value out of the box than most think, as it’s possible that Chris Thompson may not be ready by Week 1 as he recovers from his broken leg. Even if he is, the Redskins may choose to ease him back into action. Guice is someone who many say comes with baggage (though we aren’t sure what that means). Whatever the case, you don’t take someone with baggage unless you reap the rewards, which is where his fantasy points will come from.
Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)
I almost didn’t put Penny on this list because I think his value for 2018 is pretty static to his average ranking, but if you need someone to plug into an RB2 slot, he can absolutely do that. The Seahawks are trending in the wrong direction, but as a fantasy owner, you just want touches, something Penny should be given plenty of considering his draft slot at No. 27 overall.
Royce Freeman (RB – DEN)
Some will be concerned about Devontae Booker starting for the Broncos, but you shouldn’t be one of them. The only question is how much third-down work will Booker get? Freeman reminds me of Jordan Howard, as someone who is a no-nonsense runner and one who’ll get every yard possible. While the Broncos offensive line could use some help, Freeman should fill C.J. Anderson‘s shoes very nicely as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3, at minimum.
Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL)
Dubbed as the most pro-ready wide receiver to come out of the draft, Ridley will be starting opposite Julio Jones in his rookie season. Jones hasn’t been the picture of perfect health over his career, but even without an injury, we saw a much less talented Taylor Gabriel succeed in this offense not long ago. He’s not going to be an every week starter, but if you play in a deep league that starts 3 WR and 2 flex spots, he can definitely make an impact.
D.J. Moore (WR – CAR)
Walking on to a team like the Panthers who lack wide receiver depth will surely benefit Moore, and though he’s likely to be a tad inconsistent because of his quarterback play, he’s going to be a contributor in year one. As of now, it’s hard not to project him for at least 70 targets in the Panthers offense, which is enough to put him in the WR4/5 conversation most weeks.
Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
This is one to pay attention to through training camp, as Gallup can very well earn a starting spot in 2WR sets for the Cowboys, provided they actually give him a chance to do so. He’s more talented than any other wide receiver on the roster, including Allen Hurns, though that’s who he’d start alongside. If Gallup earns that spot, he’s likely to finish as the top-scoring rookie wide receiver.
James Washington (WR – PIT)
Had the Steelers not traded away Martavis Bryant, Washington wouldn’t be on this list. The fact that his competition is Darrius Heyward-Bey and Justin Hunter is very noteworthy, because he may start from day one. If that’s the case, he’s someone who can make a fantasy impact with just 4-5 targets per game, as he’s one of the best deep-ball trackers in the game.
Anthony Miller (WR – CHI)
It’s clear the Bears are doing everything they can to provide Mitch Trubisky with weapons, and they traded away a second-round pick next year in order to move up and take Miller in this year’s draft. He’s going to be the No. 2 receiver behind Allen Robinson, but we saw Trubisky develop a relationship with Kendall Wright over the middle of the field late last year.
Tre’Quan Smith (WR – NO)
After trading up in the first-round to select an edge-rusher, the Saints have told you they are in-it-to-win-it in 2018. They followed that pick up by selecting Smith in the third-round, a 6-foot-2 receiver who is known to be able to go up and over cornerbacks to snag the ball. While I’m not projecting him to be a long-term difference-maker, the Saints clearly believe he can help them right now.
Hayden Hurst (TE – BAL)
It kind of hurt his projection when the Ravens took Mark Andrews in the third-round, but you don’t select a 25-year-old tight end in the first-round if you aren’t planning on using him immediately. He was the most pro-ready tight end in the draft and will walk into an offense that has targeted the tight end position 285 times over the last two years – and that was with Dennis Pitta and Ben Watson.