Redraft Rookie Rundown

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rearview, we are left to dissect how the rookies will impact their new teams. More importantly, for our purposes, our fantasy rosters. Typically rookies aren’t poised to come in and have an immediate impact, but every year we discover league winning value from the incoming injection of youth.

NFL scouts and media analysts have done little to provide hope this year, deeming this class one of the least talented in some time. But the NFL Draft is over, and we know teams invested serious draft capital into players like Josh Jacobs and N’Keal Harry, so they will see the field this season.

Every year we find first year breakouts who can be acquired later in the draft and become every week starters for your fantasy team. Baker Mayfield, Phillip Lindsay, D.J. Moore, Sony Michel, Calvin Ridley, and Nick Chubb all fall into this category from the 2018 draft class. Rookies don’t always get love in redraft leagues and this year is no different. Here are some names to stash away for the 2019 season while your league mates overlook this “weak” draft class.

Headliners

N’Keal Harry (WR – NE)

True to the infamous ‘hoodies’ unpredictable reputation, the New England Patriots select a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft for the first time in 20 years. N’Keal Harry enters the league an athletic freak at 6’2”, 228 lbs. with a speed score in the 90th percentile and SPARQ score in the 98th percentile per PlayerProfiler. Harry dominated the PAC-12 compiling over 1,000 yards each of his final two seasons, with 21 total touchdowns and is now being gifted the honor of likely becoming the Patriots number one receiver. Not a bad gig.

Of course, the Patriots still have Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, but he plays 45.1% of his snaps out of the slot per PlayerProfiler. New England also just lost Gronkowski, Hogan, and Josh Gordon is unlikely to return in 2019. That leaves 195 available targets, the bulk of which will likely be aimed at the 32nd overall pick. This sets N’Keal Harry up to receive immediate targets and a chance to gain Tom Brady’s trust.

Harry is known for his ability to catch the ball in contested situations, something we know Brady utilizes better than anybody. Harry brings a number one receiver mindset to the position group as well, saying he’ll do anything to secure the catch, words Brady must love to hear.

There are some concerns that Harry wouldn’t be able to create separation in the NFL, but as one AFC receivers coach noted, nobody gets separation in this league.

He has the skill set and combination of size and speed to go up and get the ball even with defenders draped all over him. His tape displays what is possibly the most complete route tree of the incoming rookie class which will translate well to the NFL and the Patriots offense. No one is sure how much longer Brady will play, but we know Harry will get at least a year or two with the GOAT, meaning good things for his fantasy production. Harry should be drafted as a WR2/3 considering the team’s recent departures, available targets, and lack of talent at the position.

Josh Jacobs (RB – OAK)

No one is ever quite sure what Jon Gruden is up to, especially after sending his scouting team home before the draft because “they weren’t sure who they could trust”. Seriously, that happened. So, it was a bit of a surprise when Oakland selected Clelin Ferrell at 4th overall and then Josh Jacobs with the 24th pick.

Jacobs was the number one rated back in the draft and is plenty talented. With a career total of 250 carries, the Alabama product is coming in with fresh legs after sharing touches with Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough. He totaled 640 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground and 247 yards and three receiving touchdowns in his final season with the Crimson Tide. Oakland is getting a versatile player in a talentless backfield.

Sometimes landing spot is everything and Jacobs finds himself in a great situation. There aren’t too many jobs set up for a ton of touches and path to a certain workhorse role. This one does. Jon Gruden’s running backs historically carry the ball 215 times per season and receive an additional 59 targets. The Raider’s invested a first-round pick in Jacobs. There’s no way he isn’t given a chance to lead the backfield, draft capital alone gives him that shot.  

His versatility makes a case for itself though and the Raiders need that kind of weapon for Derek Carr. Isaiah Crowell was likely his stiffest competition until he tore his Achilles. Now the only formidable talent left in his way is Jalen Richard, but Jacobs is a better runner and is a pass catcher as well. Carr has the lowest depth of target in the NFL so he will take advantage of Jacobs dual-threat ability by utilizing him in the passing attack. He’s a decisive runner who imposes his will on his opponents. He can be a three-down back and give the Raiders the capability to run different schemes while he’s in the game and he is simply more talented than any other Oakland back. He will see the field early and often but should be a more relevant fantasy option later in the season once he solidifies himself as the best back. Look to grab him in the fourth or fifth round of your draft.

D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA)

As soon as D.K. walked off stage at the NFL Draft a physician handed him a cup and asked him if he knew his way to the restroom. No, but seriously this dude is a beast! He looks more fit to be a linebacker than a wide receiver.

The pre-draft hype was real for D.K. Metcalf after he put out the best NFL Combine performance by a mile. Weighing in at 6’3”, 228 lbs., he scored 90th percentile or above in catch radius, burst score, and speed score. He ran a 4.43-sec 40-yard dash, putting him in the 99th percentile, matching his SPARQ rating per PlayerProfiler. There are questions about his agility and route running, but those skills can be developed. The metrics speak for themselves. He is stronger and faster than most defenders he will face.

He looked like a stud scoring five touchdowns in his first seven games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending neck injury. His college production is spotty due to his injury history, which is a concern for him coming into the NFL, but he is healthy now and has been drafted into what might be the best situation for a player with his specific skill set.

Metcalf may not be a polished all-around receiver, but Russell Wilson is extremely accurate. If Wilson can put the ball in his area, he can create the separation and be successful. He is a mismatch nightmare for defensive coordinators. His size and skill can create touchdown value even in a low passing volume offense like Seattle’s.

Doug Baldwin is likely on his way to retirement after an injury-riddled couple of years, thus clearing the way for D.K. to land the starting job. The hype might die down a bit by the time your league’s draft so Metcalf could end up being a value pick after falling in the draft and questions about whether his game translates to the NFL.

David Montgomery (RB – CHI)

After shipping off Jordan Howard to the Eagles, the Bears looked like they found their running back in recently acquired Mike Davis. That all changed after Chicago drafted Montgomery in the third round of the NFL Draft. The Iowa State running back accumulated over 1,000 yards on the ground and 10+ touchdowns in each of his last two seasons, ending 2018 first-team All-American.

Montgomery didn’t necessarily light up the NFL Combine, but he comes into the league as one of the most complete runners in this draft class. At 5’10”, 222 lbs., he fits the mold of a traditional every down back. His scouting report notes the combination of size, vision, toughness, and creativity, and it shows on tape. He has been compared to Kareem Hunt as far as on-field ability and when you watch the kid play you see exactly what the scouts and Matt Nagy see.

Montgomery is an instinctive runner who fights his way through traffic by making smart decisions and using footwork and balance to stay in control on the field. He comes into the Bears offense as a pro-ready back for a team that needs someone who can create yards on the ground. Matt Nagy coached Kareem Hunt and knows how to utilize a back with a similar profile. Jordan Howard received 250 carries in 2018 so Monty has the potential to see 200+ carries in 2019 without question.

Of course, we must consider that Tarik Cohen will continue to play a major role in the offense, but Nagy didn’t move up in the draft to get David Montgomery in the third round to have him sit on the sidelines all year. He is expected to have an immediate impact; the only question is how much work he can carve out for himself competing with other talented players. Landing spot alone makes him a relevant fantasy option, look for him in the sixth or seventh rounds of your draft.

Marquise Brown (WR – BAL)

With the John Brown experiment in the rearview mirror, the Ravens made a strong attempt to upgrade their receiver position by choosing speedster Marquise Brown in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Brown was wildly productive in his two years at Oklahoma, finishing 2018 with 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. His speed allows him to get downfield for big plays or take the ball short and create yards after the catch. He even posted 265 yards against Oklahoma State, setting a school record for most receiving yards in a single game. “Hollywood” Brown could be a superstar just like his cousin Antonio Brown.

Baltimore clearly wants to dictate the pace of the game with Lamar Jackson at the helm of a run-first offense. Brown enters the league a starting receiver for all intents and purposes due to the departures of both Michael Crabtree and John Brown. That is if he can stay healthy. The worry is he’s currently recovering from Lisfranc foot surgery and there is a fear he may not be the same player when he returns.

Even though he couldn’t participate in rookie minicamp drills, reports indicate Browns rehab is on schedule and set to ramp up. Ravens General Manager, Eric DeCosta, says he will be ready for training camp and Brown himself said he will be ready to go. If injury woes aren’t enough, there are also concerns surrounding Jackson’s ability to get the ball to his receivers, but improvement is expected in 2019 as his game develops. Jackson should be able to expand his repertoire with a rebuilt receiving corps, including third-rounder Miles Boykin, more suited to his skill set.

Assuming Brown is healthy he was drafted 25th overall to be the number one receiver in the Ravens offense. With Jackson looking to pass more in 2019, talent and opportunity make him a potential first-year fantasy producer and a WR2/3 on most rosters.

T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET)

In an effort to do their best New England Patriots impression, the Detroit Lions selected tight end T.J. Hockenson eighth overall in the NFL Draft. I have to say I was stunned, Hock is without a doubt the best all-around tight end in this draft, but I just had him going a bit later with the assumption there was superior talent there at other positions of need.

But that’s neither here nor there, the Lions had a major hole at tight end and the word is he will start week one. He will be a huge help to the running game so he should see plenty of playing time, at the very least he is a weekly stream based on opponent. He has the tools to do anything the team needs, it’s really a matter of how they decide to use him.

Over the last three years, the Lions tight end has garnered a 17% target share (3% below league average) with 12% in 2018. As shocked as I was, the team needed a playmaker at the position and they got their guy by spending a top 10 pick. While there is clearly some truth to the idea that Stafford doesn’t utilize the tight end as much as other quarterbacks, the position sees a 52% success rate, which is right around league average. Lions tight ends also receive the second highest yards per attempt per position group, giving hope Hockenson will be given chances to make some plays down the field.

There is some question as to how much he will actually be used in the passing game, but when you watch his film, he can do it all and Matt Patricia is clearly trying to summon a Gronk-like mismatch with this pick. He is 6’5”, 251 lbs. and his catch radius ranks in the 91st percentile per PlayerProfiler. Hockenson will likely finish somewhere around the top 12 if not higher based on opportunity alone, don’t shy away from this rookie in your draft, he may just live up to the hype.  

Noah Fant (TE – DEN)

Noah Fant was an offensive juggernaut for Iowa scoring 19 touchdowns in 30 games. If it weren’t for a poor blocking profile he would have been the number one ranked tight end over the aforementioned T.J. Hockenson. The Hock/Fant combo ended their careers with about the same amount of catches but Fant scored 10 more touchdowns making him the far superior offensive weapon.

Drafted 20th overall, Noah Fant finds himself on the Denver Broncos with little to no competition. Only Jake Butt and Jeff Heuerman stand in his way of becoming the starter. Both guys have struggled with injuries and don’t match Fant’s athletic skill set. He isn’t strong enough at the point of attack to be effective in the run game, but if Denver can develop the young tight end he could be a fantasy dream in the mold of Travis Kelce or George Kittle.

Fant amassed 518 yards and 7 touchdowns on 39 catches in only eight games in 2018 and looks to bring that to the NFL, landing in an excellent position to do so. Over the last three years, Joe Flacco’s tight end has seen a 23% target share (top 10 in the league) and 6.7 yards per attempt, just 0.2 fewer yards than his wide receivers. Flacco loves his tight ends and if the target share is anything like it has been in the past, the rookie will have a ton of opportunity to show his talent and produce huge fantasy numbers. With the starting role likely in hand, Fant will be a good value in 2019 fantasy drafts.

Honorable Mentions

Kyler Murray (QB – ARI)

After all the hype and drama surrounding the Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray situation, Kliff Kingsbury sticks to his word from years ago and drafts Kyler Murray number one overall. Murray had an incredible 2018 campaign leading the Sooners with over 4,000 yards passing and 42 touchdowns with an additional 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.

He comes in with the Russell Wilson profile. While he is definitely undersized, he uses his feet to stretch the pocket, create extra space and time for his pass catchers, and move the chains for his team when plays break down. Not only does he have all the tools needed to be successful, but we know the starting job is his without a doubt. If you are in a one-quarterback league there may not be much reason to draft him this year, but he will likely end up being a top 15/16 fantasy quarterback in 2019. If you are in two-quarterback or 12/16 team league Murray will be at the very least a QB2 and should be rostered.  

Irv Smith Jr. (TE – MIN)

The Vikings did Kirk Cousins a solid and drafted him an offensive weapon to hopefully make his life a bit easier. Irv Smith comes from Alabama where he was mostly used in the passing game and that is mainly what Minnesota drafted him for. Cousins was top five in passing attempts last year, so he ends up in a great situation for his play style. That said, 67% of the team’s targets went to the wide receiver position which is a cause for concern and could be a reason the Vikings took Smith in the second round.

Now, you may be thinking “what about Kyle Rudolph?”. Well, he is in the final year of his contract, set to make over $7 million this year and reports indicate the team is looking to move on from him.

This should come as no surprise considering the draft capital spent on the position this year and lack of success with him at the position last year. Smith’s final year at Alabama was a big play highlight reel, ending with 44 catches for 710 yards and seven touchdowns. The main point here is to keep an eye on the Kyle Rudolph situation, if he is traded before your draft you will know who to grab.

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)

The Saquon Barkley backup deserves to be mentioned along with rookies who may have an impact on your 2019 fantasy teams. Sanders compiled over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018 after Barkley’s departure, showing he too could carry the rock.

Sanders situation doesn’t provide the advantageous outlook some other rookies we’ve discussed have, being mixed in with Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and *insert backup running back name for eternity*. Even with the slew of backs the Eagles are hoarding, Sanders talent could shine through and he may end up being a candidate for your flex spot throughout the year. Keep tabs on the Eagles so you can be first in line to grab their starting running back.  

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)

McLaurin was selected in the third round to pair along with his Ohio State and new Washington Redskins quarterback, Dwayne Haskins. The Redskins desperately needed help at the wide receiver position and stocked up in the draft. The kicker here is that Haskins and McLaurin already have a connection and could transfer that relationship to the NFL.

It remains to be seen if Haskins will even start and how much run McLaurin will initially get, but there is real intrigue there with the current atmosphere around the Skins. After last season with Alex Smith going down and their season being derailed, the team needs a huge turn around this year. McLaurin and Haskins may give them the boost they need. If given the opportunity, you could find McLaurin ending up a valuable fantasy piece for little to no cost.  

Good luck and Happy Drafting!!!

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts or would like to discuss, you can find me on Twitter @WillieBeamanDFF

bbeaman

Writer and Analytics Specialist for @DFF_Dynasty & @DFF_Redraft. #DFFArmy #FantasyFootball

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