In recent NFL history, we’ve seen rookies make an instant impact for fantasy purposes. Going back to the storied rookie wide receiver class of 2014 (where we saw at least 14 relevant fantasy assets enter the league- many of which made an impact out of the gate), rookies have been producing in recent years. In 2015 we saw both Todd Gurley and David Johnson crack the top-10 among fantasy running backs as rookies. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard and Mike Thomas were all ranked among the top-10 at their respective positions for fantasy. And who could forget last year, when 4 of the top 10 running backs for fantasy were rookies and we saw rare rookie tight end production when Even Engram recorded a top-5 finish at the position.
Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to know who will be the break-out performers among this season’s crop of rookie talent. However, I took a look at every drafted skill position player from the 2018 NFL draft (sorry to the UDFAs) and did my best to break down who might be fantasy relevant during the 2018 season.
Anthony Miller, WR – Miller has been drawing rave reviews all offseason. He’s likely to start the year as the Bears’ starting slot receiver, and with an ADP leaving him on the board into the 14th round, he’s a player who I’ll comfortably draft a round or two early this year given his upside to ensure he’s on my roster.
Javon Wims, WR – With a solid showing in the preseason starting with the Hall of Fame Game, Wims is worth keeping an eye on. Although more likely than not, he’ll have little to no value for redraft this season barring several injuries ahead of him.
Kerryon Johnson, RB – I don’t get all the excitement. FantasyPros ADP has him as the 33rd off the board which is probably appropriate. I’m not buying it, especially with new Head Coach Matt Patricia bringing in goal-line back LeGarrette Blount to vulture touchdowns while Theo Riddick keeps his receiving back role. Volume is king for running backs, and I don’t see a path for Johnson to get heavy volume.
Nick Bawden, FB – No value for redraft this season.
Green Bay Packers
J’Mon Moore, WR – Moore has reportedly been taking some snaps with the ones at Packers’ practice early into the preseason process. I covered him extensively here. I still like Geronimo Allison to be the WR3 in Green Bay, but with Randall Cobb & Davante Adams’ injury history, we might see a little more of the rookies than we expect. With Moore possibly being the first man up, he may be worth a late flier as he is currently going undrafted in most drafts.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR – The Packers’ second receiver selected in the draft, Valdes-Scantling is in the mold of Jordy Nelson and could fill that role long-term in this offense is he develops. However, for 2018, he has little to no value unless you prefer him over Moore as a late-round dart throw.
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR – The third of three receivers selected, St. Brown is sixth on the Packers’ depth chart at receiver. It would take a series of miracles and unfortunate events for him to become fantasy relevant on a regular basis.
Tyler Conklin, TE – No value for redraft this season unless we see Kyle Rudolph miss any time.
Calvin Ridley, WR – Ridley is currently being selected as the 47th receiver off the board and 129th overall. He is being grossly overdrafted. Target hog Julio Jones isn’t losing targets to him, and Mohamed Sanu has an established role where he was averaged 63/678/4 for this team. The third receiver for the Falcons has averaged 40/503/2 over the last four years, which translates to just over 100 fantasy points in PPR leagues. Players going just after Ridley include fellow rookie DJ Moore, Marquise Lee and Kenny Golladay, all of whom should be more productive this season.
Ito Smith, RB – Currently going undrafted- and rightfully so- Smith is someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses. With injury uncertainty revolving around Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman failing to play 16 games in any of his three seasons, Smith could be called into action if either were to miss extended time. He could be a significant waiver wire pickup later in the year.
Russell Gage, WR – No value for redraft this season.
D.J. Moore, WR – DJ Moore landed a job where he will step in as the Panthers’ #1 wide receiver from day one. Greg Olsen will be Cam Newton’s favorite target as usual, but Moore should find a role week in and week out. He may be Carolina’s WR1, but don’t expect WR1 numbers. For fantasy, in year one, you’re probably looking for a 50/800/5 ceiling which would be good enough for a WR3 finish. Going as WR48, he should return equal or greater value at that price.
Ian Thomas, TE – As a dynasty stash, Thomas is a stud. As a redraft, backup, tight end to an established fantasy stud, no thanks. If you want to be the type of person who handcuffs your stud tight ends, go for it- but that’s a terrible kind of person. He’s got plenty of upside if Olsen misses time, and you can read about it here.
New Orleans Saints
Tre’Quan Smith, WR – Any receiver on the Saints has potential upside. Smith was buried on the depth chart, but the release of Brandon Coleman coupled with the inability of Cameron Meredith to get healthy have created an opening for him. One thing to continue to keep an eye on is his usage in camp. Rumors have circulated that he saw some snaps at running back. Given Mark Ingram’s suspension and the Saints preference to throw to the running backs (over 170 targets to backs last year), his usage in the preseason might dramatically increase his value going forward.
Boston Scott, RB – No value for redraft this season. He’s in no man’s land on the depth chart, and once Ingram returns from his suspension, he’ll have little upside.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ronald Jones II, RB – I wrote this before the pre-season got into full swing: “I’m in the minority, but I just don’t see “it” with Ronald Jones. I think he gets outplayed by Peyton Baber and brings little to the table in fantasy this year, or long-term”. I’ve never been on the Ronald Jones bandwagon and don’t understand why many were. Jones is coming off of the board in the late 5th round, and there are many other options in that range I’m more comfortable with. Jay Ajayi, Alex Collins, Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram and Duke Johnson are all much more appealing to me in that price range, and the recent news out of Tampa placing Jones well behind Peyton Barber on the depth chart is concerning if you’re looking to roster Jones.
Justin Watson, WR – No value for redraft this season.
Michael Gallup, WR – The loss of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten opened up 217 targets from last season. The team brought in Allen Hurns at receiver too, so Gallup will have competition to eat up those available balls. Hurns is being drafted in the 10th round and Gallup in the 13th. If you’re looking for a piece of this Dallas offense, I’d argue Gallup is a better value three rounds later, especially in PPR leagues. Gallups has shown a strong rapport with Dak Prescott early in his career as well.
Dalton Schultz, TE – Witten is out of the picture, but it’s hard to imagine the rookie Schultz to see any meaningful work at tight end this season. He has no value for redraft this season with Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin and Rico Gathers ahead of him.
Mike White, QB – No value for redraft this season.
Cedrick Wilson, WR – No value for redraft this season.
Bo Scarbrough, RB – Might vulture a few touchdowns here and there, and pick up some short yardage and goal line work if Zeke were to miss any time, but he’s virtually worthless for redraft this season as long as he’s behind one of the league’s premier workhorse running backs.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB – After Ezekiel Elliott two years ago and Leonard Fournette last year, being drafted early and used often combined with an overall running back resurgence, Barkley is being drafted in the first round this year. He’s the crown jewel of this rookie class in terms of fantasy potential. There’s a good chance he’ll never fall to you if you’re picking outside of the top nine this year.
Kyle Lauletta, QB – No value for redraft this season.
Dallas Goedert, TE – Zach Ertz hasn’t played 16 games since 2014, and as we saw last year with Trey Burton, Ertz’s backup can be fantasy relevant. Goedert is reportedly being featured in the red zone early in the preseason and may have stand-alone value in redraft this year.
Derrius Guice, RB –
Guice is going in the early fourth round. It’s probably a fair price, especially in standard leagues, but I’d want a little discount in PPR leagues. He’s going to be a true early down and goal line thumper. I think he can catch the ball just fine, but Washington has one of the premier pass-catching backs in the oft-injured Chris Thompson. Thompson is still battling back from an injury last year, which may give Guice a little more upside in the early part of the season. Guice will most likely be a nice, safe, high floor play with a limited ceiling in 2018. Whelp, Guice tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2018 season, rendering him worthless for redraft purposes.
Trey Quinn, WR – Little to no value for redraft this season, although he is getting talked up quite a bit by the coaching staff so far, so keep an eye on things in the nation’s capital.
Josh Rosen, QB – Rosen was arguably the most pro-ready quarterback in this class. He landed in a nice spot in Arizona where he can learn behind Sam Bradford before he is thrust into the starter’s role. It’s hard to ignore Bradford’s injury history, and you have to think because of it, Rosen will see the field sooner rather than later. He’s currently going undrafted in redraft leagues with an ADP around 300. If you believe in the Arizona offense under new defensive-minded Head Coach Steve Wilks, he’s worth a late-round flier or as a handcuff for Bradford owners.
Christian Kirk, WR – Kirk was primarily a slot receiver in college and will most likely fill that role in the pros. Unfortunately for him, Larry Fitzgerald already has that job in Arizona. Kirk will be moved around the field and will see some time on the outside with Chad Williams, but shouldn’t be much of a fantasy factor in year one as he learns to play outside. Barring injury, Kirk will have little value except as a bye week fill in as the 62nd wide receiver off the board going in the 16th round. One small disclaimer: If Rosen does take over the signal caller duties at some point, I’m moving Kirk way up in my rankings as he has a great relationship with Rosen already.
Chase Edmonds, RB – Edmonds will have little stand-alone value for the foreseeable future. A talented player who is buried behind one of the true three-down workhorse backs in the NFL. Only draftable as a David Johnson handcuff.
Los Angeles Rams
John Kelly, RB – Being buried behind the NFL’s top rusher is no place to be. With no guarantee that he is the No. 2 in LA, he has no value for redraft this season unless he officially gets the backup role ahead of Malcolm Brown.
Rashaad Penny, RB – Don’t believe Pete Carroll. Although out of the gate Carson is the verified lead back, Penny will not be losing much work to Carson as the season progresses. The questionable Seattle offensive line hurts his value a bit, but Penny should get the bulk of workload out of the backfield. Since Marshawn Lynch left town, the Seattle backs haven’t fared well for a myriad of reasons, but it’s hard to imagine Penny living up to his current RB21, mid-fourth round price. He’ll probably end up as a low-end RB3, high-end RB4.
Will Dissly, TE – Despite losing Jimmy Graham, Dissly is primarily a blocker and has no value for redraft this season.
Alex McGough, QB – No value for redraft this season.
San Francisco 49ers
Dante Pettis, WR – Pettis has reportedly looked really good in camp, and the Niners have been moving him all around the offense in multiple roles. That versatility may serve him well under Kyle Shanahan and despite being slightly buried on the depth chart, his ability to play all over the field increases his upside for targets.
Richie James, WR – No value for redraft this season.