The NFL season is one of the best times of the year. Every team has a chance at the beginning of the season for a chance at the Lombardi trophy. Of course, there are the teams like the Patriots, Packers, and others that are at the front of the race. Teams like the Browns, 49ers, and Bears are trying to get their way back to the playoffs and prove they are no longer a doormat for all other NFL teams. Of course, with the NFL being back comes fantasy football season. Fantasy football: where you can see the most humiliating of punishments for being in last in the league overall. Avid fantasy football players are doing their research in order to gear up for another fun-filled season. But where do the rookies come into play?
The 2018 NFL rookie class is one that certainly has a lot of potential. Keep in mind, four quarterbacks were taken within the top 10 picks of the draft. There is also a certain Penn. State running back that is looking to make big headlines in “The Big Apple”, otherwise known as New York. But which rookies are ones that can be the big difference maker and which rookies are the ones to try to stay very far away from. This list breaks down 20 of this year’s NFL rookies and debates whether or not they can be a big influence on the field and on fantasy matchups as well. Let’s get right into it. Let’s look at 10 NFL rookies you need to avoid drafting and 10 rookies that could win you a fantasy football championship.
20 Avoid: James Washington
The Steelers offensive core of Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown is here to stay for the time being. Ben Roethlisberger has now changed his tune on retiring because the Steelers have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl in the next few years. This offseason, the Steelers traded the unhappy Martavis Bryant to Oakland. They'll still have Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster to throw to, but many may be tempted to take James Washington, whom the Steelers took in the second round after trading Bryant. Washington makes more sense as a late-season pickup rather than taking early on, as he'll need an adjustment period before piling on the yards in Pittsburgh's deep offense.
19 Win Championship: Anthony Miller
The Chicago Bears really didn’t have a great receiving corps last year. They had the running game with Jordan Howard leading the way. Now, they have a good, solid receiving core. They signed Allen Robinson from Jacksonville and Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta. They also drafted Anthony Miller out of Memphis.
He looks to be the backup to Gabriel right now, but he should be able to see some action this season.
Miller was a Consensus All-American in 2017 and he looks to be a steal on fantasy boards everywhere. Jump on him as soon as you possibly can.
18 Avoid: D.J. Chark
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team looking to build on their AFC championship appearance last season. They lost Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson in free agency, but picked up Donte Moncrief and still have Marqise Lee. In the second round of the 2018 draft, the Jaguars decided to continue to bolster up their receiving core and drafted D.J. Chark from LSU. The thing is, he shouldn’t be a fantasy football target.
He only caught 66 career passes at LSU and those were all in his junior and senior seasons.
He will need time to get used to the Jaguars offense which will take a year or two. There are plenty of other receivers you can draft while avoiding Chark.
17 Win Championship: Derrius Guice
The Washington Redskins had a problem at the running back position. They didn’t have the difference making running back that could get them the big rush when needed. They might have gotten it in the second round this season by taking LSU running back Derrus Guice. Guice is a big back that stays low to the ground. The Redskins are currently pencilling in Rob Kelley as their starter, but that could very well change throughout the course of the year, or even in training camp. Guice was a First Team All-SEC running back in 2016 and a Second Team All-SEC member in 2017. He has a lot of hype and he could deliver on the field and in fantasy football matchups.
16 Avoid: Dallas Goedert
The Philadelphia Eagles are trying to repeat their luck as they defend their Super Bowl title this upcoming season. The Eagles have a great tight end in Zach Ertz that had a big touchdown for the Eagles against the Patriots. The Eagles know that another tight end, even just for blocking purposes, is always a great help. They drafted Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State in the second round. Goedert was an AP FCS All-America First Team member in 2016 and 2017. If Ertz continues to get a majority of the passes from Carson Wentz, drafting Goedert would be a huge mistake. Avoid unless you are seriously hurting for production.
15 Win Championship: Christian Kirk
The Arizona Cardinals are moving on. They already moved on from the retired Carson Palmer and signed Sam Bradford, then drafted Josh Rosen. They also are going to have to eventually move on from ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald, who is regarded as one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL. The Cardinals decided to go with wide receiver Christian Kirk in the second round of the draft. Kirk can be beneficial to the Cardinals.
Fitzgerald can not play every down, opening up multiple opportunities for Kirk to come in and contribute.
He was a First Team All-SEC wide receiver in 2016 and 2017, so he can definitely play. He can be a great flex option if he plays.
14 Avoid: Kerryon Johnson
The Detroit Lions are going to be under new direction with head coach Matt Patricia in the fold. The Lions went out and took a running back in the second round out of Auburn by the name of Kerryon Johnson. Johnson was the SEC Player of the Year in 2017. But, he is still a few years away from being a big impact in the NFL and in the fantasy ranks. With guys like LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, and Theo Riddick in front of him, it will be tough for him to get consistent reps. In a few years down the line however, it could be a completely different story.
13 Win Championship: Ronald Jones
This could arguably be the steal of any fantasy football draft if all works out. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finally moved on from oft-injured running back Doug Martin. The Buccaneers needed a bit of depth for the running back position and decided to take USC running back Ronald Jones in the second round. He was a member of the First Team All-Pac-12 team in 2017. This is an ideal situation for Jones because he has a chance to step in and get significant reps. Jacquizz Rodgers is the projected starting running back right now. But, anything can happen in training camp. Look to get Jones in the later rounds if he is still on fantasy football draft boards.
12 Avoid: Courtland Sutton
Southern Methodist University does not have a lot to be proud of since they were caught with the “death penalty” in the late 1980s. They do however have a draft pick in the NFL currently. The Denver Broncos decided to go with Courtland Sutton in the second round. Sutton was a member of the First Time All-AAC in 2016 and looks to provide future production for the Broncos. This year however, avoid him if you can.
With the duo of Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still very well intact, the opportunities for Sutton may not be frequent.
In a few years, he could very well be a main receiver. For now, stay away if possible.
11 Win Championship: Nick Chubb
The Cleveland Browns have made a plethora of moves this off-season. By getting guys like Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde, and Jarvis Landry, things are already looking up for the Browns. They also drafted a guy in the second round named Nick Chubb out of Georgia. He was part of a Georgia team that won the SEC in 2017 and he was also a part of the Second Team All-SEC that same year. He will have guys like Hyde and Duke Johnson in front of him, but he could see himself in some first and goal situations that can help bring his value up. He could be a potential late round pick up that could be the difference between a championship and a second place finish.
10 Avoid: D.J. Moore
The Carolina Panthers have a lot of offensive weapons to work with this upcoming season. With guys like Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith, they will have some fun with Cam Newton throwing the ball deep to them. They also have a wide receiver in D.J. Moore from Maryland who was added in the first round of the draft. Moore was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2017 and looks to add more to his football resume in the NFL. Avoid him now if you can. Don’t forget, they have Christian McCaffrey who catches a lot of passes too. There might not be enough passes to go around for Moore to be a big fantasy football impact.
9 Win Championship: Sony Michel
The New England Patriots had to find a replacement for Dion Lewis, who left in free agency to sign with the Tennessee Titans. They knew they were not going to get a guy of Saquon Barkley status, but they drafted a pretty good running back out of Georgia. Sony Michel was the other half of the Georgia team that reached the National Championship game.
Michel will get a lot of opportunity along with the likes of Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill.
The Patriots like to run the ball a lot from within the 10 yard line, and also use their backs in the receiving game a lot, so Michel could get big points for fantasy owners.
8 Avoid: Rashaad Penny
The Seattle Seahawks have not had an answer for the running back position since the Marshawn Lynch days. They may finally have an answer in their first round draft pick, San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny. Penny was the MWC Offensive Player of the Year while rushing for over 2,000 yards. The only problem is that he won’t put up big numbers in the NFL out of the gate. He didn’t play in the SEC or ACC, so we don’t know how good he is against top level competition. Rookies also have a hard time typically, with rare exceptions. Rashaad Penny seems good on the surface, but with the Seahawks still weak on the o-line, avoid him if you can.
7 Win Championship: Sam Darnold
The New York Jets are going to have to do a lot if they don’t want to be in the cellar of the AFC East again. They definitely have the tools at wide receiver in Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. They just need a quarterback for the long term. They think they got that with the third pick in the draft by selection Sam Darnold for USC. He was a First Team All-Pac 12 selection in 2017.
If he gets an opportunity, he can do a lot with it.
Josh McCown is on his way out and the Jets could decide this season to give Darnold a shot. He definitely can be a guy you can win a lot of fantasy matchups with.
6 Avoid: Lamar Jackson
The Baltimore Ravens are aware that the days of Joe Flacco will soon come to an end. They went out and got Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round. Flacco is still the guy in Baltimore and Jackson’s game has questions, considering he dropped significantly in the draft. Jackson did win the 2016 Heisman trophy, but seemed to fall off just a bit the following year.
In a few years, he could be running the offense. While the temptation to take a late flyer on Jackson is there, due to him possibly being used in red-zone packages, right now, Jackson is somebody that fantasy football experts shouldn’t draft.
5 Win Championship: Calvin Ridley
The Atlanta Falcons want to find themselves back in the Super Bowl and take care of unfinished business. With the loss of Taylor Gabriel to the Bears, they decided to draft Calvin Ridley. Ridley is a wide receiver from Alabama that knows all about winning and on-field production. He won two national championships while at Alabama and was named First Team All-SEC in 2017. The bottom line is that the Falcons love to throw the ball, considering they have Matt Ryan under center. A guy like Ridley can benefit from playing in the Falcons system and Ridley can help fantasy owners benefit with a championship season.
4 Avoid: Josh Rosen
The Arizona Cardinals decided on a quarterback with their 10th overall pick. They couldn't take Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, or Sam Darnold as they were all taken before it was their turn to select. They decided to go with UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. There has been a lot of talk about him, both good and bad, but right now we are focusing on the bad.
The problem is that he ran into a situation where Arizona signed their starter in Sam Bradford.
Rosen's hopes of starting this season all depend on Bradford's health. In a few years, the Cardinals will be belong to Rosen. Until then, he will sit and learn, hence why fantasy owners should avoid him in all drafts.
3 Win Championship: Baker Mayfield
The Cleveland Browns have gone through what seems like a never-ending cycle at quarterback. They even ended up getting Tyrod Taylor this offseason. Do not forget though that they had the number one pick as well. They decided to go with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield won the Heisman trophy in 2017 as the transformation from walk-on to Heisman trophy winner was complete. Mayfield does come with a set of character questions though, considering his actions on the field were very questionable at best. The bottom line though is that he can play. If/when Tyrod fails, Baker will step in, put up numbers, and help out fantasy football owners all over.
2 Avoid: Josh Allen
The Buffalo Bills have had some misfortune in the past until last season when they finally made the playoffs. What a year it was to be a Bills fan! Now, they have to make off-season acquisitions to get themselves in a better position to compete in the AFC. They got A.J. McCarron from Cincinnati and they also drafted Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. He doesn't have many college accolades to drool over. But, he has proven he can compete with some of the best.
Unfortunately, he will not be ready this year to be a main guy.
With McCarron in the fold and Allen not NFL ready, fantasy owners should steer clear of Josh Allen for at least a few years.
1 Win Championship: Saquon Barkley
The New York Giants without a doubt have a rookie that is surely good enough to make an impact in the NFL right away along with being high on fantasy football radars. That honor goes to former Penn. State running back Saquon Barkley. Being a two time Big-Ten Offensive Player of the Year definitely helps his cause. Barkley looks to do great things for a Giants team that went 2-14 just last season. The Giants upgraded their o-line and their offense will rely heavily on Barkley.
Saquon Barkley can also put up big NFL numbers to help fantasy owners bask in the glory of being a fantasy football champion.