It can be hard to depend on rookies in fantasy football before they have proven themselves, but consider these 10 guys to maximize your fantasy success in 2017.
Being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, Kupp fell into a great situation, and fantasy owners in PPR formats will reap the rewards. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff is a very shaky starter, but still developing. Because Jeff Fisher is no longer his head coach, you almost have to assume there’s going to be extra progress for Goff in 2017. With Tavon Austin moving all around to exploit matchups, the Rams will need to depend on Kupp and Robert Woods’ craftiness within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage so that Goff can keep moving the sticks. Kupp may not be a burner, but he is a technician. He is the type of player that will win a quarterback’s trust in no time. Don’t be surprised if Kupp leads the Rams in receptions.
Jones got off to a rough start this offseason, suffering a knee sprain. However, he was able to return for minicamp. Despite the few weeks lost time, luckily for Jones, the Bills really need him. After parting ways with receivers Robert Woods, Justin Hunter and Marquise Goodwin this offseason, Buffalo is short on receivers. Not to mention, top receiver Sammy Watkins is always dealing with some ailment. Jones has good size (6-2, 200), speed (4.45) and is incredibly sure-handed, catching 96% of catchable balls as a senior. How Jones was used at East Carolina (short, quick routes in a spread offense) fits well with Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s style. Jones is a really good match in this Buffalo offense.
Last year, Packers wide receiver Ty Montgomery converted to running back beautifully. In the final 11 games of the season, he touched the ball 119 times and compiled 805 yards (6.8 avg) and 3 touchdowns. Montgomery was forced into action because of injuries, but he was effective enough for the Packers to convert him to running back full-time moving forward. Still, after departing with Eddie Lacy and James Starks this offseason, Ted Thompson replaced the two with Williams and Aaron Jones. Long term, Williams is likely the team’s best option at running back. He is a big, tackle-breaking back who can take over a drive on his own because of his constantly moving feet and pass-catching ability. He’s like an Eddie Lacy that won’t break down because of weight issues. Mike McCarthy isn’t afraid to roll with the hot hand, so if Williams gets going, he could grab the starting spot.
The Titans loaded up on pass-catchers for Marcus Mariota this offseason by adding Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith, but their most important one was first-round pick Davis. Davis was the top receiver in the draft, and it’s because he’s got a terrific all-around game. He has size (6-3, 209), speed, he can run routes, and he can block. I foresee Davis rarely leaving the field, to be honest. It already looks like he is forming chemistry with Mariota, so on top of all of that, it’s not farfetched for the rookie to be his team’s top receiver.
Right off the bat, Hunt doesn’t seem to be in a great position. He sits behind Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West on the depth chart, and the two veterans have proven their worth. I don’t think that the Chiefs are interested in having any of their running backs being the “bellcow” type. But, even if they did, it would likely be Ware. However, last year, Ware dealt with some ailments in the second half of the year, and it saw an increased role for West. You could say that West got the job done, but there was much to be desired, as he only averaged 3.3 yards per carry on the season. As for Hunt, he proved to be a very productive, three-down type of back. He can catch the ball just like Ware can, he is a capable pass protector and has good enough size to stay in on long drives.
The Redskins love these north-south bruisers. Fourth-round pick Perine is no different in that regard. But, where he is different from the rest of the Redskins’ backfield is that he is easily their most talented player in the group. In terms of just running the ball, Perine is much more Alfred Morris than he is Robert Kelley or Matt Jones. Washington should regret the day they let Morris walk still in his prime, but they can get it right by giving the lead back duties to Perine. If not for a stacked draft class of running backs, Perine likely would have been a Day 2 pick. He can handle a heavy workload (5-11, 233) and is the type to always fall forward and pick up the last inches of his runs. He’s also a better pass-catcher than many of his fellow Redskins backs. NFL Draft expert Lance Zierlein compared Perine to former Falcons running back Michael Turner. I think that seems like a very accurate comp.
Look for Minnesota to employ at thunder and lightning approach to their run game this year, with Latavius Murray as the thunder and Cook as the lightning. Where Jerick McKinnon fits into things, we’ll have to see. Cook had inexplicably poor pre-draft athletic testing, and it caused people to put him under an even bigger microscope. Off-field concerns, injury concerns and the testing came together to make an elite running back prospect fall to the 41st overall selection. Make no mistake, Cook would have been every bit deserving of a top-15 selection. The Vikings added Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, Danny Isidora and Aviante Collins to the offensive line this offseason. That’s got to help the run game.
McCaffrey is likely to be Cam Newton’s best friend for the foreseeable future. While he lacks the bulk you would like for a lead back, his ridiculous athleticism allows for him to move anywhere on the field. Sure, you’ll see him in the backfield, but you’ll also see him in the slot and split out wide. Probably in the return game, too. I love McCaffrey’s potential in PPR leagues especially. I’m talking 65-plus catches as a rookie potential. Try and make it so you have a couple other RB’s to lean on, but McCaffrey could be a fantasy fan favorite.
At first glance, Mixon appears to be in a running back committee. But, consider how his constituents have fared in the last couple of years, and imagine how they’ll look behind a downgraded offensive line. The biggest obstacle for Mixon, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard will be the line that lost starters Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler this offseason. However, Mixon should be the one to rise to the top. He has Hill’s size as well as Bernard’s versatility in the passing game. I would not be surprised if Mixon gets Hill or Bernard sent out of Cincinnati by the end of the preseason.
Among the cream of the crop when it comes to 2017 rookies, Fournette should immediately pay dividends. When considering his impact for 2017, I can’t help but reminesce about Ezekiel Elliott as a rookie in 2016 with the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott’s offensive line was much better, but Fournette’s line isn’t too bad. After adding Branden Albert, Cam Robinson and Earl Watford this offseason, Jacksonville’s line should be much improved. Let me say that I do not expect Fournette to duplicate Elliott’s 1,994 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. However, I do expect Fournette to provide fantasy RB1 stability as a rookie. He’s a plus runner, can catch the ball and isn’t a liability in pass protection. He should be on the field almost constantly.