Royce Freeman is not a keeper rookie. For one, the hype train has gone completely off the rails for him. But that’s not why he’s not a keeper rookie. Because Saquon Barkley, whom I really like this year, is not a keeper rookie either.
Wait, wait, don’t go! Hear me out. Let me at least tell you how I am defining the term keeper rookie.
A keeper rookie is a rookie that is going to see increased value in 2019 and future years versus this year. Keeper rookies are not rookies that you should grab this year. They are more rookies you should grab this year knowing that their production might be limited this year, but their value will actually go up in 2019. Therefore, more often than not, their cost will be comparatively low.
What this means is that due to the fungibility of the RB position, most RBs are not a rookie keeper. Wide receivers are often keeper league worthy, but the best keeper rookies are usually QBs. However, rumors are swirling that Sam Darnold and even Baker Mayfield might start the first week. So I’m discounting them, but let’s start with a quarterback I’m confident won’t be starting week 1 this year, but might be week 1 of 2019.
Keeper Rookie: Mason Rudolph
Sam Darnold and his fellow first round quarterbacks might be very popular picks in 2019 if they aren’t popular picks in your league yet. However, others like Mason Rudolph and Kyle Auletta might actually have more value than those like Darnold. Those in keeper leagues will have to spend heavy draft capital on a player like Darnold. A higher cost means there is less possibility for return on investment. Mason Rudolph on the other hand will go undrafted in a standard league and will likely cost far less in a keeper league. So why do I like Rudolph?
I’ll cut to the chase, Ben Roethlisberger’s time in Pittsburgh is drawing to a close. His contract ends in 2020 and I can’t see Pittsburgh offering a then 38-year old-quarterback a new contract. But I don’t think we even get that far. I think Big Ben is ready to walk away. Or did you forget all the retirement talk this offseason? Even if Roethlisberger doesn’t make the choice to retire after this year, he might not have the option. He’s been in the concussion protocol so many times, he’s eligible for a free 3-night’s stay. And I just can’t shake this gut feeling that after playing a slobber knocker against one of the Steeler’s division rivals he says to himself he can’t take another year. And he walks away with nothing to prove.
Meanwhile, Mason Rudolph will step into an offense with likely no Bell and possibly no Brown. And no worries. James Conner picks up right where Bell left off while JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington are just fine options. Rudolph himself has a decent skill set as evinced by his 37 touchdowns and 65% completion rate while at Oklahoma State. I just bought him in my long-term keeper league and I’m quite happy with that move. You should make the move as well.
Keeper Rookie: Christian Kirk
While I am spewing compliments, I love this year’s rookie class of WRs for their keeper value. However, this is not the 2014 class. If I’m in a redraft league, I am staying away from most of this year’s rookie wide receivers.
That being said, I really like Christian Kirk in 2019.
Christian Kirk will not be worth rostering this year because Arizona will feature the talented stylings of Fitz & DJ this year. But I loved Kirk coming into the draft and still do. Kirk has been nicknamed “Baby Behckham” due to his incredible catch radius. He scored ten touchdowns last year for Texas A&M. Yet he has already begun to show his potential for the Cards. He caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s second preseason game. Kirk will likely have the second most catches on the Cards in 2018, but when Larry Fitzgerald retires, the sky will be the limit for this keeper rookie.
Keeper Rookie: Derrius Guice
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Derrius Guice unfortunately has already been grounded for the season. But I expect big things in 2019. And okay, I’m cheating here a little bit as it will be nearly impossible for Guice not to surpass his zero value of 2018. But do any of the trio of Chris Thompson, Rob Kelly, and Semaje Perine really bowl you over? And I guess we should mention AP. I think Adrian Peterson will be more valuable this year than last. But we are not seeing any more thousand yards seasons from AP. Should Peterson still be on the ‘Skins in 2019, there is no way he will be able to compete with the rocket-fueled Guice. Guice is a physical bruiser that ran a sub-4.5 40 and has a 31-inch vertical leap. If you have an IR position you can stash Guice in your keeper league, I would so now.
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