Fantasy Football Rookies are the ultimate boom or bust prospects. No one outside of their coaching staffs really know how these players are going to be used, so projections are as hard to nail down as a March Madness bracket. Even if we were given guarantees on workloads, every player has a different NFL learning curve. Some small school players catch on quickly while some big school players lag behind, and vice versa.
With that said, we might be looking at one of the best overall Fantasy Football Rookies since the game went main stream. However, the rest of the list provides the least amount of depth in recent memory.
Three quarterbacks and four wide receivers were selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but not one of those seven entered into a situation where they are the clear cut number one option.
Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch will probably all start by the end of the year, but their Fantasy value will be relegated to 14-plus team, 2-QB leagues or dynasty formats.
Speaking of dynasty leagues, these Fantasy Football Rookie rankings are geared toward redraft leagues with the common 1QB/2RB/2WR/Flex lineup. Outside of the Top 2 Fantasy Football Rookies, I would not count on consistent production from any of the other players in leagues with 12 teams or less. These are high-upside, late-round flyers that could end up taking your team to the next level.
Top 12 Fantasy Football Rookies of 2016
12. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears (ADP: 144)
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 4, 2016
Matt Forte is gone and Jeremy Langford does not exactly inspire confidence with his 3.6 yards per carry last season. Howard will have to fight off both Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. However, since the Broncos selected Howard, but were left with Carey, I like the rookie in that battle.
Either way, I think there is a RBBC coming our way from Chicago. In a deep league in the 13th round, I will take my chances with Howard.
11. Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns (ADP: Undrafted)
Unless you are in a PPR league with six receivers starting, Higgins will not be on your draft radar. However, I would keep an eye on him and the Browns’ receiving corps in the preseason.
While he may be down on the depth chart, ahead of him are two other rookies and Marlon Moore’s career 387 yards over seven seasons.
If Higgins gets a chance, he will still be a secondary option. The last time he was not the main focus of the defense? He was a sophomore that put up a 96-1,750-17 stat line.
10. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 114)
Treadwell will be competing for the most targets on the team with Stefon Diggs. He did prove he could come back from his horrific leg injury by posting 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
On the other hand, the Vikings threw for the second fewest yards in the league last year. Their wide receivers COMBINED for 1,900 yards and only six touchdowns. The lack of volume and Adrian Peterson still being Adrian Peterson will hold down the Fantasy Rookie’s value, for now.
9. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 109)
To call the Browns’ quarterback situation putrid would be too nice. Coleman will probably be the top option, but he will also be a deep threat that the opposing defenses will focus on.
He may end up with more overall points than Higgins, but I would say that the price tag is too high near the end of the ninth round.
8. DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 198)
Last season, Raiders QB Derek Carr and Patriots QB Tom Brady each suffered from a league-high 44 dropped passes. pic.twitter.com/qOhltYub4L
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 7, 2016
Full disclaimer: I am a Texas Tech alum. That means that I have watched Washington catch 71 passes for 713 yards and four touchdowns as the starting back the last two seasons. In that time .he rushed for nearly 2,600 yards and 16 touchdowns ( 6.0 YPC).
I don’t think the Raiders are completely sold on Latavius Murray’s three-down and pass-catching abilities. I think Washington will be a PPR starter by mid-season.
7. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (ADP: 165)
Fuller will get the opportunity to start across from DeAndre Hopkins, but he will have to compete for targets with Cecil Shorts, Keith Mumphery, Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller. The Golden Domer’s 4.32 speed gives him an edge on those guys, but this is still a Hopkins or bust crew.
Top 12 Fantasy Football Rookies of 2016
6. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 117)
Henry did not land in the ideal scenario with DeMarco Murray, Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey still in the mix. I do think that he gets the immediate goal line work and could take over the whole work load when the inevitable DeMarco injury happens.
5. C.J. Prosise/Alex Collins, RB, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 157/Undrafted)
I kind of cheated on this one, but these two should be a package deal for any drafter (especially if you took Thomas Rawls earlier). No one is exactly sure how Rawls will come back from his severe ankle injury.
There are points to be had in this backfield, so grabbing the whole platoon would be the safest way to secure that production.
4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 199)
Fun fact: the second receiver in the Bengals’ offense has averaged 58 catches for 773 yards and over six touchdowns the past three years. In front of Boyd are the slippery-handed Brandon LaFell and the always disappointing Brandon Tate.
I have faith in the Pitt Panther after he averaged 85-1,110-7 with absolutely awful quarterback play his last two years in college. I could see 10 PPR points a game from him this season and as one of your last picks, you can steal some solid value.
3. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 151)
Thomas has the size (6’3’’, 212) to take over the big body targets that have turned Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston into Fantasy gold over the past decade. Brandon Coleman was the favorite to take the role last season, but that quickly dissolved.
While I would like to pair both Coleman and Thomas should your roster allow, I see Thomas taking control of the X-receiver spot and not looking back.
2. Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (ADP: 104)
Odell Beckham Jr. has high hopes for Sterling Shepard https://t.co/RCTZlyMcNx
— ESPN Big 12 (@ESPN_Big12) June 15, 2016
— New York Giants (@Giants) June 14, 2016
The Giants have been sorely missing a slot receiving option since their last Super Bowl run. With Victor Cruz’ constant injuries and Dwayne Harris’ lack of production outside of Cowboys’ games, Shepard is just the right fit.
Some analysts thought he was the best overall receiving prospect in the draft, so New York might have gotten a great value midway through the second round. Odell Beckham Jr. will draw even more double teams and safety help than ever, leaving Shepard to option-route his way to 90 catches.
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 10)
I know it’s still early in the draft season, but the difference in Average Draft Position between 10th overall Elliott and the next highest rookie: about 94 spots, including five defenses.
Honestly, it could be even larger. Elliott has a legitimate chance to finish as the top overall running back. Even more appealing is his floor: even if he ends up splitting carries with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, I would say he is a mid-level RB2.
Would I spend a first round pick on him? No. I think his value is a little skewed. But would I bet my money on him being at the top of the Fantasy Football Rookies pool at the end of the year? I’m all-in.
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