Tue May 5 2:22pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Edwards-Helaire is top rookie
There is nothing more exciting than a rookie. There is a lot of unknown but the potential is always there for big things. Fantasy owners love to find that next big thing, so rookies are normally a hot item come draft day. Just remember, rookies don’t always pan out in year one.
We don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but if you look at last year, there are only a handful of real impactful rookies. Kyler Murray was the top fantasy rookie, finishing sixth overall in fantasy quarterback scoring. He was the only rookie quarterback to score in the top 20 in scoring, though, with Daniel Jones finishing 21st overall in quarterback scoring.
The running back position had just one rookie back, Miles Sanders, finish in the top 20. Sanders was 15th overall in fantasy running back scoring. Josh Jacobs was the next best rookie back, finishing 21st overall in running back scoring.
A.J. Brown was top rookie receiver last year, ranking 22nd overall in receiver scoring. So he was the best rookie receiver and was just a low-end No. 2 for fantasy teams. Other rookies of note were D.K. Metcalf (29th), Terry McLaurin (30th) and Deebo Samuel (31st). These receivers were mainly No. 3 or fill-in plays for fantasy teams.
The tight end position was really impacted by just one rookie, Noah Fant. He was 14th overall in fantasy tight end scoring. Fant had a few big games but was nothing more than a spot play for fantasy teams in year one.
So as you can see, rookies don’t always make a huge impact their first year in the league. Just temper your expectations some when it comes to rookies. Loading your team with rookies is usually a recipe for disaster.
With that said, here is a position-by-position look at the rookie class for the coming season. We’ll start with the quarterback spot. . . . .
Burrow is the clear top rookie quarterback, getting picked first overall by the Bengals. He’ll start from day one and has a chance to have some big games in this offense. His value is probably better down the road as the Bengals improve the team around him, especially their offensive line. For now, Burrow is likely a spot starter for fantasy teams. He won’t be consistent enough at the loaded quarterback position to be worth using every week for fantasy teams.
The rest of the quarterbacks carry a lot more question marks. We aren’t sure there is another rookie that opens the season as the starter for their team. Tagovailoa and Herbert might start at some point this year, but that likely doesn’t happen right away. And Hurts might be a guy that gets playing time but more so in a Taysom Hill-type role for the Eagles. Overall, Burrow might be the only rookie that makes a fantasy impact in year one.
ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS
The running back spot has some rookies that have a good chance to make an impact this year. Edwards-Helaire is the most exciting of the group. He has a great chance to start in the Chiefs explosive offense and get plenty of weekly work. His ceiling is the highest of any rookie back. Edwards-Helaire could be a low-end No. 1 back before the season is out.
Swift and Akers are two more backs with some competition to start, but should be the starter’s on their respective teams to open the season. And both look like good fits for the offenses they play, giving them some good fantasy upside. Both have a chance to be dependable No. 2 backs.
Taylor is similar to the previous two backs mentioned but probably has the toughest competition for carries, which is why he landed behind those two. Marlon Mack had a 1,000-yard season last year, so don’t discount him to still get work this year. Taylor and Mack might be in more of a timeshare than the other two guys.
Vaughn is another back similar to Taylor with decent competition for carries but his talent level isn't quite that of Taylor. Vaughn could very well start for the Bucs but this offense isn't quite built to run. Ronald Jones also performed well down the stretch last year, so he isn't going to just move out of the way for Vaughn.
The rest of the backs on this list are in tougher situations to garner a bunch of playing time. All should play and a few might emerge to get double-digit touches per week, but for now, expect erratic production in their current roles.
The receiver class was loaded this year. Many called this the most talented rookie class in several years, so don’t be surprised if many of these guys make an impact their rookie seasons. A lot of the value for these talented players comes down to landing spot. And for us, Jefferson landed in a great spot to make a big impact as a rookie. He should start for the Vikings from day one and should get plenty of weekly targets. He also is a very talented player, which helps his case even more to be the top rookie receiver.
Mims is another player that fits the same category as Jefferson. Mims might not be the most talented player in this class, but he could actually lead the Jets in targets as a rookie. He has a chance to post big numbers.
Jeudy, Pittman, Ruggs and Reagor also are rookies that should come in and start right away. These guys might have a little more competition for work, though, which puts them down the list a little more. All are talented players with a high ceiling. It wouldn’t surprise if any one of them makes a strong push to be the top rookie receiver in the game.
Lamb might have the most talent of any of the receivers in this draft, but he has Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott to compete with for targets. He did not land in a great spot to have a big rookie season. His future is very bright, though.
One player to keep an eye on that made this list is Edwards. He went a little later than most of these guys on this list, but his potential is high. He is a big receiver that won’t get pushed around in coverage and should start from day one. He could be the surprise of this rookie receiver class.
ROOKIE TIGHT ENDS
The tight end spot is probably the least exciting of the rookie class. Kmet is the most talented of the group, but he landed with the Bears. Chicago already has a veteran tight end on the roster, Jimmy Graham, and several other options at tight end for Kmet to compete with for targets and playing time. Plus, Kmet lands with a team that has quarterback questions. He still might be worth some spot starts for fantasy teams but that is about it for now.
Our top rookie tight end for this year is Asiasi. He takes over as the starter for the Patriots and should get plenty of chances to produce in an offense that likes to use the tight end. Plus, New England has some questions at receiver, which could open the door for more targets at the tight end spot.
So in closing, the rookie class has some promise this year, especially the receiver spot. Just remember, there aren’t a lot of rookies that become big-time fantasy players in year one. Proceed with caution!
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
July 5th: Tightend Preview
The Cleveland Browns and edge rusher Olivier Vernon have agreed to a restructured deal for the 2020 season. Vernon was originally owed $15.25 million non-guaranteed and will now bring home $11 million guaranteed for this upcoming season, with a $3.75 base salary and a $7 million signing bonus. The team and the pass-rusher were originally expected to part ways earlier in the offseason but he will stick around to bookend star defender Myles Garrett at least for another year.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III thinks Denver's backfield in 2020 will be explosive with himself and Phillip Lindsay. Gordon realizes that both he and Lindsay will be fighting to be the No. 1 back, regardless of the balance in the play-calling. "I hope it's electric, man, just cause it's crazy that his numbers [are what they are]; I just had a season with Austin Ekeler phenomenal player. Their game is about the same. And I think Lindsay is a great, phenomenal back," Gordon said. The former Bolts back acknowledged that the two will be competing for top-dog duties, but the Broncos didn't sign Gordon in free agency for him to be the No. 2. The two-time Pro Bowler should see plenty of work and is an RB2 with upside in an offense more suited to his strengths.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ended last year as one of the league's most dominant players. He finished with 3,127 passing yards and 36 touchdowns (six interceptions) while maintaining an exceptional 66.1 completion percentage. He also added 1,206 yards and seven additional scores on the ground and finished second with 867 rushing yards before contact. Though it is reasonable to think that the 23-year-old will regress this season, analyst Marcellus Wiley believes the opposite. While conversing on Fox Sports "Speak for Yourself," the former defensive end stated that he feels the young signal-caller will be "greater than great" in 2020, which is a scary declaration considering his statistical output through 15 games last season. He also indicated that a second consecutive MVP award is on the horizon. Whether fantasy managers agree or not, they should expect Jackson to be the first or second quarterback off the draft boards for the upcoming campaign.
The San Francisco 49ers have signed journeyman cornerback Jamar Taylor and waived cornerback Teez Tabor in a deep roster move on Monday. Taylor has bounced around the league for seven years, and he's likely to serve as nothing more than some depth at DB on the off chance that the team needs it. With COVID-19 cutting a swath through rosters this season though, depth players may find themselves in starring roles if push comes to shove. Hopefully, Taylor won't have to be leaned on very hard.
The Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes agreed to a 10-year contract extension on Monday, according to a league source. The deal that ties Mahomes to Kansas City through the 2031 season will be the richest contract in NFL history. Last year's Super Bowl MVP had two years remaining on his contract, so it's essentially a 12-year contract in total. Mahomes' extension is worth over $400 million in total, and sources think it will be tied to a percentage of the salary cap for each season. Cha ching. Mahomes cashes in after winning MVP in 2018 with 50 regular season touchdowns and leading the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title last season. His dual-threat ability makes him extremely dangerous on the football field in KC's explosive offense. Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the top two fantasy signal-callers in 2020.
Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay recorded 17 receptions of at least 25 yards during the 2019 season.
Fantasy Spin: Golladay was successful last season even though he had to play with several quarterbacks. He has a chance to improve on his stats with a full season with Matthew Stafford. He should be at least a No. 2 receiver in all fantasy leagues and will be a weekly starting option.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes agreed to terms on a 10-year contract extension with the Chiefs Monday, July 6, that will run through the 2031 season, according to sources. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the contract with be the richest contract in NFL history.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is coming off his first championship and is only 24 years old, so the Chiefs locked him up for most of the rest of his career. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and is a must-start in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers CB Teez Tabor (undisclosed) was waived Monday, July 6, with a Non-Football Injury designation.
Free-agent CB Jamar Taylor (Falcons) signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers Monday, July 6. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Adam Schefter is reporting the Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes have reached an agreement on a 10-year contract extension that ties him to Kansas City through the 2031 season.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase was looking to trade safety Marcus Maye prior to the start of last season, and general manager Joe Douglas has been fielding offers for him for almost a year. Maye is in the final year of his rookie deal and isn't believed to be in the team's long-term plans, especially since the Jets would prefer to extend All-Pro safety Jamal Adams instead. New York also selected safety Ashtyn Davis in the third round this year. The 27-year-old had 65 combined tackles and an interception over a full season in 2019, but he has only four interceptions and half a sack in his three seasons in the NFL. You can ignore Maye in IDP leagues.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku demanded a trade from the team several days ago but the team may not be so quick to accommodate him. ESPN's Josina Anderson tweeted on Monday that she believes that Njoku is still a big part of the Browns' plans going forward. Anderson went on to state that the Chicago Bears have been monitoring the situation, signaling that they may be a potential trade partner if Njoku is moved. The Browns signed Austin Hooper earlier in the offseason, prompting Njoku to want out of town.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku remains a big part of the Browns' offense, but a source said that Njoku has wanted out.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku is coming off of a lost season, and now he has Austin Hooper in town fresh off of a career year. So Njoku is blocked to a degree, but he might be a lottery ticket TE2 late in drafts.
San Francisco 49ers George Kittle remains without a new contract. While some reports suggest that the 26-year-old could land a deal that would pay him around $17 million per year, Matt Barrows from the Athletic was the latest to chime in, with the reporter hinting that Kittle would instead receive $13 million per year. The 2017 fifth-round pick has been one of the most consistent producers for the team over the years and finished the 2019 regular season with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. Fantasy managers should prepare for him to be the first or second tight end selected in fantasy drafts for 2020.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs could be in line for a breakout year, a sentiment that was echoed by ESPN's Mike Clay, who predicted the sophomore back to total 1,400 yards from scrimmage this season. The 22-year-old finished 2019 with 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns but was hindered by a shoulder issue that cost him three games while impacting him in others. With the Raiders having some potent weapons on the receiving end, things may open up more for Jacobs in 2020. Look for him to fly off the draft boards within the first round the majority of fantasy drafts for the upcoming campaign.
New York Giants DE Leonard Williams is seeking $18-$20 million in a long-term extension. The Giants are unwilling to approach that price tag.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon could lead the league in rushing this season, according to MSN's Matt Johnson. Johnson stated that with the team's enhanced offensive line and the arrival of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, he wouldn't be surprised if the 23-year-old accumulated nearly 1,400 yards on the ground this year. Mixon finished last season with 1,137 yards and five touchdowns off of a career-high 278 attempts. He also pulled in 35 catches for three additional scores and ranked seventh in rushing yards after contact. Fantasy managers will want to plan accordingly as he should be one of the first backs off the boards in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley could be in line for his best season yet under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. According to NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, the team "may run an offense that's similar to the Cowboy's scheme under Garrett." Dallas was ranked in the top 10 in rush attempts under Garrett between 2016 and 2019, during which time, Ezekiel Elliott won two rushing titles. Despite being hindered by a high ankle sprain last season, Barkley still ran for over 1,000 yards and had six touchdowns in 13 appearances while also catching 51 receptions for an additional two scores. Look for him to come off the board within the first three picks in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, especially in PPR formats.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers accumulated 483 passing yards on screen plays in 2019 - the second-highest mark in the league - according to Pro Football Focus.