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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
July 5th: Tightend Preview
Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett is signing his franchise tender on Friday and has filed a grievance against the team that he should be tagged as a defensive end and not as a linebacker. The franchise tag for a linebacker pays around $15.8 million, while the tag for a defensive end pays around $17.8 million this year. Barrett and the Bucs are not close to a long-term extension and the hope is that they can find common ground on a one-year deal moving forward. Most teams aren't looking to shell out tons of cash on extensions with COVID-19 potentially negatively affecting the salary cap in 2021 and beyond. The 27-year-old was fantasy relevant for the first time in his career in 2019, recording a whopping 19.5 sacks, 58 tackles and 81 total pressures. But can the pass-rushing linebacker do it again? He had 14 combined sacks in four seasons with the Broncos prior to last year. Barrett will need to continue being a sack monster in order to maintain relevance in IDP leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher Bud Dupree has filed a grievance in hopes that he will be paid as a defensive end instead of as a linebacker for the 2020 season. The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Dupree earlier in the offseason, designating him as a linebacker. The franchise tag for a linebacker pays roughly $15.8 million while the franchise tag for a defensive end will pay around $17.8 million. There was talk of Dupree signing a long-term deal with the Steelers this offseason but the two sides are not currently close to a deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Dupree racked up 11.5 sacks for the Steelers in 2019.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who is currently in the middle of an armed-robbery case, is allowed to be at training camp and is expected to report later this month. Dunbar recently hired a second attorney for his case despite the team hinting at positive developments for Dunbar's case in June. He has pled not guilty to his armed-robbery charges, and his lawyer has claimed that Dunbar had no involvement in a robbery during his night out with DeAndre Baker in Florida. Even though Dunbar will be a allowed to take part in training camp, there's no guarantee that he'll be available for the entire 2020 season, depending on how his case plays out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith expressed his concerns about playing football during the coronavirus pandemic. Expecting his first child in three weeks, Smith is rightfully questioning how the league will keep players and their families safe. These concerns are warranted, considering that social distancing is effectively impossible on a football field. In addition to concerns about safety, Smith called for salary raises, considering the risks the players will be undertaking. The veteran tackle isn't the only player feeling this way. It will be interesting to see what the league does to assuage the players. If Smith chooses not to play this year, it will be a downgrade on quarterback Tom Brady's blind side in his first year in Tampa.
The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a one-year deal to re-sign backup quarterback Matt Moore on Friday, according to a source. The Chiefs hope they won't need Moore or Chad Henne after signing superstar QB Patrick Mahomes to a 10-year, record-breaking extension this week, but Moore will provide valuable depth. Moore is heading into his age-36 season and made two starts for the Chiefs in his first season in KC in 2019 when Mahomes was dealing with a knee ailment. The veteran completed 59 of his 91 pass attempts for 659 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. You can ignore him for fantasy purposes obviously.
Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift, a second-round pick in April, is "ready to compete" with Kerryon Johnson and wants to start in 2020. Head coach Matt Patricia won't shy away from the idea of listing both Swift and Johnson as starters in the backfield this year. Johnson has run for more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns through 18 games in two seasons, and he also has 340 receiving yards and two TDs, but he's dealt with knee injuries in both seasons. Swift had more than 2,800 rushing yards and 20 TDs, adding 600-plus receiving yards and five TDs in his three years at Georgia. The 21-year-old was one of the top running backs in this year's draft class and has considerable upside. He'll be slightly more attractive than Johnson in fantasy drafts as a high-end RB3.
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons accepted his franchise tender on Friday and is expected to sign it this weekend, according to sources. A third-round pick in 2016, the 26-year-old played at a Pro Bowl level in 2019 and was tied for second on the team with 93 tackles. Simmons led the team with four interceptions and 15 passes defensed and was named an All-Pro for his efforts. Re-signing Simmons to a long-term deal will require elite money, with the five highest-paid safeties in the league all having contracts that average between $14 million and $14.6 million. He could be just as good or better in his second season with Vic Fangio at the helm, and Simmons is in the picture as a starting defensive back in IDP leagues.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry is eager to begin working with his new quarterback. Cam Newton and Harry were seen working out together for roughly two hours. They were reportedly running plays from the Patriots playbook. Harry is likely going to be the No. 3 receiver to start the season behind Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu Sr. on the depth chart. Last season, Harry hauled in seven receptions, 105 yards, and two touchdowns through seven games. His fantasy value should be on the rise, assuming he's able to stay healthy. Harry likely won't have much standard league value, but could be a decent deep league option. It's going to depend on what kind of chemistry the two of them can develop.
Seattle Seahawks third-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin is one of The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta's "bubble" players for training camp this summer. He has yet to carve out a role as a starting linebacker after being a fifth-round pick out of Central Florida in 2018. Seattle has also added three draft picks in the last two years -- Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven -- at the position, in addition to starters Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Veteran Bruce Irvin is also in the picture. Griffin will likely need to add something as a pass-rusher in order to have a shot at making the regular season roster out of camp. His salary cap number also continues to go up ($829,405) this year, but with practice squads likely being increased to 16 in 2020, there's a chance he sticks with the team even if he doesn't make the roster.
The Miami Dolphins have yet to discuss a contract extension with running back Matt Breida after giving up the No. 153 overall pick in April's draft to acquire him from the 49ers. The running back is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the 2020 season and is scheduled to make $3.3 million in the final year of his deal. Breida's career highs of 153 carries and 814 yards came with San Francisco in 2018. He is expected to share the backfield load with free-agent pickup Jordan Howard. Miami has understandably held off on extensions with uncertainty over how COVID-19 will affect the 2021 salary cap. The 25-year-old had 623 rushing yards in 2019 and is the better and cheaper fantasy option over Howard if he can just stay healthy.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed second-round wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. to his rookie deal on Thursday. When fully healthy, Shenault can end up being one of the most explosive receivers in a stacked class at the position. Shenault played at Colorado and was the 42nd overall pick in the draft. He was twice an All-Pac 12 player and is expected to make an immediate impact in Jacksonville's passing attack in 2020. The 21-year-old is versatile and could fill a variety of offensive roles with the Jags right away, but that typically hurts the development of young players like Shenault. He does have injury concerns and will have one of the weaker QBs in the NFL throwing to him, Shenault can put up big numbers if he's given the opportunity. Consider him a late-round flier in redraft leagues with DJ Chark Jr. and Dede Westbrook ahead of him.
The New York Jets announced on Thursday that they signed rookie running back Lamical Perine to his rookie contract after they selected him in the fourth round (120th overall) back in April. The Florida product became the fourth of the team's nine draft picks to sign. He rushed for a team-high 826 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior and ran for 676 yards and six touchdowns in 13 starts in 2019. Perine also added a career-high 40 catches for 262 yards and five touchdowns. There's upside in the long-term in New York once Le'Veon Bell is out of the picture, but there's not a lot of 2020 upside with Bell and veteran Frank Gore in the backfield. The rookie could factor in on some third downs in his first season, but he's way more attractive in dynasty/keeper affairs.
New England Patriots WR N'Keal Harry was filmed running routes with QB Cam Newton Wednesday, July 8.
Fantasy Spin: Harry was never able to find a true groove with former Patriots QB Tom Brady (Buccaneers) last season while being limited to just seven games. He caught 12 of 24 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Newton could take better advantage of Harry's downfield abilities if fully healthy in 2020. The early reps are certainly a good sign for what hopes to be the Patriots' top duo in the passing game.
New England Patriots QB Cam Newton will win the starting competition against QBs Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in training camp, according to former Patriots executive vice president Michael Lombardi Thursday, July 9. 'Watching Cam Newton throw and move, there is no doubt he will win the starting job,' Lombardi tweeted.
Fantasy Spin: Newton is widely expected to win the starting job by fantasy football enthusiasts and it would certainly be the best result for all the other members of the offense in 2020. He'll be at least a low-tier QB1 and should be given plenty of opportunities to make plays with his legs.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has less than a week to sign a long-term contract, or he will play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel stressed Thursday, July 9, deal's like these take time and patience is needed on both sides. 'Derrick signed his franchise tender, he's under contract,' Vrabel said. '... Having been involved with the NFL for a lot of years, getting deals done is about being patient, hopefully keeping them private and confidential. So I'm going to try to respect that, and understand that we love Derrick and he understands how important he is to our football team. Again, his leadership that grew last year, I'm looking forward, I know our team is looking for more of that this year.'
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins led the NFL with an average depth of target of 19.2 yards on touchdown passes in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
Fantasy Spin: Cousins could see a dip in this department in 2020 following the offseason trade of WR Stefon Diggs, but it bodes well for rookie WR Justin Jefferson, who is the most likely replacement across from WR Adam Thielen. Cousins relies heavily on efficiency and is a low-upside QB1 in a run-first offense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is looking to be paid similarly to what the highest-paid running backs on the roster are scheduled to make, according to Mostert's agent. RB Tevin Coleman is scheduled to make $4.55 million next season, which is what Mostert would like to make.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert has asked for a trade, but the 49ers may decide to keep him with or without a new contract. He is coming off his best season and would have a significant role if he stays with the 49ers. Fantasy players should monitor the situation because Mostert could be at least a flex option in fantasy leagues.
Miami Dolphins RB Matt Breida has not had any contract extension talks with the Dolphins this offseason, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Breida will be sharing playing time with Jordan Howard this season, but it is not known which back will win the starting job. Breida has posted solid numbers over the last few seasons and could be a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy running back depending on his role.
Updating previous reports, New England Patriots QB Cam Newton can earn $7.5 million next year if he hits all the incentives and wins the Super Bowl. He has a $1.05 million base salary, which $550,000 is guaranteed. He can earn $43,750 per game in roster bonuses, up to $700,000. He can earn a maximum of $3.75 million in playing-time incentives with $500,000 in Pro Bowl and All-Pro bonuses. He can earn a maximum of $1 million from $250,000 bonuses for each playoff win with above 50 percent playing time.
Fantasy Spin: Newton is in the best spot he could have wished for, but the team still lacks proven weapons around him. He'll be a midrange QB2 in fantasy, but he could ultimately outplay that draft status if he's finally healthy.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been negotiating a long-term deal with the team but the two sides still differ on the length of the contract as the extension deadline looms. The Cowboys have a contract offer on the table, but it is reportedly longer than Prescott wants. Prescott is scheduled to make $31.4 million under the franchise tag this year, but both sides have expressed desire to keep the Mississippi State Bulldog in Dallas long term. Franchise tagged players have until July 15 to work out a contract extension. Only two quarterbacks have played under the franchise tag, Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, and both signed with new teams in their ensuing free agency which could affect Prescott's dynasty value if the sides cannot agree on a new deal by next week.