Top 10 Rookie Fantasy Football Targets
Writer: Andrew Carlisle
Fantasy Freakin’ Football. Not only will it soon be college and NFL football season, but it will also be time for Fantasy Freakin’ Football. Fantasy football has become a huge hobby of mine over the last few years. So much so that it stresses me out and gives me anxiety every weekend, and oddly enough I love it.
It may seem stupid and absurd that something I can’t control gives me this feeling, but that's also what makes fantasy football so great. If you lose, yeah you're probably feeling down the rest of the day Sunday or Monday, but if you win, you are then able to talk tons of smack talk to your opponent knowing you outsmarted them that week with your knowledge of opportunities, matchups, and projected amounts of touches that the players will get come gameday. That is essentially what fantasy football is: having knowledge of player opportunities, matchups, and touch projections.
Therefore, now that I am a two-time defending fantasy football champion in 10 and 12 man leagues, respectively, I feel inclined to give my semi-professional opinion on the top rookies to look for in your fantasy football drafts this fall. Without further ado, here are your top 10 fantasy football rookies for the 2019-2020 NFL season.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Oklahoma
After being the first wide receiver taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, Hollywood Brown doesn’t even make it into the top 10? No, he doesn’t. However, this has nothing to do with his ability or playmaking potential. Until Lamar Jackson can take the next step as a passer I won’t trust any Ravens players other than Jackson and the running backs, it's that simple.
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions, and Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos
The tight end position in the NFL is one of the toughest to adjust for mainly because of the added pressure the rookies receive in blocking. I know the Iowa guys were both first round picks and can stretch the field, but the blocking assignments could give them trouble early in the year. Poor blocking could lead to frustration and growing pains, and at a position that looks surprisingly deep this season, Hockenson and Fant figure to start out as TE2’s.
Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts
The speedy receiver out of Ohio State was just beaten out for the number 10 spot due to the amount of opportunities each player should each receive this season. However, I still expect Campbell to be a solid contributor in 12 and 14-team leagues this upcoming fantasy season. He’ll help Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and company light up the scoreboard as we saw last year.
10. Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
All the Pittsburgh Steelers do is turn their wide receivers into stars. Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Juju Smith-Schuster are all examples of this. I expect nothing less from Diontae Johnson, especially after Antonio Brown’s departure this offseason.
Johnson should step right in and contend for catches with Juju, James Washington, and Vance McDonald in the Steelers offense and is worth a late round pick in fantasy drafts with very good upside.
Stat predictions: 45 receptions, 500 yards, 3 touchdowns
9. Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Many analysts view Miles Sanders as the future running back in Philadelphia and it's easy to see why. At 5’11 and 215 pounds, he's a battering ram, and after he gets past the initial wave of tacklers he has the acceleration to take it to the house. However, the Eagles did add another running back this offseason when they traded a sixth round pick to the Bears for Jordan Howard.
For this reason, I expect the Eagles to bring Miles Sanders on slowly, knowing that they have a guy in Howard that has proven to be a workhorse at times during his career. The eagles will likely also look to Howard on the goal-line, at least early in the season.
Stat Predictions: 125 carries, 600 rushing yards, 15 receptions, 150 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns
8. Terry Mclaurin, WR, Washington Redskins
For Terry McLaurin, this is all about opportunity. Who else on the Washington Redskins is going to catch passes this year? Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson haven’t shown the ability to stay healthy, Jamison Crowder left in free agency, and their top weapon the last few seasons out of the backfield, Chris Thompson, could be a candidate to be cut by the time the preseason rolls around. This basically leaves the two rookies the Redskins took in the 2019 draft, Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon.
McLaurin may be viewed as more of a possession receiver in the NFL, but the kid has jets as he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and showed off great speed at Ohio State last season. With targets ready and available in Washington, McLaurin should be able to step up and should find himself around 600-800 receiving yards this season with five to seven touchdowns as well.
Stat Predictions: 55 receptions, 700 yards, 6 touchdowns
7. Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Let's be honest, the Dalvin Cook experiment in Minnesota hasn’t been what anyone asked for. After battling injuries and poor play through his first two seasons he enters an important year. The Vikings did draft Alexander Mattison out of Boise State in the 3rd round of this years draft as insurance for Dalvin Cook, however I expect him to take over this Vikings backfield during the 2019-2020 season.
While he’s not overly explosive and doesn’t possess a lot of burst, Mattison is a big back and will wear defenses out as the games get into the third and 4th quarter. His durability should excite Vikings coaches and fans as well. He will start the year on the RB4 radar but could climb as high as an RB2 before the season ends.
Stat Predictions: 150 carries, 700 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 250 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns
6. Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman with the thought that he would replace Tyreek Hill if his legal situation ended with him being unemployed. Unfortunately, there isn’t any more information or clearance on the matter at this time, which is why Hardman finds himself at number six on this list.
No matter if Tyreek Hill is with the team or not, Hardman will get targets. However, he is the biggest boom or bust player amongst rookies for this same reason. If the situation with Tyreek Hill carries on into fantasy football draft season, then I would steer clear of drafting Hardman until later rounds due to the uncertainty. With that being said, Hardman is as explosive and agile as anyone in the rookie class and will look to carve out a role alongside Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and perhaps even Tyreek Hill.
With Tyreek Hill: 45 catches, 550 yards, 4 touchdowns
Without Tyreek Hill: 70 catches, 850 yards, 7 touchdowns
5. N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
N’Keal Harry could not have landed in a better position. Gone is the Patriots number red-zone option, Rob Gronkowski, and now it will be Harry who eats up the end zone targets. He should be looked to early and often alongside chain-mover Julian Edelman. Harry does have the hindrance of a Josh Gordon or Rob Gronkowski return looming over his head, but should have a role regardless after being taken in the first round by Bill Belichick.
I expect Harry to be on of the top two rookie wide receivers in fantasy football this season, and with Tom Brady throwing him the ball in Josh McDaniels scheme he can be an immediate WR3 or WR4 with WR2 upside.
Stat Predictions: 65 catches, 800 yards, 8 touchdowns
4. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
Talk about a perfect pairing, David Montgomery could not have landed in a better spot. The Bears had an absence at running back when they traded Jordan Howard to the Eagles for a sixth round pick, and then David Montgomery, who many thought would go in the second round, fell into their lap in the third round.
Montgomery will lose passing game work to Tarik Cohen but will be the Bears first option in their ground attack. His Maurice Jones-Drew style of running will wear out defenses left and right and by seasons end he should be at or near 1,000 rushing yards.
Stat Predictions: 225 carries, 1,000 rushing yards, 20 receptions, 175 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns
3. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel to the San Francisco 49ers is a match made in heaven. The second round pick is quick, shift, agile, and built like a running back. He can bounce off of defenders and keep running upfield for additional yards after catch.
He should fit seamlessly into Kyle Shanahan's offensive system and will see a lot of targets in the short to intermediate game with tight end George Kittle mixing in that area as well and Marquise Goodwin chipping in as the deep threat over the top.
Stat Predictions: 70 receptions, 900 yards, 6 touchdowns
2. Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray should play the most snaps of any rookie this season and with Kliff Kingsbury playing the rest of the draft to Kyler’s strengths he is now in a position to light it up during his rookie season.
He has weapons in David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and Andy Isabella that will look to help him put up a lot of points this season in Arizona. He is also gifted with outstanding running ability that will only add to his fantasy football value. So whether Kyler is running or throwing, he figures to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback and a leading candidate for rookie of the year.
Stat predictions: 3, 150 passing yards, 850 rushing yards, 30 total touchdowns
1. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
The only running back taken in the first two rounds figures to be a workhorse this season. At least that's what the Oakland Raiders are hoping. Josh Jacobs possesses a versatile style of play that should appeal to fantasy football owners everywhere, as he can make plays in the running and passing game.
He is the lone rookie who should be taken in the first two rounds of fantasy football drafts this year depending on how big your league is. He is a borderline RB1 or RB2 from the get go as I see it and he should be in plenty of lineups from week one on barring injury.
Stat Predictions: 250 carries, 1,100 rushing yards, 50 receptions, 400 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns