COVID-19 continues to throw a cloud of uncertainty over the start of the NFL season. Like a Jameis Winston pass, we simply don’t know where the pandemic’s end date will land (or who will catch it). Consequently, will the upcoming NFL season begin on time? Will fans be allowed to fill the stadiums? These questions won’t prevent us from preparing for the return of Fantasy Football. In this instance, let’s consider the Fantasy Football rookies now that we are a few months removed from the virtual wonder that was the 2020 NFL Draft.
Which Fantasy Football rookies will make the most impact? How about the first year guys that will slip under the radar?
First, let’s consider some of the more obvious names and remove them from contention.
Rookies Going in Earlier Rounds
Assume that Joe Burrow is likely to have a statistical impact on the Bengals – and that the more casual Fantasy owner is well aware of the first pick in the draft. He doesn’t qualify for this list.
Jonathan Taylor (Colts) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs) are backs that are likely to go in the higher rounds. In ESPN drafts, Edwards-Helaire (ADP 32.8) is currently being selected higher than David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. Taylor (78.4) is going ahead of Kerryon Johnson, James White and fellow Colts teammate Marlon Mack.
As for receivers, CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) carries hype and should also go on the higher side, despite being one of three WR targets in Dallas. Jerry Jeudy (Broncos) should also receive plenty of attention in drafts, as will Henry Ruggs III (Raiders).
Considering the name, expect a similar situation with Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) – that is, unless it’s clear that he will not be starting for a while.
This is strictly predicting the bargains of the later rounds. That translates to round ten or later for running backs and even later for others.
Overall, the unpredictability makes this a tough question to answer. For one, there are a lot of players vying for roster spots. Injuries can and do happen. You should also consider your opposing managers. Fan boys will take their favorite team’s players higher. There are a lot of factors.
With all this in mind, which Fantasy Football rookies will be the late round gems?
Fantasy Football Rookies: Seven Under the Radar Later Round Options
Ke’Shawn Vaughn – RB – Buccaneers (ESPN ADP: 102.1)
I debated this pick, but Vaughn is a back that is falling low enough in drafts that I felt he was worth including. Keep in mind that Fantasy owners are likely to focus on the bigger names in Tampa Bay (Brady, Gronk, Evans and Godwin). They’ll consider Bruce Arians and his deep-ball passing tendencies. Let’s not forget that David Johnson’s career took off under Arians in Arizona. Coach likes his backs, too. Tampa Bay has been lacking a real star in the backfield and Vaughn could be that guy.
Justin Jefferson – WR – Vikings (ESPN ADP: 141.4)
What am I missing here? Jefferson was a first round bargain for the Vikings. The former LSU standout is an impact player. Yet, he’s going 15-20 picks behind fellow rookies CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy. He’s being picked 30+ picks behind Henry Ruggs III. Perhaps people are scared off by Minnesota’s run-heavy offense. Let’s keep in mind that Kevin Stefanski is now in Cleveland. That doesn’t mean the Vikes will not focus on the run. Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo and there’s a clear hole in the number two WR position. Kirk Cousins can play, just not in primetime. The numbers will be there for Jefferson.
Michael Pittman – WR – Colts (ESPN ADP: 160.6)
Similar to Jefferson’s situation in Minnesota, the Colts have a need for a second receiver alongside T.Y. Hilton. Philip Rivers now fronts the Indianapolis offense and while we all know he is aging and can be a bit of a wild card, the passing numbers will be there. He will be looking for guys to throw to and Pittman could step into the spotlight rather quickly, especially if T.Y. has more injury issues.
Antonio Gibson – WR/RB – Redskins (ESPN ADP: 163.5)
Gibson qualifies as a running back, but could be a guy that is used all over the field. The Redskins are in desperate need of weapons to step up on offense. This guy could end up as a poor man’s Christian McCaffrey. Look at OC Scott Turner and just how much they use a player with this skillset. The sheer volume alone could make him a valuable piece to use, especially when he qualifies as a running back. Just don’t expect McCaffrey or anywhere near that type of production. But a late round flyer? Hell yes.
Brandon Aiyuk – WR – 49ers (ESPN ADP: 168.0)
Are we sensing a theme here? Yes, San Francisco moved Marquise Goodwin and let Emmanuel Sanders sign elsewhere. That leaves TE George Kittle and Deebo Samuel as the top WR. Add in the physical and talented Aiyuk and there is an opportunity for Fantasy impact. The biggest risk is obviously the Niners focusing so much on the run. Keep that in mind.
Denzel Mims – WR – Jets (ESPN ADP: 168.4)
Once again, there’s an opening in the depth chart with Robby Anderson moving on to Carolina. We have yet to see Sam Darnold reach his potential, but one thing is clear, Breshad Perriman and Mims currently front a depth chart desperate for playmakers. This is an opportunity for a late round stash and a player that few people are talking about.
Tee Higgins – WR – Bengals (ESPN ADP: 170.0)
A.J. Green is recovering from injuries and never made it on the field last season. If healthy, we also have to consider Green as a trade deadline candidate. Sure, the Bengals will see a share of growing pains with Joe Burrow. But you can’t deny Burrow’s talent. This rookie-to-rookie combo could make headlines. Let’s also assume the Bengals will fall behind in a lot of games, which means more passing opportunities. Higgins could have a sneaky good year. He could be a final round stash.
Other Names to Consider
Devin Duvernay (WR – Ravens), Laviska Shenault Jr (WR – Jaguars), Chase Claypool (WR – Steelers), Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR – Redskins) and J.K. Dobbins (RB – Ravens, Ingram handcuff)
Who is your favorite option among the list of Fantasy Football rookies? It’s still early, so this is a bit of a crapshoot, yet still fun to predict. As you will see from my 2019 Fantasy Football Impact Rookies, I had plenty of success predicting the top rookies last season.
It is however not too early to spend time preparing for the upcoming Fantasy Football season. In the meantime, enjoy the summer, stay safe and thank you for visiting The Wife Hates Sports!