12 Rookies That Could Make You A Fantasy Genius

posted by Tank Spencer - 

Looking at the 2018 NFL rookies, you can almost guarantee you're going to get decent fantasy production from a handful of them. We know Saquon Barkley is going in the top 10, sometimes top 5, in fantasy drafts. He's going to get plenty of run for a Giants team that needs a shot in the arm at the RB position. 

We can look at the Carolina Panthers' receiving corps and know that D.J. Moore is going to get a lot of looks from Cam Newton. Calvin Ridley should be the #2 behind Julio Jones in Atlanta, giving fans of other NFC South teams headaches just thinking about it. 

I also have a few rookies that I'm not high on, despite my personal feelings. Georgia running backs Sony Michel (NE) and Nick Chubb (CLE) are in crowded backfields. Chubb must contend with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, Jr. for carries, while Michel has Rex Burhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, and Jeremy Hill on the roster. It's not unlikely that both of the former Dawgs could be feature backs at some point, but it doesn't look like this is the year. 

The following is THE list of rookies you should be targeting in the later rounds of a redraft league. These guys may be boom or bust, but when it pays off, you'll look like the fantasy genius we all know you are. 

Kerryon Johnson

1. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit

          He was a 2nd round pick, so maybe he shouldn't be considered a "sneaky pick." However, he's in a crowded backfield with fantasy football teasers like Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. I call them the teasers, because they have held so much promise, but rarely delivered. The Lions also added LeGarrette Blount. He looks like a TD vulture, to me. If you're willing to take the risk, draft Johnson as high as the 7th round and see what shakes out. He had nearly 1400 yards and 18 TDs for Auburn last year. He's a patient runner, explodes to the holes, and has big hands for catching passes.

(Click the picture to see his best highlights from 2017)


2. Justin Jackson, RB, LA Chargers

          Jackson was used a lot in college. But is wear and tear a bigger worry than a lack of experience for a rookie runner? At Northwestern he racked up 5,440 yards (106.7 per game) and 41 TDs. He's shifty and has reliable hands. Plus he's running behind Melvin Gordon, who has a history of serious injury. SPORTSINJURYPREDICTOR.COM says Gordon has a 55% chance of getting hurt this year. 


3. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas

          Gallup could be a major impact, if the Cowboys don't upgrade their receiving corps somehow. The starters in Dallas, Week 1, project to be Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, or Cole Beasley. I know the Cowboys will use the run to do most of their damage, but I can't imagine a scenario where Gallup doesn't have at least some value. Last year he caught 100 balls at Colorado State, amassing more than 1400 yards.

James Washington

4. James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh

          The Oklahoma State product had over 1,000 yards receiving and at least 10 TDs in his last three seasons. He's was billed by some as the best deep threat in college football. Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell, and JuJu Smith-Schuster are getting all of the buzz in the Steelers passing game, but look for Washington to make a solid impact as the 4th option. 


5. Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco

          You may remember Pettis' cousin Austin, who would have been on this list had we done it in 2011. He's stepping into a much better situation in the bay, than Austin did in St. Louis. With 22 TD grabs in the last two years at Washington, strong route running skills, and kick return ability, he could easily step into the #3 WR slot for Jimmy Garappolo. The health of Trent Taylor is suspect, so Pettis could get some decent looks. 


6. Keke Coutee, WR, Houston

          Coutee can create a lot of space in the slot, has the speed to break a big gain, and can contribute as a kick returner. Deshaun Watson was on fire, prior to his injury last season. In his last four games, he hit Will Fuller for 7 TDs and DeAndre Hopkins for 6. Tell me he wouldn't love to have a third option. 

Equanimeous St. Brown

7. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Green Bay

          The Pack has three rookie wideouts that could make an impact, depending on the chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. I happen to like EQ the best. His 6'5'' frame could come in real handy on lobs to the endzone, as you can see above. Coming into the season, Geronimo Allison is expected to be the Packers' #3 WR. If J'Mon Moore goes ahead of you, draft ESB soon after. 


8. Kalen Ballage, RB, Miami

         Ballage has been called a more athletic LeGarrette Blount. He's 6'3'', 230 lbs, and can dust dudes in open space. He averaged five yards per touch at Arizona State. He plays behind NFL octogenarian Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake, who dealt with injuries his first two years in the league and feels due for another. 


9. Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis

         I'm high on NC State's Nyheim Hines to be the star rookie for the Colts, but Jordan is a bit of an unknown. He had limited run at Ole Miss, but he averaged 7 yards per carry, during the most daunting part of their SEC schedule last year. I wouldn't balk at spending a final three rounds pick on him. The injury predictor gives Marlon Mack -AND- Hines greater than 50% chance of sustaining an injury. 

Ian Thomas

10. Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina 

          Greg Olsen is 32 and missed 9 games due to injury last year. Thomas may get thrown into the fire sooner, rather than later. He averaged 15 yards per catch as a Hoosier. Most of his big plays came on blown coverages, but he's a powerful tool. 


11. Deon Cain, WR, Indianapolis

          There is a lack of talent in the Colts' receiving corps, which means there is an open door for Cain to find some playing time. He did struggle with drops at Clemson, but he has the size and strength to play anywhere on the field. 


12. Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona

          The QBs in this class may not get a lot of playing time this year. Out of all of them, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen have the clearest paths to ample playing time. Rosen would have Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to throw too, as well as David Johnson in the backfield. The Bills are hot garbage, on paper. 

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