Fantasy Football Impact Rookies to Watch

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After the first round of the 2018 NFL draft on Friday, we picked out the rookies who could possibly make an immediate impact in the league and find a spot on fantasy football rosters this fall (hint: not many). Now that the draft is a wrap, let’s look for some even deeper sleepers.

Here are 10 players selected after the first round who could make some noise in fantasy leagues this season, listed in order of when they were selected.

Nick Chubb, RB, Browns (Pick No. 35)

Chubb was the first skill player taken in the second round. The problem in Cleveland, however, could be the workload. It seems antithetical to everything we all know about real football and fantasy football, but there are suddenly a ton of mouths to feed in Cleveland. Jarvis Landry is going to get his, Josh Gordon is going to get his and same goes for Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Even second-year tight end David Njoku is an intriguing player this season. Chubb will have to find a way to fit into that mix. Now, there’s no doubt the Browns want him to not only fit in, but possibly stand out. After all, they took him with the No. 35 pick for a reason. Still, it’s hard to say how many touches will be available for the Georgia product on a weekly basis.

Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers (No. 38)

Jones should have a shot to start right away as a rookie. The only realistic competition in Tampa Bay comes in the form of Peyton Barber and Charles Sims, who have played valuable roles for the Buccaneers over the last few seasons, but the USC product is already the most talented back on the team. He’s likely to lead the team in touches, and there’s still some breakout potential with his offense if Jameis Winston can take the next step under center this year. Jones can be a legitimate week-in, week-out starter in all fantasy leagues.

Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos (No. 40)

At 6′ 4″ and 215 pounds, Sutton has a frame that is already primed for the NFL. He joins a Denver team that doesn’t need him to shoulder too much of the receiving load with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still the top two receivers on the depth chart, but also one that could use some playmaking help, especially in the red zone. Don’t sleep on the upgrade Denver made at quarterback, either, by signing Case Keenum, who became a castoff in Minnesota after leading the team to the NFC championship game. Even if he cannot match his surprising, mid-career breakout campaign, he proved himself a steady hand under center, and he’ll be working with as strong a group of receivers this year as he did last year. Sutton should benefit from having the stability of a player like Keenum at the helm.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins (No. 42)

Gesicki’s possible fantasy relevance as a rookie rests entirely on two pillars: the shallowness of the tight end pool, and the possible volume available in the Miami offense. It doesn’t take a whole lot to get into the discussion at the back end of the TE1 class, and there will be plenty of targets to go around in Miami now that Jarvis Landry is in Cleveland. Gesicki will have to contend with DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola, and Kenyan Drake should get his fair share of looks out of the backfield, but Gesicki can be a real weapon for Ryan Tannehill in the middle of the field. He’ll be a worthy dart throw late in drafts.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions (No. 43)

The Lions’ backfield struggles over the last 10 years or so are no secret. The team took its first step toward addressing the situation by signing LeGarrette Blount, and then added Johnson in a spot that suggests he’ll have a meaningful right away. That’s obviously bad news for Ameer Abdullah, who has never brought to the team what was expected when he was a second-round pick himself back in 2015. Despite going 43rd overall, there are a few roadblocks in Johnson’s way. First of all, Blount is going to do his thing, which, most importantly, means handling all goal-line duties. Second, Theo Riddick is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, and already has a rapport with Matthew Stafford. That means Johnson will have to fight both of those players for touches on the edges, and that could keep his volume down as a rookie. His biggest impact this season might be signaling the end of the Abdullah era in Detroit.

Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals (No. 47)

Take a look at the Cardinals’ depth chart at wide receiver, and you’ll see that Kirk isn’t just set up to eventually take the torch from Larry Fitzgerald whenever the inimitable veteran retrires. He should also have a significant role in the offense this season. Brice Butler, J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams aren’t going to stand in his way, and with Fitzgerald doing so much of his greatest damage out of the slot, Kirk could be the go-to weapon on the outside in the Cardinals’ offense. He spent much of his time at Texas A&M operating out of the slot, too, but the Cardinals wouldn’t have taken him where they did, passing on Anthony Miller, James Washington, D.J. Chark and Michael Gallup, if they didn’t think he could play outside. Kirk is an absolute burner who is going to make more than a few highlight plays deep down the field this season. He’ll likely be a boom-or-bust player as a rookie, but that will have him on the deep receiver and flex radar, especially when the bye-week portion of the schedule hits.

Anthony Miller, WR, Bears (No. 51)

You can learn a lot about what teams think of their players in the manner by which they acquire them. The Bears, for example, gave up their 2019 second-round pick to move up 54 spots and grab Miller with the No. 51 pick in this year’s draft. Even after adding Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason, the Bears needed to come out of the draft with at least one more receiver, and they did so earlier than many expected thanks to Ryan Pace’s aggressiveness. Miller was one of the best receivers in the country in his final two seasons at Memphis, totaling 191 catches for 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’ll have a huge role in the offense from day one, and remember that this could be one of the breakout groups of the season with Matt Nagy at the helm. Miller will be an intriguing draft-day target, regardless of your league format.

Derrius Guice, RB, Redskins (No. 59)

Guice has thought of as a potential first-round pick, but landed in Washington in the in the second round at pick No. 59 overall. Guice may have more pure talent than Jones or Royce Freeman, but his team context isn’t nearly as encouraging. The Redskins love Chris Thompson, with good reason, and he should be recovered from fully recovered from his fractured fibula by the start of the season. The question will be whether he can beat out Samaje Perine to be Washington’s primary runner out of the backfield. If he does and secures a role where he’s getting 12-plus touches per game, he’ll make this unofficial ranking look silly. If he doesn’t, or if he and Perine share the load for most of the season, he might be no more than a fringe flex player in most fantasy formats. Keep on eye on this positional battle during the summer. Guice unquestionably has a high ceiling, but he needs to push Perine to the bench to make the most of it.

Royce Freeman, RB, Broncos (No. 71)

The Broncos’ brain trust made it very clear that Freeman would have every shot at winning the starting gig. Devontae Booker is still a youngster, but no team uses the No. 71 pick on a running back in today’s NFL to have him spend his rookie year on the sideline, especially when that team doesn’t have an entrenched starter. Freeman was electric in his career at Oregon, leaving the school with the Pac-12 record for career rushing touchdowns (60). He racked up nearly 6,500 yards from scrimmage during his four years in Eugene, and topped 2,000 total yards as a sophomore back in 2015. If Freeman can, at the very least, be on the long side of a platoon with Booker, he’ll be a consistent flex option. If he runs away with the starting job, which seems likelier than not, he’ll likely project as an RB2 during draft season.

Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys (No. 81)

Gallup was the first draft selection at receiver of the post-Dez Bryant era in Dallas, and if you think that doesn’t mean anything, take a look at the rest of the team’s depth chart at the position. Gallup joins a wide receiver room that includes Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin, Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson. Dak Prescott probably wouldn’t say it on the record, but chances are he isn’t brimming with confidence while looking at that list of names. Gallup will be expected to start immediately after the team grabbed him with the 81st overall pick. He excelled in his two years at Colorado State, catching 176 passes for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns, and should get plenty of opportunity to prove himself the best wideout in Dallas.

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