Believe it or not, but fantasy football drafts will be starting in just 6 short weeks. That means you’ll soon be dealing with the guy who doesn’t pay and all the other characters that come out the woodwork for fantasy football season.
Almost every year there is a breakout rookie that slides under the radar. In years past, we have seen young stars such as Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, Saquon Barkley, and even Kareem Hunt (might want to kick the idea of drafting him in the first few rounds down the road) enter the league as rookies and make huge plays.
While it’s easy to say “Saquon Barkley is good at football”, most of the names mentioned here will be late round selections. Don’t let draft position fool you though, some of these guys have high ceilings. You might have to wait on a few, but there is always opportunity in the NFL when inevitable injuries pop up. Plus, it’s always good to draft rookies that you think could rise up in later rounds if you are playing in a keeper league.
So with that, let’s get to the list of 14 rookies who could be fantasy contributors in 2019.
Kyler Murray, QB Arizona Cardinals
The #1 overall pick in this year’s draft and reigning Heisman trophy winner is the most likely rookie to make a significant impact. Unlike some other quarterbacks on this list, Murray is the clear starter and will face no competition. The cardinals of course moved on from Josh Rosen so that Murray could start.
Despite only starting one season at Oklahoma, Murray made sure to make it count. He ultimately led his Sooners to a 12-2 record in while throwing for 4,361 yards in and averaging 3 touchdown passes a game. He also racked up over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground as well. Murray will have to play himself into a fantasy starting role but he is someone who could be a nice injury fill-in, backup or keeper stash.
Nkeal Harry, WR New England Patriots
When New England selected Harry at the end of the first round, you knew he was someone that was going to be able to immediately come out and be a monster in the red zone for Tom Brady. While New England did bring back Julian Edelman on a 2-year deal, the team will be without Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan, and the best tight end in the past decade in Rob Grownkowski. Harry – standing in at 6’2” – should be able to help fill some of those holes. Over the past 2 seasons, he has a total of 17 touchdowns for Arizona State as a big target in the red zone.
It’s always tough to get a read on what Belichick is conjuring up – especially with rookies – but it is worth noting that Sony Michel lived up to his billing last season. The Patriots frankly need Harry to replace Gronk’s production. It isn’t unreasonable to look for Harry in the 9th-10th round in a 10-man league,
Josh Jacobs, RB Oakland Raiders
Jacobs is a versatile back that should fit well into Jon Gruden’s pass heavy offense. With the departure of Marshawn Lynch to retirement, it gives they keys of the Raiders backfield to Jacobs. Jacobs could see success in PPR leagues as he could be a favored target on 3rd downs for Derek Carr. The bruising Jacobs was of course a key cog in Nick Saban’s offense.
As a running-back with a clear path to playing time, Jacobs will likely be off the board by round 5. There are few rookies with the potential for instant success that Jacobs has.
T.J. Hockenson, TE Detroit Lions
Hockenson was one of two tight ends drafted in the 1st Round of the Draft; the other his former college teammate Noah Fant (someone you will be reading about shortly). Hockenson is viewed as an all-around tight end that can block as well as be a threat in the passing game. This is exactly what Detroit is looking for in a pass heavy offense that lost Eric Ebron only to see him thrive with Andrew Luck.
His route running is still developing but he definitely has the potential and is someone who should be watched in keeper leagues. With the tight end position historically thin in terms of fantasy, however, Hockenson could become an asset quicker than expected. We’ve seen rookies burst onto the scene at this position time and time again.
Fantasy football calculator currently has him going anywhere between the 10th-12th rounds in 12-man formats.With a QB known to be friendly to fantasy receivers in Matt Stafford, Hockenson could easily be a fantasy starter at some point this coming season.
Noah Fant, TE Denver Broncos
Fant is a freakishly athletic tight end and is most certainly ahead of Hockenson in his route running and hands skills. He even scored in the 98.4th percentile on the SPARQ test at his tight end position. The SPARQ Test measures specific athleticism relating to that athlete’s speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness combined with their height and weight. He ran a 4.5 40 at the combine to go along with a 39.5 inch vertical.
John Elway has spoken highly of Fant and has said that Flacco will get the ball to him “early and often”. The Broncos have multiple young players who could carve out passing roles and Fant is certainly one of them. He is also currently being drafted a bit later than Hockenson, which bodes well for those with an eye on sleepers.
Dwayne Haskins, QB Washington Redskins
Haskins is the man who many considered one of the biggest drops in the draft after the Giants opted to draft Daniel Jones out of Duke at 6. Haskins would not be drafted until the 15th pick by the Skins.
It’s not clear whether he will start or if the Redskins will give Case Keenum the chance to start to begin the season. Despite many presuming he’s an agile, mobile quarterback, Haskins is actually a traditional pocket passer. He averaged just 108 yards on the ground in 2018 for Ohio State, only 1.4 yards per carry. He finished 3rd in the Heisman vote after throwing for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Haskins probably isn’t worth drafting outside keeper leagues but could be an intriguing rookie by mid-season.
Deebo Samuel, WR San Francisco 49ers
A three-year starter at South Carolina, Samuel has faced off against the best defensive backs in college football while playing in the gruesome SEC. Despite having his 2017 season come to an early end, he roared back in 2018 strong and finished with 62 catches for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Jimmy Garoppolo expected to be fully healthy by the beginning of the season, Samuel should be one of his top targets alongside Marquise Goodwin.
DK Metcalf, WR Seattle Seahawks
Let’s hope his rookie season can be as successful as his introduction to head coach Pete Carroll, when it was decided that shirts around the Seahawks team facility were optional.
Metcalf fell to the 3rd Round despite a strong combine where he ran a 4.33 40, 27 bench reps, and a 40.5 inch vertical. While the potential is certainly there, Metcalf’s success will solely be determined by his effort and ability to stay healthy. With Doug Baldwin officially retired, Metcalf could instantly become Seattle’s WR1 and a big red zone target for Russell Wilson.
With Carroll high on Metcalf and a clear need, there is a chance for him top become a prominent NFL contributor in his first season. Metcalf is a risk, however, nut one with high potential for reward.
David Montgomery, RB Chicago Bears
With the trade of Jordan Howard to the Eagles, Montgomery is a lock for playing time alongside Tarik Cohen. Cohen will certainly take a majority of the passing downs but it’ll be interesting to see how they fit Montgomery into the scheme. As a two-year starter at Iowa State, he totaled over 2,500 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns. Montgomery could be an option for deeper leagues as he could be the go-to guy for Chicago on the goal line.
As was the case with Jacobs, Montgomery is an RB with a clear path to playing time. Expect him to be off the board relatively early. If he can replicate Jordan Howard’s role, he will be an asset to say the least. You can never have enough running-backs in fantasy football.
Is that the golden rule? If not, it should be.
Mecole Hardman, WR Kansas City Chiefs
The league has not decided Tyreek Hill’s punishment for alleged child abuse while also threatening his fiancé on audio. His future with the Chiefs is still in question and the team is in another difficult situation. They were forced to release Kareem Hunt last December after video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman multiple times.
As a result, the team used their 2nd Round pick on Hardman – a player with a similar play style to Hill – to potentially replace him. As a two-year starter at Georgia, he totaled 961 yards on 60 catches for 11 touchdowns while also rushing for two more. After running a 4.33 40 at the combine it is obvious Hardman could see an expanded role early in his career, especially if the Chiefs decide to move on from Hill.
Plus it goes without saying that everyone wanted a piece of the Chiefs offense last season. If Hill’s fate is decided, look for Hardman to go off the board early.
Andy Isabella/Hakeem Butler, WRs Arizona Cardinals
After finishing with the worst record in the league last season, the Cardinals are beginning to see a lot of hype entering 2019. New HC Kliff Kingsbury is bringing a lot of hope to an organization that has been in decline since losing in the NFC Championship game just four years ago. Despite Larry Fitzgerald deciding to stick around another season, the Cardinals used their 3rd and 4th Round Picks on Isabella and Butler to increase the depth at WR for their rookie QB.
Standing at just 5’9”, Isabella is an under the radar slot receiver out of UMass that could see a lot of targets in Arizona’s new pass heavy system that Kingsbury ran at Texas Tech. In his senior season he totaled 102 catches for 1,698 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 12 games for the Minutemen. Butler standing in at 6’5” is the near opposite of Isabella. He may not see the field as much this season due to Fitzgerald returning. Overall, both are strong options for keeper leagues with each having high ceilings down the road.
For regular formats it is best to observe how things take shape. It is anyone’s guess as to what Arizona’s passing breakdown will be but these two are worth keeping an eye on, no doubt.
Darrell Henderson RB Los Angeles Rams
After letting C.J. Anderson walk in free agency, LA used their 3rd Round pick on Henderson out of Memphis. Henderson was someone I really hoped the Eagles wanted to target unless they selected Miles Sanders (which ended up happening anyway). Henderson’s a tank at just 5’8” but weighing 210 lbs. In his junior season for the Tigers, he totaled 25 touchdowns on the season to go along with over 2,200 yards from scrimmage. Obviously, his touches will be slim to none with Todd Gurley active. However, if Gurley’s knee issues from late last season continue to be a problem, Henderson could see an increased role in one of the best offenses in the league.
Miles Sanders, RB Philadelphia Eagles
Last but not least, Eagles rookie Miles Sanders is worth keeping an eye on. Sanders saw less usage than a typical back while at Penn State due to the presence of Saquon Barkley. In a league where players are increasingly retiring before 30, that is a huge plus.
Sanders will be joining a Philadephia backfield that has options and wa sjust bolstered by Jordan Howard. Sanders has also been battling a hamstring injury during mini-camp.
Sanders will have to prove himself but is certainly worth stashing. The upside is there and he will surely be a long-term piece for the Eagles. Come midseason, Sanders could be a regular contributor.