NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
You followed them through their college careers. You magnified, criticized, and fell in love with some during the draft process. It’s now time to see which rookies can help you win your all-important Fantasy Football championship.
Odell Beckham Jr. brought awareness to the ‘Rookies are People Too’ campaign for fantasy owners last season, however OB3 wasn’t the first rookie to lead owners nationwide to cyber championships.
I am still celebrating my 2005 Fantasy Football championship, which was only possible due to a rookie running back out of Auburn – Cadillac Williams.
Few can forget the more recent dominant 2011 rookie campaign had by Cam Newton, who led my Cam You See My Newtons all the way to the fantasy championship. Without further ado – let’s see which youngsters should be on your radar, those who you should pause on – and your home run.
On my radar
Amari Cooper (OAK) Rd 1 #4
Rookie receivers won people fantasy football leagues last season – and I believe this season will be no different. Derek Carr showed he was capable last season with arguably one of the worst receiving core in the league. Cooper – who should be no higher than a mid-round pick (top five dynasty) – is in a great position to make an impact. Cooper will line up in the slot, outside, in the fourth row and anywhere in between. I expect him to get a lot of balls thrown his way due to his versatility, combined with the safe bet that Oakland will be trailing in the second half often this season. Garbage time points are golden in fantasy football – Cooper will be on my target list as a WR3-4.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) Rd 1 #20
I loved this pick on draft night, and depending on the hype machine I will love this pick in most fantasy football drafts. Agholor, like Cooper, will line up all over the field and should be thrown into the fire right away as the Jeremy Maclin replacement. Eagles love to run a lot of snaps. Snaps means opportunities. Opportunities mean points. We like points. Agholor could be a gem of the later rounds.
Tevin Coleman (ATL) Rd 3 #73
Put him on your draft cheat sheet. Circle him. Highlight him. Keep your mouth shut when his name is brought up in your league. Coleman could be a massive steal in drafts as I think he’s being undervalued in the process. He fits perfectly with Atlanta for a few reasons. One, he is easily the biggest playmaker out of the backfield and should get many touches. Two, it’s a perfect scheme fit as Coleman is ideal for offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Don’t believe the Devonta Freeman supporters – Coleman is your guy in Atlanta. I am not being bold and calling it – but it is conceivable Tevin Coleman could lead all rookie backs in fantasy points at the end of the season.
Maxx Williams (BAL) Rd 2 #55
Williams has a shot to be the most impactful rookie in fantasy this season. Joe Flacco loves his tight ends, and past Williams the depth chart is bare. It gets even worse if Dennis Pitta, as recently reported by ESPN, is possibly unable to play in 2015. Fantasy football is all about opportunities – and Williams will get all he can handle. Remember how Owen Daniels killed the Patriots in the playoffs last season? Imagine a bigger, faster, younger version – and you have yourselves Maxx Williams.
Todd Gurley (STL) Rd 1 #10
In a dynasty league Gurley should be the unquestioned #1 overall pick. For regular leagues, Gurley is probably in the 5th-6th round range for me. The Rams’ have other capable backs, but you don’t take a running back 10th overall in this day and age to keep a horse in the stable. Gurley will get his touches and has a chance to be a major breakout performer. Point blank, the former Georgia Bulldog is a monster. I expect him to be the best back in the NFL in three years or less. However, be careful on draft day. As you will see later, big name rookies have a tendency to get over-drafted. Watch the board carefully here.
Melvin Gordon (SD) Rd 1 #15
Conventional wisdom would place Gordon as the #1 fantasy rookie running back this year, and the second overall pick in dynasty leagues. I did not purchase a ticket aboard the Melvin Gordon Fantasy Football bandwagon – and it isn’t Gordon’s fault. He will be a workhorse in the backfield and will get his fair share of balls thrown his way as well. The reason I’m staying away from Gordon is I am confident there will be two to three players in every league waiting to over-buy. He’s hovering around the 4th-5th round range in standard leagues and won’t be shocked to see him creek into the third round. I simply don’t trust Gordon as a RB1 – RB2…yet. However if the value is there – go for it.
You can have em’
TJ Yeldon (JAX) Rd 2 #36
This is a buyer beware boom-or-bust pick. Yeldon’s fantasy hype has been slowly building and will only intensify as true draft season nears. Here’s the positives: he will potentially get a lion’s share of the touches, fits well with what Jacksonville wants to do and will likely be a three down back. Here’s the negatives: a poor offense with a lot to prove with a quarterback that won’t strike fear into opposing defenses, causing loaded boxes. Combine that with the fact he will likely be over drafted/ valued in fantasy drafts, and I’m not leaping out of my seat. He could legitimately be a top 10 running back getting a bunch of touches. He could also be that guy who people fight over on draft night, just never takes off and then leaves people laughing on Thanksgiving “Remember when Jerry took that rookie in the third round!?”. Falling in love with rookies is tricky business. Falling in love with rookies on bad teams is even trickier business. He will only be on my radar if the price is right.
Kevin White (CHI) Rd 1 #7
Brandon Marshall out – Kevin White in. Long term, real world sense I think it’s a great swap. For 2015 Fantasy Football purposes, I’m not leaping out of my seat. White should be the #2 guy in Chicago and get his fair share of balls thrown his way, but Jay Cutler is so wildly inconsistent it scares me to essentially rely on him week to week. Similar to Yeldon, based on his draft position and hype meter I think White is a candidate to be one of the most over-drafted players this season. Not saying he won’t be productive in 2015, just know you probably won’t be getting the best bang for your buck.
Jameis Winston (TB) Rd 1 #1
He will likely be drafted in most leagues, however I’m not all that interested. Again – if you’re in a dynasty league Winston is a top 5 selection, but for regular leagues there isn’t much that gets me excited in Tampa. Yes you have VJax and Mike Evans, however I don’t think this will be a great fantasy football offense. Like Jameis to lead the Bucs to a bounce-back 6-7 win season – don’t like Jameis to light it up statistically.
The Home Run
I have a few fantasy football rules. #1 Always wear a players jersey to the draft whom you have zero intention on drafting. #2 My last pick is always a kicker. #3 My second to last pick is my home run selection.
This is a guy who you’re probably not expecting much out of in weeks 1-6, but could develop into a gem. It could be a backup who could be thrust into a huge role via an injury, or a rookie who finds himself in a great situation to contribute.
Last season, my guy was Donte Moncrief. He was an explosive, possibly under-used asset to the Ole Miss Rebels and found himself in a situation with a great quarterback, other receivers to take the pressure off as well as a good scheme fit.
A year before that, it was Justin Hunter. That one didn’t work out so well (at all as a matter of fact).
This year, the home run pick I’m targeting is Justin Hardy. Hardy was one of my favorite players to study throughout the draft process and found himself in a great situation. He will be the Harry Douglass replacement for the Falcons and I expect him to outlast Leonard Hankerson as the team’s WR3. Hardy will make his money in the short passing game – and with Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside (when healthy) he should see favorable matchups every week.
Fun fact: Julio Jones and Roddy White have missed a combined 17 games over the course of the previous two seasons.
Second fun fact: Since the Falcons drafted Julio Jones in 2011, the duo of Jones/White have only played all 16 games together once (2012).
Do with that what you may.
When you win your championship because Justin Hardy catches two touchdowns in Week 16 next season, you’re welcome.
And when your best friend finishes in last because he broke the cardinal rule of drafting rookies (over-valuing big names) make fun of him in my stead.