As the NFL Draft is now behind us, the next wave of player drafts will be underway shortly. Fantasy season is slowly approaching and leagues are already starting their drafts. With a new fleet of fantasy rookies entering, the casual player may be unfamiliar with who is entering a good situation and who isn’t. So, here’s the breakdown on which five fantasy rookies to target and which five you should be avoiding.
5. Target: RB Cam Akers, Rams
The Rams really struggled at the running back position last season. A sluggish Todd Gurley and a woeful backup situation lead the Rams to 1499 rushing yards, 26th best in the NFL. Since Gurley has departed for Atlanta, the Rams situation got even worse. However, they addressed this issue by selecting Florida State star Cam Akers in the second round. While he doesn’t enter as the immediate starter, he certainly has the most upside compared to his teammates. Darrell Henderson didn’t look like the answer last season, and though he’ll likely be given the opportunity to start, Cam Akers’ one-cut style fits the Rams system much better.
In dynasty, expect Akers to be gone sooner rather than later. So if you can, grab him quickly before he is gone. He will likely turn into the Rams franchise back.
In standard or PPR, Akers is a late round target who will likely not score a lot in the early weeks. However, bust him out once he earns the starting spot and expect points to come in at a high rate.
5. Avoid: WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Jaguars
Laviska Shenault is in the perfect situation. He is a raw prospect with lower expectations as a second round pick, he won’t enter as an immediate workhorse and can adapt to the NFL at his own rate.
That being said, none of that adds up to a solid fantasy campaign. Especially for standard or PPR. Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark both own the starting 2 WR spots and Gardner Minshew hasn’t proven himself as a reliable starter quite yet.
If you’re in dynasty, consider waiting to add Shenault as late as possible. In standard/PPR, avoid drafting him period. If he breaks out early, maybe consider adding him on the waiver wire. Otherwise, he will be a waste of a draft pick.
4. Target: RB Joshua Kelley, Chargers
The current running back situation in LA is a weird one for both the Rams and the Chargers. The second of two fantasy rookies from LA, Joshua Kelley has exceptional upside for someone selected in the fourth round. With Melvin Gordon departing for Denver and Austin Ekeler staying put, the Chargers picked up Kelley as someone who can fill Melvin Gordon’s shoes. Ekeler figures to be the 3rd down back and play as more of a pass catcher, while Kelley will be running in-between the tackles.
With the current QB situation being a mystery as to who will start at the position, a strong running game is going to be fundamental if the Chargers want to rebound this season. Expect Kelley to get carries early and get a lot more of them as the season rolls along.
Pick him up in the later rounds of standard/PPR. For dynasty, he might be around a while, but Kelley is worth pouncing on early.
4. Avoid: WR Jalen Reagor, Eagles
Hopefully, people learned their lesson from last year. Never put your faith in Eagles pass-catchers. With the current stable of Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson, and last year’s second round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, it’s hard to see where Jalen Reagor slots in. He likely won’t be a day-one starter and best-case scenario, he operates as a slot WR.
Unfortunately, coming from a terrible system at TCU, Reagor simply isn’t ready to perform at an NFL level. He only truly excelled in few scenarios at TCU (such as lining up almost exclusively on the right side of the field.) He will need at least a year to adapt to the NFL. Likely meaning he will see relatively little action in his first season.
Standard and PPR players should outright avoid Reagor and dynasty players may want to pass on him until very late in either the rookie draft or a start-up draft.
Check out the official Time Skew dynasty start-up mock draft here!
3. Target: WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
The Broncos loaded up on offense in the 2020 NFL Draft which means that Drew Lock should also be on your radar when you’re drafting. However, this is only about fantasy rookies, so let’s discuss his new top weapon in Jerry Jeudy.
Jeudy and Courtland Sutton figure to operate as a 1A and 1B type of duo, instead of having a clearly defined WR1 and WR2. Standard players will have a field day with Jeudy since he’ll be a big play threat throughout the season. Catches of 30, 40 or even 50+ yards are Jeudy’s forte, he can do a lot of the work himself, making Drew Lock’s job exponentially easier.
PPR players may have some concerns about Jeudy’s issues with dropped balls in college. However, many experts believe this concern to be overblown, and Jeudy will be fine as a high-volume target.
Players of all leagues should target Jeudy early, especially in dynasty. Jeudy is a solid WR2 in any league to start out as, with the potential upside of developing into a WR1.
3. Avoid: QB Justin Herbert, Chargers
Herbert’s boom or bust potential is not what fantasy owners are looking for, no matter the format. Tyrod Taylor figures to start the season as the Chargers QB, with the potential of playing the whole season. It’s the smart option to let Justin Herbert sit at least one season to get the hang of the NFL. The Chargers invested a high pick into their potential franchise QB, and slotting him as a starter early could ruin his development.
Non-dynasty players should avoid Herbert outright. Don’t gamble a late-pick on him because that miracle won’t happen. Dynasty players should take caution with Herbert. He may payoff if the Chargers handle him properly, but that in itself is a risk, and the payoff is far from a guarantee.
Don’t invest a high pick into Herbert unless you have a poor QB situation, just like the Chargers.
2. Target: WR Denzel Mims, Jets
D.K. Metcalf and Denzel Mims have a several traits in common. They’re both physical beasts, they both recorded insane 40-yard dashes, they’re both on teams that desperately need a true number one pass-catcher and they were both snubbed as first round picks. Also, they both received a lot of criticism and both labelled as potential busts.
Denzel Mims is exactly what the Jets and Sam Darnold need in order to get this offense rolling. Darnold has been let down time and time again by horrible wideouts. None of his receivers cracked anything more than 833 yards and Le’Veon Bell finished second on the team in receptions. Mims will likely be a PPR monster, with Darnold relying on him early and often.
In standard, he might take a while to get rolling, but after the first few weeks, there will be a spike in his production.
Dynasty players should almost go all-in on Mims. With the exception of our number one target, he has the most upside all the fantasy rookies.
2. Avoid: TE Cole Kmet, Bears
The Bears currently have ten tight ends on their roster. While that number doesn’t mean as much as people would like to believe, it’s still puzzling that the Bears picked up Cole Kmet when they signed Jimmy Graham in the offseason. Young players like Eric Saubert and Adam Shaheen provide solid depth, and a veteran player like Demetrius Harris has proven reliable throughout his career.
Not only do the Bears already have a solid stable, but Mitchell Trubisky is well known for under-appreciating his tight ends. This move is puzzling and will likely not pan out well for the Chicago Bears. Kmet won’t produce much in year one and his feature is surely not the brightest in the Windy City. Standard and PPR players should avoid Kmet at all costs, he’s not worth the late round flyer.
1. Target: QB Joe Burrow, Bengals
Anyone surprised? Typically, rookie QBs don’t produce instantly with Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield being outliers from the past couple of seasons. However, Joe Burrow is one of the most NFL-ready players ever to come out of college and has zero competition at QB. He’ll start right out of the gate and with weapons like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon, Burrow will have no shortage of reliable targets.
In non-dynasty leagues, Burrow will likely be a solid option in the middle rounds. He may enter in and outperform several established NFL starters. Dynasty players shouldn’t waste any time in picking up Burrow. Expect him to go within the first few picks of rookie drafts.
However, in start-up leagues, Burrow should still be targeted early, because he operates as someone who will grow into an elite player in the next couple of seasons but can throw for 30 touchdowns and 3000+ yards in his first year.
1. Avoid: RB D’Andre Swift, Lions
Now, D’Andre Swift is not necessarily going to produce the least among our list of fantasy rookies to avoid. However, combining the situation he entered in Detroit with being widely considered as the top RB of this class, Swift seems like he’ll be drafted early in all league formats. However, it may not pan out as everyone hopes.
Kerryon Johnson still owns this running back committee and he is much more than a power back. He has proven to be a solid workhorse, but injuries have derailed previous seasons. This is likely what lead the Lions to select Swift, but that means he enters as the Lions RB2.
Swift will start as neither a starting RB2 or FLEX option and will begin on most fantasy owners’ benches. Standard players will have the least use for Swift, seeing as he won’t have a lot of games with more than 10-14 carries. PPR teams may get a little more use from him, as he is the better pass-catcher, but he still isn’t a worthwhile starting option.
Lastly, dynasty owners may see the most use out of Swift, but if Johnson remains healthy, there will be very little room for Swift to grow, and he may not have very productive seasons early on. If you wish to invest a pick into Swift, don’t expect anything significant for at least 2 years, which is not what you want from a high pick in a RB. Let someone else waste a pick on him, and pick-up one of the fantasy rookies from this list instead.
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