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Rookie Rankings and Draft Analysis

Selecting which rookies to invest in can be a major headache for fantasy owners. Early on it is really tough to know what role a rookie will have early or whether his game can translate from college. At least now we can see roughly what role rookies are expected to have with their teams in year one, as well as having a feeling for what they might give you going forward.

The other issue when looking at what rookies to draft is weighing up the short- and long-term benefits in a dynasty league. Ideally, if you are looking for short-term impact then trading rookie picks for veterans is smart move. However, that can often result in too much mortgaging of the future and leave you short on talent for a number of years. Below, I have tried to identify which rookies can help you now that might have some short and long-term appeal and who is more strictly a long-term project.

When you're done, you can also check out our running back rankings and analysis here.

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2018 Rookie Rankings

Rank Player Name Pos
1 Saquon Barkley RB
2 Royce Freeman RB
3 Rashaad Penny RB
4 Calvin Ridley WR
5 D.J. Moore WR
6 Anthony Miller WR
7 Derrius Guice RB
8 Sony Michel RB
9 Kerryon Johnson RB
10 Ronald Jones II RB
11 Nick Chubb RB
12 Courtland Sutton WR
13 Michael Gallup WR
14 Nyheim Hines RB
15 Mike Gesicki TE
16 Christian Kirk WR
17 James Washington WR
18 Tre'Quan Smith WR
19 Baker Mayfield QB
20 Josh Rosen QB
21 Lamar Jackson QB
22 Sam Darnold QB
23 Kalen Ballage RB
24 Keke Coutee WR
25 Chase Edmonds RB
26 Dante Pettis WR
27 Antonio Callaway WR
28 D.J. Chark WR
29 Mark Walton RB
30 John Kelly RB
31 Dallas Goedert TE
32 Hayden Hurst TE
33 Jordan Akins TE
34 Auden Tate WR
35 Justin Jackson RB
36 J'mon Moore WR
37 Chris Herndon IV TE
38 Braxton Berrios WR
39 Ito Smith RB
40 Mason Rudolph QB

The number one spot here was never really in doubt. Barkley plays in the most important position for fantasy and he is the best player at that position. I expect to see the New York Giants commit heavily to the run game over the next few years. Think of how the Jacksonville Jaguars used Leonard Fournette last season and you can get an idea of what to expect. Eli Manning, at this stage of his career, has question marks similar to what there are around Blake Bortles, meaning the Giants will not hesitate to put the ball in the hands of their number two overall pick. Going forward the Giants will at some point have to draft a young quarterback and when they do Barkley is going to remain a key part of taking the pressure off that running back.

My colleague Justin Carter wrote about the rookie running back group beyond Barkley here. He is 100% correct to select Royce Freeman as the next best rookie running back to own. Freeman has the opportunity to take a stranglehold of that job, something Devontae Booker has failed to do. If he does then he will get to play with a QB in Case Keenum who needs production from his running back to set him up. In addition, like Barkley, he will likely see a young QB coming in, who will need to rely on a feature running back to relieve the pressure.

Early in 2018, Rashaad Penny is going to frustrate fantasy owners, but you need to keep the faith. Chris Carson is good but he is unlikely to be a feature back long term, and he also has injury issues. The Seahawks offensive line is improving and hopefully will continue to do so as the team opens up cap space. Russell Wilson is a brilliant QB for opening up space for his back, as his ability to break free mean teams cannot afford to zero in on the back. Penny should be considered a solid bet to succeed with the Seahawks long term.

The cluster of wide receivers from positions four to six are very interesting. Ridley comes into a very good offensive group but will have to play third fiddle this season. Once Mohamed Sanu leaves, he will become the number two to Julio Jones and should see all the benefits that brings. Ridley can be a very good fantasy contributor in that offense. Moore will very quickly find himself the number one wide receiver in Carolina. That brings both good and bad points for fantasy owners. On the positive, he will be one of the Panthers main weapons on the outside. On the negative teams will treat him as so and cover him with their best corner. Another negative is that he will constantly be competing with Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey for targets in that offense, and they may stop him ever taking the step into the elite receiver conversation. Miller is in a great spot in Chicago, the number two to Allen Robinson and in an offense that looks to be going places. Miller comes in with the chance to make a connection with young QB Mitch Trubisky, which could allow him to be a very effective weapon over the years.

The next cluster of running backs all have their upsides. Yes, Derrius Guice will miss this season, but if healthy he would be right up there with the current top-three. Adrian Peterson is unlikely to remain in Washington long-term and this should be all Guice's job when he is ready to return. Michel has the curse of being in a Belichick offense, meaning he will have value but it will be hard to predict. Michel should be the most talented running back on that roster, and the Patriots did not use a first round pick on him to not use him regularly. Johnson will have his issues this year, with a crowded backfield. However, LeGarrette Blount does not figure to be around long and Johnson should be able to beat out Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah long-term. This year will have its ups and downs but beyond this season Johnson could be an extremely effective running back. Jones has had a really tough start to his career but there is no dominant back in Tampa Bay and eventually, his talent should show. When it does he will have the job for the foreseeable future. Finally, Chubb is in a similar situation to Johnson, with competition from Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson for touches. Chubb showed just how effective he can be in college and he should be able to be effective, even with limited touches. He needs to beat out Hyde long-term, which is a concern, but if he does he would be the feature back in a very good offense.

Out of Sutton and Gallup, I prefer the long-term outlook for Sutton. However, short-term he already has Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to compete with for targets, and Case Keenum is far from a franchise QB despite his contract. That leave Gallup as the better short-term option. With no real dominant receiver in Dallas, he has the chance to develop a solid connection with Dak Prescott this season.

Hines should get a solid chance to show what he can do this season, with Marlon Mack already struggling with injury. Having Andrew Luck back in that offense will help Hines, but he needs to make sure his blocking is solid because the Colts will not let Luck take hits due to ineffective blocking from the running back.

Gesecki should soon beat out AJ Derby for the starting spot in Miami. The issue with taking a rookie tight end is that tight end is often a very inconsistent position for fantasy. However, Gesicki has the talent to make it worth the risk.

Wide receivers Kirk, Washington, and Smith all have different levels of appeal. Kirk has longer-term appeal as he has the chance to develop with Josh Rosen in Arizona. Short-term he should still offer value but the potential goldmine here is if you look long-term. Washington comes into a team well known for their ability to hit on young receivers in the draft. He will have his moments but becoming a regular fantasy threat will be tough. Smith gets to play with Drew Brees, opening up all kinds of upside. However, long-term the Saints will bring a new QB and that may present him with issues in a number of ways.

Finally, we get to the QBs. Josh Allen is a little bit unlucky in my view to be outside the top-40, especially as it looks like he might be starting this season now. He is worth a late-round gamble in rookie drafts, simply because the upside is incredibly high.

Mayfield has flashed incredible talent already with the Browns, and in a lesser situation would be starting. Mayfield has the potential to be a top-flight fantasy QB along the lines of what people are expecting from the mobile Deshaun Watson. Josh Rosen is likely to get a chance to make an impact this season. Backing up Sam Bradford is usually a good way to find yourself on the field sooner rather than later. Rosen also has some significant upside long-term but think Matt Stafford and Matt Ryan are my most likely comparisons.

Lamar Jackson is somewhat of a wildcard. His play style gives him the ceiling of Mayfield and the floor of a complete bust. He is at least a season, if not two from inheriting the keys to this offense. Drafting Jackson is a long-term investment, unlikely to give any rewards this season. Darnold may be the best of the lot, both short- and long-term. So far he has looked really strong in the preseason and could have the keys to this offense very quickly. He seems like a professional QB who could have top-five upside long term. You could easily make the case he is the best of this group. However, playing for the Jets has hardly been a goldmine for fantasy QBs recently

Interesting names to watch from lower on the list include receivers Keke Coutee, D.J Chark and Antonio Callaway as well as tight ends Hayden Hurst, Dallas Goedert and Jordan Aikens. Among the running backs the stand out is Los Angeles Rams backup John Kelly, who could make a real splash if Todd Gurley were to miss time.


More Draft Rankings Analysis

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.