After breaking down my top-five rookie fantasy impacts for the upcoming season, here are 13 guys who are very much in contention to unseat those ranked above (READ HERE) to stake their weekly claim in owner starting lineups:
Sony Michel, NE, RB (Early ADP: 56.7, RB20) – The Georgia thoroughbred just missed my top five, but he’s definitely deserving of a mid-round fantasy selection given the delectable situation. No shock, New England sports a crowded backfield. Rex Burkhead and James White will again have defined roles. However, Michel could be what LeGarrette Blount was previously in Foxboro, a fierce downhill big rig employed often inside the red zone. Final numbers in range of 950-1050 combined yards with 5-7 TDs feels attainable.
Michael Gallup, Dal, WR (170.3, WR66) – Devoid of excitement at WR after Dez Bryant was kicked to the curb, Dallas obviously had to score a starter-level wideout in the Draft. And Jerry Jones snagged a good one. Gallup is route technician with the size and efficiency to deliver fruitful first-year value. He dominated in press coverage with Colorado St., snared 61.4 percent of his intended targets and gained an appreciable 6.6 yards after contact per completion last season. Since 45.1 percent of the ‘Boys’ target share is available sans Dez and Jason Witten, Gallup could conceivably tally a line north of 65 receptions, 1,000 yards with 5-7 TDs. I firmly believe he’s this year’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Anthony Miller, Chi, WR (184.4, WR73) – Adding Trey Burton, Allen Robinson and Miller this offseason, The Bears’ revamped receiving corps is no longer gummy in nature. The Memphis product is precise in his routes, versatile and tough in traffic. His 7.4 YAC per completion and 64.0 catch percentage from 2017 definitely jumps off the screen. Enticing roughly 18-20 percent of the targets share is believable this year. If Mitch Trubisky takes a step forward and Matt Nagy’s high-octane offense transfers seamlessly from Kansas City, the youngster could notch an output around 60-800-5.
Nick Chubb, Cle, RB (56.2, RB19)– The sobbing you hear is that of Carlos Hyde lovers. Chubb’s arrival signals a value suck for the recently acquired veteran. Last year, the Georgia star silenced productivity questions after suffering a gnarly knee injury the season before. He’s balanced, incredibly dependable, patient, disciplined and powerful, as his 3.77 YAC/attempt and 25.1 missed tackle percentage from 2017 suggest. In a split backfield, he should crank out occasional flexy sexy lines in a suddenly galvanic Cleveland offense.
D.J. Moore, Car, WR (115.7, WR43) – Moore received a ringing endorsement from Panthers great Steve Smith on Draft night and for good reason. He’s an inside/outside combo high-motor receiver who attacks off the line, in traffic and at catch zenith. His 91st percentile SPARQ score also denotes his ridiculous athleticism. Cam Newton would overthrow the Hulk on a simple slant route, but if the QB discovers even a hint of touch, Moore could wind up in the 12-team WR3 file come year’s end.
Baker Mayfield, Cle, QB (136.8, QB23) – When a man rocks the Brett Favre jorts so hard it’s necessary to give him an overall profile boost. Mayfield doesn’t showcase the bazooka of the old gunslinger, but he’s a wonderfully accurate all-fields thrower who should carve a path to stardom. Yes, in Cleveland. Last year with the Sooners, he ranked at or near the top in every imaginable completion percentage category. That combined with his immense swagger and formidable arsenal (Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, David Njoku) say he could easily graduate from the stream ranks once he overtakes Tyrod Taylor.
Courtland Sutton, Den, WR (88.9, WR33) – My top prospect at wide receiver entering the Draft, Sutton didn’t land in the most exploitative environment. Still, he shouldn’t be ignored in redraft formats. Demaryius Thomas’ documented struggles inside the 20 and with Emmanuel Sanders functioning mostly outside of that range, the towering 6-foot-3 Sutton may develop into Case Keenum’s favorite red-zone weapon. His quicks off the jump, wide catch radius and terrific athletic profile arrow to multiple future Pro Bowls. As the third option, his receptions and yardage total may suffer in his debut season, but don’t be shocked if he sets the pace in TD receptions (5-7?) for the Broncos.
Kerryon Johnson, Det, RB (115.9, RB37) – Adios, Ameer Abdullah. Johnson and LeGarrette Blount’s arrival probably spells the end for the veteran as a meaningful contributor. The former Auburn Tiger isn’t a master blaster by any stretch (2.90 YAC/att in ’17), but he’s a shifty glider, superb pass blocker and trustworthy receiver. His touchdowns will presumably be few and far between with Blount locked into a goal-line role and Theo Riddick limits his PPR upside, however, he should be occasional FLEX useful in deeper formats netting 10-12 touches per game.
Calvin Ridley, Atl, WR (99.5, WR38) – The read on Ridley is very attractive. He owns a stellar second gear, generates appreciable yards after the catch and is an accomplished route runner deep, middle or short. Unfortunately, he’s isn’t in the most desirable location. Julio Jones is a targets vacuum and Matt Ryan trusts Mohammad Sanu most near the goal-line. Though he’ll log a few highlight plays, they’ll be sporadic. In his first pro effort, it’s hard to see him surpassing 45-650-4.
Christian Kirk, Ari, WR (123.8, WR50) – Speed, acceleration, quickness – Kirk is a menace in the open field whether as a receiver or returner. He’s most comfortable out of the slot (63.4 catch% in ’17), a position Larry Fitzgerald currently hogs, but Arizona apparently buys he could play outside as well until Fitz hangs it up. He’ll undoubtedly flash at some point, however, a final WR top-50 total probably isn’t in the cards this year.
Mike Gesicki, Mia, TE (171.4, TE21) – An athletic marvel with superhero hops, Gesicki, like Evan Engram last year, could buck the conventional “avoid rookie TEs at all costs” wisdom. Looking at his various attributes, you couldn’t create a more perfect matchup nightmare. DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola will be Ryan Tannehill’s primary weapons, but Gesicki is sure to entice between 80-90 targets this season. If it all comes together, a TE top-15 finish is doable.
Lamar Jackson, Bal, QB (138.3, QB24) – Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold have a much stronger likelihood of starting Week 1 by comparison, each with stream upside, but no rookie displays more fantasy potential than Jackson. If he can somehow overthrow fantasy albatross Joe Flacco, who’s only “elite” in robbing banks, a scoring bonanza is bound to commence. Before you go DEF/K with your last two picks, stash the former Heisman winner in deeper leagues. The door of opportunity swings open and he’s Deshaun Watson the sequel. Outside of Mayfield, he’s arguably the deadliest under pressure passer coming into the league.
John Kelly, LAR, RB (140.2, RB43) – Eyeing a lottery ticket in Grand Canyon-deep leagues? Look no further than the former Tennessee Volunteer. Stolen in Round 6 by Sean McVay and Friends, Kelly is one of fantasy’s ultimate insurance policies. He’s a compact (5-foot-10, 216-pounds), versatile asset with the hands, power through contact, vision and shiftiness to rain down numbers in the pros. Watch his tape against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and you’ll agree. Todd Gurley is the unrivaled Clydesdale in L.A., but if for some unfortunate reason he’s felled by a significant injury, Kelly would instantaneously become a borderline RB1 on a Super Bowl contending team. Tuck his name in your back pocket.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also, check out his nationally syndicated television show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” returning August 22 on regional sports networks coast to coast, and his highly-rated podcast “The Fantasy Record.”