As the NFL Draft quickly approaches, teams will try their hand at selecting the next great rookie player. In terms of fantasy football, it is always a bit nerve-wracking selecting these rookies as you really have no idea how they will perform.
Do you take a rookie running back in the first round or a stalwart that has put up competitive numbers year in and year out? If you took a rookie running back by the name of Ezekiel Elliott last year, you finished the season extremely pleased.
But how did the rest of the rookies pan out? Let’s take a look.
NFL Fantasy Rookie All-Pro Team
QUARTERBACK: Dak Prescott
No surprise here. After bring drafted in the 4th round, and an injury to Tony Romo during the preseason, Prescott took the NFL by storm. Some contribute this instant success to the playmakers around him and one of the best offensive lines in the league, but in terms of fantasy, who cares! All that matters is the numbers that players put up, and seeing that Dak was undrafted in just about every fantasy league (depending on when your draft was), he may be the best waiver preseason pickup in recent memory.
He finished the year with 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. I’ve always stressed that in fantasy football a duel threat quarterback in extremely valuable, as Prescott added 282 yards on the ground alongside 6 touchdowns.
He finished the season with 335 fantasy points (97 more than Carson Wentz who finished 2nd), good enough for an average of 20.93 points per game (based on standard scoring). Great production from the quarterback position, especially for a rookie.
RUNNING BACK: Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott was taken fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft and was expected to be the next great back in the league. Well, his rookie year did not disappoint. He led all running backs with 1,631 yards on the ground (177 yards short of Eric Dickerson‘s rookie rushing record) and added an unprecedented 15 touchdowns. Elliott also compiled 363 yards receiving and one touchdown through the air.
Elliott’s efforts were good enough for 317 fantasy points for the year, 89 more than second place rookie finisher Jordan Howard. His 19.84 point average made his late-first-round tender undervalued in 2016.
WIDE RECEIVER: Michael Thomas
New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas blew out the competition when it came to rookie receivers. He finished with more yards, touchdowns, yards per game, and fantasy points per game than any other rookie receiver. In fact, he finished ninth among all receivers in yards and sixth in touchdowns.
His 1,137 yards were 454 more than the rookie wideout with the second most yards, and his 256 fantasy points were 39 more than second place finisher Tyreek Hill (who got a lot of points in the running game and on special teams). His 92 receptions were far and above his competition, which is huge in PPR leagues.
With Brandin Cooks being traded to the Patriots, Thomas will be THE guy next season and is expected to build upon his stellar rookie season.
TIGHT END: Hunter Henry
The Los Angeles Chargers found their heir apparent for Antonio Gates in Hunter Henry. He was fairly consistent at the tight end position, even though he was competing for snaps with a future Hall of Famer.
He finished with 36 receptions and 478 yards. More impressive were his eight touchdowns, making him a viable red zone threat. His 129.8 fantasy points were 65.7 more than the next rookie tight end (Austin Hooper).
When Gates does decide to hang them up, fans can find solace in their new young tight end.
FLEX: Jordan Howard
Howard was a relatively unknown running back entering the season. He was drafted by the Bears in the fifth round out of the University of Indiana and was slotted on the depth chart behind Jeremy Lanford. An injury to Langford early in the season thrust Howard into the starting role, and he did not disappoint.
He finished the season second in rushing yards, not just among rookies but all running backs, with 1,313 yards. He added six rushing touchdowns and one through the air, along with 298 receiving yards.
His 228 total fantasy points and 14.26 average made him one of the best flex options among all players in the NFL, and an extremely valuable player in 2016. I expect him to be a high draft pick in 2017 fantasy drafts.
SPECIAL TEAMER: Tyreek Hill
In most standard leagues, return yards, whether it be kick return or punt return, do not count for anything, but touchdowns certainly do. Tyreek Hill was the guy that you wanted in your lineup above all rookies AND veterans.
Not only was he a threat out of the backfield (267 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns), in the slot position (61 receptions, 593 yards, 6 touchdowns), but he was extremely potent in the return game with 3 total touchdowns (one kick return, two punt returns).
Hill finished with 217 total fantasy points in 2016.
That kind of versatility is what you look for in a guy that can play in the receiver or flex position any given week.