Every year rookie players break onto the scene and make an immediate fantasy impact. Last season, Amari Cooper had great fantasy contribution from day one, and David Johnson burst onto the field and took the league by storm. So who is it going to be this year? Who are the rookies that you should feel confident drafting? Here are 5 first-year players that should help your team down the stretch.
Ezekiel Elliott – RB Dallas Cowboys
A lot of experts have put Elliot in the top 10 of fantasy players all together. I’m not ready to grade him that high yet considering he hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet, but I think that it is safe to say that he is the best rookie prospect by a large margin. His talent and running ability are tops among running backs in his draft class. He proved last year at Ohio State that he can take over an entire game and win on his own (offensively speaking).
It bodes well that he will be running behind the best offensive line in the game as a rookie. This is the same o-line that made Darren McFadden a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago, and Demarco Murray flirt with the 2,000-yard mark. I would have liked him, even more, had Tony Romo been in the huddle with him at the start of the season, a veteran presence can always improve the play of a first-year player. But it should be fun to watch Zeke and Dak in the backfield driving the Cowboys offense.
Sterling Shepard – WR New York Giants
Shepard will be the best rookie receiver this season due to the simple fact that he has the best quarterback throwing him the ball. He will be lining up next to Odell Beckham Jr. as the number 2 receiver. OBJ will be drawing the number 1 corner and double teams all game, leaving Shepard with mismatches and the possibility of a lot of targets. In his senior season, Shepard finished with 86 catches, 1,288 yards, and 11 touchdowns making him one of the top receivers in all of college football. Give it a year or two and this could be one of the most dynamic receiving duos in the NFL.
Corey Coleman – WR Cleveland Browns
With Josh Gordon facing a 4-game suspension, Corey Coleman is the number 1 receiver in Cleveland. Coleman finished his junior season at Baylor with 74 receptions, 1,363 yards, and 20 touchdowns capping it all off by winning the 2015 Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver. With Terrell Pryor Sr. as the Browns deep threat, Coleman should be RGIII’s number one target underneath as he tries to return to his rookie form and build consistency. Hue Jackson has a great offensive mind and Coleman should find great success in his system.
Tajae Sharpe – WR Tennessee Titans
Here is a receiver that will give you great value and will probably be available in the last round of your draft, or may even go undrafted. In his senior season at the University of Massachusetts, he broke records for career receptions and receiving yards at Victor Cruz’s alma mater, finishing his collegiate career with 3,486 yards and 277 receptions. His senior season was his most productive with 111 receptions, 1,319 yards, and 5 TDs. He has shot up the Titans depth chart with his impressive production during the preseason leading the team with nine catches for 163 yards with the first-team offense. With the trading of Dorial Green-Beckham, Sharpe will be a starting receiver for the Titans in Week 1.
Laquon Treadwell – WR Minnesota Vikings
Treadwell had his preseason miscues with the Vikings, but there is no denying the ceiling of this guy. He was a top receiver in the SEC in his senior season posting 82 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. Once he finds his comfort zone in the NFL he will battle 2nd-year receiver Stefon Diggs for the bragging rights of number 1 receiver on the Minnesota Vikings. With the loss of Bridgewater, I had taken Treadwell out of my top five, but the trade for Bradford allowed me to confidently put him back in. Both are new to the system, and when two guys enter a new system at the same time they tend to naturally create a chemistry as they learn together. I expect big things out of Treadwell if the Vikings still intend to be a playoff contender.