NFL Rookies to Stay Away from in Fantasy Football
We are just like you. We love the NFL draft. We love the potential of the rookies joining the league.
We are here to temper the enthusiasm, though. Rookies are fool's gold in fantasy football drafts.
Sure, there are success stories like Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard and Keenan Allen a year ago, but we tend to forget about all of the cautionary tales. The hype just sucks us in.
The possibilities are endless. So, too, can be the wait. And the frustrations.
Don't be fooled. Here are eight NFL rookies we advise your steer clear of on draft day—actually more when consider we clump in (almost) all of the first-year quarterbacks and every drafted tight end.
Yes, fantasy football is getting more astute to the unfulfilled promise of rookies, and owners are not drafting them as early, so there can be rookie value had late. But this slideshow attacks some of the biggest and best rookies in the NFL this season. We outline guys who either won't slip to a reasonably late round or shouldn't be drafted at all.
It wasn't easy coming up with these names, so bear with us in this exercise. You are going to be fantasy-wiser for it. Promise. (Pun intended.)
Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
Placing the No. 1 rookie wide receiver on this list isn't a function of disagreeing with scouts. We agree, Sammy Watkins is a legit burgeoning receiving star. It is the supporting cast we have to question going into the season, along with the hype that ups Watkins' draft position in fantasy.
Buffalo was just one of the most unfortunate places for Watkins to get drafted to this May. So, while you can love Watkins, just not here, not now and not in fantasy.
The Buffalo Bills made an aggressive draft-day trade to get Watkins on their roster, and it might pay off in the long run, but this is an egg-before-the-chicken scenario for us. Rookie wide receivers need a productive veteran quarterback to be an instant success. The top rookie wideout from a year ago was the relatively unheralded Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers. He wound up topping the rookies because Philip Rivers is an aggressive, veteran, downfield passer.
In EJ Manuel, the Bills have a shaky second-year signal caller who has started just 10 games in his career...mostly nonspectacularly.
Watkins is going to be drafted among the top 30-40 fantasy wideouts like the St. Louis Rams' Tavon Austin was a year ago. Austin, last year's first receiver picked in the NFL draft, might not be in Watkins' class of receiving talent, but he was in a similar situation on a team without a productive veteran quarterback. Sam Bradford struggled to establish himself and ultimately was injured.
Both production and potential injury have to worry you with Manuel, especially if you are a prospective Watkins fantasy owner. Still, they won't be enough to stop someone drooling over Watkins' physical tools and picking him before his situation warrants in fantasy drafts.
Like Austin a year ago, there are other rookie wideouts in better situations who will be more affordable in fantasy drafts. The New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., New Orleans Saints' Brandin Cooks and even Carolina Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin immediately come to mind. Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Cam Newton are productive veteran quarterbacks, even if those receivers will open further down their depth charts than Watkins in Buffalo.
Granted, Watkins is going to trump Austin's first-year bust numbers of 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns—Austin added 151 yards and a touchdown rushing—but we suggest you avoid Watkins at his draft position. He will be a disappointment at that price.
Watkins is currently ranked No. 38 among fantasy wideouts in FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings, and that's even with my projecting him to go in the top 30. Clearly, fantasy pundits agree he won't be the instant hit everyone in Buffalo is hoping he could be.
You need to let Watkins fall to being a reserve receiver on fantasy rosters for the price to be right. We just don't see that happening this summer.
Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans
This one should go without saying, but there is something significant that comes along with being the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick: exorbitant expectations. Jadeveon Clowney might be the most anticipated and most hyped defensive player since Lawrence Taylor.
Name recognition is going to get Clowney drafted before he should in fantasy. Heck, he shouldn't be picked at all.
The only way you draft Clowney is in an IDP league. If you don't know what that is, feel lucky. It is a fantasy football league in which you pick individual defensive players and, frankly, they are a farce, in my humble opinion.
The scoring system for these leagues isn't well developed, if only because defensive statistics aren't as neat and tidy as offensive ones. Also, the lineup structure for most of these leagues aren't well thought-out. Waiver-wire pickups can often rise to the most valuable players at a position in a given week. Sure, that happens sometimes in regular fantasy football at the skill positions, but it is far too common in IDP formats.
Now, as for why Clowney will be a bust at his fantasy draft position on (de)merit. He is already dealing with injury (sports hernia, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain). Propensity for injury is a tough mark to shake, and injury is the No. 1 reason fantasy picks go bust.
Second, Clowney is not the best pass-rusher on his own team, even if he is really good. That is J.J. Watt. You need Clowney to be a dominant double-digit sack man as a rookie. With Watt beating him to the quarterback, it will be hard for Clowney to reach the high first-year expectations.
There are just too many people who love Clowney's talent for him to reach a reasonable level in fantasy drafts. You are best off letting someone else get sucked in on the hype here.
Quarterback (Not Named) Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
This is a weird one for some, perhaps. Don't pick any rookie quarterback. There are just too many productive veterans to choose from. If you have to pick a rookie passer late, pick Johnny Manziel—but again, avoid them all.
This is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. That is rookie quarterbacks in a nutshell.
If you think the Johnny Football hype is bad now, wait until he starts scoring for fantasy owners. It will become unbearable. This is a Tim Tebow situation. Tebow was a horrible NFL quarterback, but he was a fairly productive fantasy guy as far as young quarterbacks go.
The instant success of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III give young quarterbacks hope in fantasy football. Their production just isn't repeatable by many, though, especially not in this class.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hope to not have to start Blake Bortles for the whole year. Manziel has yet to beat out (NFL great...um...not really) Brian Hoyer. Teddy Bridgewater's Minnesota Vikings remain a run-heavy team. Derek Carr is on the Oakland Raiders (enough said for fantasy purposes). The Houston Texans' Tom Savage isn't even challenging the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick to start—that simultaneously says plenty and very little about Savage.
Granted, few can raise their hands and say they knew Newton, Wilson or RGIII would be instant fantasy starting quarterbacks. They are the exceptions, not the rule. Rookie quarterbacks just shouldn't be counted on or bothered with in fantasy drafts unless you play in a very deep, two-quarterback league. Even then...especially then...they are going to be drafted too early.
We gave Manziel as a caveat to this, but it has nothing to do with his passing. He might make a fantasy dent with this legs through rushing touchdowns. How bad is that? We are saying the only rookie quarterback you should consider is one you should hope doesn't throw the ball!
Tight End (Insert Player Name Here), (Insert Team Name Here)
We are going to give a similar admonition for rookie tight ends. Don't bother.
It is not that we cannot like the potential of Eric Ebron, a wide receiver trapped in a tight end's body, in that wide-open Detroit Lions offense. Or Jace Amaro in that tight-end-friendly Jets offense. Or Austin Seferian-Jenkins as a red-zone threat for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is because the mass quantity of relatively equivalent tight ends around the league just cancel all of them out.
There are only a handful of truly good fantasy tight ends. The rest are mere part-timers and backups for fantasy purposes.
Tight end is a position you shouldn't bother picking a backup at, unless you wind up with the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski as your starter coming out of your fantasy draft. He is the only tight end who will require you sucking up a valuable reserve spot.
You can use the waiver wire as your backup tight end. Use the myriad options as replaceable parts.
Tight end is a position that requires some development time. Take the rags-to-riches tale of Julius Thomas as an example of this. He trumped his (lack of) production through his first two seasons early in Week 1 of Year 3. And, he was acquired off waivers in many leagues thereafter.
Picking a rookie tight end on "potential"—even as a backup—is akin to stopping at McDonalds on your ride home from grocery shopping. That is a horrible idea, one potentially dangerous for your health.
Running Back De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs
We get the love for De'Anthony Thomas. It is legit. He is an extremely fast back with explosive potential.
There is just no way he can be considered a feature back in the NFL—not at 5'9", 174 pounds.
He is at best a Dexter McCluster. If you were a McCluster fan with the Kansas City Chiefs the past four years, you are still waiting for him to be a worthwhile fantasy player.
Similarly, Thomas might make a fantasy impact some day as a receiver. It is not going to happen in his rookie year. Thomas, while useful to an NFL team because of his speed and shiftiness, is a waste of a pick in fantasy.
"I'm a player that nobody's ever seen step onto the football field," Thomas said in this NFL.com video.
Hopefully, he is a player we never see picked in fantasy.
Running Back Dri Archer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dri Archer was nearly trumped Chris Johnson, aka CJ2K, as the fastest man ever timed in the modern-day NFL combine. That legitimizes Archer as an NFL prospect, perhaps.
Like the Kansas City Chiefs' Thomas, though, Archer should be summarily dismissed. On the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that wants a physical power running game, he is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.
Archer is 5'8" and 173 pounds, according to his NFL.com draft profile, where analyst Mike Mayock said:
The question is, how do you manufacture touches with this guy? He's a speed guy, but at 173 pounds there aren't a lot of guys like that in the NFL. Some of the guys that remind me of him are Tavon Austin, Dexter McCluster and Ace Sanders.
Again, those are names you shouldn't bother calling on draft day. Potentially great return men, sure. You would want someone like them as your pizza delivery guy, not as a fantasy player.
Running Back Andre Williams, New York Giants
Unlike the two previous backs we featured, the New York Giants' Andre Williams is NFL and fantasy-sized to play running back at 5'11" and 230 pounds. He is also accomplished, having led the NCAA in rushing with more than 2,000 yards as a senior at Boston College.
Williams is going to make an impact in fantasy football this season, but it will require a bit of a wait. That means he is going to be back on the waiver wire after the first few weeks, so why waste a pick on him?
Rashad Jennings was signed this winter to be the Giants' bruising early-down back. David Wilson was drafted a few years ago to be the breakaway guy. Williams is going to bide his time behind both coming out of training camp.
Granted, Jennings and Wilson are not pictures of health. It will take some time for them to get banged up, though. The Giants are going to need to call on Williams eventually. But you can let someone else pick Williams, wait a few weeks and watch that owner cut him once the bye weeks stress out his fantasy roster.
Wide Receiver Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans is a huge target at 6'5" and 230 pounds. He is going to be an added headache for defensive coordinators who already had to deal with a similarly sized Vincent Jackson.
Evans is going to be a headache for his fantasy owners, too. He will be a fantasy football box of Forrest Gump chocolates: You never know what you're going to get.
Granted, we projected him for 55 receptions, 750 yards and six TDs here at Bleacher Report, but the sum of those numbers will not be equal to the parts when playing fantasy roulette with your starting wide receivers. Evans has a clear path to start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that was the worst passing offense in football a year ago, and a healthy return of Doug Martin will keep the Bucs a run-heavy team. The hiring of defensive guru Lovie Smith as head coach guarantees that.
You can argue that Josh McCown loves throwing to tall receivers, as he showed in his brief time starting for the Chicago Bears. Roy Cummings of The Tampa Tribune chronicled that for us.
But the offense and supporting cast figure to make Evans a guy who averages three or four catches a game with 45-50 yards. Those can be fantasy-worthy numbers if you're drooling about his potential to reel in some end-zone balls from McCown.
But think about how you will know when those will come. They are going to come periodically.
Evans is going to have some weeks where he goes 4-50 with a pair of touchdowns—on your bench. You are going to put him in your lineup the following week and watch him disappear to the tune of 3-40 with no scores. Therein lies the headaches and potential frustration.
Let someone else have those, and Evans—along with the rest of these rookies we featured in this slideshow.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.
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