Knowing how to handle rookies can separate an average fantasy football player from a champion.
Everyone wants to look for the next breakout candidate, and rookies are arguably the best way to get value in a draft. Eddie Lacy was one of the top running backs in football last season after being a mid-round selection in most leagues.
If you miss out on the draft, players like Keenan Allen and Zac Stacy showed that top options can be found on the waiver wire if you know where to look.
On the other hand, those who reached for Tavon Austin last year probably spent many Sundays yelling at the television.
In order to help you out, here is a look at the top rookies to draft by position. If this is not enough to aid your fantasy efforts, you can also find some new team names related to each player for you to steal.
1. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
There are three quarterbacks with a chance to get significant playing time this season: Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. While Manziel might have the hardest time cracking the starting lineup, he can be the most impactful from a fantasy perspective.
Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback provides the latest info on the Cleveland quarterback battle:
Even if Manziel does not win the starting job, he is still worth a mid-round draft pick due to his upside. His ability to pick up yards with his arm and his legs will help him rack up plenty of points in fantasy. If he wins the starting role heading into the season, he should be one of the first backup quarterbacks taken.
Team Name: Here's Johnny!
2. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars do not necessarily want to rush Bortles into the starting lineup, but the No. 3 overall pick in the draft was quite impressive in his preseason debut. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com provided his opinion:
While he will go through growing pains, he has looked better early on than any of the other rookies and could be solid in his first year. Do not plan your draft around picking Bortles, but he might be worth a late pick, while Bridgewater is not.
Team Name: Poppin Bortles
1. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
The most important factor when drafting a running back in fantasy football is opportunity. Luckily for Bishop Sankey, he has a big one in front of him with the Titans.
With the unimpressive Shonn Greene currently starting in Tennessee, the former Washington star has a chance to move up the depth chart and earn plenty of carries during the regular season. Given his talent, this could lead to a lot of success in his first year.
Team Name: Sankey and Peele
2. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
Based on talent alone, Carlos Hyde is probably the best running back in the class. Unfortunately, the 49ers do not need him as much right away with Frank Gore remaining the go-to option in the offense. The veteran might be getting up there in age, but he has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last three years.
Still, Hyde should be able to get carries in an offense that ranked third in the NFL in rushing attempts last year. Even with Gore, Marcus Lattimore and others in the backfield, Hyde should get his chance to shine, and he will make it count.
Team Name: Hyde and Seek
3. Andre Williams, New York Giants
A year ago, Andre Williams came out of nowhere to rush for more than 2,000 yards for Boston College while becoming a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. This was impressive regardless of who he was competing against.
This year, he has already showcased his talent in two preseason games with the New York Giants. While Rashad Jennings should be the starter, Williams will likely become the No. 2 back after David Wilson's injury and subsequent retirement.
Considering Tom Coughlin loves to use two-headed rushing attacks, the fourth-round pick could be a valuable contributor in fantasy football.
Team Name: Andre 2000
4. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate will be the starting running back with the Cleveland Browns, but rookie Terrance West did not take long to impress the coaching staff.
On the first day of training camp, head coach Mike Pettine raved about the former Towson standout, via Kevin Jones of ClevelandBrowns.com:
I was a little shocked with Terrance today. I had to double check my roster card to make sure I was looking at the right number. He did some nice things in the one-on-one period. That’s always a bonus when you have a running back that’s not just one-dimensional.
No matter who is playing quarterback for Cleveland, the coaching staff will try to take some of the pressure off the signal-caller with the running game. Giving the ball a lot to Tate and West will be a great way to do that.
Team Name: Westbound and Down
5. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Last season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a serviceable fantasy player as a complement to Giovani Bernard. While the veteran player was relatively inefficient in this role, Bernard still needs someone to handle the tough yardage inside while remaining the big-play threat and change-of-pace back.
This is where Jeremy Hill can come in thanks to his imposing stature at 6'1", 238 pounds. He can immediately become the goal-line back for the Bengals and help out fantasy teams in need.
Team Name: UpHill Battle
1. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
Although the Bills do not have the best passing attack in the league, Sammy Watkins is too good of a player to overlook. The rookie has all the tools you want in a receiver with the size, speed, athleticism and hands to be a force in the NFL.
At Buffalo, Watkins will immediately be the go-to option and should get plenty of targets. Assuming EJ Manuel can improve in his second year, the No. 4 pick in the draft should be a starter in fantasy leagues.
Team Name: 1.21 GigaWatkins
2. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
While Brandin Cooks does not have the all-around ability of Watkins, he does have the pure speed and agility to make a difference this season. In the high-powered Saints offense with Drew Brees throwing him the ball, he could be in line for a big year.
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey is expecting a lot of productivity:
The only question is whether he will get enough targets with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and others in the offense, but Cooks should still have a big role.
Team Name: Cap'n Cooks
3. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season, Vincent Jackson had more than twice as many targets as anyone else on the Buccaneers. Mike Evans should be able to take some of the pressure off the Tampa Bay star right away this season.
The biggest place the receiver will help out is in the red zone, where he can use his 6'5" frame to go up and get jump balls. This could lead to quite a few touchdowns in his first year.
That being said, Jackson is not going away anytime soon and should still be the first option in Tampa Bay.
Team Name: Knockin' on Evans Door
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers had a below-average receiving corps last season and lost almost all of it this winter. The team will now start from scratch, but guys like Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood do not exactly bring about much excitement.
Kelvin Benjamin separates himself from this pack with his size at 6'5" and the playmaking ability that he showed at Florida State. While the rookie is extremely raw, Cam Newton has to throw to someone this season, and Benjamin has a chance to be the go-to target.
Team Name: All About the Benjamin
5. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
With Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders both out due to suspensions, the Jaguars will need help at receiver. Even though he has struggled early in training camp, Marqise Lee remains someone who can turn it on with the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
Blackmon and Cecil Shorts have shown in past years that Jacksonville can produce fantasy-relevant receivers, and Lee could be the next on the list.
Team Name: Biz Marqise
1. Jace Amaro, New York Jets
We have seen over the past few years that it is rare for a rookie tight end to make a major impact in the passing game right away. Even the best prospects need time to learn the playbook while also being expected to block.
As a result, no rookie tight end should be drafted with the expectation to start for your team right away. However, Jace Amaro is the most polished in the class and joins a team that has few other options in the passing game.
With Amaro's soft hands and quality route-running ability, he can become a consistent contributor this season.
Team Name: Amaro Never Dies
2. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Few players in the NFL can match Eric Ebron athletically. When at his best, he is a matchup nightmare who can cause havoc for opposing defenses.
Unfortunately, he is inconsistent and is a long way from reaching his potential. He is also yet to show a willingness to block inside.
Do not reach for the Lions tight end, but he will be worth a late draft pick if he's still available in the final rounds.
Team Name: Ebron James
Have some better names? Put them in the comment section. If you have a fantasy football question, ask Rob Goldberg on Twitter.
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