2020 Fantasy Football: NFL Rookies You Need to Know for Your Draft

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2020

2020 Fantasy Football: NFL Rookies You Need to Know for Your Draft

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Though risky to draft for obvious reasons, rookies have the ability to swing entire fantasy football leagues.

    Look at least year, when Philadelphia Eagles rookie back Miles Sanders put up 218.7 points, even coming on late in the season with 21.5 or more points in three of his last five games.

    Granted, the oddities of 2020 muddy the waters a bit without a preseason. But the rookies fantasy managers must know generally project to have big impacts right out of the gates on their respective teams and have average draft positions (ADP) to go along with the idea. They also project to see bigger workloads than other intriguing rookies such as Cam Akers and J.K. Dobbins.

    These are the top rookies to know for fantasy football drafts this year.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Get used to hearing Clyde Edwards-Helaire's name.

    The 32nd pick of this year's draft projected to have a notable role in the backfield behind Patrick Mahomes even before Damien Williams opted out. Now he's sitting on an ADP of 1.07 as the seventh back off the board.

    And that might be considered an incredible value in hindsight.

    CEH dominated the SEC at LSU, rushing for 1,400-plus yards (5.7 yards per carry) with 55 catches last season alone. Mahomes praised him after April's draft.

    "I think the first thing that stood out from Clyde is when the competition and the games got bigger, it seemed like he played better," Mahomes said, according to Chiefs Wire's Charles Goldman. "I always like guys that can rise to the competition, and whenever you're on the biggest stage, you play your best football, and you rise up and compete with your team."

    All indications from Chiefs camp are CEH already is the featured back, meaning he's the workhorse in a Mahomes-led offense that ran it 375 times last year and utilized backs in the passing game plenty.

D'Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Mike Mulholland/Associated Press

    Speaking of rookie backs who might end up looking like steals once they have a full season of production, it's important to keep an eye on D'Andre Swift of the Detroit Lions.

    Detroit made the Georgia product a second-round pick for a reason after years of hoping Kerryon Johnson or somebody else could finally break out behind Matthew Stafford. Swift has since been rewarded with an ADP of 6.07.

    He could be a steal in that range. At the least, he should outproduce Kareem Hunt, a likely limited rotational back being taken before him (6.03).

    Swift ran roughshod on the SEC, averaging 6.6 yards per carry with 20 scores over roughly two seasons of featured work. He also saw some notable usage in the passing game, which is something the Lions have already have going in training camp.

    "Swift's looked very crisp as a receiver early on and he excelled in one-on-one passing drills against defenders on Tuesday," Tim Twentyman of the team's official website noted. "His combination of quickness, speed and suddenness has proven to be a tough combination for defenders to lock onto early in camp."

    Stafford is on his way back from an injury and the Lions ran it more than 400 times in each of the last two seasons, meaning Swift is slotting into a strong position. Given his talent and past production, it wouldn't be a shock to see him see far more snaps than anyone else in Detroit at the position.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Jonathan Taylor is positioned to have one of the better fantasy seasons for a rookie back in a long time.

    Taylor, also a second-round pick, will get to operate behind one of the best offensive lines in football. He could end up being the centerpiece of the entire attack as the passing game presumably takes some time to get going after Philip Rivers switched teams for the first time in his lengthy career.

    That would explain the 5.01 ADP, which is hard to scoff at—Taylor is already more than accustomed to serving as a workhorse. At Wisconsin, he ran for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns on a 6.7 per-carry average.

    Sheer talent and three-down ability make Taylor the likely eventual workhorse. The Athletic's Zak Keefer echoed the sentiments: "Taylor is expected to share carries with starter Marlon Mack, but don’t be surprised if the rookie has a few breakout games and Reich stays with him."

    The Colts have attempted 400-plus rushes every season through 2016, including 471 last year. Given the offense, roster and his ability, Taylor should be the first rookie back on the minds of fantasy managers during drafts.

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Of the top rookie wideouts, Henry Ruggs III of the Las Vegas Raiders is likely the most important to know.

    Ruggs, sitting on a 10.09 ADP, doesn't have much in the way of competition for targets, which is one of the biggest concerns for this year's crop of wideouts. CeeDee Lamb (ADP of 9.05) in Dallas is far from Dak Prescott's first option, and ditto for Jalen Reagor (13.10) in Philadelphia. Similar story for Jerry Jeudy (10.06) in Denver.

    On the other hand, Ruggs has the all-clear. Tight end Darren Waller was the top receiver for the Raiders last year. This year's 12th pick is one of the league's fastest players (4.27 40-yard dash) and averaged 17.5 yards per catch over three seasons in college with 24 touchdowns.

    Ruggs' draft position and skill mean he'll be a starter with Derek Carr in an offense that has attempted 500-plus passes with ease for years. And Raiders offenses have likewise had top targets sitting easily above 100-plus targets for years, including 2016, when the top two targets for Carr had 145 (Michael Crabtree) and 132 (Amari Cooper) targets. Sheer volume and his big after-catch ability position Ruggs as a possible fantasy WR1.

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    There isn't a debate about the top rookie fantasy passer this year.

    Joe Burrow, fresh off one of the best college seasons by a passer ever, hasn't had problems meeting expectations in Cincinnati Bengals training camp so far after being drafted first overall. Compare that to struggles for Tua Tagovailoa and Tyrod Taylor still looking like the starter over Justin Herbert, for context.

    Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns with just six interceptions while completing 76.3 percent of his passes last season. And he gets to slot comfortably in an incredible situation. He'll potentially have No. 1 wideout A.J. Green on the field. And if not, he'll have another No. 1-caliber receiver in Tyler Boyd, plus John Ross III, Tee Higgins and a host of talented running backs headed up by Joe Mixon.

    Rookie struggles and quarterbacks being plentiful remain factors to consider, but at his current 14.05 ADP, Burrow makes for a nice bench guy with the potential to hop in and potentially win fantasy managers games depending on the weekly matchups.

Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills

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    James P. McCoy/Associated Press

    Zack Moss could be the back to come out of nowhere and slot as a top-10 player at his position by season's end.

    Moss had a great career at Utah before becoming a third-round pick by the Buffalo Bills this year. Averaging 5.7 yards per carry en route to 4,067 yards and 38 touchdowns with 66 receptions over four years said that well enough.

    But the talent and situation haven't boosted the ADP to unreasonably levels at 10.09. The Bills didn't exactly trust 2019 third-round pick Devin Singletary to carry the load last season, giving him just 151 carries. He's already had his fumbling problem resurface in camp.

    Moss, on the other hand, is already turning heads, with The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia and Matthew Fairburn acknowledging that his impact he could have this year "has been undersold."

    There is plenty of room for Moss to lead Buffalo backs in touches between his proven three-down ability and the fact that Frank Gore (who had 166 carries last year) is gone, which could mean a monster season in an offense that has attempted 465 or more rushes every season dating back through 2015.


    Scoring info courtesy of ESPN. ADP info via Fantasy Football Calculator