Over the past 5 seasons, an average of 5.8 rookies have finished as fantasy starters (top 12 QB, top 24 RB, top 36 WR, top 12 TE). Here’s the breakdown per season by position:
We’ve seen just 1 rookie QB (Dak Prescott) and 1 rookie TE (Evan Engram) finish inside fantasy-starter territory over the last 5 years. But we’ve had multiple RBs rank top 24 in 4 of the last 5 years, including 3 in 2015 and 2018 and 4 in 2017. Six WRs from the historic 2014 class finished top 36 as a rookies. And the past 3 seasons have seen 3, 2 and 2 rookie wideouts rank inside fantasy-starter range.
The 2019 rookie class looks weaker than average on paper. But odds are that a handful of these guys will finish as fantasy starters this year.
Here are the 10 rookies with the best chance to finish inside fantasy-starter territory this season, listed in order from least to most likely.
10. Damien Harris, RB, Patriots
Harris’ path to fantasy relevance looks daunting at 1st glance. But let’s actually dive in to what’s in front of him.
Rex Burkhead has had trouble staying healthy in 2 years with the Patriots and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. He’s keeping his roster spot mainly for his special-teams contributions.
James White is a pass-catching specialist. He averaged just 34.7 carries per season from 2015 to 2017. He carried a career-high 94 times last year, but 36 of those came in the 4 games Sony Michel missed all or most of. White averaged 4.8 carries in this other 12 games — a full-season pace of 77.
Speaking of Michel, he’s the current favorite for early-down work in New England. But he brings a lengthy injury history, including a torn left ACL in high school, a broken shoulder blade and multiple ankle injuries. He had fluid drained from that left knee last August, missed 3 games with left knee trouble as a rookie and then underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason that kept him sidelined all spring.
Harris took advantage of Michel’s absence. The rookie “had a strong spring” and “has a chance to earn a prominent role during the season,” the Athletic’s Jeff Howe wrote in June. That followed a college career that saw Harris, the #1 RB in the 2015 recruiting class, lead talented Alabama backfield in rushing in each of the past 3 seasons. He left school with a career 6.4 yards-per-carry average.
Anyone with a role in this Patriots backfield should be on your fantasy radar. New England has ranked top 12 in rushing TDs in a remarkable 15 straight seasons. That run includes 11 top-5 finishes. The Pats have also ranked top 10 in rushing yards in each of the past 3 years.