Should you target rookies in redraft leagues?
The answer, of course, is …
Volume, supporting cast and coaching staff — among other factors — are critical. We’ll address at least one of those below when each 2018 target pops up.
But first, let’s look back at what recent history says about year 1 production.
As you’d expect … this isn’t pretty.
Over the past 5 seasons, Dak Prescott (2016) and Jameis Winston (2015) account for the 2 best fantasy seasons. They’re the only rooks to finish better than QB20 since 2013. (Deshaun Watson averaged a ridiculous 32.7 fantasy points across a historic 5-game stretch. But that small sample makes him tough to include alongside Prescott and Winston.) The Cowboy ranked 9th; the Buccaneer sat 13th. Both guys needed 6 rushing TDs to get there.
In fact, since 2013, the 5 best rookie seasons from a QB (Prescott, Winston, Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota and Geno Smith) included at least 2 rushing TDs. So if we're looking at rookie QBs in redraft, we should be targeting guys who can add value with their legs.
Production at RB — or any position — will depend on the talent in each class.
2017 was particularly strong. Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette each cracked the top 10 in PPR setups. That group represents 4 of 12 backs that’ve finished top 15 over the past 5 seasons. And for 6 straight seasons, you’ll find at least 1 rookie RB among the top-12.
Recent RB classes haven’t been boom or bust, though. Since 2013, 22 guys have averaged double-digit PPR points (at least fringe RB2 or flex totals). Volume has been the main driver, with 16 of those 22 RBs reaching 200 touches.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp far surpassed their rookie counterparts in 2017. They finished 22nd and 25th, respectively, in PPR scoring. The next closest rook checked in 48th (Keelan Cole).
Of course, guys like Mike Williams and John Ross dealt with injuries. But it hasn’t been a great run for rookie WRs of late — with 1 exception.
2014’s incredible class produced immediate returns. Of the top 12 PPR seasons by rookies since 2013, 6 of them were tallied by members of the ’14 class: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins and Jarvis Landry.
What Evan Engram did last year — rank 5th in fantasy scoring — is rare.
He averaged 11.57 PPR points per game, the 4th highest total among rookie TEs since the 1970 merger. His 64 catches rank 3rd over the same span; his 722 yards rank 4th.
Of course, Engram’s a unique, WR-like athlete at 6’3, 234 pounds. He’s the outlier in a long history of poor production from rookie TEs.
Over the past 10 seasons, the only rookie TEs to gain top-12 status are Engram, Rob Gronkowski (2010) and John Carlson (2008).
With the brief history lesson wrapped up, let’s turn our attention to our top rookie candidates for 2018 value …