May 6, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys number one draft pick Ezekiel Elliott (21) makes a catch during rookie minicamp at Dallas Cowboys headquarters at Valley Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
As fantasy football soon approaches, rookies all across the NFL are working hard to prepare for the pros. These top 10 will have immediate results in fantasy leagues everywhere.
Every year we see a plethora of rookies who take over during the fantasy football season. With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books, the crop doesn’t look like it’ll disappoint whatsoever.
Whether you’re a first round pick in the draft, a mid-round pick, or an undrafted free agent it all comes down to the situation you land in. That is very much the case for some of the rookies that’ll be featured on this list.
Next: 10. A UCLA running back cracks the top-10
10. New York Giants: RB, Paul Perkins
One of the most underrated players of the draft was Paul Perkins out of UCLA. He couldn’t have landed in a better situation (outside of the Dallas Cowboys) in terms of fit in an offense.
Mister shake and bake himself possesses an amazing ability to cut on a dime and get to the next level. Perkins has proven that he can do a lot with a little, priding himself on operating within a phone booth.
The New York Giants have a cluttered backfield entering 2016 with a mix of veterans and young players. Perkins should take advantage of the discord in the running back room by becoming a vital piece of the rotation.
Really good running backs are becoming hard to find in the world of fantasy football. So when you can find one, you better keep him, Perkins has the ability to be a top-15 back instantly in year one.
Next: 9. Whether he plays quarterback or receiver, he'll dominate
9. Houston Texans: WR, Braxton Miller
The Houston Texans entered the draft with offensive ineptitude and they left with speed, talent and potential. Braxton Miller is listed as a wide receiver, but he can do so much for your team.
As an attractive option to fantasy football owners, Miller can score so many different ways. In the Texans’ offense, Miller will get opportunities running the ball, catching out of the backfield and also potentially in the return game.
Miller has the potential to be one of the top flex players in all of fantasy football and a lot of that depends on quarterback Brock Osweiler‘s transition to the Texans’ offense. If Osweiler can threaten opposing defenses with his arm strength, that’ll open the door for Miller to take advantage of a lighter box.
Often for rookies to find success early, it’s about situations, where they land and how they fit in. But because Miller is so versatile, his impact was nearly guaranteed when he reached the NFL. Miller’s final season total could look something like: 350+ rushing yards, 750+ receiving yards, 200+ passing yards and 12-15 total touchdowns.
Next: 8. Get out of the way, this guy is a mauler
8. Tennessee Titans: RB, Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry was projected to go late first or early second and that’s exactly where he went, although not many predicted the Tennessee Titans were going to be the team. The Titans’ offense is Madden-like with the potential at every level.
Can quarterback Marcus Mariota stay healthy for 16 games? He wasn’t able to in his rookie campaign, but a mobile quarterback opens up so many rushing lanes and even more opportunities.
Henry is going to be an early candidate for the Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, due to his talent and those opportunities. Look for Henry to get north of 1,000 yards despite being in a committee and also getting seven to eight combined touchdowns.
There are some concerns with Henry, mostly because of situation since the Titans also acquired running back DeMarco Murray and that’ll eat into Henry’s touches. Although it might be offset by the fact that the Titans will be pounding the rock enough where there’ll be enough touches to go around.
Next: 7. A Mel Kiper Jr. favorite
7. Washington Redskins: WR, Josh Doctson
There’s a reason this was Mel Kiper Jr.’s favorite wide receiver in the 2016 NFL Draft, Josh Doctson has ridiculous potential. In Washington, he’ll have some running mates that should take away the attention in wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
In a high octane passing attack led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, Doctson should see plenty of opportunities in this offense. He’s 6’3 and nearly 200 pounds, with precise route running with the potential to be an above average possession receiver.
The 2015 Fred Biletnikoff Award finalist finished second in TCU history in career receptions and yards, and set the record for touchdown receptions, despite starting his career at another school. Doctson won’t beat you deep often, but he’ll make his money as a yards after catch kind of receiver.
Doctson has a propensity for scoring, he rung up 25 receiving touchdowns over the last two years despite missing three games this season. That should continue in the NFL as a red zone threat, expect gaudy touchdown numbers in year one.
Next: 6. Speed kills and the Texans have plenty of it
6. Houston Texans: WR, Will Fuller
We already saw one Texans rookie already on this list earlier, but Will Fuller out of Notre Dame has the ability to take the top off of a defense. Fuller will pair with DeAndre Hopkins to instantly form one of the most intriguing one-two combinations in the league.
Fuller was the fastest receiver at the 2016 NFL Combine in February and he has solid hands. The criticisms of Fuller’s game has been around his inconsistent use of “body catches”.
Fuller’s best trait though is something you can’t teach and this kid can create separation with his vertical prowess and pure speed. In this Texans’ offense, you can’t double either receiver or the other one will take advantage of the one-on-one match-up.
Fuller may not win your PPR fantasy league, but he’ll score you touchdowns. With Hopkins already being an established talent, teams are going to make Fuller prove he can score.
So Fuller should see lighter coverage in the early parts of the 2016 season, until he can prove that he can dominate. Fuller plus Osweiler’s arm could equal a ton of highlight plays for the Texans and your fantasy football teams in 2016.
Next: 5. He's received great reviews early on in camp
5. New York Giants: WR, Sterling Shepard
Quarterback Eli Manning has been on and off throughout his NFL career, but when Manning has weapons he has shown he can be a gunslinger. With wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on one side and now adding Sterling Shepard to the mix, the Giants’ offense could be quite potent this season.
Shepard, second round pick out of Oklahoma, will certainly take advantage of having Beckham on the other side of the formation. Shepard is a dependable chain mover and has quite the track record as a Sooner.
Only Jaxson Shipley (1.6) and Curry Sexton (1.8) had lower drop percentages than Shepard’s 2.1 during the former Oklahoma receiver’s four-year career in the Big 12. And his 145 receptions for first downs were the most in the Big 12 during this span.
Shepard compares favorably to wide receiver Tyler Lockett out of Kansas State, who had great success with the Seattle Seahawks last year. Lockett ended up with 51 receptions for 664 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. That should be the floor for Shepard entering 2016 in terms of fantasy football expectations.
Next: 4. MegaQuon could change the history books
4. Minnesota Vikings: WR, Laquon Treadwell
MegaQuon? The comparison is very real, the only reason that Laquon Treadwell slipped in this year’s draft was due to a slow 40-yard time that raised some question marks. Sure, later in his career will he be able to create the same separation?
No of course not, but that shouldn’t hinder the production he can have right off the bat in his first season in the pros. Treadwell’s got a great frame (6’2, 220 pounds) and should dominate early in the red zone.
His frame should be music to ears of fantasy football owners everywhere and in a Minnesota Vikings’ offense featuring running back Adrian Peterson, he’ll get his opportunities. There is a gaping hole in the Vikings’ receiving corps and Treadwell instantly becomes the centerpiece.
Treadwell should be heavily involved in the red zone this season, which should inflate his touchdown receptions in 2016. 50+ receptions and 800+ yards receiving with 13-16 touchdown receptions isn’t out of the question.
Next: 3. The situation could lead this player to great success
3. New Orleans Saints: WR, Michael Thomas
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this list is the appearance of this Ohio State product, especially as the third rated rookie heading into the fantasy football season. Though it’s all situation, in a high-octane passing attack led by quarterback Drew Brees, Michael Thomas should dominate in his rookie campaign.
Thomas became the leading receiver (54 catches, 799 yards, nine touchdowns) on a national championship squad. He then went on to have an encore season by leading the Buckeyes with 56 catches, 781 yards and nine touchdowns this past season.
The Saints have Brandin Cooks, but he’s a smaller receiver who is more suited for the slot. Thomas has the look of a legitimate No. 1 receiver (6’3, 212 pounds, and 10 1/2 inch hands).
Thomas could be the most productive wide receiver of this 2016 rookie class in year one. With that kind of potential, he warranted heavy consideration, and with that he’ll get targets. Expect fantasy football numbers to the tune of 65+ receptions, 1,100 yards and seven to nine touchdowns.
Next: 2. Take a chance on this Cleveland Brown
2. Cleveland Browns: WR, Corey Coleman
The first thing any fantasy football owner will say to this is: it’s the Cleveland Browns, it’s best to stay away. Which is true and that is the risk here, because the quarterback situation is unique. But quarterback Robert Griffin III is getting his chance at glory and he’d love to make some highlight plays with a fellow Baylor Bear.
Josh Gordon‘s availability is very much in question and outside of him the Browns haven’t had a fantasy superstar worthy player since Braylon Edwards. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin was a pleasant surprise last season and he should do well with the San Diego Chargers on the west coast.
But Coleman has the potential to take this Browns’ passing game and offense overall to the next level. He’s a bit small for the position, especially as a No. 1 receiver, but Steve Smith Sr. has showed us that big things come in small packages.
That’s what we have here in Coleman, he’s an explosive play-maker who has an affinity for big plays. Despite an uneven quarterback situation, Coleman should be able to achieve 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns in 2016.
Next: 1. The consensus number one and it isn't close
1. Dallas Cowboys: RB, Ezekiel Elliott
There is no debate here on who is the top rookie entering the upcoming fantasy football season. Ezekiel Elliott on nearly any NFL team would’ve been near the top of the list, but running behind the best offensive line in football will shoot his stock to another level.
With a healthy Tony Romo returning to the fold on offense, this could be a record-breaking unit. Elliott ended up being the fourth overall selection in the draft to the surprise of many.
The expectations for Elliott are so high that if he didn’t reach the 1,400 yard plateau, this season would be looked on as a disappointment. Elliott could possibly be in the conversation for MVP of the league if everything pans out right.
Which is unprecedented, but with Dez Bryant at receiver and the Cowboys’ defense at the very least being average, Elliott is the heavy favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Elliott should be a slam dunk first round pick in any and every fantasy football format this season.