How to Avoid Making Rookie Mistakes

Since we are rookies to blogging, we thought it was only appropriate to start by talking about NFL rookies, we encourage you to give feedback in the comments! 

It’s July, which is a dangerous time for fantasy football players; the time of year where our excitement outweighs rationale thoughts. We begin to forget about the surprising disappointments of last season (looking at you, Cam) and the perennial disappointments, maybe this year Desean Jackson will be more consistent? What is fresh in our minds, though, are the flashy highlight reels, big time college stats, and questionable suit choices that come along with the NFL draft. It’s so easy to think that these players can be immediate impact players for our teams, yet rookies rarely make or break a fantasy roster. Below we break down who we think might be fantasy contributors this year, and who we think you should avoid like Roger Goodell avoids Gillette Field.


It’s a pretty safe fantasy rule not to draft QBs early, it’s a safer rule not to draft rookie QBs at all. There are plenty of good quarterback options this season without considering rookies, even if you are in a league that allows you to start 2 QBs. This is the fantasy position with the least potential for rookies.

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson currently has the highest Average Draft Position (ADR) of all rookie QBs, according to ESPN. His ADR is 120, which puts him as a decent option in the 10th or 12th round, depending on league size. I think the Texans will stick with Savage to open the season, and turn to Watson once they realize there is little difference between Osweiler and Savage. This will likely be too late to benefit fantasy owners, so my suggestion is: let Watson get drafted by an impatient owner who will release him after week 2; then claim him on waivers if Houston struggles early. –Matt

Deshone Kizer

Speaking of Osweiler; I think he has a rebound this season. Not like a “Drew Brees after getting traded to the Saints” rebound but a decent enough one to keep the starting job in Cleveland. I think this is a tempting pick, but Kizer won’t pay off for overzealous fantasy owners any more than he did for underwhelmed Notre Dame fans. –Matt

Mitch Trubisky

Just because Chicago blew their draft on a subpar ACC quarterback doesn’t mean you have to. He’s a QB 4 at best and should be avoided. –Matt

Patrick Mahomes II

Not a chance. The best thing Mahomes has going for him is overinflated college stats from playing in the Big XII, which I’m pretty sure is the best conference in the Group of 6. I only commented on Mahomes so I could mention that Alex Smith is underrated, even for fantasy owners. –Matt

Josh Dobbs

Am I only talking about Dobbs because he’s a Vol? Maybe. But, I think he has serious sleeper potential. Big Ben, who spent a chunk of the offseason mulling retirement, is beaten up and I wouldn’t be shocked if he misses significant playing time at some point this season. Although Dobbs has a mediocre arm, he can scramble very well. That dual-threat is always beneficial for fantasy owners. You still shouldn’t consider drafting him, but if Roethlisberger get injured put a claim on him quick. –Matt


The RB position has been weak for fantasy owners over the last few years. It appears that trend will continue this year, and that is why there is strong potential for rookies to make fantasy impacts at this position.

Leonard Fournette

I love Fournette as a fantasy player this year. His current ADR is 25, which puts him a 2nd or 3rd round pick, depending on league size. That seems like a bit of a risk for someone who has never had a carry in the NFL. It seems like even more of a risk for someone who is wearing a Jaguars jersey. Fournette, however, could be the spark in a Jacksonville offense which seems to be on the brink of a breakthrough. If Fournette takes pressure off Bortles, we could see more success in their passing game; which will lead to a healthy dose of redzone handoffs for this big back. Since I run a keeper league, I’m willing to take that risk and hope he pays off as much as the last LSU rookie I took a risk on. –Matt

Christian McCaffery

If I ran a PPR league I’d take McCaffery over Fournette. Since I don’t, I’m still considering him a hot commodity in the 3rd or 4th round (ADR of 32). McCaffery was an explosive college player, who had a quiet senior season on an unsuccessful Stanford team. Don’t forget, however, that this is the player who should’ve won the 2015 Heisman trophy after racking up almost 2,500 combined rushing and receiving yards during his junior season. There are a couple of elements working against him, though: including Jonathan Stewart cutting into his carries and a quarterback who prefers to get the rushing yards himself. Still, McCaffery is a solid pick, and worthy of consideration for a future keeper. –Matt

Joe Mixon

I’m not starting this with “I’m here to strictly speak about his ability to play football” because, well I’m not. I’m giving Mixon a hard pass. –Matt

Wide Receivers

The words wide receiver and rookie do not go well together. Most of the time, rookie wide outs take a year or two to blossom into what they were expected to be on draft day. Unless you’re Odell Beckham Jr., you’re likely going to take some time to develop. Looking at this year’s class, there are some intriguing prospects but all of them have some type of deterrent.

Mike Williams – This guy couldn’t have gone to a better team. Williams is the type of big body receiver that Philip Rivers loves to throw to. Williams will develop nicely as long as he is able to stay on the field, but that seems to be somewhat of a recurring problem. In 2015 at Clemson, Williams broke a bone in his neck on the first offensive series of the season for the Tigers. He would miss the rest of the season and now, as a rookie, is dealing with mild disk herniation in his back. Nothing worse than falling behind the 8-ball as a rookie and it already wasn’t too appealing since Rivers has a whole 467 targets to throw to. Williams is only worth a late round flyer but he has some tremendous upside. Eric

Corey Davis – I’m starting the Marcus Mariota fan club this year, if it hasn’t been started already. The Titans are a sneaky good team that has the potential to make the playoffs but this isn’t real life, this is fantasy. For Corey Davis, the rookie wide out that was the 5th pick in the draft, the Titans are a very solid team to play for. They have a young QB who keeps improving every year. They have a running game that could possibly be second to none. They also have a lack of talent at the wide receiver position so Davis can come right in and be the sure-fire number 1 option. Eric Decker was recently signed but he is always good for an injury or two during the season, plus he seems to be in more of a mentoring role for someone like Davis. I like Davis as a mid-round prospect but don’t go too high because he is a rookie after all. If you are going to bank on a rookie wide receiver doing it big this season though, then this is the guy.  -Eric

John Ross – The speedster out of Washington turned heads with his NFL-record breaking 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds. This cheetah of a human being is small but quick and seems to be drawing the obvious comparison of Brandin Cooks. Having a QB like Andy Dalton isn’t the worst thing, but the Bengals have a myriad of targets to throw to including Tyler Eifert and AJ Green as the top guys. Ross can be a very good complimentary slot piece for the Bengals and is worth a late round flyer.  -Eric

JuJu Smith-Schuster – The name alone is first round talent. BET ON THIS MAN.  -Eric

Tight Ends

If you’re not drafting Gronkowski then you’re taking a risk when you draft your Tight End. Don’t jump on a rookie TE early, actually don’t jump on any TE early. If you’re patient, though, a rookie TE could pay off big…well as big as a TE can pay off.

O.J. Howard

Howard is a flashy pick. He’s got huge size and was a large topic of conversation during the draft. He has a lot of fantasy challenges facing him, though. Cameron Brate was a popular target for Jameis Winston last season, and that isn’t likely to change. More importantly, Mike Evans is going to get the majority of redzone targets. Winston, also, doesn’t seem to be progressing to an elite level anytime soon; so as it stands now Howard is receiving half of the passes from a quarterback who will miss him half of those times. Also, O.J. Howard and Alabama lost the national championship game.–Matt

David Njoku

Njoku currently has an ADR of 134, which is the 12th or 13th round; about 1 round later than Howard. I think this makes him a steal pick. Njoku brings a similar presence to the field as Howard, but has a much better fantasy situation. With the departure of Terrell Pryor, Cleveland lacks impact receivers. Regardless of whether Osweiler or Kizer is taking snaps, they’ll be looking to dump short passes to Njoku a lot. Even in non-PPR leagues this can pay off. He won’t see that many redzone targets but I expect him to rack up a decent amount of yards per game. I’m looking at Njoku as a consistent option for a position that rarely features any type of consistency. –Matt


You didn’t actually think we were going to talk about kickers, did you?

Published by

Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing is focused on dynasty and devy fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @TheFF_Educator

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