Rookies mane. Imagine being one of those people that shy away from drafting or picking up rookies in fantasy football? That'll cost you more than a couple of wins nowadays in fantasy football. The winner of my big $$ Etown Get Down League, Joe, had Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield in his championship starting lineup. He also had D.J. Moore and Kalen Ballage on his bench. Now more than ever, rookies are dumb important b. The fossil type coaches like Marvin Lewis who refuse to play rookies are slowly getting phased out of the league, as the forward-thinking, winning coaches like Sean McVay, Sean Payton and even Bill Belichick centering their offenses around rookies like Cooper Kupp, Alvin Kamara, Sony Michel.
Over the last few years we've seen a flock of yong rookie studs pour into the league and hit the spin cycle on the fantasy landscape. In 2016 college football gave the league Zeke, XMedium Derrick Henry/Kenyan Drake, Jordan Howard, Alex Collins, and the UDFA's representing team #thicc Peyton Barber, Rob Kelley & Jalen Richard. 2017 brought us an even wealthier crop of backs: Fournette, McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner, Tarik Cohen, Jamaal Williams, Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, Elijah McGuire, Chris tha Gawd Carson, and a few UDFA's like Austin Ekeler, Corey & Matt Breida.
We haven't seen many WRs or TEs play out accordingly over the last few years, but the tide started shifting the other way in 2018 for WRs, TEs still blow. I wanted to compile the All-Rookie Fantasy Team for 2018. There are no real rules here. I'm not gonna be a cunt like the NFL Pro Bowl where 29 TD Alvin Kamara doesn't make it. If I want to include 17 RBs and 1 WR, that's what I'm gonna do. So, sit back, tuck ya shirt in, stop yelling and enjoy:
Baker Mayfield - Cleveland Browns
The number one overall pick certainly did not disappoint in his inaugural NFL season, throwing for 27 passing touchdowns in basically 13.5 games, which passed Peyton Manning for the NFL record of most passing TDs by a rookie QB.
Baker's going to be a top-5 QB in the league before long. Especially with a lot of the older guys on their way out soon. Baker had the 9th best passing grade per PFF, he had the 3rd best deep ball accuracy % in the NFL, throwing for 11 of his 27 TDs on deep balls, 5th highest RZ comp %, 12th in pressured comp. % (PlayerProfiler), all the things you look for to know if a QB is actually a good thrower, Baker checked the boxes.
He threw for 3,725 passing yards in his 13.5 games, paced out to 16 games is more than 4,400 passing yards. Baker is an athlete, too. While he didn't rush for much (131 on 39 carries), he scored at least 5 rushing touchdowns in all three seasons as the starting QB for the Sooners. I think going forward he's going to not only pound the passing numbers but will also get anywhere from 200-300 rushing yards a year with 2-4 touchdowns.Baker might have struggled a bit production-wise to start the year, but over the last seven games of 2018, he threw 3 or more passing touchdowns in 4-of-7 games, even had a 4-touchdown game, scoring 21 or more FPs in 4 of them. He was QB9 over the last 7 weeks, and 4th in FPs per dropback. He's a QB1 in fantasy in 2018 as far as I'm concerned.
Lamar Jackson - Baltimore Ravens
While Baker did his thing through the air, this crop of rookie QBs did so well in fantasy because of their legs. Lamar Jackson is a prime example. Props to the Ravens coaching staff. Sure, everyone can sit there and say he's not an NFL QB, you can't win with him, he's not a good passer, but they went ALL IN on Lamar's style of play. They didn't force him to throw the ball a ton, because they realize that Jackson is his best when he's throwing some and running, most. In Jackson's seven starts, he never threw the ball more than 25 times in a game, not a single time. He had double-digit rushing attempts in every single one of them, however, averaging 17 rushes a game over those seven games, giving him a 16-game pace of 272 carries.
Unsurprisingly, L-Jax led NFL QBs in carries (147), rushing yards (697) and was tied with Deshaun Watson with 5 rushing touchdowns. Again, he was only the Ravens QB for 7 games. He did lose 4 fumbles this year though, which is a concern.
He's QB7 PPG if he gets in on that 3rd TD run on Sunday where he was stuffed at the GL. Either way, Jackson's worst rushing game was 13 carries for 39 yards, but he had at least 70 yards in every other game a started and scored 4 times in 7 games. By those numbers, he started you off with 10 FPs just based on his rushing averages. The ceiling, as we saw in Week 17 (20-90-2) is what you love. His passing yardage obviously isn't there, he went over 200 passing yards just once, but he got more efficient throwing for 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over their last five games after starting a bit shaky, most importantly for the team, leading them to a 6-1 record over those 7 games, their only loss an overtime loss IN Kansas City.
Josh Allen - Buffalo Bills
While Jackson was the NFL premier running QB, Allen was right behind him, 4th in the NFL in rush attempts, 2nd in rushes per game, 2nd in rushing yards (631) and led the NFL in rushing TDs by a QB with 8.
Allen looked awful to start the year, before getting hurt in Week 6, but when he returned in Week 12, Allen was THE QB1 in fantasy from that point forward (6 games). He had rushing game lines of 13-99-1, 9-135, 9-101-1 & 9-95-2. And scored 26+ fantasy points in half of those games, including a monster 40.5 point game in Week 17.
What's crazy is that in college, Josh Allen didn't hit 75 rushing yards in a single game. He went for 95+ on the ground in 4-of-6 games to close his rookie year. So, while we knew Allen could move around the pocket if needed, we didn't see this type of breakout coming.
What we did know about Allen coming in was that he'd be bad at throwing the ball. We knew coming out of college his accuracy was going to be a problem. For all you Bills fans about to get mad shut the fuck up. He threw 12 interceptions and 10 touchdowns. He was dead last out of 38 qualified NFL QBs in adjusted completion percentage (64.7%), his PFF passing grade was 32nd, and his FO's DVOA was 33rd. Per Rotoworld, "where Allen particularly struggled was on third downs (43 percent completion rate) and in the red zone (40 percent)." Which is the least surprising because 3rd down and the RZ is where the defense gets very tight, and the throws need to be super accurate.
It's fine, though, for fantasy. Allen found his groove over those last six games and realized that running the ball was what moved the offense most effectively, leading them to a 3-3 record to close the year.
The Bills obviously need weapons for Allen too. He had arguably the worst supporting cast in the NFL in 2018. His o-line wasn't great, and he got very little help from his running backs. This is the new wave of fantasy QBs, though.
This is a WR class that I think is going to have a really big impact on the NFL for a long time. A lot of really solid players came out of this one. Most of the WRs from the '18 draft class won't develop into true #1's in the NFL, but that's fine for fantasy, almost better considering the discount that comes along w/ it. PIT, MIN, CIN, ATL, LAR, HOU, TB, LAC, SEA, DET all have multiple top-30 fantasy WRs.
Calvin Ridley - Atlanta Falcons
I'll be honest, as a Falcons fan, I was not too happy with this pick. I thought the last thing we needed to do was use our first round pick on a skill player. I still think that was true, but Ridley did us Falcons fan justice with his rookie season, finishing as a top-20 WR out the gate. This was thanks to his 10 receiving touchdowns. Calvin Ridley is the fourth WR to catch double-digit TDs during his rookie season since 2000 (maybe OAT, my numbers only go back to 2000). The other three: Mike Evans - 12 (2014) Odell Beckham Jr. - 12 (2014) Mike Williams [TB] - 11 (2010). His 821 rec. yards were the 22nd lowest number for anyone that's caught 10+ touchdowns in a season (dating back to 2000 - 159 players), and his 64 catches are 26th lowest of 159. Does that say regression, maybe?
Ridley's overall numbers definitely looked better than fantasy owners care to admit. It was really tough to confidently put him in your lineup. He had that crazy stretch in the beginning of the year, where he caught 6 touchdowns in 3 games from Weeks 2-4, but managed to throw up three duds after that, and scored fewer than 7 (half ppr) FPs in 8-of-10 games following the breakout, before catching a TD pass in each of ATL's last two games. So, he was super inconsistent, with some huge games mixed in.
It's hard to imagine a ton of consistency given Julio Jones is on the field with you, and he already commands 28% of the teams targets. Ridley was a big play guy, though. He was top-10 in the NFL in receptions of 40+ yards, which is what you'll get from a guy with 4.4 speed. A solid, yet inconsistent rookie year.
D.J. Moore - Carolina Panthers
If you choose to describe Ridley's rookie year as "solid, yet inconsistent", then D.J. Moore was a poor man's Calvin Ridley.
Moore didn't play much in the beginning of the year. From Week's 1-7, Moore was playing on around 38% of Carolina's offensive snaps. Moore took over a full-time roll in Week 8, though, and never looked back, finishing as an 88% snap guy over their final 10 games. His target share on the offense also doubled, from 9% (Weeks 1-7), up to 18% (Weeks 8-17).
Like Ridley, however, Moore's season was littered with big games, like 5-90 (and 2-39 rushing), and 7-157-1, 8-91, but came with plenty of bad games, 1-16, 4-20, 2-12 and 2-19 in weeks 15 & 16. My first thought, given that Moore was seeing about 8-9 targets in almost every single game over the 2H of the year, was that they had to have been inaccurate coming from Cam, but per PlayerProfiler, Moore's catchable target rate was almost 83%, 27th in the NFL, so not bad. He's someone I'm going to keep a close eye on when Matt Harmon does his reception perception breakdown next summer. I'm really intrigued to see how Moore faired on the NFL level versus man, press, zone coverage, etc.
He certainly has the chance to make a major leap in 2018 ae Carolina's WR1. Funchess was phased out of the offense by the end of the year and will be a FA this summer, Curtis Samuel isn't a WR1, Greg Olsen will be coming off another big foot surgery, so, it could be more Moore in 2019.
Another STROOOOONG class for the running backs, led by Baequon, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay & Sony Michel with a few qualified honorable mentions.
Saquon Barkley - New York Giants
Only Todd Gurley bested Saquon Barkley in half ppr, but Barkley was PPR's fantasy RB1 and this was the 15th best PPR fantasy season of all time per Scott Barrett of PFF.
Barkley's final stat line: rushing // 261-1,307-11 (5.0) + receiving // 121-91-721-4
So, we're talking about 2,028 YFS and 15 touchdowns. SHEEEESH. Baequon joins Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies in NFL history with 2,000 scrimmage yards in a season. Barkley was everything for the Giants. A 21% target share, lead the NFL in runs of 20+ yards (16) and run of 40+ yards (7), scored 15 of the team's 36 (42%) offensive touchdowns. He was their team. And he did this behind the NFL's 19th ranked RBing line (PFF), 29th per FOs.
Barkley was incredible to own in fantasy thanks to his sheer consistency. He saw 18+ touches in every game but one, he caught at least 5 passes in half of their games, and caught 9 or more passes in a quarter (4-of-16) of them. If you owned him in a full PPR league, it honestly would've been hard to lose with him. He scored 24+ PPR points in 8-of-16 games, 20+ in 12-of-16, 17.5+ in 15-of-16 games.
I don't need to tell you more about Barkley. He's obviously a top-3 fantasy pick in 2019 drafts.
Phillip Lindsay - Denver Broncos
Let's talk about Phillip Lindsay. What a beast. Finishes the year as a legit RB1 in 12-team leagues. Lindsay, the 5-8, 185lb UDFA out of Colorado, rushed for 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns on 192 carries, adding 241 yards and a score on 35 catches.
Imagine being told in the beginning of the year, that there would be a rookie running back on the Broncos that makes the Pro Bowl and is an RB1 in fantasy. I would've known it was Lindsay, since I fade the public, but y'all would've been in deep shit. Lindsay burst onto the scene and became the Broncos featured back by Week 7. In Lindsays last nine games (Week 7-16), he scored eight times, and went over 100 total yards four times.
FO's ranked Lindsay 6th in the NFL among RBs per their DVOA, PFF gave PL their 7th highest RB grade, he was third in the NFL in runs of 40+ yards, 3rd in yards per carry only behind Aaron Jones, and Kerryon Johnson, but 1st among 33 RBs with at least 135+ carries. He also converted on 5-of-6 GL carries.
A monster year, unfortunately, ended by a serious wrist injury that forced him to miss Week 17. It'll be a long recovery apparently, but he should be good for the summer.
Nick Chubb - Cleveland Browns
The constant theme you'll see throughout these rookies is that their coaches just take too damn long to get them involved. For Chubb, the 35th overall pick in this year's draft, it wasn't until after Week 6 when the Browns traded Carlos Hyde to the Jags, that Chubb took over as the horse in Cleveland. Chubb finished the year as the single most elusive running back in the NFL per PFF and the 2nd highest grade overall behind only Melvin Gordon.
Chubb finished 4 rushing yards shy of 1,000 despite seeing a total of 16 rush attempts through their first six games. Starting in Week 7, Chubb went full boner. From that point until the end of the fantasy season, Chubb's NFL ranks:
- Rush Attempts: 3rd (176)
- Rushing Yards: 4th (823)
- YPC: 12th (4.7 > 100 carries)
- YAC/A: 2nd (3.9)
- Evaded Tackles: 1st (36)
- Fantasy Points: 8th
He had just two games with fewer than 20 opportunities (carries + targets) in that span and converted on 5-of-7 GL carries and he had only 9 fewer receptions than Duke Johnson over that span. Taking Chubb's Week 7 and onward numbers and pacing them out over 16 games, you're getting: 315 touches, a little under 1,600 YFS and 12.5 total TDs.
Chubb should be drafted as an RB1 in 2019.
Sony Michel - New England Patriots
I wish we could've gotten a healthy Michel all year. But we didn't. He missed most of the summer with a knee issue, which forced him to miss Week 1, as well as Weeks 8-9. He appeared in 13 games in 2018.
He ran for 931 yards and 6 touchdowns on 209 carries (4.5 ypc). He added almost nothing via the air (11-7-50-0), though. He ranked 8th per PlayerProfiler in yards created per carry. He also never once played on more than 48% of the teams snaps.
Overall, Michel was very good in games he should've been.
What do I mean by that? So, of the 13 games the Pats rookie back appeared in, he was really only 100% for 10 of them. You have Week 2, his first actual action, coming off of the knee injury, eased in, only played 21% of the snaps. Week 7, he suffered the other knee injury versus the Bears, he only played on 9% of snaps before exiting, and then his first game back in Week 10 from that injury, where he played on 27% of snaps. So you have those three games where he played on fewer than 30% of snaps, it was either his first game back from an injury and was eased in, or he was injured in the game. Here are his splits in those 10 games vs. those 3:
19 touches/game. He went for over 100 YFS in 5-of-10 games, and scored 6 touchdowns. Pace those 10 games, full strength, out to 16 games, and you're getting 304 touches, 1,403 YFS and just under 10 total TDs.
His complete lack of involvement in the passing game terrifies me for next year, and has me thinking he could be the Jordan Howard of 2019. But if he's completely healthy next year, the Pats should look to ride him coming off of a strong rookie season.
Chris Herndon - New York Jets
I'll be honest, I had zero idea who this was until like halfway through this szn. Herndon was the Jets 4th round pick from the U, a year after we saw the Canes produce David Njoku.
Herndon quietly put together a strong rookie year, catching 39 passes for 502 yards and 4 touchdowns. His 502 receiving yards were the 12th most among a rookie TE over the last twenty seasons. I suppose you have to include Mark Andrews of the Ravens here too then, since he actually had 552 yards, 7th most in that category.
Starting in Week 6 through the end of the regular season (11 games), Herndon posted double-digit PPR points in 5 games, and 8 or more in 7-of-11. I know I'm reaching here, but in this TE landscape, streaming was tough this year. Herndon makes the list by a thread.
Dante Pettis - WR, San Francisco 49ers (WR33 in 9 games)
Courtland Sutton - WR, Denver Broncos
Kerryon Johnson - RB, Detroit Lions
Gus Edwards - RB, Baltimore Ravens