WE are still months away before any meaningful NFL reps will be taken, but it’s never too early to start planning for your fantasy draft! With the NFL Draft now well and truly behind us, rookie minicamps are getting underway. So there’s no better time than now to familiarise yourself with the names you need to remember when it comes time to draft your fantasy lineup in a few months time.
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THE creme of the fantasy quarterback crop is clearly No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray (Cardinals). The Arizona Cardinals’ new franchise stud will be thrown the keys to the franchise and is worth considering come draft night. There’s a chance he can finish among the top-15 for points this season, given his dual-threat ability to tuck the ball under his arm at times (1,001 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns last season).
HE’LL be given every chance to succeed in year one, with a variety of pass-catching talents at his disposal – including Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and rookies Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella. There’s a chance that Dwayne Haskins (Redskins) is the only other relevant rookie QB from a fantasy perspective. He’ll challenge Case Keenum for the starting role in DC and there’s a possibility Haskins will be the full-time starter come opening day.
Image from panthers.com
In dynasty leagues, the likes of Drew Lock (Broncos) and Will Grier (Panthers) are relevant, but both players are set to feature in back up roles to start their career. Grier is probably ahead of Lock on the fantasy depth chart, given Cam Newton’s questionable health, with Daniel Jones (Giants), Ryan Finley (Bengals) and Jarrett Stidham (Patriots) the only other names worth remembering right now, mainly in dynasty leagues.
24 running backs found new homes on draft night, but chances are there will only be a few of them that remain relevant in the fantasy world next season. The first one taken off the board was Josh Jacobs (Oakland) with the Raiders the only team who opted to use a first round pick on an RB. Jacobs was part of Alabama’s running back committee this past season, leading the team in rushing touchdowns (11), but finishing third in his team for rushing yardage (640 yards) behind Najee Harris (783 yards) and Damian Harris (Patriots – 876 yards) who was selected 87th overall.
JACOBS’ fantasy potential has been vaulted higher in recent times with Isaiah Crowell suffering a torn Achilles, ruling him out for the 2019 season. Oakland acted quickly by re-signing Doug Martin and they still have Jalen Richard on the roster with the duo and Jacobs all expected to see game time. However, Jacobs will open the preseason as the favourite to handle the majority of the backfield touches and that responsibility should see him come off the board in the top-50 for most drafts.
Image from washingtonpost.com
THE Chicago Bears’ first selection this year didn’t come until the third round, but they would have been chuffed to land Iowa State workhorse David Montgomery (Bears) at 73. In each of his final two seasons for the Cyclones, Montgomery posted over 250 rush attempts, as well as over 50 receptions, showcasing his multifaceted talents. Matt Nagy will look forward to utilising his new shiny toy in a variety of ways, potentially as an early-down back, completing Tarik Cohen. If Montogomery can hold off newly acquired Mike Davis, then there’s enough of a workload to warrant drafting him in deeper leagues.
TAKEN just three picks ahead of Montgomery was Memphis’ Darrell Henderson (Los Angeles Rams) who gives the reigning NFC champs a complementary piece to help Todd Gurley out. Henderson dominated last season finishing second for rushing yards (1,909) in the NCAA and led the nation in yards per rushing attempt at a whopping 8.9 yards per carry. With Todd Gurley’s health a big talking point in the early offseason, we could see Henderson become a relevant back in bursts this season. Lastly, emerging from Saquon Barkley’s shadow this year helped Penn State tailback Miles Sanders (Philadelphia Eagles) get drafted in the second round. Sanders should split carries with new Eagle Jordan Howard, but with very little tread on his tires, Sanders could emerge as a flex starter if he handles the majority of touches in 2019.
ANOTHER healthy batch of rookie wideouts entered the frame on draft night, with new Chief Mecole Hardman (Kansas City Chiefs) the top of the food chain, potentially in line for a lot of targets. With the Tyreek Hill saga plaguing Kansas City’s offseason, Hardman, who is carved in a similar mould to Hill, might be forced to take on a bigger role in the high octane offense this year – should Hill miss any time. There’s a chance that Hardman becomes a big factor in the passing game, with the ability to turn a short reception into a home run, giving him awesome upside as a fantasy player.
A pair of receivers taken just four picks apart in Deebo Samuel (San Fransisco 49ers) and N’Keal Harry (New England Patriots) should see themselves snapped up in a lot of leagues come draft night as well. Samuel should be in the mix to start alongside Dante Pettis, with his ability to break tackles providing San Fran with an explosive new target. Geroge Kittle’s dominance won’t see Samuel break out, but the new 49er has a wide skill set, trying his hand in the rushing and punt returning game for the Gamecocks over his four years in college. N’Keal Harry isn’t as versatile, but should still see a fair amount of targets in the Patriots offense. He excelled in short over-the-middle passes a year ago and if New England uses him out of the slot, Harry should put up solid numbers, even with the Pats running the ball now more than ever.
DK Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks) is another name to remember with the new Seahawk potentially in for a lot more work than expected. With longtime wideout Doug Baldwin waived by Seattle this week for medical reasons, there will be more opportunities for Metcalf to be on the end of Russell Wilson deep balls. However, Seattle already has Tyler Lockett for those long connections and it will be interesting if Metcalf can show his hand in the shorter passing game to truly emerge as a fantasy must-have. New Arizona duo Andy Isabella (Arizona Cardinals) and Hakeem Butler (Arizona Cardinals) probably aren’t worth drafting to start the season, but as Larry Fitzgerald ages with every snap, they could emerge as solid waiver wire adds throughout the year, building chemistry with their fellow rookie under center, Kyler Murray.
THERE are a few other relevant names to remember like Parris Campbell (Indianapolis Colts), A.J. Brown, (Tennessee Titans) and Marquise Brown (Baltimore Ravens), although they don’t offer as much as the above-mentioned names in my eyes. Campbell will have to compete with T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess for a lot of touches and won’t likely feature in a lot of Colts offensive packages and the Ravens newest weapon in Marquise Brown will be utilised in a run-heavy offense. A.J. Brown could become a fantasy factor ahead of the other two, but Marcus Mariota as his quarterback doesn’t inspire me to pick him before the season commences.
A pair of Iowa State tight ends lead the cause from a fantasy perspective, and frankly, there isn’t a lot to talk about outside of them. Both T.J. Hockenson (Detroit Lions) and Noah Fant (Denver Broncos) found themselves drafted inside the top 20 with the new Detroit Lion in Hockenson the talk of the town at the position. After dropping just one of his 51 catchable passes, the Hawkeye sophomore went for 760 receiving yards and six scores this year, while splitting the workload with Fant. Landing in Denver will see Fant (519 yards, seven touchdowns in 2019) warrant some attention this season, but traditionally speaking, tight ends don’t burst onto the scene right away.
EVEN the most notable fantasy TE’s posted lacklustre numbers in year one and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hockenson and Fant do the same thing in 2019. Fant may offer a greater touchdown upside in the Broncos offense, but Hockenson should be the first (and maybe only) rookie tight end taken in the majority of leagues come draft night. Outside of the top two, Irv Smith Jr (Vikings) is the one to keep an eye on with Minnesota reportedly in talks to trade their former reliable TE in Kyle Rudolph. With just one year remaining on his deal, if the Vikings find a suitable trade partner then Smith Jr could enter the conversation for fantasy relevant tight ends.
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