Just a mere decade ago team owners in standard format and PPR leagues (dynasty and keeper leagues excepted) had nary a whiff of rookies in their draft strategies. Except for a handful of marquee running backs we just simply did not want to risk one of our precious draft picks on the untested. But today we’re seeing fresh-faced rookies coming into the NFL ready to start and have big fantasy seasons. In 1983 hall of famer Eric Dickerson had the greatest fantasy rookie season imaginable with 341 points (fantasy football had already been in existence for 7 seasons). In Eric’s inaugural season we saw him go off for an astounding 1,808 rushing and 404 receiving yards with 20 touchdowns. Until recently Dickerson’s rookie season was considered an outlier - too unique to even consider happening again. Now all you need to do is look at Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie year in 2016 where he had 1,994 total yards from scrimmage to go with 16 touchdowns. At least one rookie running back has ranked in the top 10 in running back fantasy points each of the last 6 seasons, including three last year. There’s always fresh faces making their mark at running back with 10 different players leading in the last 10 years. Now let’s consider this year's top fantasy rookie Saquan Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. If he comes up on your fantasy draft board in say round two would you jump to draft him? Trust us, if you take a “chance” on Barkley in round 2 you’ll not be considered a genius but you won’t be sorry either. If you want draft genius status you would have needed to draft rookie QB Andrew Luck six seasons ago where he probably went in the middle rounds and then have inserted him into your starting lineup? Now that would have been genius. Luck’s rookie stats would have placed him as the sixth highest QB point getter in 2017, ahead of Matthew Stafford, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees.
This year all fantasy owners should consider taking a shot at getting rookie wideout D.J. Moore on their team. Let’s say he’s available in the 6th round and he pulls an Odell Beckham Jr. Odell had a monster rookie season in 2014 when he led the NFL by averaging 109 receiving yards per game and had he not sat the first four games due to a hamstring injury was projected for 1,744 receiving yards, 121 receptions and 16 TD’s over a 16 game season which easily would have bested fifth-year veteran and last season's top wide receiver point getter Antonio Brown.
So let’s take a look at StatJacks rankings of top rookies in your upcoming PPR redraft leagues. Projected for leagues with a minimum of 10 teams that start 2 quarterbacks, 2 running backs, 2 or 3 receivers, a tight end, and a flex player.
1. Saquan Barkley - NYG (RB) [Target: Round 2]
This year’s top rated fantasy rookie by a big margin is Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants' No. 1 selection out of Penn State. He’s an every-down running back with the ability to alter the course of an offense. Barkley has the skills to create additional yardage through speed, vision and elusiveness. If he’s still available anywhere in round 2 grab him!
2. Rashaad Penny - SEA (RB) [Target: early Round 4]
Easily an early round four selection is Seahawks Rashaad Penny who went No. 27 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. I doubt you’d rank him that high since you probably didn’t see him perform for SDSU in the often overlooked Mountain West Conference. The 5’ 11”, 220 lb Penny will step right in and fill the massive void Marshawn Lynch left after his retirement from the Seahawks.
3. Ronald Jones II - TB (RB) [Target: Round 4]
Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones the 38th pick in the NFL Draft comes in as our third rated fantasy rookie. He’s an explosive back - electric outside and the thing we love about Jones is that behind a questionable O-line in his final year of college he still racked up 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. If available take him in round 4.
4. Derrius Guice - WAS (RB) [Target: Round 4]
Derrius Guice is a fourth-round fantasy talent, folks. He's a blend of power, speed and quickness with a nose for the end-zone. Even though they didn’t throw to him much at LSU he’s got ability in the passing game.
5. Sony Michel - NE (RB) [Target: Round 6]
"Instant Kamara" should be Georgia’s Sony Michel’s nickname because he reminds people a lot of Alvin Kamara. He's a violent runner and a make you miss kind of talent. Draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network was recently quoted as saying “He's more powerful than people think. I don't think he's quite as advanced in the passing game, but he's got an opportunity with Tom Brady in that offense to be special early.” Take him before Tevin Coleman, Marshawn Lynch and Theo Riddick.
6. D.J. Moore - CAR (WR) [Target: Round 6]
D.J. Moore hits StatJacks rookie draft priority list as the top rookie wideout. All the draft pundits like the look of Moore teaming up with Cam Newton in an explosive Carolina offense, surrounded by all those complementary weapons. Taken with the 24th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft Moore is a few steps down from our top rookie backs but as a wideout he should still be considered in round six.
7. Josh Rosen - ARI (QB) [Target: Round 9]
Most people will likely have Baker Mayfield going higher than our number seven top rookie, Arizona’s rookie QB Josh Rosen but consider this, Rosen is backing up fragile Sam Bradford and will more than likely get a shot at the starting QB spot early in the season. We think once he starts he’s “in like Flynn” because he’s ready for the NFL. Think Carson Wentz!
8. Calvin Ridley - ATL (WR) [Target: Round 9]
Put wide receiver Calvin Ridley, the No. 26 overall selection in this years NFL Draft, on your radar. Where should he go in your draft? Definitely before round 10 and within a few rounds after Moore’s off your board.
9. Hayden Hurst - BAL (TE) [Target: Round 12]
You might think this is a stretch but Hayden Hurst is legit. He’s a multi-sport athlete, was a baseball phenom and simply has the talent to be a top NFL tight end. Ravens selected Hurst No. 25 overall in this year’s NFL Draft. You should select him as your number two tight end but not before the later rounds in your draft.
10. Nick Chubb - CLE (RB) [Target: Round 13]
If Nick Chubb is still available in the late, late rounds of your draft grab him and put him on your bench as he will soon become the featured back in Cleveland this season. They simply do not have another back with Chubb's talent.
There you have it. StatJacks top 10 NFL fantasy rookies that should be part of your draft strategy.