Four Rookies Everyone Should Target in Fantasy Drafts

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 23: Rashaad Penny #20 of the San Diego State Aztecs scores a touchdown against the Army Black Knights in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 23: Rashaad Penny #20 of the San Diego State Aztecs scores a touchdown against the Army Black Knights in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Some of the best values in fantastic football are rookies who don’t get enough preseason recognition. Here are four rookies who are going at a great value.

One of the biggest risks every year in fantasy football is drafting rookies. Especially when that involves drafting that rookie in the first 5 or 6 rounds, the risk/reward becomes incredibly drastic. I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I won a league two years ago by gambling on Ezekiel Elliott with the sixth overall pick (which went great). On the other hand, I spent a 3rd round pick on Montee Ball when he was a rookie in Denver (which went less than great). Finding the right rookies is hard to do, but there are a few guys this year I really like, especially at their current draft position.

Saquon Barkley

This wouldn’t be a true rookie article if I didn’t bring up Barkley. Barkley was the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft to the New York Giants. His current draft position, 1.07, seems high, but Barkley will return value on that spot. Aside from Elliot, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Todd Gurley, nobody has a bigger guaranteed workload than Barkley. His incredible physicality will allow him to take on 20+ carries a game, including valuable red zone touches. Additionally, Barkley is ridiculously dynamic as a pass catcher, and should see 3-5 targets a game.

It is nearly a lock for Barkley to see over 250 total touches this season. If that’s the case, he should easily surpass 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nobody else in that backfield – Orleans Darkwa, Jonathan Stewart, or Wayne Gallman – has nearly the ability of Barkley. A more accurate slash line for him might be 300/1300/9. Barkley has a high floor for a first round pick, and an especially high floor for a rookie, due to his secure hold on the starting job. Running backs take as high as Barkley almost always produce like RB1s their rookie year. Barkley is no exception.

Rashaad Penny

Penny, the second running back taken in the draft this year, has a similar path to a big workload as Barkley. Penny was the 27th overall pick to the Seattle Seahawks and seems ready to step into a three-down back role. While last year’s late-round darling Chris Carson is still on the roster, Penny already has a sizable lead on Carson in training camp. If he can continue to stave off Carson, Penny should be locked in for 250 touches and over 1,000 yards.

Finding someone with such a big workload, and especially someone with as much potential as Penny, in the middle rounds is hard to do in fantasy. Penny is currently going as the 4.04, or the RB22. Taking him as a low-end RB2 almost guarantees surplus value. With the number of touches he should see, including passes and red zone carries, Penny has to finish as at least an RB2. If he can be efficient on 200+ touches, he has clear RB1 upside. I love taking Penny as my RB2 in a balanced draft, or even as my RB1 if I go the zero-RB route.

DJ Moore

Moore may be the most incredible value of all the rookies. The Carolina Panthers first round pick, Moore will start immediately for the team opposite Devin Funchess. Funchess had a solid season last season, but he can’t operate as the WR1 for the Panthers. Moore, a ridiculously productive receiver at Maryland, can be the WR1 for Carolina, even this year. With Cam Newton still at quarterback, Carolina has turned out solid fantasy receivers, ranging from Steve Smith to Kevin Benjamin to last year’s Devin Funchess.

Moore currently goes in the 10th round as the WR49, which is insanely low. If Moore can be the WR1 for the Panthers, it’s hard to see him finishing outside the top 30. Even if he plays behind Funchess, Moore should still be a WR3. The odds that Moore provides surplus value on his draft position are very high, making him a perfect WR4/5 in your draft.

Hayden Hurst

Rookie tight ends don’t tend to perform well, but last year’s group broke that mold. Evan Engram, David Njoku, and OJ Howard – all first round picks – finished as top 20 tight ends. Hurst was the only first round pick of all tight ends this year, and went to Baltimore, maybe the best landing spot for tight ends. Baltimore likes to pepper their TEs with targets, which allowed guys like Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson to be fantasy relevant. Hurst comes into the NFL as a 25-year old, which means he is physically and athletically developed enough to handle the rigors of playing tight end. He’s also got the size to handle red zone targets while being fast enough to stretch the field.

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Going as the TE19 in drafts means that Hurst is usually undrafted in standard 12 team leagues. Now, Hurst doesn’t have the guaranteed work that the other guys I mentioned have, but he has a path to 75+ targets. If he can get there, Hurst is a near-lock to finish as a TE1. Hurst is a great choice to pair with a late-round veteran tight end like Jack Doyle or Cameron Brate. That way, you have a security blanket in case the Ravens don’t utilize Hurst effectively this year. In all likelihood, though, Hurst will win the starting job and far outperform his draft position.