Fantasy Football: 11-20 NFL Rookie Rankings
Last week we dove into the top 10 fantasy football rookie rankings for 2018. Now it’s time to take a look at NFL rookie rankings 11-20. Just like the first version, guys are very likely to hurdle others as battles are won and lost throughout camp and preseason.
You’ll notice there are more wide receivers in in this range, including a couple tight ends. Keep in mind these are rookie rankings for redraft purposes and most of the wideouts have very little appeal in those types of formats. I’ve highlighted in the write-ups which I’d give a boost to in dynasty formats. Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen could all be fantasy relevant at some point in 2018, but their values lie in dynasty formats. Mayfield and Jackson could certainly creep into the QB2 conversation in superflex leagues.
Honestly, I don’t expect many of the players below to make much of a fantasy football impact in shallow redraft leagues, but injuries happen and situations occur where they may get a bigger role. Some may also exceed expectations, so it’s important to follow along now as camp opens up.
11. Kerryon Johnson, RB – Detroit Lions
When I think of the Detroit Lions and Kerryon Johnson, I think of: LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Of course, Johnson has the highest ceiling, but it’s hard to get excited about him in redraft leagues with so many running backs in the picture, not to mention Detroit has had its fair share of issues running the football over the years. Blount will be the goal line back all season and Riddick will continue to have a third-down role.
Johnson has some long-term appeal, though, as Detroit traded up to get him after spending a first-round pick on center Frank Ragnow. They also selected guard/tackle Tyrell Crosby and signed guard Kenny Wiggins. They are at least attempting to fix the running game, and if they cut Abdullah then we’re talking about KJ having an impact sooner rather than later. Still, 10-12 touches a game seems like it’ll be his average output.
12. Michael Gallup, WR – Dallas Cowboys
Michael Gallup doesn’t project to be a true number one wideout right away in the NFL, but he couldn’t have landed in a better spot. The Dallas Cowboys are a run-first team with Ezekiel Elliott, but Gallup has an opportunity to make some noise in his first season as the Cowboys lost 220 targets in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. That’s 45% percent of the target share from 2017.
Allen Hurns opens up the season as the Cowboys number one wide receiver, but expect Gallup to start Week 1 as he only has to compete with Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson for targets. Gallup could hit the 60 catch mark with 800-900 yards with the opportunity in front of him and his excellent route running and ability to extend plays after the catch.
13. Christian Kirk, WR – Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals entered the draft with Sam Bradford as their Week 1 starter and J.J. Nelson as the team’s number two wideout. That still may be the case, but the future looks a lot brighter with Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk. The Texas A&M product played most of his snaps in the slot but can play outside and likely will set up there in year one with Larry Fitzgerald still around. That’s also not a bad guy to learn from.
Kirk only has to compete with Nelson, Chad Williams (potential breakout) and Bruce Butler for snaps, and if David Johnson can stay healthy this offense won’t be as bad as many predicted weeks ago. Kirk piled up just under 3,000 yards in his college career while reeling in a remarkable 234 catches, mostly against double teams. With Fitz and DJ expected to get most of the attention, expect Mike McCoy — who has a history of involving rookie wideouts — to get Kirk some short yardage throws via crossing and out routes, along with bubble screens. Again, like most wideouts on this list, the Arizona native is more of a WR5 in fantasy.
14. Courtland Sutton, WR – Denver Broncos
You’ll see Courtland Sutton much higher in most dynasty rookie rankings as he projects to be a solid wideout for the Denver Broncos for years to come, but he has less appeal in redraft leagues. The SMU product will take a back seat behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in his first season, making it hard to rack up a lot of catches and yards.
Sutton will be third in line for targets, but he could certainly be a red zone option for Case Keenum thanks to his 6-foot-3 size. Denver also selected wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton with the 113th pick in the draft.
15. James Washington, WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
James Washington has all the tools to step in right away for Martavis Bryant, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders. Washington had the second-most receiving yards in Big 12 history over the course of his four-year career playing for Colorado and he’s fresh off winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award for top collegiate wideout.
Washington is a terrific deep ball option for Ben Roethlisberger in what is a potent offense, but he’ll be fourth in line for targets behind Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The future looks bright whether Big Ben likes it or not as Pittsburgh paired the best deep ball wideout in the draft with the best deep ball quarterback in the draft in Mason Rudolph.
16. Dante Pettis, WR – San Francisco 49ers
A lot of people will look at Dante Pettis and think he’s just a punt return specialist due to his NCAA-record nine punt return touchdowns over his four years with Washington, but I look at him and see a wide receiver who is explosive in the open field with legit 1-on-1 ball skills in the red zone. I also look at San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and what he’s been able to do with explosive players. I also look at the fact they traded up 14 spots to grab Pettis in the second-round.
Pettis possesses the speed, vision and lateral movement that makes a player thrive under Shanahan’s system. He’ll contribute in the special teams department, but he’ll get screens and run his fair share of deep routes too. Pettis has 163 catches for 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns on the college resume, and 22 of those scores came in his final two seasons. Let’s not forget Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo were able to make good out of a couple pedestrian players last season and there isn’t a whole lot of competition for red zone targets or targets in general, which is why Carlos Hyde had 87 in 2017. Pettis is unlikely to be anything more than a WR5 in his rookie season, but his scoring upside will make him a darling in the DFS community.
17. Jordan Wilkins, RB – Indianapolis Colts
You can’t tell me the Indianapolis Colts have faith in Marlon Mack to be the guy! For one, they didn’t spend a high quality draft pick (2017 4th-rounder) on Mack, and they drafted two more backs this season in Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines. Mack also had offseason shoulder surgery after playing 2017 with a torn labrum. On top of that, Robert Turbin is still in the mix and they signed Christine Michael. We can make jokes all we want about Turbin and C-Mike, but the point remains the same: it’s a crowded backfield, but it’s one for the taking.
Mack proved to be more of an outside runner while struggling to find consistency as an inside runner and a pass protecter, which we all know is very important for Andrew Luck and the Colts. Hines is undersized and more of a matchup problem for teams, but Wilkins has the ability to earn first and second down reps. Colts GM Chris Ballard has been on record saying the team will take a running back by committee approach, and if new head coach Frank Reich follows in Doug Pederson’s footsteps, they’ll rotate through all their running backs. With that said, don’t be surprised if it’s Wilkins who emerges as the Colts number one option with some third down work. It’s a draft pick that won’t cost you anything in redraft leagues, and one to think about in dynasty formats.
18. Mike Gesicki, TE – Miami Dolphins
Mike Gesicki was a standout at the NFL Combine, and the only negative thing anybody ever says about him is that he can’t block. It’s very possible the Dolphins only use him in the passing game and in the red zone thanks to his 6-foot-6 and 257 pound frame. Gesicki has the ability to stretch the seam and make plays after the catch. All of which should be music to your fantasy ears.
It’s hard to imagine the Penn State star having much appeal in a 10-12 team redraft league, but he should be on your radar in dynasty leagues. Gesicki should also be considered in deeper redraft leagues with multiple TE roster spots. The Miami Dolphins lost 160 targets and a league-high 112 catches when they traded Jarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns. They signed Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson who are both capable of playing in the slot, but there will still be plenty of passing opportunities for Gesicki down the middle with Julius Thomas also out of town. Gesicki has the upside to be a top-15 TE in year one.
19. Hayden Hurst, TE – Baltimore Ravens
Hayden Hurst should go undrafted in just about every 12-team league, but don’t be surprised if he ends up on rosters throughout the season. Hurst will play in all situations in his rookie year including the run game as he’s an effective blocker as well as a pass catcher. The Ravens totally revamped their entire wide receiver corps (Michael Crabtree, John Brown & Willie Snead), and Joe Flacco has a history of latching on to his tight end. Mind you, he hasn’t had any consistency from his wide receivers over the years. It actually feels like everybody on offense – including Joe himself – has been hurt over the past three-to-four seasons. Just when you start to feel good about the potential Hurst could have with Flacco, the Ravens go out and draft another tight end in Mark Andrews, in the third round.
20. John Kelly, RB – Los Angeles Rams
I’m not one for handcuffing your top running back, but there are plenty of reasons to consider it if you’re lucky enough to draft Todd Gurley. John Kelly has all the tools to be an RB1 should Gurley suffer an injury: power, speed, hands and elusiveness. Let’s also not forget that Kelly would then be the lead dog on a Super Bowl contending team with offensive genius Sean McVay calling the shots. It’s something to consider for Gurley owners. As the weeks get closer and battles get won throughout camp, it’s likely someone else jumps inside the top 20.
On the bubble: