Imagine the 2017 rookie class attending school and being evaluated for their individual performances this past regular season. Well, that’s the exact premise of this article. In it, I evaluate the output of the most popular and impactful skill position players that entered the NFL this year from a fantasy football perspective. Enjoy!
The Dean’s List
At the age of 21, Kamara managed to take the NFL and fantasy football scene by storm. In his rookie season, the Tennessee product ran for 728 yards and eight touchdowns with a 6.1 yard per carry average. The former third-round pick also registered 81 receptions for 826 yards and five touchdowns, en route to finishing as the RB3 overall in PPR formats. At the forefront of MVP discussions, Kamara has established himself as an elite commodity in fantasy circles as a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Despite missing three regular season contests in his first professional campaign due to various injuries and off-field discipline, Fournette demonstrated that he owns an elite set of skills at the running back position. The 4th overall pick in 2017 was a main cog in the Jacksonville Jaguars success this season, as he ran for 1,040 yards and scored nine touchdowns on the ground as a rookie. The LSU product also silenced critics that believed he was a one-dimensional player, as he accrued 36 receptions for 302 yards and a touchdown with Blake Bortles under center. Volume is the name of the game in fantasy, which prompted the 22-year-old tailback to finish as the RB9 in PPR as a rookie. Expect more of the same in future for Fournette as the face of Jacksonville’s franchise.
Albeit a roller coaster ride, it is safe to assert that Hunt delivered above and beyond expectations in his rookie season as a third-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. He finished as the RB4 in PPR scoring with 1,327 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. The Toledo product elevated his fantasy stock even further by posting 53 receptions for 455 yards and three scores. Hunt seized the opportunity to become a featured back after Spence Ware sustained a season-ending injury, and should be viewed as an elite option at running back for the foreseeable future in Kansas City.
Similar to his peer Alvin Kamara, McCaffrey had little trouble making a seamless transition from college football to the NFL gridiron as a rookie. In fact, the Stanford product delivered an RB10 finish in PPR formats on a mere 197 total offensive touches for the Carolina Panthers in 2017. The 21-year-old’s versatility figures to make him a staple in fantasy lineups for quite some time, as McCaffrey was able to run for 435 yards and two touchdowns while adding 80 receptions for 651 yards and five trips to the end zone as a receiver.
Before tearing his ACL, Cook ranked as the RB9 overall in PPR formats from Weeks 1- 4 in 2017. In the process, he accumulated 444 total yards from scrimmage and found the end zone on two occasions. While Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have filled in admirably during Cook’s absence, there is little doubt that the Florida State product will pick up where he left off for Minnesota in 2018 as the assumed starter.
Despite tearing his ACL in practice and subsequently missing nine regular season games, Watson proved that he is a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy football realm. With a mere seven professional appearances on his resume, the Clemson product managed to pass for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns. Even more, the 22-year-old displayed his dual threat ability by rushing for an additional 269 yards and two scores. Assuming his recovery timetable remains on track, Watson should easily surpass his QB27 finish as a rookie during his sophomore campaign next season.
It’s fair to wonder if the New York Giants did not receive the memo that rookie tight ends tend to struggle in the early stages of their NFL careers, as Engram contributed directly out of the gate with 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns. The 23-year-old was one of the lone bright spots in a porous offense, which proves his dynamic playmaking ability as a hybrid wide receiver and tight end. With a TE5 finish under his belt in PPR scoring from this past year, the sky is truly the limit for Engram as New York attempts to improve its support cast next season.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, PPR WR23 (Receiving Line: 58-917-7)
- Cooper Kupp, PPR WR25 (Receiving Line: 62-869-5)
- Jamaal Williams, PPR RB34 (Rushing Line: 153-556-4, Receiving Line: 25-262-2)
Summer School Candidates
It is rather evident that the 5th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft failed to live up to his asking price as a rookie. He missed five regular season contests due to injury, and was rather inefficient when active for the Tennessee Titans. Consider that Davis did not register more than 6 receptions or 91 yards receiving in game, and it becomes clear that he was an unreliable fantasy option for the duration of his first professional season. Look for the 22-year-old to improve on his 34-375-0 receiving line as a sophomore and fulfill his immense potential, but also realize that his fantasy value is dependent on the development of Marcus Mariota as a passer.
Even with an incredible opportunity to cement himself as a featured back as rookie, Mixon struggled to deliver consistent results in Cincinnati on routine basis in 2017. He manufactured 913 yards from scrimmage and scored four rushing touchdowns, but wore down late by missing two games. Although the Oklahoma product owns a unique skill set as a rusher and receiver, Giovani Bernard has earned a spot in the team’s backfield rotation regardless of Mixon’s health.
After season-ending injuries to Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson occurred this season, it was apparent that Perine would earn the opportunity to showcase his skills for Washington. The fourth-round pick provided glimpses of impressive output with two 100-yard rushing performances, but was volatile from there on out by failing to eclipse 53 yards rushing in any other contest as a starter. Perine is best viewed as a bruiser with deceptive speed, but it remains to be seen if he can handle a featured back’s workload at the NFL level based on his durability woes as a rookie.
A lingering back issue caused the 7th overall pick out of Clemson to miss the first five games of 2017, which in turn severely capped his role as a rookie for the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams tallied a disappointing 11 receptions for 95 yards, leaving his fantasy owners frustrated in the process. The 6’ 4” / 218-pound receiver has an incredibly high ceiling, but it remains to be seen how he will be utilized in tandem with Keenan Allen in the future.
With a lustrous collegiate career on his resume from East Carolina, expectations were understandably high for Jones for his first NFL campaign. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the wide receiver delivered a mixed bag of results in 2017 with a 27-316-2 receiving line. The Buffalo Bills lack adequate skill position depth on offense, so playing time should not be an issue for the 22-year-old moving forward. Instead, Jones will need to improve on his level of consistency since he failed to surpass 6 receptions or 68 yards receiving in any contest as a rookie.