Rookie fever is running rampant in fantasy leagues everywhere. With free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, fantasy owners are fawning over adding the fresh crop of skill players to their fantasy rosters. It’s easy to see the upside in every young prospect, but things don’t always work out the way we’d hope. For every wide receiver that becomes the next Justin Jefferson, there are exponentially more that become the next Laquon Treadwell.
Rookie drafts have already begun wrapping up in some leagues and there are plenty more on the horizon. Now is the perfect time to look back at where the highly touted prospects of previous years stack up in the dynasty landscape.
2018 Dynasty Rookie Average Draft Position
Note: All ADP data provided courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.
1.01 - Saquon Barkley, Running Back, New York Giants
1.02 - Royce Freeman, Running Back, Denver Broncos
1.03 - Sony Michel, Running Back, New England Patriots
1.04 - Kerryon Johnson, Running Back, Detroit Lions (currently Philadelphia Eagles)
1.05 - Derrius Guice, Running Back, Washington Football Team (Free Agent)
1.06 - DJ Moore, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
1.07 - Rashaad Penny, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks
1.08 - Ronald Jones II, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1.09 - Nick Chubb, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
1.10 - Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
1.11 - Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns
1.12 - Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
At times there can be debate over who should be selected first overall in rookie drafts, but 2018 was not one. Despite tearing his ACL in 2020, Barkley is still viewed as a top-five player at the running back position and is poised to remind fantasy managers how dynamic he is in 2021. Four more running backs came off the board following Barkley and each one of them has been met with disappointment for a variety of reasons.
Since drafting Freeman, the Broncos have added multiple running backs, most notably North Carolina’s Javonte Williams in 2021. A solid finish to his rookie season left fantasy managers optimistic about Michel’s long-term outlook, but he could not recapture that same form. Both Johnson and Guice struggled with injuries and Guice has found himself out of the league due to off-field issues.
The Panthers have had quarterback struggles, but Moore has established himself as one of the most impressive young wide receivers in the league despite that. He has topped 1,100 receiving yards in each of his past two seasons. The second half of the first round yielded excellent results for fantasy managers drafting from those slots.
Injuries and playing behind Chris Carson have held Penny back, but the rest of round one produced excellent results. It featured a solid running back in Jones, top options at their respective positions with Chubb and Ridley and consistent fantasy contributors in Mayfield and Sutton. If Sutton can rebound from an ACL tear suffered last season, fantasy managers will quickly remember how exciting a player he can be.
2.01 - Anthony Miller, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears
2.02 - Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
2.03 - Christian Kirk, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
2.04 - James Washington, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
2.05 - Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins
2.06 - Nyheim Hines, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
2.07 - Hayden Hurst, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens (currently Atlanta Falcons)
2.08 - Kalen Ballage, Running Back, Miami Dolphins (currently Pittsburgh Steelers)
2.09 - Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens
2.10 - Dante Pettis, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers (currently New York Giants)
2.11 - Sam Darnold, Quarterback, New York Jets (currently Carolina Panthers)
2.12 - Josh Rosen, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals (currently San Francisco 49ers)
Optimism was plentiful for the vast majority of these players, but it has not worked out for many. Considering that this data focused on single quarterback formats, Jackson in the second round is still a massive value regardless of league format.
The running backs selected have been mainly disappointing aside from Hines, who has carved out a role for himself as a pass-catching running back, which is always helpful in PPR formats. The wide receivers have not found the consistency hoped for, but Gallup is still an intriguing player long term. He has a 1,100 receiving-yard season on his resume' and should latch on with another team even if he is not in the Cowboys’ long-term plans.
Tight end is a position that is notoriously slow to translate to fantasy football relevance. However, Gesicki has all the signs of being a still young ascending player at the position.
3.01 - Antonio Callaway, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns (currently Kansas City Chiefs)
3.02 - Dallas Goedert, Tight End, Philadelphia Eagles
3.03 - Bo Scarbrough, Running Back, Detroit Lions (Free Agent)
3.04 - Jordan Wilkins, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
3.05 - DJ Chark, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
3.06 - John Kelly, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams (currently Cleveland Browns)
3.07 - Josh Allen, Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
3.08 - Mason Rudolph, Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers
3.09 - Tre’Quan Smith, Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints
3.10 - Equanimeous St. Brown, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers
3.11 - Chase Edmonds, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals
3.12 - Keke Coutee, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans
Round 3 is where fantasy managers often start to swing for upside picks. More often than not, that potential is never realized, but you have a steal of monumental proportions on your roster if it does come to fruition. This is precisely the case with fantasy managers who selected players like Allen and Chark in Round 3. With Trevor Lawrence under center, the future is bright for Chark, while Allen has established himself as one of the premier fantasy options at the position.
More of the story will be told for players like Smith and Edmonds during the 2021 season. Both of those players have the opportunity to grow into more prominent roles for their respective teams this season.