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ROOKIE CLASS: Season Analysis

QUARTERBACK

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago – While it is unlikely that coach John Fox throws the newbie into the fire right off the bat, the North Carolina product would still have little-to-no fantasy value. Chicago’s offense has a serious dearth of play-makers, especially with the off-season loss of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. In essence, there are very few Chicago players worth owning for the 2017 season, which includes likely starting quarterback Mike Glennon.

Deshaun Watson, Houston – Personally, I expect for the two-time Heisman finalist to be under center Week 1. Houston wouldn’t swap 2017 first-round selections and give up a 2018 top pick to have Watson ride the bench when he is probably no worse than the incumbent Tom Savage. With DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to throw to and Lamar Miller in the backfield, Watson should be playable in certain matchups. He is at least a reliable bye-week filler.

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland – With no weapons around him, a difficult fantasy schedule (11th hardest based on last year’s statistics) and the ‘Cleveland curse’ hanging over him, the talented but raw rookie from Notre Dame should probably be left undrafted and unowned for most if not all of this season.

Bottom Line: Don’t go anywhere near Trubisky or Kizer in redraft leagues unless you’re a part of a 32-team league. Take a flier on Watson late as a potential bargain play from time to time.

 

RUNNING BACK

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville – He’s better than anyone in Jacksonville’s backfield, so he will likely be slated to be the bell cow from Day 1. The line is average and the quarterback play is also average at best, so defenses will have an easier time containing Fournette by stacking the box. All factors considered, he has potential to put up RB2 numbers. His floor should warrant him as – at worst – an every-week flex play.

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina – The Stanford do-it-all stud will join Cam NewtonKelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen in what should be a very formidable Carolina offensive attack. My concern, apart from McCaffrey’s ability to withstand NFL hits, is his expected number of touches per game. This is mostly true because Jonathan Stewart (who is also a touchdown vulture) is still around for at least another year. Don’t expect elite numbers from McCaffrey until 2018, at which point Stewart will likely be gone and the offensive line should be improved.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota – The Florida State All-American surprisingly fell out of Round 1; Minnesota traded up to snag Cook, who should share with newly-signed Latavius Murray. Since Murray has had injury problems in his short career, don’t sleep on Cook. A downhill runner and reliable receiver out of the backfield, he could be out to make a statement in 2017.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati – This one is tricky. With Jeremy Hill entering a contract year and Giovani Bernard being owed very little money beyond the 2017 season, Cincinnati could conceivably slowly give Mixon the bulk of the touches as the season progresses. He is the most talented back out of the trio. His ceiling is high but, to start the year at least, Mixon should be viewed as a stash player in the hopes that he breaks out mid-season.

Bottom Line: Fournette will be a Top 20 fantasy back at worst. McCaffrey won’t be the focal point of the offense but has game-changing ability with the ball in his hands. Cook will be in a committee (until Murray hurts himself) and the jury is still out on Mixon.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Corey Davis, Tennessee – Marcus Mariota wanted a big-play wideout, and Davis more than fits that role. While the offense may still focus on the running game through DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, Davis should hold major value in point per reception leagues. I currently label him as a fantasy WR3 entering the preseason.

Mike Williams, L.A. Chargers – The most physically-gifted wide receiver in this class (in my opinion), Williams fell into the Chargers’ lap and has a proven gunslinger throwing to him in Philip Rivers. While Keenan Allen will (barring yet another injury) end up with more receptions, Williams has more big-play ability. Ergo, he should lead Los Angeles in yards and touchdowns as a rookie.

John Ross, Cincinnati – The fastest man in the history of the combine, Ross will be paired alongside A.J. Green in what could be a sneaky aerial attack. His second-to-none speed will allow him to get loose for some long scores, but time will only tell how much of Andy Daltons attempts go his way. He may end up being one of those very inconsistent fantasy players who turns in 25-point games followed by two-point games throughout the season.

Bottom Line: Davis should get plenty of targets and could easily turn in 1,000 yards and double-digit scores. The mega-talented Williams is in a pass-happy offense. Ross is a burner on the outside, but may not catch 70 balls in 2017 barring another injury to A.J. Green.

About Patrick Steen