Drafting a Rookie in Fantasy Football – a Good Idea?

Updated July 20, 2017: Drafting a rookie on your fantasy football team is one of the riskier things you could do as a team owner. It ranks right up there with picking up a “one-week wonder” free agent. There are several reasons for this as discussed below:

Rookie Risks

Playing in the NFL is more more difficult than playing in college. Many players can excel at the college level, but NFL football is truly a man’s game. The league is comprised of professionals who play at the highest level. The players are bigger, the game is faster, the competition is more fierce and the pressure to achieve is sometimes overwhelming.

Making it even more difficult are the new distractions – money, fame, drugs and women. All of these must be managed well in addition to consistently performing at a very high level. Some or all of these distractions may have also been an issue during college, but it is a whole new world at the professional level. The NFL has even instituted a Rookie Symposium to address these issues.

The style of the game is different than what is played at the college level. The systems, schemes and terminology are different and more complex. It takes time for a rookie to fully understand a new system and to get comfortable with it.

Rookie receivers, specifically, have additional issues with which to deal. The first is the markings on the field which they use a reference points for running their routes. Hash marks on a college field are 40 feet wide and are 60 feet from the sideline. In the NFL, the hash marks are 18′ 6″ wide (the same width as the goal posts) and are 70′ 9″ from the sidelines. The top of the field numbers on a college field are nine yards from the sideline. In the NFL, the top of the field numbers are 14 yards from the sideline. Second, an NFL receiver must keep both feet in-bounds when catching a pass. In college, only one foot is required. Third, a rookie wide receiver must learn to extend the field by catching the ball away from his body on a sideline route. By extending his arms, the receiver in effect stretches the width of the field giving the quarterback a little more room to work and keeps the ball away from the defender. The other issues a rookie receiver faces are earning the confidence of the quarterback and getting an opportunity to play (working his way up the depth chart). Tight ends tend to develop a bit more quickly, but for the wide receivers, it usually isn’t until their third season when they finally put it all together and begin to produce at a high level.

Think of it another way. If it wasn’t so hard to be a rookie in the NFL, then why are there awards just for rookies? The answer is because if there weren’t any awards, then few, if any rookies would gain any recognition during their first professional season. If it were easy to make the transition to the NFL, then a rookie should be expected to compete for and regularly win the Associated Press’ MVP (Most Valuable Player) award alongside the veterans. By the way, the only rookie to ever win the MVP was Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns in 1957. (Back then it was known at the Player of the Year award.) That’s a long time ago and Jim Brown was a very special player.

Rookie Performances 2010 – 2014

Listed in the tables below are the drafted rookies from the 2010 – 2014 by position. In each table you will find the round the rookie was drafted, the team which drafted him, the number of games in which he played, the total number of fantasy points he earned during the season, the average number of fantasy points he earned per game and his rank among all players at his position in the NFL based on total fantasy points earned. (Fantasy points were calculated using the Yahoo! public league scoring format.)

Although there is a large number of tables, the key element to look for in each is the fantasy point rankings. These cells are highlighted in yellow by the following criteria:

  • Top 10 Quarterbacks
  • Top 20 Running Backs
  • Top 30 Wide Receivers
  • Top 10 Tight Ends
  • Top 10 Kickers

It is especially important to note how few cells are highlighted.

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2016

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Jared Goff1 - 1Rams760.168.636
Carson Wentz1 - 2Eagles16226.9814.223
Paxton Lynch1 - 26Broncos329.389.843
Christian Hackenberg2 - 20Jets----
Jacoby Brissett3- 29Patriots328.309.444
Cody Kessler3 - 31Browns979.008.833
Connor Cook4 - 2Raiders17.007.058
Dak Prescott4 - 37Cowboys16290.8818.26
Cardale Jones4 - 41Bills12.742.760
Kevin Hogan5 - 25Chiefs318.666.247
Nate Sudfeld6 - 12Redskins----
Jake Rudock6- 16Lions----
Brandon Allen6 - 26Jaguars----
Jeff Driskel6 - 3249ers----
Brandon Doughty7 - 2Dolphins----

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2015

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Jameis Winston1 - 1Buccaneers16289.9818.113
Marcus Mariota1 - 2Titans12220.0218.322
Bryce Petty4 - 4Jets----
Garrett Grayson3 - 11Saints----
Brett Hundley5 - 11Packers----
Sean Mannion3 - 25Rams11.241.266
Trevor Siemian7 - 33Broncos1-0.10-0.174

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2014

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Blake Bortles1 - 3Jaguars14185.2213.224
Johnny Manziel1 - 22Browns413.903.553
Teddy Bridgewater1 - 32Vikings13191.6614.721
Derek Carr2 - 4Raiders16204.0012.820
Jimmy Garoppolo2 - 30Patriots512.182.454
Logan Thomas4 - 20Cardinals27.243.657
Tom Savage4 - 35Texans21.480.765
Aaron Murray5 - 23Chiefs----
A.J. McCarron5 - 24Bengals----
Zach Mettenberger6 - 2Titans777.8811.138
David Fales6 - 7Bears----
Keith Wenning6 - 18Ravens----
Tajh Boyd6 - 37Jets----
Garrett Gilbert6 - 38Rams----

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2013

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
E.J. Manuel1 - 16Bills10142.4814.228
Geno Smith2 - 7Jets16214.7413.420
Mike Glennon3 - 11Buccaneers13167.0212.826
Matt Barkley4 - 1Eagles35.81.954
Ryan Nassib4 - 13Giants----
Tyler Wilson4 - 15Raiders----
Landry Jones4 - 18Steelers----
Brad Sorensen7 - 15Chargers----
Zac Dysert7 - 28Broncos----
B.J. Daniels7 - 3149ers----
Sean Renfree7 - 43Falcons----

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2012

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Andrew Luck1 - 1Colts16294.4618.49
Robert Griffin III1 - 2Redskins15323.6021.65
Ryan Tannehill1 - 8Dolphins16196.1612.324
Brandon Weeden1 - 22Browns15182.6012.225
Brock Osweiler2 - 25Broncos5-0.82-0.268
Russell Wilson3 - 12Seahawks16285.6217.911
Nick Foles3 - 25Eagles791.6013.133
Kirk Cousins4 - 7Redskins335.8411.939
Ryan Lindley6 - 15Cardinals619.783.341
B.J. Coleman7 - 36Packers----
Chandler Harnish7 - 46Colts----

Rookie Quartebacks - 2011

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Cam Newton1 - 1Panthers16386.3024.23
Jake Locker1 - 8Titans549.289.942
Blaine Gabbert1 - 10Jaguars15133.368.928
Christian Ponder1 - 12Vikings11135.0212.327
Andy Dalton2 - 3Bengals16224.114.016
Colin Kaepernick2 - 449ers31.200.467
Ryan Mallett3 - 10Patriots----
Ricky Stanzi5 - 4Chiefs----
T.J. Yates5 - 21Texans652.668.840
Nathan Enderle5 - 29Bears----
Tyrod Taylor6 - 15Ravens30.92.369
Greg McElroy7 - 5Jets----

Rookie Quarterbacks - 2010

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Sam Bradford1 - 1Rams16209.8013.020
Tim Tebow1 - 25Broncos799.9014.332
Jimmy Clausen2 - 16Panthers1367.005.237
Colt McCoy3 - 21Browns898.9012.433
Mike Kafka4 - 24Eagles----
John Skelton5 - 24Cardinals537.407.545
Jonathan Crompton5 - 37Chargers----
Rusty Smith6 - 7Titans24.002.064
Dan LeFevour6 - 12Bears----
Joe Webb6 - 30Vikings540.108.094
Tony Pike6 - 35Panthers11.901.968
Levi Brown7 - 2Bills10.000.077
Sean Canfield7 - 32Saints----
Zac Robinson7 - 43Patriots----

Based on the tables above, 84 rookie quarterbacks have been selected in the NFL draft over the past seven years. Granted, all 84 quarterbacks would not be considered in a fantasy football draft. So let’s consider just those quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft as potential fantasy quarterbacks for that particular year. That would leave us with 19 quarterbacks. Of these 19, only three were within the top-10 of fantasy quarterbacks based on total fantasy points scored in their rookie year as shown below:

  • Cam Newton – Panthers (2011) –  3rd
  • Robert Griffin III – Redskins (2012) – 5th
  • Andrew Luck – Colts (2012) – 9th

The one factor all three had going in their favor was that they were designated as the Week-1 starting quarterback of their NFL team. But does being drafted in the first round and named the team’s starting quarterback guarantee success? No – because Sam Bradford (2010 Rams – 20th), Ryan Tannehill (2012 Dolphins – 24th), Brandon Weeden (2012 Browns – 25th), E.J. Manuel (2013 Bills – 28th), Blaine Gabbert (2014 Jaguars – 24th), Jameis Winston (2015 Buccaneers – 13th), Marcus Mariota (2015 Titans – 22nd) and Carson Wentz (2016 Eagles – 26th) were in the same situation, but couldn’t crack the top-10 in their rookie season. It just isn’t that easy – even for a veteran. However, Russell Wilson, the third round pick of the Seahawks in 2012 finished as the 11th most productive fantasy quarterback. Even more impressive was Dak Prescott, the fourth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2016 finishing as the sixth most productive fantasy quarterback. It is worth noting that a commonality between Wilson and Prescott is their ability to accumulate substantial fantasy points by running the ball. Without that extra dimension to their game, they would have ranked in a similar position to their colleagues who don’t possess that skill set.

Even though the media assured fans that Newton, Griffin and Luck were ready for the NFL, most observers were surprised by the level of success they actually achieved. All three could have just as easily learned the hard-knock lessons most rookie quarterbacks experience as they transition to the professional level.

Drafting a rookie as your starting fantasy quarterback is a significant risk. So many things can go wrong. Very few, as has been demonstrated, can perform at a very high level in their first year. So when it comes time to draft your starting quarterback this year and you have a choice between a rookie and a veteran – think very carefully. If the veteran has a track record of success – give it the weight it deserves. The veteran may not be a glamour pick, but he is a known commodity. Remember the old adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” It absolutely applies when drafting a fantasy quarterback.

Rookie Running Backs - 2016

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Ezekiel Elliott1 - 4Cowboys15293.419.62
Derrick Henry2 - 14Titans1492.76.639
Kenyan Drake3 - 10Dolphins1340.53.170
C.J. Prosise3 - 27Seahawks644.07.366
Tyler Ervin4 - 21Texans12-1.9-0.2172
Kenneth Dixon4 - 36Ravens1272.46.051
Devontae Booker4 - 38Broncos16111.7729
DeAndre Washington5 - 4Raiders1368.25.254
Paul Perkins5 - 10Giants1361.84.858
Jordan Howard5 - 11Bears15201.113.49
Wendell Smallwood5 - 14Eagles1246.73.964
Jonathan Williams5 - 18Bills811.41.4111
Alex Collins5 - 34Seahawks924.92.886
Andy Janovich6 - 1Broncos913.71.5106
Keenan Reynolds6 - 7Ravens----
Dan Vitale6 - 22Buccaneers52.70.5138
Derek Watt6 - 23Chargers88.71.1121
Kelvin Taylor6 - 3649ers----
Darius Jackson6 - 41Cowboys----
Dwayne Washington7 - 15Lions1138.73.573
Daniel Lasco7 - 16Saints54.30.9132
Keith Marshall7 - 21Redskins----
Zac Brooks7 - 26Seahawks----

Rookie Running Backs - 2015

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Todd Gurley1 - 10Rams13187.414.45
Melvin Gordon1 - 15Chargers1475.35.453
T.J. Yeldon2 - 4Jaguars12119.910.026
Ameer Abdullah2 - 22Lions1692.05.842
Tevin Coleman3 - 9Falcons1240.63.476
Duke Johnson3 - 13Browns16103.36.535
David Johnson3 - 22Cardinals16179.811.27
Matt Jones3 - 31Redskins1395.47.341
Jeremy Langford4 - 7Bears15125.68.423
Jalston Fowler4 - 9Titans1217.71.5108
Javorius Allen4 - 26Ravens16100.76.337
Mike Davis4 - 2749ers59.61.9126
David Cobb5 - 2Titans720.42.9105
Jay Ajayi5 - 13Dolphins935.74.079
Karlos Williams5 - 19Bills11113.310.331
Michael Burton5 - 32Lions1010.11.0123
Cameron Artis-Payne5 - 38Panthers630.15.084
Josh Robinson6 - 29Colts55.21.0135
Aaron Ripkowski6 - 30Packers51.80.4149
Joey Iosefa7 - 14Buccaneers25.12.6136
Kenny Hilliard7 - 18Texans----

Rookie Running Backs - 2014

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Bishop Sankey2 - 22Titans1678.24.943
Jeremy Hill2 - 23Bengals16183.911.510
Carlos Hyde2 - 2549ers1462.14.454
Charles Sims3 - 5Buccaneers841.55.276
Tre Mason3 -11Rams12119.39.925
Terrance West3 - 30Browns14101.77.333
Jerick McKinnon3 - 32Vikings1167.36.149
Dri Archer3 - 33Steelers106.30.6136
Devonta Freeman4 - 3Falcons1657.33.661
Andre Williams4 - 13Giants16127.17.921
Ka'Deem Carey4 - 17Bears1121.502.096
De'Anthony Thomas4 - 24Chiefs1238.93.280
James White4 - 30Patriots36.12.0137
Lorenzo Taliaferro4 - 38Ravens1262.65.253
Alfred Blue6 - 5Texans1682.15.140
Lache Seastruck6 - 10Redskins----
Marion Grice6 - 25Chargers613.002.2114
Tyler Gaffney6 - 28Panthers----
Storm Johnson7 - 7Jaguars520.24.097
Kiero Small7 - 12Seahawks----

Rookie Running Backs - 2013

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Giovani Bernard2 - 5Bengals16166.910.416
Le'Veon Bell2 - 16Steelers13171.913.214
Montee Ball2 - 26Broncos1688.45.542
Eddie Lacy2 - 29Packers15207.513.86
Christine Michael2 - 30Seahawks37.92.6116
Davis, Knile3 - 34Chiefs1659.73.755
Franklin, Johnathan4 - 28Packers717.72.598
Marcus Lattimore4 - 3449ers----
Stepfan Taylor5 - 7Cardinals1218.61.696
Joseph Randle5 - 18Cowboys734.54.975
Chris Thompson5 - 21Redskins400165
Zac Stacy5 - 27Rams13157.412.118
Mike Gillislee5 - 31Dolphins162.11.1147
Latavius Murray6 - 13Raiders----
Kenjon Barner6 - 14Panthers41.40.4150
Andre Ellington6 - 19Cardinals15126.38.424
Mike James6 - 21Buccaneers737.95.468
Rex Burkhead6 - 22Bengals----
Spencer Ware6 - 26Seahawks11.01.0152
Theo Riddick6 - 31Lions1211.10.9111
Ryan Seymour7 - 14Seahawks----
Jawan Jamison7 - 22Redskins----
Kerwynn Williams7 - 24Colts10.00.0165
MIchael Cox7 - 47Giants115.50.5126

Rookie Running Backs - 2012

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Trent Richardson1 - 3Browns15203.713.69
Doug Martin1 - 31Buccaneers16262.616.42
David Wilson1 - 32Giants1673.24.644
Isaiah Pead2 - 18Rams155.00.3137
LaMichael James2 - 2949ers415.43.9111
Ronnie Hillman3 - 4Broncos1442.93.166
Bernard Pierce3 - 21Ravens1663.94.049
Lamar Miller4 - 2Dolphins1335.52.773
Robert Turbin4 - 11Seahawks1653.53.359
Bradie Ewing5 - 22Falcons----
Chris Rainey5 - 24Steelers1626.21.693
Vick Ballard5 - 35Colts16114.67.225
Alfred Morris6 - 3Redskins16240.715.05
Cyrus Gray6 - 12Chiefs106.20.6133
Dan Herron6 - 21Bengals30.50.2165
Terrance Ganaway6 - 32Jets----
Michael Smith7 - 5Buccaneers----
Bryce Brown7 - 22Eagles1680.05.042
Brad Smelley7 - 40Browns20.30.2168
Edwin Baker7 - 43Chargers----
Daryl Richardson7 - 45Rams1661.83.952

Rookie Running Backs - 2011

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Mark Ingram1 - 28Saints1080.08.045
Ryan Williams2 - 6Cardinals----
Shane Vereen2 - 24Patriots511.72.3108
Mikel Leshoure2 - 25Lions----
Daniel Thomas2 - 30Dolphins1369.35.349
DeMarco Murray3 - 7Cowboys13120.09.229
Stevan Ridley3 - 9Patriots1551.43.461
Alex Green3 - 32Packers41.70.4145
Roy Helu4 - 8Redskins15115.97.733
Kendall Hunter4 - 1849ers1678.84.946
Delone Carter4 - 22Colts1645.52.866
Owen Marecic4 - 27Browns133.90.3133
Taiwan Jones4 - 28Raiders109.81.0115
Bilal Powell4 - 29Jets22.81.4139
Jamie Harper4 - 33Titans1411.60.8109
Johnny White5 - 2Bills113.5.3135
Anthony Sherman5 - 5Cardinals157.50.5119
Jacquizz Rodgers5 - 14Falcons1649.33.165
Dion Lewis5 - 18Eagles1415.91.195
Charles Clay6 - 9Dolphins1341.33.237
Evan Royster6 - 12Redskins639.66.670
Jordan Todman6 - 18Chargers----
Allen Bradford6 - 22Buccaneers11.31.3148
Bruce Miller7 - 849ers1515.11.097
Shaun Chapas7 - 17Dallas30.90.3153
Da'Rel Scott7 - 18Giants110.90.1151
Anthony Allen7 - 22Ravens40.80.2154
Baron Batch7 - 29Steelers----
Stanley Havili7 - 37Eagles----
Jay Finley7 - 43Bengals----

Rookie Running Backs - 2010

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
C.J. Spiller1 - 9Bills1448.03.462
Ryan Mathews1 - 12Chargers12118.39.932
Jahvid Best1 - 30Lions15138.29.223
Dexter McCluster2 - 4Chiefs1132.02.9108
Toby Gerhart2 - 19Vikings1548.93.361
Ben Tate2 - 26Texans----
Montario Hardesty2 - 27Browns----
Joe McKnight4 - 14Jets720.93.085
John Conner5 - 8Jets911.31.3102
Anthony Dixon6 - 449ers1436.82.672
Deji Karim6 - 11Jaguars1117.01.588
Jonathan Dwyer6 - 19Steelers12.82.8130
James Starks6 - 24Packers30.00.0155
Trindon Holliday6 - 28Texans----
Charles Scott6 - 31Eagles----
Jameson Konz7 - 38Seahawks----

Based on the tables above, 155 rookie running backs have been selected in the NFL draft over the past seven years. Granted, all 155 running backs would not be considered in a fantasy football draft. So let’s consider just those running backs who were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft as potential fantasy running backs for that particular year. That would leave us with 10 running backs. Of these 10, only four were within the top 20 of fantasy running backs based on total fantasy points scored as shown below:

  • Doug Martin – Buccaneers (2012) – 2nd
  • Trent Richardson – Browns (2012) – 9th
  • Todd Gurley – Rams (2015) – 5th
  • Ezekiel Elliott – Cowboys (2016) – 2nd

The one factor both players had going in their favor was that they were designated as the starting running back of their NFL team. But does being drafted in the first round and named the team’s starting running back guarantee success? Of course not, but it helps. The trend today is for running backs to work in a committee with other running backs. This gives the team the opportunity to exploit the strengths of the different backs based on the game situation. It also keeps players fresher over the course of the very long NFL season. However, it does reduce their fantasy value.

Although it is extremely rare to find a productive rookie quarterback outside of first-round picks, it is a little easier among running backs. The primary factor is opportunity. In other words, the rookie has become his team’s lead running back. Rookies who were drafted outside the first round yet finished their first season as one of the league’s top-20 fantasy running backs include:

  • Alfred Morris – Redskins (2012 – 6th round) – 5th
  • Giovani Bernard – Bengals (2013 – 2nd round) – 16th
  • Le’Veon Bell – Steelers (2013 – 2nd round) – 14th
  • Eddie Lacy – Packers (2013 – 2nd round) – 6th
  • Zac Stacy – Rams (2013 – 5th round) – 18th
  • Jeremy Hill – Bengals (2014 – 2nd round) – 10th
  • David Johnson – Cardinals (2015 – 3rd round) – 7th
  • Jordan Howard – Bears (2016 – 5th round) – 9th

Although drafting a rookie as your starting fantasy running back is a less risky than drafting a rookie quarterback, a shrewd owner will remember to take the following four items into consideration before pulling the trigger during the draft:

  • Skill level – can be effective between the 20’s and at the goal-line
  • Opportunity to play – better if not a part of a backfield committee
  • Situation – whether the team philosophy is run-first or pass-first
  • Durability – you can’t score points if you aren’t on the field

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2016

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Corey Coleman1 - 15Browns1060.36.085
Will Fuller1 - 21Texans1481.25.863
Josh Doctson1 - 22Redskins26.63.3170
Laquon Treadwell1 - 23Vikings41.50.4194
Sterling Shepard2 - 9Giants1347.03.695
Michael Thomas2 - 16Saints15163.710.99
Tyler Boyd2 - 24Bengals1670.14.471
Braxton Miller3 - 22Texans1015.91.6141
Leonte Carroo3 - 23Dolphins58.91.8158
Chris Moore4 - 9Bengals146.50.5172
Malcolm Mitchell4 - 14Patriots1264.15.380
Ricardo Louis4 - 16Browns1520.51.4132
Pharoh Cooper4 - 19Rams99.61.1156
Demarcus Robinson4 - 28Chiefs40.00.0203
Tajae Sharpe5 - 1Titans1664.34.079
Jordan Payton5 -15Browns20.30.2202
Trevor Davis5 - 26Packers86.40.8173
Tyreek Hill5 - 28Chiefs16156.09.811
Rashard Higgins5 - 35Browns107.70.8161
Moritz Boehringer6 - 5Vikings----
Jakeen Grant6 - 11Dolphins144.10.3181
Kolby Listenbee6 - 17Bills----
Cody Core6 - 24Bengals720.02.9135
Mike Thomas6 - 31Rams81.70.2190
Aaron Burbridge6 - 3849ers156.80.5169
Devin Lucien7 - 4Patriots----
Demarcus Ayers7 - 8Steelers210.15.1153
Daniel Braverman7 - 9Bears20.00.0203
Devin Fuller7 - 17Falcons----
Charone Peake7 - 20Jets1224.62.1124
Kenny Lawler7 - 22Seahawks----

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2015

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Amari Cooper1 - 4Raiders16140.78.825
Kevin White1 - 7Bears----
DeVante Parker1 - 14Dolphins967.47.570
Nelson Agholor1 - 20Eagles1332.32.5103
Breshad Perriman1 - 26Ravens----
Phillip Dorsett1 - 29Colts1128.22.6111
Devin Smith2 - 5Jets715.52.2138
Dorial Green-Beckham2 - 8Titans1480.95.854
Devin Funchess2 - 9Panthers1675.34.759
Tyler Lockett3 - 5Seahawks16114.47.235
Jaelen Strong3 - 6Texans1034.13.4101
Chris Conley3 - 12Chiefs1225.92.2120
Sammie Coates3 - 23Steelers11.11.1193
Ty Montgomery3 - 30Packers627.04.5118
Jamison Crowder4 - 6Redskins1674.64.761
Justin Hardy4 - 8Falcons919.42.2133
Vince Mayle4 - 24Browns10.00.0201
DeAndre Smelter4 - 3349ers----
Rashad Greene5 - 3Jaguars946.35.1111
Stefon Diggs5 - 10Vikings1397.37.546
Tony Lippett5 - 20Dolphins50.00.0201
J.J. Nelson5 - 23Cardinals1033.94.096
Kenny Bell5 - 26Buccaneers----
Keith Mumphery5 - 39Texans1412.90.9146
Kaelin Clay6 - 8Buccaneers76.00.9170
Geremy Davis6 -10Giants52.10.4185
Evan Spencer6 - 11Redskins10.00.0201
Bud Sasser6 - 25Rams----
Darren Waller6 - 28Ravens41.80.5186
Neal Sterling7 - 3Jaguars10.00.0201
Andre Debose7 - 4Raiders----
Da'Ron Brown7 - 16Chiefs----
Dezmin Lewis7 - 17Bills----
Mario Alford7 - 21Bills11.51.5189
Tre McBride7 - 28Titans67.61.3168

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2014

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Sammy Watkins1 - 4Bills16133.08.326
Mike Evans1 - 7Buccaneers15177.111.810
Odell Beckham1 - 12Giants12204.017.05
Brandin Cooks1 - 20Saints1086.38.658
Kelvin Benjamin1 - 28Panthers16152.89.617
Lee, Marqise2 - 7Jaguars1249.14.193
Jordan Matthews2 - 10Eagles16135.28.525
Paul Richardson2 - 13Seahawks1233.12.8104
Davante Adams2 - 21Packers1462.64.576
Cody Latimer2 - 24Broncos42.30.6175
Allen Robinson2 - 29Jaguars1068.86.968
Jarvis Landry2 - 31Dolphins1697.46.149
Josh Huff3 - 22Eagles1214.51.2134
Donte Moncrief3 - 26Colts1464.14.675
John Brown3 - 27Cardinals1699.06.247
Jalen Saunders4 - 4Jets8-1.3-0.2207
Bruce Ellington4 - 649ers1327.02.1108
Shaquelle Evans4 - 15Jets----
Martavis Bryant4 - 18Steelers10104.110.442
Kevin Norwood4 - 23Seahawks610.21.7144
Ryan Grant5 - 2Redskins66.81.1153
Devin Street5 - 6Cowboys41.80.5177
Jared Abbrederis5 - 36Packers----
Robert Herron6 - 9Buccaneers611.82.0138
T.J. Jones6 - 13Lions----
Matt Hazel6 - 14Dolphins----
Walt Powell6 - 20Cardinals4-2.0-0.5209
Quincy, Enunwa6 - 33Jets----
Mike Campanaro7 - 3Ravens416.24.1128
Jeff Janis7 - 21Packers11.61.6178
James Wright7 - 24Bengals1112.11.1137
Tevin Reese7 - 25Chargers----
Jeremy Gallon7 -29Patriots----

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2013

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Tavon Austin1 - 8Rams1390.97.051
DeAndre Hopkins1 - 27Texans1690.25.652
Cordarrelle Patterson1 - 29Vikings16116.77.332
Justin Hunter2 - 2Titans1459.44.274
Robert Woods2 - 9Bills1480.35.757
Aaron Dobson2 - 27 Patriots1275.96.360
Terrance Williams3 - 12Cowboys16102.06.440
Keenan Allen3 - 14Chargers15148.69.917
Marquise Goodwin 3 - 16Bills1245.63.8100
Markus Wheaton3 - 17Steelers96.40.7158
Stedman Bailey3 - 30Rams1131.92.9114
Ace Sancers4 - 4Jaguars1559.64.073
Josh Boyce4 - 5Patriots612.12.0138
Chris Harper4 - 26Seahawks10.00.0191
Quinton Patton4 - 3149ers36.02.0161
Denard Robinson5 - 2Jaguars132.60.2176
Kenny Stills5 - 11Saints1695.15.948
Tavarres King5 - 28Broncos----
Corey Fuller6 - 3Lions----
Ryan Swope6 - 6Cardinals----
Justin Brown6 - 18Steelers----
Alan Bonner6 - 27Texans----
Cobi Hamilton6 - 29Bengals----
Brice Butler7 - 3Raiders810.31.3142
Charles Johnson7 - 10Packers----
Kevin Dorsey7 - 18Packers----
Marquess Wilson7 - 30Bears31.30.4182
Aaron Mellette7 - 32Ravens----

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2012

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Justin Blackmon1 - 5Jaguars16120.87.629
Michael Floyd1 - 13Cardinals1666.24.168
Kendall Wright1 - 20Titans1585.05.755
A.J. Jenkins1 - 3049ers3---
Brian Quick2 - 1Rams1527.61.8114
Stephen Hill2 - 11Jets1143.23.993
Alshon Jeffery2 - 13Bears1054.75.579
Ryan Broyles2 - 22Lions1043.04.395
Rueben Randle2 - 31Giants1647.83.089
DeVier Posey3 - 5Texans118.40.8154
T.J. Graham3 - 6Bills1538.72.6100
Mohamed Sanu3 - 20Bengals947.85.388
T.Y. Hilton3 - 29Colts15137.09.123
Chris Givens4 - 1Rams1591.06.152
Travis Benjamin4 - 5Browns1452.43.783
Joe Adams4 - 9Panthers9-4.0-0.4206
Devon Wylie4 - 12Chiefs65.30.9164
Jarius Wright4 - 23Vikings744.16.392
Keshawn Martin4 - 26Texans1619.81.2131
Nick Toon4 - 27Saints----
Greg Childs4 - 39Vikings----
Danny Coale5 - 17Cowboys----
Marvin Jones5 - 31Bengals1130.82.8109
Juron Criner5 - 33Raiders1223.11.9123
B.J. Cunningham6 - 13Dolphins----
Marvin McNutt6 - 24Eagles40.00.0198
Tommy Streeter6 - 28Ravens----
LaVon Brazil6 - 36Colts1522.61.5124
Rishard Matthews7 - 20Dolphins815.11.9137
Toney Clemons7 - 24Steelers34.11.4172
Jeremy Ebert7 - 28Patriots----
Junior Hemingway7 - 31Chiefs----
Jordan White7 - 37Jets21.30.7186

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2011

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
A.J. Green1 - 4Bengals15153.010.214
Julio Jones1 - 6Falcons13147.511.318
Jonathan Baldwin1 - 26Chiefs1131.42.9110
Titus Young2 - 12Lions1698.26.146
Torrey Smith2 - 26Ravens16130.08.122
Greg Little2 - 27Browns1684.45.353
Randall Cobb2 - 32Packers1544.02.994
Austin Pettis3 - 14Rams1225.02.1121
Leonard Hankerson3 - 15Redskins416.34.1129
Vincent Brown3 - 18Chargers1244.93.793
Jerrel Jernigan3 - 19Giants----
Kris Durham4 - 10Seahawks33.01.0166
Edmond Gates4 - 14Dolphins----
Greg Salas4 - 15Rams627.24.5119
Cecil Shorts4 - 17Jaguars109.00.9145
Tandon Doss4 - 26Ravens----
Kealoha Pilares5 - 1Panthers----
Denarius Moore5 - 17Raiders13103.98.039
Jeremy Kerley5 - 22Jets1441.83.098
Niles Paul5 - 24Redskins123.20.3163
Ryan Whalen6 - 2Bengals42.70.7170
Dwayne Harris6 - 11Cowboys----
Aldrick Robinson6 - 13Redskins----
Ronald Johnson6 - 1749ers----
Scotty McKnight7 - 24Jets----
Stephen Burton7 - 33Vikings43.81.0160
David Ausberry7 - 38Raiders111.20.1180
DeMarco Sampson7 - 46Cardinals113.60.3162

Rookie Wide Receivers - 2010

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Demaryius Thomas1 - 22Broncos938.44.397
Dez Bryant1 - 24Cowboys1292.17.747
Arrelious Benn2 - 7Buccaneers1355.04.279
Golden Tate2 - 28Seahawks1123.12.1119
Damian Williams3 - 13Titans922.42.5120
Brandon LaFell3 - 14Panthers1358.84.576
Emmanuel Sanders3 - 18Steelers1249.64.184
Jordan Shipley3 - 20Bengals1578.05.257
Eric Decker3 - 23Broncos914.61.6133
Andre Roberts3 - 24Cardinals1442.73.190
Armanti Edwards3 - 25Panthers30.70.2177
Taylor Price3 - 26Patriots14.14.1159
Mardy Gilyard4 - 1Rams76.30.9153
Mike Williams4 - 3Buccaneers16158.49.912
Marcus Easley4 - 9Bills----
Jacoby Ford4 - 10Raiders1586.55.850
David Reed5 - 25Ravens101.50.2171
Riley Cooper5 - 28Eagles817.62.2126
Kerry Meier5 - 34Falcons----
Carlton Mitchell6 - 8Browns10.90.9174
Dezmon Briscoe6 - 22Bengals215.37.7131
Antonio Brown6 - 26Steelers916.71.9129
David Gettis6 - 29Panthers1569.04.666
Kyle Williams6 - 3749ers30.80.3175
Terrence Austin7 - 12Redskins44.71.2158
Marc Mariani7 - 15Titans----
Timothy Toone7 - 48Lions----

Based on the tables above, 215 rookie wide receivers have been selected in the NFL draft over the past seven years. Granted, all 215 wide receivers would not be considered in a fantasy football draft. So let’s consider just those wide receivers who were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft as potential fantasy wide receivers for that particular year. That would leave us with 27 wide receivers. Of these 27, eight were within the top-30 of fantasy wide receivers based on total fantasy points scored as shown below:

  • A.J. Green – Bengals (2011) – 14th
  • Julio Jones – Falcons (2011) – 18th
  • Justin Blackmon – Jaguars (2012) – 29th
  • Sammy Watkins – Bills (2014) – 26th
  • Mike Evans – Buccaneers (2014) – 10th
  • Odell Beckham – Giants (2014) – 5th
  • Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers (2014) – 17th
  • Amari Cooper – Raiders (2015) – 25th

The one factor all eight players had going in their favor was that they were designated as a starting wide receiver of their NFL team. But does being drafted in the first round and named one of the team’s starting wide receivers guarantee success? Again, the answer is of course not, but it helps. However, there are, as discussed at the beginning of this article, many hurdles that stand in the way of a rookie wide receiver’s success.

Just as it is with running backs, it is possible to find productive rookie wide receivers who were drafted outside the first round. The primary factor is opportunity. In other words, the rookie has become his team’s lead wide receiver. Rookies who were drafted outside the first round yet finished their first season as one of the league’s top-30 fantasy wide receivers include:

  • Mike Williams – Buccaneers (2010 – 4th round) – 12th
  • Torrey Smith – Ravens (2011 – 2nd round) – 22nd
  • T.Y. Hilton – Colts (2012 – 3rd round) – 23rd
  • Keenan Allen – Chargers (2013 – 3rd round) – 17th
  • Jordan Matthews – Eagles (2014 – 2nd round) – 25th
  • Michael Thomas – Saints (2016 – 2nd round) – 9th
  • Tyreek Hill – Chiefs (2016 – 5th round) – 11th

Drafting a rookie wide receiver is about as risky as drafting a rookie quarterback. There are significant adjustments required at this position. As stated earlier, it usually takes a couple of seasons for everything to finally click. Choose carefully if thinking about drafting a rookie wide receiver and make sure you take into consideration team’s quarterback along with the system in which he plays and the competition on the depth chart. Consistent scoring is more likely to come from a player who knows a team’s system well and has earned the confidence of his quarterback, although there are always exceptions – like the first round picks in 2014. That was a special group of rookie prospects.

Rookie Tight Ends - 2016

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Hunter Henry2 - 4Chargers1393.87.211
Austin Hooper3 - 18Falcons1345.13.835
Nick Vannett3 - 32Seahawks33.21.193
Tyler Higbee4 - 12Rams1114.51.363
Seth Devalve4 - 40Browns824.73.147
Temarrick Hemingway6 - 2Rams10.00.0114
Jerell Adams6 - 9Giants918.22.059
David Morgan6 - 13Vikings20.40.2112
Rico Gathers6 - 42Cowboys----
Thomas Duarte7 - 10Dolphins----
Beau Sandland7 - 31Panthers----

Rookie Tight Ends - 2015

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Maxx Williams2 - 23Ravens1232.82.743
Clive Walford3 - 4Raiders1550.93.430
Tyler Kroft3 - 21Bengals1118.91.756
Jeff Heuerman3 - 28Broncos----
Blake Bell4 - 1849ers918.62.157
MyCole Pruitt5 - 7Vikings118.90.880
C.J. Uzomah5 - 21Bengals20.40.2105
Jesse James5 - 24Steelers513.62.766
Nick Boyle5 - 35Ravens917.31.959
James O'Shaughnessy5 - 37Chiefs68.71.581
Nick O'Leary6 - 18Bills33.71.290
Malcom Johnson6 - 19Browns51.50.397
Randall Telfer6 - 22Browns----
A.J. Derby6 - 26Patriots----
Kennard Backman6 - 37Packers----
Ben Koyack7 - 12Jaguars----
Geoff Swaim7 - 29Cowboys10.00.0110
Rory Anderson7 - 3749ers----
Gerald Christian7 - 39Cardinals----

Rookie Tight Ends - 2014

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Eric Ebron1 - 10Lions1230.82.645
Austin Seferian-Jenkins2 - 6Buccaneers932.13.643
Jace Amaro2 - 17Jets1446.53.329
Troy Niklas2 - 20Cardinals43.81.092
C.J. Fiedorowicz3 - 1Texans58.81.876
Richard Rodgers3 - 34Packers1334.52.740
Crockett Gillmore3 - 35Ravens918.12.056
Arthur Lynch5 - 15Dolphins----
Ted Bolser7 - 2Redskins----
Rob Blanchflower7 - 15Steelers----

Rookie Tight Ends - 2013

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Tyler Eifert1 - 21Bengals1556.53.829
Zach Ertz2 - 3Eagles1570.94.720
Gavin Escobar2 - 15Cowboys925.42.850
Vance McDonald2 - 2349ers1011.91.263
Travis Kelce3 - 1Chiefs----
Jordan Reed3 - 23Redskins969.77.721
Dion Sims4 - 9Dolphins79.21.368
Levine Toilolo4 - 36Falcons1117.51.658
Luke Willson5 - 25Seahawks1233.22.847
Nick Kasa6 - 4Raiders46.91.782
Mychal Rivera6 - 16Raiders1664.74.023
Ryan Griffin6 - 33Texans1030.43.049
Michael Williams7 - 5Lions----
D.C. Jefferson7 - 13Cardinals----
Chris Gragg7 - 16Bills211.35.764
Justice Cunningham7 - 48Colts10.40.4108

Rookie Tight Ends - 2012

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Coby Fleener2 - 2Colts1240.13.338
Dwayne Allen3 - 1Colts1670.64.423
Michael Egnew3 - 15Dolphins----
Ladarius Green4 - 15Chargers45.61.476
Evan Rodriguez4 - 16Bears122.10.288
Orson Charles4 - 21Bengals1610.10.661
Adrien Robinson4 - 32Giants----
Rhett Ellison4 - 33Vikings166.50.473
Taylor Thompson5 - 10Titans164.60.382
James Hanna6 - 16Cowboys168.60.567
Drake Dunsmore7 - 26Buccaneers----
David Paulson7 - 33Steelers165.10.380

Rookie Tight Ends - 2011

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Kyle Rudolph2 - 11Vikings1542.92.935
Lance Kendricks2 - 15Rams1532.42.241
Rob Housler3 - 5Cardinals1211.30.961
Jordan Cameron4 - 5Browns83.30.485
Luke Stocker4 - 7Buccaneers149.20.765
Julius Thomas4 - 32Broncos40.50.1100
D.J. Williams5 - 10Packers131.30.194
Lee Smith5 - 28Patriots91.10.195
Richard Gordon6 - 16Raiders120.20.0103
Virgil Green7 - 1Broncos152.40.290
Ryan Taylor7 - 15Packers156.40.475
Daniel Hardy7 - 35Buccaneers----

Rookie Tight Ends - 2010

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Jermaine Gresham1 - 21Bengals1469.14.921
Rob Gronkowski2 - 10Patriots16112.67.05
Ed Dickson3 - 6Ravens1021.22.152
Tony Moeaki3 - 29Chiefs1573.64.920
Jimmy Graham3 - 31Saints1265.95.523
Aaron Hernandez4 - 15Patriots1497.06.911
Dennis Pitta4 - 16Ravens20.10.1100
Garrett Graham4 - 20Texans----
Clay Harbor4 - 27Eagles613.22.260
Michael Hoomanawanui5 - 1Rams732.64.740
Andrew Quarless5 - 23Packers1127.82.542
Brody Eldridge5 - 31Colts63.90.784
Fendi Onobun6 - 1Rams21.50.891
Dennis Morris6 - 5Redskins----
Nate Byham6 - 1349ers62.70.589
Anthony McCoy6 - 16Seahawks----
Mickey Shuler7 - 7Vikings14.44.480
Dorin Dickerson7 - 20Texans----
Jim Dray7 - 26Cardinals94.70.578
Dedrick Epps7 - 28Chargers----

Based on the tables above, 100 rookie tight ends have been selected in the NFL draft over the past seven years. Granted, all 100 tight ends would not be considered in a fantasy football draft. So let’s consider just those tight ends who were drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft as potential fantasy tight ends for that particular year. That would leave us with 15 tight ends. Of these 15, only one, New England’s Rob Gronkowski drafted in 2010, was within the top-10 of fantasy tight ends based on total fantasy points scored. Gronkowski ranked 5th.

Even though he did split targets with fellow tight end rookie, Aaron Hernandez, Gronkowski was a touchdown machine. Ten of quarterback Tom Brady’s 36 touchdowns were scored by Gronkowski. Aaron Hernadez added another six. Tight end Alge Crumpler added two more. A full 50% of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes were thrown to a tight end. The only other teams who could come close to that percentage in 2010 were the Jacksonville Jaguars with 42% (Marcedes Lewis) and the San Diego Chargers with 40% (Antonio Gates). In 2011, Tom Brady threw an even greater percentage (62%) of his touchdown passes to a tight end. The greatest single factor Rob Gronkowski had going in his favor as a rookie was having Tom Brady at quarterback.

Just like wide receivers, tight ends need to make similar adjustments from the college game to the NFL. To be a factor in fantasy football, a tight end must be in a system that uses the position as a receiver rather than additional protection for the quarterback on passing plays. However, in order for a player to even get on the field, a tight end has to be equally adept in both areas. Tight ends historically tend not to make a huge impact in their rookie year. Unless there is an outstanding talent going to a position-friendly offense, rookie tight ends are better left on the draft board.

Rookie Kickers - 2016

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Roberto Aguayo2 - 28Buccaneers16102.06.424

Rookie Kickers - 2014

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Zach Hocker7 - 13Redskins----
Nate Freese7 - 14Lions315534

Rookie Kickers - 2013

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Caleb Sturgis5 - 33Dolphins161257.818
Dustin Hopkins6 - 9 Bills----

Rookie Kickers - 2012

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Randy Bullock5 - 26Texans----
Greg Zuerlein6 - 1Rams16116.07.321
Blair Walsh6 - 5Vikings16168.010.51
John Potter7 - 44Bills----

Rookie Kickers - 2011

PlayerRound
and
Pick
TeamGames
Played
Total
Fantasy
Points
Fantasy
Points
per Game
Fantasy
Points
Rank
Alex Henery4 - 23Eagles16124.07.817

Kickers are rarely drafted by NFL teams and if they are, they tend to be picked in the later rounds, although the Buccaneers inexplicably spent a second-round pick on Roberto Aguayo, who then converted a sub-par 71% of his 31 field goal attempts in his first season. In 2010 and 2015, no kickers were selected in the draft. In 2012, however, Blair Walsh turned out to be a very nice find in the sixth round and proved to be a suitable replacement for Ryan Longwell. Even if a kicker does get drafted by an NFL team, there is usually a battle for the kicking job during training camp and a rookie could easily find himself out on the streets should he not perform as well as his veteran competitor. That happened to Zach Hocker in 2014. Or it could happen that a kicker could suffer a nasty groin injury right before the beginning of the season and miss the entire year. That happened to Buffalo’s Dustin Hopkins in 2013.

Thank you for reading this rather lengthy discussion on rookies. Hopefully, with the data presented, fantasy football team owners will think carefully before investing a draft pick on a rookie. Although there is fantasy gold to be found from time to time in the NFL draft, most first-round picks don’t pan out as rookie superstars. Give them time to develop.

Related articles at Fantasy Football Impact:

Return to the Drafting Strategies overview page

Drafting a Rookie in Fantasy Football - a Good Idea?

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.