Each year after the NFL Draft, people are quick to speculate which rookie players will return fantasy value in the coming season. While rookies tend to underwhelm in the fantasy department, there are always a few that make an immediate impact and deserve a roster spot.
QB – Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
Murray, the 2018 Heisman winner, lit the college football world on fire in 2018 throwing for 4,361 yards, 42 TDs, while rushing for 1,001 yards and 12 TDs. While he will assuredly not repeat these stats in the NFL, it shows you what he is capable of as a signal caller.
With the Cardinals shipping Josh Rosen to Miami, Murray is the unquestioned starter come week 1. He was hand-selected to take over the Kliff Kingsbury high flying offense. Kingsbury , who coached Murray in college, even admitted (before he became the Cardinals HC), that he would take Kyler Murray #1 overall if given a chance.
The top reason to consider drafting Kyler Murray next year is his rushing upside. Out of the gate, Murray will have a solid rushing floor. As a prolific runner in college, this will be an area that translates over well to the NFL. Many experts have him projected around 500 yards rushing range this season. With rushing numbers like that, even the most average passer will return fantasy value.
However, Murray is anything but an average passer. Those who compare him to Lamar Jackson must have never watched him play. Murray is dangerous outside the pocket, has great arm strength and has shown to be very accurate, especially on the run.
If everything comes together; his accuracy inside & outside the pocket, offensive scheme fit, and rushing ability, fantasy owners could be looking back at their drafts, wishing they took him in the 10th round.
RB – Josh Jacobs – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders selected Josh Jacobs with the 24th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Heading into the draft, there was a glaring need at RB with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch and the absence of any substantial free agent signing.
While there are questions around the effectiveness of the Raiders offense, in particular with the offensive line play, there are no questions around why the drafted Josh Jacobs in the 1st round. They drafted him to be their starter for the foreseeable future.
Prior to Lynch going down with a groin injury in 2018, he was averaging 15 carries per game, when Doug Martin took over after the week seven bye, Martin averaged 14.5 carries per game.
It is clear that Gruden wants to use a feature back and there is no reason why Josh Jacobs won’t see 55% or more of the teams carries. The Raiders did resign Doug Martin, but they did so after the draft which paints a clear picture as to who they see as the starter.
Regardless of how the Raiders offense fairs, volume alone will ensure Jacobs has an impact on the 2019 season.
RB – David Montgomery – Chicago Bears
Montgomery’s situation is a bit more cloudy than Jacobs. Tarik Cohen is locked in the 3rd down, change of pace role. There is no question that Cohen will see the lions share of the RB targets as one of the leagues premier pass-catching RBs.
Before the draft, the Bears signed RB Mike Davis in free agency to presumably push Jordan Howard for touches. However, the Bear’s practically gave away Howard to the Eagles, leaving Mike Davis as the lead guy, Cohen to compliment.
Going into the NFL Draft, the Bears only had six picks. Even with only six picks, they still traded away a 3rd, 5th, and 2020 4th to move up 14 slots to draft David Montgomery. To give away this draft capital with so few picks says one thing, they covet Montgomery.
While there is no doubt Montgomery is the RB of the future, his route to 2019 fantasy impact is somewhat questionable. Tarik Cohen is the pass-catching back, and Mike Davis will still get some play. Montgomery’s well-rounded skill set will still likely return at least RB3 numbers on a excellent offense. If Cohen or Davis were to go down with an injury, it would be David Montgomery season.
Look for Montgomery to be a high-ceiling flex with upside going in 2019.
RB – Darrell Henderson – LA Rams
Todd Gurley’s knee injury is one of fantasy football’s most significant unknowns. The Rams matched the offer sheet on Malcolm Brown this off-season then traded up to draft Henderson. While the Ram’s have been quietly optimistic on Gurley status, actions speak louder than words. They prepared to, at the very least, lessen Gurley’s load.
If Gurley’s load is lightened, Henderson will find his way to flex value on the Rams elite offense. While Henderson offers standalone flex value, he’s also an elite bench stash. If for some reason Gurley can’t play, we are talking about a possible top 12 performance out of Henderson.
RB – Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
Look for Mattison to fill the Latavius Murray role on the Vikings. Much due to Dalvin Cook’s injury history, the coaching staff is reluctant to give Cook a full workload. Mattison could very well see 30-35% of the carries on early downs, spelling Dalvin Cook.
Mattison could prove to hold flex value; toting 7-10 carries per game. Much like Henderson, he will be another elite handcuff is anything were to happen to Dalvin Cook. Cook has only played 15 of a possible 32 games in his NFL career due to injury.