2017 Fantasy Football Impact Rookies: Young Blood

by Trent Smith
2017 Fantasy Football Impact Rookies

With fantasy football season right around the corner, lists, and rankings of NFL rookies ready to make an impact are already being compiled. Every season, a new group of rookies emerge ready to blossom into fantasy studs. Talent, injuries and other circumstances help the stars to align for a few rookies each year, helping them soar above their typical draft day values.

The 2016 season saw the likes of Dak Prescott, Michael Thomas and Ezekiel Elliot become huge fantasy contributors. Meanwhile, lesser known entities like Rob Kelley and Jordan Howard helped power fantasy teams down the stretch.

As your fantasy draft dates begin to creep up, there are a select number of rookies that you should be keeping an eye on. Below are the young stars with who are most likely to emerge in 2017

2017 Fantasy Football Impact Rookies

Early-Round Rookies

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The 2016 season was a disaster for the Jaguars. Their defense gave up the eighth most points per game in the league, leading to a 3-13 record.

This was in part due to an abysmal rushing attack, headed by Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, who ran for just 904 yards on 247 carries.  Nothing about those numbers are promising.

However, this offseason the Jaguars spent big money to improve on the defensive side of the ball, which will improve their week-to-week game script. Avoiding the tendency to fall behind early like they did in 2016 will help provide a more balanced attack offensively.

With a new head coach, very little backfield competition, and a fresh No.4 overall running back, the Jaguars ground game should be due for a nice uptick.

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Over the past two seasons, running back Jeremy Hill has posted a putrid 3.7 yards per carry.  In week 11 of the 2016 season, pass-catching back Giovani Bernard tore his ACL. Why is this important? Because with the No.48 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft, the Bengals addressed what they think is a need at the running back position.

Clearly, the Bengals see a unique talent in Mixon, worthy of drafting him in the middle of the second round, despite off the field issues. After receiving rave reviews this offseason, Mixon's draft stock is soaring.

With Bernard likely to open the season unavailable, and a Bengals offense that projects to be one of the higher-powered in the league, Mixon has legitimate RB1 upside. A running attack that has ranked in the top-10 in both rushing attempts and red-zone carries over the past three seasons certainly doesn't hurt.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

After totaling over 1,900 yards of offense in each of his final two seasons at Stanford, McCaffrey was drafted by the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 overall. Not only is McCaffrey projected to have a large share of the workload on the ground, but he is more than adept at being a pass-catcher out of the backfield.The one thing that slightly devalues his week-to-week fantasy outlook is

The one thing that slightly devalues his week-to-week fantasy outlook is veteran back Jonathan Stewart. However, Stewart is now entering his 10th NFL season and has not played more than 13 games in a season since 2011. To make matters worse, he has run for more than 4.0 ypc in just two of his last five seasons.

At the very least, McCaffrey is a solid PPR play with flex appeal in standard scoring leagues.  At his best, he toes the RB1/RB2 line in all formats.

Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

Davis produced over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in the 2016 season at Western Michigan. As the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, he enters a fantastic situation with the Tennessee Titans.

Young signal caller Marcus Mariota improved in his second season, throwing for 26 touchdowns and completing just over 61 percent of his passes. Despite his improvements, no pass-catcher for the Titans topped 1,000 yards receiving.

Davis' competition for targets will come from the foursome of Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, new signee Eric Decker and tight end Delanie Walker.  However, if Davis flashes his talent early, he will have no problem surpassing his fellow pass-catchers for targets. For a blossoming offense that ranked 11th in total offense in 2016, they will be looking for a young wide receiver to help them make the next leap in 2017.

The Sleepers

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

In the 2016 NFL season, Spencer Ware managed to average 4.0 ypc in seven of his first nine games.  He managed that feat only once in his final five contests, good enough for a 4.3 ypc at seasons end.  This furthers the popular opinion that Ware is not a workhorse.

Enter, Kareem Hunt. The third round draft pick out of Toledo with immediate three-down potential. Over Andy Reid's coaching career, he has had a knack for producing stud fantasy running backs. Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles... Once a running back asserts himself as the superior back, Reid has no problem giving them the load.

Hunt's draft stock will keep rising as long as he continues to impress in camp.  However, he is currently a potential steal going as the No.38 running back in fantasy drafts.

Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

Following running back Rob Kelley's lackluster finish to the 2016 season (3.1 ypc over his last six games), the Redskins drafted Perine at No.114 overall in the draft. Each coming week, Perine's stock continues to rise.  However, he is still only

Each coming week, Perine's stock continues to rise.  However, he is still only being taken as the No. 40  running back off of draft boards. Despite Kelley's erratic efficiency over certain stretches, the Skins offense still hummed to a No.3 finish in offensive scoring and recorded the sixth most rushing touchdowns with 17.  With Kelley seemingly holding a very loose grip on head coach Jay Gruden's running game, Perine seems poised to get plenty of opportunities as an early impact rookie.

Talented running back Chris Thompson remains on the roster.  However, after receiving only 68 carries in 2016, he presents competition only as a third- down back.

Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills

Looking at Zay Jones' current situation, it's hard not to love his 2017 upside. Jones enters the NFL after becoming the all-time FBS  leader in receptions at East Carolina. To help matters, the current Buffalo Bills receiving core is quite bland.  Outside of the oft- injured Sammy Watkins, just one

To help matters, the current Buffalo Bills receiving core is quite bland.  Outside of the oft-injured Sammy Watkins, just one Bills WR has topped 30 receptions in a season.  The exception, Robert Woods, caught just 51 passes over 13 games in 2016, but he is now in Los Angeles. Couple the lack of talented depth with the injury risk that comes with Watkins, and Jones will have no problem sliding in as Buffalo's immediate WR2/3.

Watkins has missed eleven games over the past two seasons, so seeing Jones turn into the WR1 for the Bills at some point is far from a stretch.  Though Buffalo has ranked in the bottom third in passing offense each of the past two seasons, former head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn are no longer at the helm.  With a strong run game and a healthy Sammy Watkins (we hope), the passing game should open up some in 2017.

Update After Bills Transactions

While the moving of Watkins doesn't bode well for the passing game overall, it should help Jones' value. Watkins being gone means more targets for the rookie, despite the addition of Boldin and Matthews.  Both will take some targets, however, if Jones has the talent then he will beat out the 36- year old Boldin as the No.2 option. Overall, this presents a perfect opportunity for Jones to make an early impact and should bump up his current ADP.

2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

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1 comment

Friday July 21, 2017 - Fantasy Football Links - FantasyRundown.com July 21, 2017 - 9:53 am

[…] identifies some of the fantasy rookies that could have an impact as early as this […]


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