Saquon Barkley leads the way for rookies who should make a fantasy impact in 2018.
Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the rear-view mirror, the buzz can begin regarding the rookie class. The question fantasy owners want the answer to is: which rookies will have fantasy value in 2018? While no one can say for sure, some of the players have landed on teams where they will be given a shot right away, while others may have to wait a bit.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Many Giants fans were very excited when Barkley's name was announced as the second pick in the draft. He's a running back who is expected to have the most fantasy impact in 2018. He immediately steps in as the No. 1 running back for the Giants. He possesses the skill set that will allow him to be an every-down back from the outset. His pass-catching ability only adds to his fantasy appeal. With an aging Eli Manning and a struggling offensive line, Barkley figures to get plenty of touches. There are other options in the passing game, but the presence of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram may actually open up more running room for Barkley. He's a RB1 in 2018 and he'll be gone in fantasy drafts by the middle of the second round, probably sooner.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Last year, the Seahawks had a hard time keeping healthy running backs on their roster. They traded down in the first round and took Penny (above, right) to hopefully avoid the revolving door that plagued their backfield last year. Penny figures to get every opportunity to claim the No. 1 job in training camp. Chris Carson, who played in just four games last season because of a broken leg and ankle injury, will likely line up behind Penny with C.J. Prosise being used on passing downs. Seattle will want to see what Penny can do. Monitor his progress during the preseason, but he will likely be drafted as an RB2 with RB1 upside.
Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins
Guice will likely pass Samaje Perine on the depth chart, but he will still play behind Chris Thompson when it comes to passing downs. Guice will see plenty of work on early downs, but if the Redskins start to trail, Guice will find himself on the bench. Unfortunately this kind of role, similar to what Perine had in 2017, doesn't always bode well for fantasy owners, especially those in PPR formats. In standard leagues, Guice will have more value. However, Perine only managed 603 rushing yards on 175 carries (3.4 ypc) and one touchdown. Assuming Guice puts up similar numbers, that's not exactly RB1 or even RB2 production. There's plenty of upside, but also a fair amount of risk.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Chubb has potential to be a solid fantasy running back, but right now, the Browns' backfield is crowded. Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson are there, and Hyde could easily be the early-down back and Johnson will step in during passing downs. The biggest question is where does Chubb fit in? He will likely get touches, but unless someone gets injured, he's going to have to prove himself to earn more playing time. Chubb should be drafted as an RB3 at least until we get a better sense on the pecking order.
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
While Devontae Booker is currently listed as the No. 1 running back that may change by the time Week 1 rolls around. Booker had 79 carries for 299 yards (3.8 ypc) and one touchdown in 2017. It shouldn't be hard to surpass those numbers if Freeman is as productive as he was at Oregon. Freeman could easily get the majority of the work by the middle of the season, if not sooner. He should be drafted in the later rounds for fantasy purposes, unless something changes in training camp to boost his value.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
With Dez Bryant and Jason Witten gone, Allen Hurns was the only pass catcher worth talking about for the Cowboys until Gallup was drafted. The Cowboys needed another wide receiver to help out Dak Prescott, and Gallup seems to fill that role. The Cowboys are already talking him up, and they are saying he should start in Week 1. Gallup won't play in the slot, but he still should get enough work to serve as a WR3 in fantasy.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons needed another pass catcher to play alongside Julio Jones. Ridley should eventually emerge as the No. 2 wide receiver. The Falcons still have Mohamed Sanu as well as tight end Austin Hooper, a duo that combined for 116 receptions and 1,229 yards last season. Ridley should cut into that, but his fantasy value is still up in the air. He should be drafted as a WR3 but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him put up better numbers as the season progresses.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers desperately need a pass catcher that Cam Newton can count on, and Moore just may fit the bill. He's immediately stepping into the No. 2 WR role for the Panthers, with Devin Funchess ahead of him in the pecking order. Aside from Greg Olsen (and Christian McCaffrey), Newton doesn't really have a lot of reliable options to throw the ball to. That's where Moore will excel. He should enter the 2018 season with immediate fantasy value, although he will likely be drafted as a WR3. He certainly has the potential to out-perform his ADP.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Mayfield may have been the No. 1 overall pick, but the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor this offseason for a reason. Taylor is expected to be the Week 1 starter, which gives Mayfield the opportunity to watch and learn rather than being thrown directly into the fire. Cleveland has made over its offense, but this unit is far from a sure thing. In a perfect world, Taylor starts every game, but it's certainly possible that Mayfield will get on the field at some point, especially if the Browns' offense struggles. Mayfield's not worth drafting, but you definitely should keep an eye on him.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins
While it is rare for a rookie tight end to make a fantasy impact, it can be done (see: Evan Engram, 2017). The rumors are that the Dolphins plan to utilize Gesicki in their offense, and they have an offensive coordinator (Dowell Loggains) who can certainly do just that. Ryan Tannehill is set to return as the Miami's starting quarterback and Jarvis Landry, the team's leading receiver each of the past three seasons, is now in Cleveland. With Landry gone, there are plenty of targets up for grabs, which means Gesicki has a golden opportunity to post some decent numbers. He's a TE2 heading into fantasy drafts.
-- Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.