When it comes to drafting rookies in fantasy football, it's tough because you don't know how they will perform in the NFL. At this point, they have played in some preseason games and fantasy owners have a sense of how they'll perform in the NFL.
Some players are still in position battles, which need to be worked out before their true value can be determined. Many fantasy drafts will take place before that happens, so here is some analysis of the most likely outcome for the rookie quarterbacks and running backs.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Even though Watson is currently being drafted in the 14th round, he's no lock to even begin the season as the starter for the Texans. Tom Savage will likely be the Week 1 starter, but Watson will take over at some point. Savage has played a handful of games in his two-year NFL career and has been unimpressive, overall. Watson has proven capable in the preseason, especially using his legs to move the ball. With a little more development, he can help the team and fantasy owners. Until then, only consider him in two-QB leagues.
DeShone Kizer, QB, Cleveland Browns
Even though it seemed that Kizer wasn't ready to start for the Browns, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff, he'll do just that in Week 1. Brock Osweiler has struggled (and may not be a Brown for much longer if the team can find a trade partner), which has given Kizer plenty of opportunities to stake his claim. But just because Kizer will be starting for Cleveland that does mean he needs to be the starting QB for fantasy teams. Those in two-QB leagues may draft him, but even then, he's on a team that still needs a lot of work.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though Fournette will be the starting running back for the Jaguars, his current ADP of 2.08 seems a bit high. He is playing for the Jaguars, after all. Chris Ivory struggled running the ball last year; T.J. Yeldon has struggled as well. Jacksonville often has to play from behind, which means the Jaguars abandon the run game. While Fournette may have talent, he's not going to shine in Jacksonville. In addition, fantasy owners should be aware of a foot injury that has caused him to miss most of the preseason. While he should play in Week 1, he had an injury to the same foot in college.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Three running backs are being drafted in the third round, and McCaffrey is the earliest off the board out of that group. He will have more value in PPR leagues and he's going to be used as a pass-catching back. However, he is competing with Jonathan Stewart for touches (while Stewart is healthy, anyway). McCaffrey also may not get a lot of work in the red zone, as that is Stewart (and don't forget about Cam Newton) territory. Don't reach for McCaffrey in the third round.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
While Cook may be one of the most talented running backs in the rookie class, he is playing for the Vikings. Even Adrian Peterson couldn't run behind the Vikings’ offensive line last year. Cook has looked good in the preseason, but his third-round ADP is still a little high. Cook will have value as a pass-catcher as well as a between-the-tackles back, and his main competition appears to be Jerrick McKinnon rather than Latavius Murray. McKinnon has had plenty of opportunities to succeed, and has yet to do so. The job belongs to Cook, but how productive he can be is still a question mark.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
With a current ADP at the end of the third round, Mixon is still playing behind Jeremy Hill. He was initially listed with the third-string offense, but he's higher than that. However, Hill is still the veteran and the starter, with Mixon vying for work. He's looked impressive in the preseason, but this backfield is going to be messy. Giovani Bernard is still in the picture as well, and it's hard to envision a scenario in 2017 where the backfield will belong to just Mixon. He's a RB2, but shouldn't be drafted as high as the third round.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
While Hunt was being drafted in the eighth round, a knee injury (torn PCL) to Spencer Ware on Friday night will cause his ADP to skyrocket. Unless the Chiefs sign another running back, Hunt appears a fairly safe bet to take over as the No. 1 back. Even before the injury, he was challenging Ware for the starting job. Now that Ware will most likely undergo season-ending surgery, Hunt may have already done enough to rise to the top of the depth chart. If that’s the case, he will get plenty of work, and immediately becomes an RB2 that should be drafted in the fifth round or so.
Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins
Perine is being drafted in the ninth round, which is a little early for a player who is still lower on the depth chart. Rob Kelley has the running back job in Washington, and Perine isn't challenging him for that yet. He does have promise, but right now he's a Kelley handcuff and a dart throw, which is tough to justify for the ninth round.
Also being drafted in the 13th round or later:
Joe Williams, RB, San Francisco 49ers – Williams looks to be the handcuff for Carlos Hyde owners at this point. He's worth the late-round pick if you draft Hyde earlier.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts – Frank Gore is not going to play forever, and the Colts are going to look to get Mack more involved. He's a solid late-round pick that may end up having fantasy value by mid-season.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints – Kamara’s explosiveness and big-play ability could allow him to carve out a role sooner than later, especially as a receiver out of the backfield or on special teams. May be worth a late-round flyer, just don’t bank on immediate contributions.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears – A wrist injury to Ka’Deem Carey increases the likelihood that Cohen starts the season as the backup to Jordan Howard. Right now just a handcuff, Cohen could improve his fantasy relevance depending on how many touches the Bears give him.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Even though he's third on the depth chart, he may not be a bad late-round pick for Le'Veon Bell owners. If Bell were to go down, Conner would get a shot.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks – He’s worth a late-round pick because the Seahawks’ backfield is a mess. Carson may find value at some point this season.
De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Denver Broncos – While there may not initially be a spot for the rookie to shine with the other running backs on the team, he will likely get a chance at some point. He's a late-round stash for now.
— 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.