The spectacle of the NFL Draft has faded into our rear-view mirror and summer training camp is around the corner! Most of the rookies, at least the ones that weren’t injured while putting on their uniform for the first time (sorry Dante Fowler), are making a name for themselves with their new teams. Of course, most reports at this point are strictly positive and purely fluff, so we have to take our speculation game up to a whole new level! Here are Dad Kingdom’s rankings of the fantasy football rookies. *Updated Aug. 17.
1. MELVIN GORDON
Most people will agree with my top pick. Gordon’s landing spot with the San Diego Chargers has the three ingredients that can lead to a rookie’s early success. Playing time, a potent offense, and of course talent. The first one is obvious. Last season Ryan Mathews only played 6 games (now with the Eagles) and Brandon Oliver wasn’t the answer. The result, almost dead last in rushing YPG (30th). The second ingredient is a little more debatable. The Chargers offense has ranked 19, 14, and 17 in PPG over the last three seasons. Average by definition. But, I think their offense is better than those rankings show. I think Keenan Allen will bounce back from his sophomore slump to help out Rivers and the offense will end up in the top third. Lastly, it’s plain to see on tape that Gordon is talented. But, will he break the trend of disappointing Wisconsin running backs?
2. KEVIN WHITE
Now that Brandon Marshall is employed by the woeful Jets, there are some massive green mental-health-awareness shoes that need to be filled alongside Alshon Jeffrey. Kevin White should fit into those shoes nicely. As the blatent centerpiece of the Mountaineers offense last season, White was rarely shut down and ripped off over 1400 yards and 10 TDs. Now, he’ll be the 3rd priority of opposing defenses (maybe the 4th, if Martellus Bennett gets the extension he’s holding out for). Combine that with Cutler’s propensity to sling the ball around, and White has the opportunity for a terrific rookie campaign. *Update: Since writing this, White has undergone surgery for a shin stress fracture. He still has a lot of dynasty value, but obviously this is a huge hit to his 2015 value.
3. TODD GURLEY
In November of 2014, Gurley tore his ACL. Now he’s making great progress and hoping to overtake Tre Mason as the Rams’ lead back. Mason is a good RB but not as gifted as a healthy Gurley. That will be plain to see soon enough. But, keep in mind, this is more of a dynasty ranking. If you’re in a re-draft league, it’s unwise to depend on a rookie recovering from a major injury to contribute immediately.
4. AMARI COOPER
The rowdy fan section cheering for the Raiders isn’t the only “Black Hole” in Oakland. It’s also a black hole for talented football players. Amari Cooper has his work cut out for him if he wants to be relevant. The only team that scored less than the Raiders last year was the Jaguars! I’ve got him ranked this high with hopes that he and Derek Carr grow and improve together over the next couple years. Like Todd Gurley, if you’re in a re-draft league and need production immediately, look elsewhere!
5. TEVIN COLEMAN
Here’s an interesting situation. Devonta Freeman, a fourth round pick last spring, failed to impress with limited touches last season. But, now that Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers are both gone, Freeman will get a fair shake at the starting gig. Third round pick Tevin Coleman, a dynamic homerun threat, will be in the mix. But, exactly to what degree will depend inversely on Freeman’s success. Don’t forget about Antone Smith, the touchdown whisperer (5 TDs on a mere 36 touches in 2014). He’ll surely pouch a few after his broken leg heals.
6. NELSON AGHOLOR
I was a little more excited about the Eagles offense before that confusing quarterback trade. Chip Kelly will still run plays at an infamously fast pace, though. Last season they were the only team to run more than 70 plays per game, and they were 2 TDs from leading the league in points scored. The backfield tandum of Murray and Mathews will keep defenses honest, and with Maclin gone, they have no choice but to rely on Agholor and Jordan Matthews for receiving production.
7. BRESHAD PERRIMAN
My preference for Agholor over Breshad Perriman will likely change multiple times based on various camp reports. I like them both. The Baltimore offense isn’t quite as explosive as Philly’s, and Perriman isn’t quite as polished as Agholor. Yet, the Ravens are equally thin at wide receiver. So, the opportunity is there and Perriman is a first round talent who is capable of capitalizing on that opportunity. Plus, I’m sure he can learn a thing or two from 5-time pro bowler Steve Smith.
8. T.J. YELDON
Just like his Alabama brother from another mother, Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon will be playing in an offense which has been atrocious as of late. Dead last in 2014 PPG to be exact. But there is a glimmer of hope in Jacksonville. Hopefully Blake Bortles can take a step forward with the help of some healthy receivers and the addition of stud TE Julius Thomas. Ideally, an improved passing game will open up holes for Yeldon. But, the Jaguars offense isn’t my only concern. Yeldon’s junior season was good, but not as great as many were expecting. In some ways he was outplayed by Derrick Henry, and in 2012 he certainly wasn’t as good as teammate Eddie Lacy. The good thing for him is that incumbent RB Toby Gerhart poses little threat to Yeldon’s playing time for 2015.
9. AMEER ABDULLAH
The Lions got themselves a great talent here. I might bump Abdullah up as the season draws near and his role becomes clearer. For now, I’m a little concerned that Joique Bell will get most of the touchdowns and at least 60% of the touches. Also, Abdullah had almost 900 touches in college which is a lot of wear and tear for a guy who’s only 5′-9″ and +/- 200 lbs. depending on where you look. But, he’s a force to be reckoned with and he’s been impressing Detroit coaches with his speed. Abdullah is definetely an upside pick, as one injury to 29-year-old Bell could lead to significant playing time and fantasy value. *Update: Ameer has been lighting it up and getting lots of praise from the Lions organization. I think he’s earned his way up a few spots.
10. JAELEN STRONG
This is an Amari Cooper-like situation. We’ve got a very talented WR with a clear path to playing time (alongside DeAndre Hopkins) but his fantasy stock is significantly downgraded because of offense deficiencies (in this case, inept QBs). Strong could be more valuable in a year or two if Houston’s QB situation improves. For now, Hopkins and Arian Foster will be the main recipients of fantasy points for the Texans. *Update: With Foster hurt, the Texans will really need to lean on the passing game. Strong came into camp out of shape, but has gotten back on track.
A few more fantasy football rookies that could break out, but the decks are stacked against them. Jay Ajayi could be very successful, but he’ll have to get past Lamar Miller first. He also needs to get back to full strength. Devin Funchess will easily secure the WR2 position in Carolina, but their offense isn’t exactly an aerial showcase. Maxx Williams is easily the most desirable rookie TE for 2015. But tight ends are inherently less valuable in fantasy drafts. Give him a bump in deeper leagues where the TE position is more scarce. Matt Jones is in a good position as the presumed backup to Alfred Morris. I’m just not convinced that he can excel at the NFL level. I hope he proves me wrong.