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Rookies vs. Veterans in 2018 Fantasy Football: Position Battles and Outlooks

Rookies vs. Veterans in 2018 Fantasy Football: Position Battles and Outlooks
Brandon Murchison Staff Writer May 4, 2018 1:39AM EDT

How will the incoming class of newcomers impact the veterans on their rosters?

The NFL Draft has come and gone, now the real work begins for Fantasy owners. With destinations for rookies now in place, exactly how will the playing time shake out? We see it every season; some rookies come into the fold and make their presence felt to force playing time. Others fail to make the transition and fall into obscurity. It’s easy to see a path to playing time for the likes of Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones and D.J. Moore. But what about some of the other names out there that are not guaranteed snaps right out of the gates? Those are the names you need to know to be successful when it counts come draft time for your Fantasy leagues. Plus, how will the rookies affect some incoming veterans?

Will the Quarterbacks Provide Fantasy Production in 2018?

As we saw during Round 1 of the draft, quarterbacks came off the board early and often. Most often than not, these highly-drafted quarterbacks are sometimes forced into the lineup earlier than they need to be. But with this draft class, each QB finds himself in a position to where he could sit and learn for weeks at a time, if not the entire season.

Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson all have long-term appeal as dynasty cornerstones, but in terms of Fantasy value for 2018, their ceilings may be awfully low. Each QB finds themselves behind a veteran that could keep their teams in contention for most of the season, keeping these rookies on the bench. I see Darnold finding playing time earliest of the three, and he could be a sneaky late-season add if you find yourself in a pinch at the position. Otherwise, keep all these QBs on your dynasty radars for future seasons.

Josh Allen and Josh Rosen both find themselves in much more manageable positions heading into training camp. Josh Allen will be competing against A.J. McCarron for the starting gig, and the fact that the Bills traded up to get him may force their hand to get him in the lineup soon. The same could be said for Rosen, as he sits behind a more proven veteran in Sam Bradford. But with Bradford’s well-documented injury history, Rosen may very well have some appeal awfully early into the 2018 campaign. As far as Fantasy value for either player, both Rosen and Allen are worth late-round consideration in redraft leagues.

The Running Back Class Could Prove to Fruitful in 2018

Sony Michel versus the Field in New England?

Once Sony Michel was drafted by the Patriots at the end of Round 1, the speculation began as to what his role would be in the offense. Many were quick to say that he would replace Dion Lewis, but don’t go so far with that assumption. Michel shows little promise as a pass-catcher with only 80 targets in college and split time in the Georgia backfield with Nick Chubb. Odds are that the Patriots backfield will once again be Fantasy nightmare with Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee all still rostered. I would be willing to bet that the latter two could be shown the door, opening up opportunities for Michel. Nonetheless, Michel’s Fantasy potential will be capped by the rotation that the Patriots like to employ. He will likely be drafted as an RB3 based on early indications, but don’t be shocked to see Michel return only RB4 value.

Nick Chubb vs. Carlos Hyde/Duke Johnson

The Browns passed on Barkley at the top of the draft but decided to pull the trigger on a running back in Round 2, calling Nick Chubb’s name. Chubb gets to share the backfield with Carlos Hyde. Chubb has never played more than 50 percent of the snaps in his college career, while Hyde is always an injury question. This will keep both players fresh throughout the season. I could see a 700-yard, five-touchdown season on the ground from Chubb as he splits reps. He will be more of a value in standard leagues, as Duke Johnson will keep his role as the primary pass-catcher on this team. Expect for Chubb to fill a role on your team as an RB3.

Derrius Guice vs. Samaje Perine/Chris Thompson

It should not take long for a talent like Derrius Guice to overtake Samaje Perine in the Redskins backfield. His size, speed and vision check all the boxes of the prototypical NFL running back. With an above-average offensive line to run behind, coupled with the elusiveness he showed in college, Guice could be in store for a solid rookie season in Standard scoring leagues. There is no reason to believe that a RB2 finish isn’t within reach for him with a projection of 900 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. Expecting much in PPR could be a stretch as Jay Gruden has already stated that Chris Thompson will be his pass catcher in this backfield, leaving few targets for Guice.

Royce Freeman vs. Devontae Booker

Many people have been quick to speculate on this backfield once the selection of Royce Freeman was made. Expecting that the lead running back role will just be handed to Freeman is a far-fetched statement. This coaching staff still has confidence in what Booker can do on this offense, as he garnered a majority of the snaps down the stretch in 2017. Freeman has the ability to be a three-down back in the NFL, but the mileage on the tires from college could catch up to him early in his pro career. Look for the Broncos backfield to be split in snap counts most weeks with the coaches using the “hot-hand” approach. Also, don’t discount De’Angelo Henderson, who was a player that was being talked about early in 2017. He could also carve out a role for himself in this committee. As for Freeman/Booker, their current values are capped as low-end RB3s until one can separate from the other.

Best of the Rest

Kerryon Johnson finds himself behind LeGarrette Blount in Detroit, and unless an injury befalls Blount during the season, you can’t expect much from Johnson in 2018. More dynasty appeal than anything.

Nyheim Hines as of now is firmly entrenched as the backup to the much-hyped Marlon Mack in Indianapolis. If Mack proves that he cannot handle the full-time workload, Hines could very well steal snaps as the season progresses. Hines could be the late-round flier that pays off big time by year’s end with his athleticism. He has more of a nose for the end zone than Mack, which could give him a role as a red-zone back. Don’t discount the Colts as a team that could bring in a veteran presence like a DeMarco Murray, which could hinder Hines’ progression totally.

Mark Walton and John Kelly are both backs that would have more promise if they fell into better scenarios. But Walton is lost behind Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard in Cincinnati, while Kelly likely sees little time behind Todd Gurley in Los Angeles. If Gurley were to get hit with the injury bug, Kelly has the potential to bring you high-end RB2 numbers, so keep him in mind as a waiver add at some point.

The 2018 Wide Receiver Class Lacks Star Power and Fantasy Value

D.J. Moore vs. Devin Funchess

D.J. Moore was arguably the best receiver in this draft class and falls into a situation in Carolina where he could be the top receiving option to begin the season. We all know what Devin Funchess is and that is limited at best. Funchess primarily benefited from the lack of competition around him. That is not the case with Moore in town. He is the more polished receiver of the two, and he is a threat to score with the ball in his hand. Moore’s Fantasy value could be capped as a WR3 mainly due to the limitations of Cam Newton in the passing game. Funchess should see his value dip down to a WR4 for 2018.

Calvin Ridley vs Mohamed Sanu

The other top receiver of this rookie class, Calvin Ridley, finds himself in a potential Fantasy gold mine in Atlanta. With the Falcons employing three-receiver sets for a majority of their snaps, Ridley could be seeing the field a ton in his rookie season. He likely will see most of his playing time outside, opposite of Julio Jones, while Sanu plays mainly out of slot. The early stages of the season, you could see Ridley and Sanu flip-flop on target share each week, making it hard to get a grasp on which player is more valuable in Fantasy. But when it’s all said and done, I can see Ridley’s potential as a high-end WR3, outpacing Sanu’s ceiling, which may only be as a WR4.

The Mixed Bag of Wide Receivers in 2018

Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton could been intriguing in other landing spots, but with both now in Denver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, they have limited ceilings. Sutton has end of the bench potential in Fantasy in 2018 but consider both players to be dynasty investments as the Broncos could let both Thomas and Sanders walk after the upcoming season.

Dante Pettis has more long-term value in San Francisco than immediate Fantasy potential. His crisp route-running and sure hands will likely find snaps from time to time but being behind Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin will limit him. Pettis will likely be the primary punt returner for the 49ers in 2018.

Christian Kirk could be a sneaky target late in drafts for 2018 as his potential as a scoring threat for the Cardinals is intriguing. Larry Fitzgerald is likely in the last year of his career, while J.J. Nelson is a player that flashes but is inconsistent. Kirk is worth a late-round flier in redrafts, but his dynasty potential is very high.

Anthony Miller could very well be the best receiver coming out of this group,  but his potential is clearly tied to the progression of Mitch Trubisky in Chicago. If Trubisky becomes this year’s Jared Goff, Miller could certainly provide WR3/WR4 numbers by year’s end. But if Trubisky falters, Miller could be relegated to waiver-wire fodder in redraft leagues.

Michael Gallup may be counted on to be the replacement for Dez Bryant in Dallas eventually, but expecting that in 2018 is a stretch. He is behind several players in terms of targets in the passing game, and the Dallas offense will be very run-heavy this season. Simply put, the opportunities will just not be there for Gallup to be worth the headache in 2018. His dynasty value, on the other hand, is quite the opposite as he transitions into the NFL.

James Washington replaces Martavis Bryant in Pittsburgh but will be a forgotten option most weeks as this passing attack goes through Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

D.J. Chark brings value as a potential big-play threat, but in Jacksonville’s crowded receiving corps, it will be hard to count on a consistent number of targets each week.

Will Any Tight End Separate from the Pack in This Class?

The Ravens turned heads by drafting both Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, but will either player be worth Fantasy consideration? Flacco does like to utilize the tight end, but I envision both of these players taking away from the other. Hurst is the player to give the shot to first as a late-round target, but don’t expect much early in the season as he should only provide TE2 value.

Mike Gesicki likely fell into a perfect landing spot with the Dolphins and could be a sleeper late into the 2018 season. The Dolphins want to utilize the position more, and Gesicki can stretch the field, find open space and present matchup problems for opposing defenses. He could be a matchup-based option if you like to stream the position in Fantasy.

Dallas Goedert fills the void left by Trey Burton in Philadelphia, and his value is capped by the presence of Zach Ertz. If Ertz misses time, Goedert could easily perform at a TE1 level.

Jordan Akins going to the Texans has some intrigue as both Ryan Griffin and Stephen Alexander are nothing special. Akins could take over the role and provide some production as a TE2 and a streaming option later into the 2018 season.

Royce Freeman Featured Image: (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 

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