Attempting to pinpoint when to draft rookies in fantasy football can be as tough as throwing darts at a dartboard with a blindfold on. Sometimes you’re going to hit it big, but many times, you’re going to miss badly. Heading into the 2017 NFL season, there are plenty of rookies who have pretty high ADPs (average draft positions), and honestly, they’re too high.
So, how can you find the diamonds in the rough? The ones who you won’t have to spend a high draft pick on in order to get production from? Well, we’re going to breakdown the five rookies who’ll outperform their current average draft position, courtesy of Fantasy Pros’ point-per-reception (PPR) consensus ranks.
Dalvin Cook, running back, Minnesota Vikings
Average Draft Position: 45.8
In 12-team leagues, Cook is pushing the fourth round. At end of the day, there’s reason to believe he’ll put up numbers that are better than Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, who’s going over 14 spots earlier on average. While much of the rave about McCaffrey is his ability to catch passes, Cook is a pretty great pass catcher as well. During his senior season with Florida State, he caught 33 passes for 488 yards.
With Cook’s explosiveness and ability to do a little bit of everything, he should be able to not only win the starting job for the Vikings but hold onto it as well. Sure, Minnesota signed Latavius Murray this offseason, but that was before they knew that Cook would fall into the second round of the 2017 NFL draft.
Corey Davis, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
Average Draft Position: 117.2
While the Titans have Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker, they didn’t spend the No. 5 pick in the 2017 NFL draft on Corey Davis to let him watch on the sidelines. Davis was the definition of a star at Western Michigan, topping 1,400 yards in each of his final three seasons while scoring 46 touchdowns over that span as well.
One could argue that he (obviously) will face tougher competition in the NFL, but he has playmakers working alongside him that should help him to avoid double teams. For many rookie wideouts drafted this high, they’re stuck on a team without other serious weapons, but that’s not the case here. You can get Davis in close to the 10th round, making him a player more than worth putting on your bench with the potential for him to break out in a big way.
Samaje Perine, running back, Washington Redskins
Average Draft Position: 127.4
To clarify, I don’t think Perine is going to supplant Rob Kelley right out of the gate for the Redskins. With that said, Perine is an explosive running back, while Kelley is a power runner. If the Redskins want to work in a change-of-pace back, Perine is their man. While the former Oklahoma Sooner only caught 40 passes during his collegiate career, he could be a perfect option to transition into the type of back who can catch passes out of the backfield.
Overall, while I believe Kelley is a solid starter, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Perine wind up stealing some of the work after the first few weeks of the season. You don’t have to spend a high draft pick to land the former Sooners star, and you can stash him until he winds up taking advantage of that opportunity. Plus, if it doesn’t happen? No harm, no foul.
Zay Jones, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills
Average Draft Position: 151.6
When the Buffalo Bills chose to trade Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams, it meant a few things. The first is that they are committed to their youth movement, and the second is that they have to have some level of trust in rookie wideout Zay Jones. When looking at their depth chart, Jones is starting outside opposite of Jordan Matthews, who they also traded for.
The former East Carolina standout is going to get as much work as he can handle this season, assuming he’s able to take advantage of his opportunities. The upside is obviously there, as he racked up a ridiculous 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. If he and Tyrod Taylor are able to build an early rapport, then Jones may potentially be the biggest steal in the entire draft. So don’t hesitate to spend a 12th round pick on him.