The 2017 NFL rookie class was very impressive and performed big early on this season. Presumptuous fantasy football players who drafted rookies this year were rewarded with big-time production. That is leaving everyone asking, who are the right players to draft in 2018?
The 2017 rookie class has been one for the ages. Rarely is there a draft where multiple star players arise in the NFL, but that was the case this season.
Two of the top-10 rushing leaders this season are rookies, in Leonard Fournette and Kareem Hunt.
Both of those players are special talents, but neither is the most impressive rookie running back this season. New Orleans Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara has been sensational in both the running and passing game while splitting carries with Mark Ingram.
Those are just the running backs. The receivers have been just as special in their respective rookie campaigns. The Los Angeles Rams drafted Cooper Kupp in 2017 to help sure up their offense, and he’s delivered with a 1,000-yard rookie season. He is joined by Pittsburgh rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, who wasn’t a factor to begin the season, but seized the first opportunity he saw and has impressed.
On prime-time Sunday Night Football, he had nearly 200 yards receiving to announce himself to the league as a future star for the Steelers.
All of these players, and more, have made many fantasy football players very happy in 2017.
Rookies are risky to draft because of their unknown skills and roles at the NFL level with their new teams. Out of the five players above, not one was drafted in the first round of any fantasy football drafts. However, each one has helped many people win on a weekly basis.
This is leaving everyone searching for next season’s breakout stars out of the 2018 rookie class. There are a lot of great players entering the NFL. However, only a few will make a real impact in fantasy football for 2018. There are still a ton of variables to asses, but we can start to judge these potential stars based on talent and production in college.
For fantasy football purposes, we are focused on offensive players who can give owners the best production from day one. Here are our top-five options to try to grab in your fantasy football draft next year.
No. 1: RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Penn State fell just short of the college football playoffs this season. It wasn’t due to lack of production from the running back position. This season, Saquon Barkley separated himself from his competition and proved he was the best back in the country time and time again.
Watching how he dominated the collegiate game has left no doubt in NFL scouts minds just how well he will do next season in the league.
There are few running backs who can say they ran for over 1,200 yards in three straight years like Barkley has. Barkley was the only threat on the Penn State offense and Big Ten opponents still couldn’t corral him.
Barkley’s rookie season in the NFL is shaping up a lot like Ezekiel Elliott’s was with the Cowboys two seasons ago. He is for sure a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and has the ability to completely transform an offense overnight.
Barkley can step into the NFL and be a back who gets 25-plus touches from Week 1. There are plenty of teams in the top-10 draft positions right now who need a playmaker like Barkley. San Francisco, Indianapolis, Cleveland and the New York Giants are all in need of a star running back like Barkley.
The best place for Barkley to wind up to maximize his fantasy football value is with the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo has changed the course of the franchise already in just a few short weeks. Adding Barkley would make that offense dynamic.
Honestly, there may be no “bad” place for Barkely to land next season. He has enough talent to succeed in almost any circumstance.
Barkley will be next season’s Leonard Fournette for fantasy football. No fantasy player wanted to touch any of the Jacksonville running backs before Fournette was drafted there. Barkley is going to be the face of an NFL team next season.
Look for him to be a mainstay in your fantasy football lineup when the 2018 season rolls around.