Fantasy Football ADP: The Rookies

NFL rookies historically have a slow transition from the college game, so there are very few players you can draft with confidence. The ADP data will bear that out. Still, every year a group of rookies break away from the pack and impact fantasy leagues right away. In 2012, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin hit the ground running. Last year it was Eddie Lacy, Le’veon Bell, Giovani Bernard and Keenan Allen. 2014 will be no different.

Have a look at the top-25 rookies currently being selected in National Fantasy Football Championship drafts (Please note, NFFC leagues are all PPR). It’s a deep rookie class, making for plenty of tantalizing options.

Rank Player ADP High Pick Low Pick
1 Bishop Sankey (RB, Ten) 66.1 38 174
2 Sammy Watkins (WR, Buf) 78.2 56 106
3 Brandin Cooks (WR, NO) 103.5 49 223
4 Mike Evans (WR, TB) 103.8 66 149
5 Jeremy Hill (RB, Cin) 117.4 71 219
6 Carlos Hyde (RB, SF) 125.5 59 238
7 Terrance West (RB, Cle) 129.7 92 294
8 Devonta Freeman (RB, Atl) 133.1 65 328
9 Eric Ebron (TE, Det) 141.7 103 200
10 Tre Mason (RB, StL) 144.8 76 258
11 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Car) 153.3 102 316
12 Jordan Matthews (WR, Phi) 163.3 101 353
13 Charles Sims (RB, TB) 165.8 111 223
14 Johnny Manziel (QB, Cle) 169.6 121 307
15 Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, NYG) 182.0 104 288
16 Marqise Lee (WR, Jax) 210.5 118 292
17 Andre Williams (RB, NYG) 215.1 134 342
18 Ka’Deem Carey (RB, Chi) 231.6 124 325
19 Cody Latimer (WR, Den) 235.2 158 370
20 Richard Rodgers (TE, GB) 236.0 124 405
21 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Min) 245.6 157 335
22 Jace Amaro (TE, NYJ) 249.8 150 373
23 Davante Adams (WR, GB) 256.7 116 357
24 James White (RB, NE) 259.6 127 408
25 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, TB) 261.3 162 388

Only two players, RB Bishop Sankey and WR Sammy Watkins, are regularly going in the top-100 overall. A handful of other players are flirting with the first 10 rounds of fantasy drafts. Pedigree and opportunity are the driving factors for rookie ADP. Sankey and Watkins were each drafted first at their respective positions and had starting roles handed to them from day one, but the later rounds provide some talented lottery tickets too.

Andre Williams, RB, NYG (215.1)
Williams is being penalized by the PPR format here. He should be somewhat, due to suspect hands (zero catches in 2013 at Boston Colloege), but not this much. The 230-pounder already owns goal line carries and is working behind a RB who has an injury history and never carried a full load.  Williams’ highest pick of 134 sounds about right in a standard 12-team league. Think LeGarrette Blount, but with better pedigree and a path to No. 1 back status eventually. If he can develop his passing down value, the sky is the limit.

Brandin Cooks, WR, NO (103.5) and Mike Evans, WR, TB (103.8)
These two first round picks couldn’t be more different  from a body-type and skills standpoint, but they have almost identical ADP’s — 25 picks later than Sammy Watkins. It’s not that 103 is way too low for either player, but I wouldn’t argue if they went higher. Like Watkins, both players will have significant roles in their first year and in the case of Cooks, has return value and Drew Brees throwing to him. Pass on Watkins at 78 if you can get Cooks or Evans at 103.

Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN (117.4)
Most of Hill’s hype comes from being the second RB taken in April’s draft. When you consider Hill’s role in Cincinnati, being the second fantasy rookie off the board makes little sense, especially in PPR leagues. Giovani Bernard is the clear starter, the better receiver and should see a majority of third down snaps. Hill is a solid handcuff, but you just have to look at Benjarvus Green-Ellis’ numbers from 2013 to get an idea of what to expect from the first-year back. That’s if BGE himself doesn’t keep a chunk of his workload.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, CAR (153.3)
Benjamin showed off some of skills with a diving touchdown catch in his preseason debut for the Panthers. Although he is old for a rookie (turns 24 in February… usually a red flag), he has freakish size at 6-5, 240 with 35-inch arms and can get down the field surprisingly well. Expect Benjamin to have a red zone presence right away and the opportunity to emerge as Cam Newton’s No. 1 receiver. He will rise from his current 153.3 ADP.

Richard Rodgers, TE, GB (236.0)
Rodgers started at tight end in the Packers’ first preseason game, yet is somehow still flying way under the radar. The third round pick is an athletic pass catcher who will line up all over the place as “joker”. An ADP of 236 means Rodgers is going undrafted in a lot of leagues, so tons of upside here with almost no downside as a late pick or waiver pickup.

James White, RB, NE (259.6)
White has been out of the rookie conversation for most of the offseason. Now the sixth rounder is gaining momentum in Patriots’ camp and even taking some first-team reps. We already know how unpredictable Bill Belichick can be regarding how his running game is employed. White’s role should definitely be monitored going forward. One too many fumbles from Stevan Ridley and there could be a new starter in New England.

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Johnny Manziel, QB, CLE (169.6)
If we’re talking about rookies then JFF must get a mention. If you’ve bought into the hype, I probably can’t talk you out of it. But I will say Teddy Bridgewater is a more pro-ready passer as a rookie, has a better corps of receivers (Josh Gordon suspension and all), is battling a worse incumbent QB and available almost a hundred picks later. Don’t sleep on Blake Bortles (just outside top-25 rookies), either. He looked better than both of them in their preseason debuts.