News & Analysis

Fantasy football rookies: How this year's class is measuring up

Sep 8, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) catches 69-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Rookies are the ultimate wild cards in fantasy football. For every Saquon Barkley, who came in with huge buzz and followed through on it, there’s a John Ross, who is in his third season and has two good games … and those both came this year.

Some rookies hit the ground running and are good right away. Some take a few games — or even a few years — to become productive. For this season, we’re going to check in periodically on the top rookies this year and see how they compare to the paces set by the top fantasy rookies over the last 10 years.

To do that, I’ve broken down the top rookies (Weeks 1-16 only) at each position over the last decade by points by quarter of the season (Weeks 1-4, Weeks 5-8, Weeks 9-12, Weeks 13-16). And then I’ll look at this year’s rookies and see who is measuring up so far.

Quarterback

Player Team Year Weeks 1-4 Weeks 5-8 Weeks 9-12 Weeks 13-16 Total
Cam Newton CAR 2011 105.8 96.9 59.4 107.0 369.1
Robert Griffin III WAS 2012 111.7 78.5 76.4 56.1 322.7
Dak Prescott DAL 2016 70.2 69.1 92.0 65.1 296.4
Andrew Luck IND 2012 57.8 77.3 80.4 73.2 288.7
Jameis Winston TB 2015 66.9 53.1 78.2 74.9 273.1
Russell Wilson SEA 2012 43.8 59.7 61.3 100.5 265.3
Baker Mayfield CLV 2018 26.6 67.3 67.4 70.7 232.0

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

(Weeks 1-4: 64.3 fantasy points)

Murray has been fine so far, averaging just over 16.0 fantasy points per game. That’s ahead of the paces of Andrew Luck and several others, but well off the ridiculous numbers at the top of the list. Still, Murray carries extreme upside, and hopes are high.

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

(Weeks 1-4: 63.3 fantasy points)

Well, no one saw this coming. Minshew wasn’t expected to ever see the field this year, let alone be battling Murray for No. 1 rookie QB status. And considering he was an emergency replacement in Week 1, it wouldn’t be hard to argue he’s outperformed Murray so far.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

(Weeks 1-4: 54.0 fantasy points)

In just three games (two starts), Danny Dimes is only a handful of points behind this year’s top fantasy quarterbacks. Of course, there was a big difference in his fantasy numbers between Weeks 3 and 4, so let’s hold off before declaring him the next big thing.

Running back

Player Team Year Weeks 1-4 Weeks 5-8 Weeks 9-12 Weeks 13-16 Total
Saquon Barkley NYG 2018 90.3 111.3 82.5 75.6 359.7
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 2016 69.6 70.3 106.3 81.2 327.4
Alvin Kamara NO 2017 55.0 44.0 118.4 72.2 289.6
Kareem Hunt KC 2017 114.9 56.1 24.4 92.3 287.7
Doug Martin TB 2012 44.0 72.7 110.5 60.4 287.6
Trent Richardson CLV 2012 73.4 55.5 61.2 64.6 254.7
Eddie Lacy GB 2013 15.2 67.2 72.0 74.0 228.4
Phillip Lindsay DEN 2018 48.2 60.5 54.0 60.1 222.8
Christian McCaffrey CAR 2017 51.5 59.0 52.1 57.6 220.2
Jordan Howard CHI 2016 34.5 69.7 36.6 77.8 218.6
Alfred Morris WAS 2012 62.2 48.0 34.2 72.4 216.8
Todd Gurley LAR 2015 20.5 71.8 54.9 65.5 212.7
Leonard Fournette JAX 2017 77.0 53.2 27.6 54.8 212.6
David Johnson ARZ 2015 49.2 26.5 23.3 103.9 202.9
Jeremy Hill CIN 2014 29.4 34.2 70.5 67.8 201.9

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

(Weeks 1-4: 51.4 fantasy points)

For the most part, the top rookie running backs really hit the ground running (so to speak). Alvin Kamara took a few weeks to wrest his role from Adrian Peterson, and Doug Martin crushed late in the season, but most of our biggest fantasy rookie running backs were monsters early. Jacobs? He’s been fine. There is no shame in almost 13 PPR points per game. But he’s got some work to do to be a top rookie.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

(Weeks 1-4: 40.1 fantasy points)

Montgomery’s usage has been infuriating for those who bought in on his preseason hype. On the other hand, that usage has also gotten gradually better, peaking with 24 touches Sunday against the Vikings. With Mike Davis not doing much and Tarik Cohen primarily being used as a receiver, Montgomery could be a slow build.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

(Weeks 1-4: 31.5 fantasy points)

Like Montgomery, Sanders’ usage has been frustrating so far. Unlike Montgomery, Sanders’ usage hasn’t been improving. He’s had at least 10 carries all four games, but never more than 13. He hasn’t scored yet. On the plus side, he had his best rushing day (72 yards) in Week 4 — though on the other hand everybody has been able to run on Green Bay this year. Still, this has the looks of a committee situation where we’ll never be happy with the fantasy output.

Wide receiver

Player Team Year Weeks 1-4 Weeks 5-8 Weeks 9-12 Weeks 13-16 Total
Odell Beckham Jr NYG 2014 0.0 39.9 94.2 126.4 260.5
Mike Evans TB 2014 43.3 27.3 110.5 47.6 228.7
Michael Thomas NO 2016 55.9 54.1 75.9 42.2 228.1
Kelvin Benjamin CAR 2014 71.9 53.2 51.7 49.1 225.9
Mike Williams TB 2010 37.9 65.1 48.1 60.4 211.5
Amari Cooper OAK 2015 69.9 43.0 54.6 43.2 210.7
Calvin Ridley ATL 2018 78.7 24.8 56.4 34.4 194.3
Sammy Watkins BUF 2014 48.7 78.3 19.7 44.1 190.8
Tyreek Hill KC 2016 29.1 38.6 62.9 59.3 189.9
Keenan Allen LAC 2013 19.0 58.9 37.0 68.0 182.9
Julio Jones ATL 2011 57.3 4.3 34.3 83.1 179.0
Cooper Kupp LAR 2017 44.6 28.0 51.1 55.2 178.9
Jarvis Landry MIA 2014 23.1 33.8 66.4 55.3 178.6
Jordan Matthews PHI 2014 41.1 27.6 81.2 28.2 178.1
Sterling Shepard NYG 2016 58.1 18.1 47.4 53.9 177.5

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

(Weeks 1-4: 60.4 fantasy points)

Brown appears to be the newest DeSean Jackson; he had 147 yards and 2 scores in Week 1, and he has 157 scoreless yards in three games since. That’s the speedster’s profile, too, so he has a chance to be frustrating for fantasy, but with highs that make it all worth it. Still, the top rookie receivers tend to be more consistent.

Terry McLaurin, Washington

(Weeks 1-4: 59.7 fantasy points)

Obviously, McLaurin leads Brown on a per-game basis, having missed Week 4 to injury. Only a handful of rookie receivers in the past decade have as many points in four games as McLaurin had in just three. Assuming he’s healthy going forward, his fantasy ceiling is as high as the Washington quarterback situation will allow it to be … which unfortunately could be lower than we’d want.

A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans

(Weeks 1-4: 44.3 fantasy points)

Brown had 100 yards in Week 1, and 94 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4. In between, he had 29 yards in Weeks 2 and 3 combined. The highs are high, but concerning for his full-season stock is the fact that he has yet to play 50% of the Titans’ offensive snaps in a game. In a low-volume offense without a concrete role, Brown might be a hit-and-miss rookie.

Tight end

Player Team Year Weeks 1-4 Weeks 5-8 Weeks 9-12 Weeks 13-16 Total
Evan Engram NYG 2017 45.0 37.2 38.8 52.6 173.6
Aaron Hernandez NE 2010 43.3 27.6 32.4 38.7 142.0
Rob Gronkowski NE 2010 24.2 13.9 53.9 42.4 134.4
Jermaine Gresham CIN 2010 37.4 23.7 37.5 24.5 123.1
Tony Moeaki KC 2010 36.3 27.8 24.3 29.5 117.9
Mychal Rivera OAK 2013 27.3 31.4 22.6 36.4 117.7
Hunter Henry LAC 2016 31.3 42.7 19.1 24.4 117.5

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

(Weeks 1-4: 39.6 fantasy points)

Hockenson had a monster debut game in Week 1, and he bounced back with a score in Week 4, though only 27 yards. In between he had only 8 yards in two games and now he’s in concussion protocol, so the jury’s out on his full-season prognosis.

Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

(Weeks 1-4: 29.5 fantasy points)

Fant’s gotten off to a slow start — 29-37 yards and 2-4 receptions in every game so far. His Week 4 touchdown helped him pass Rob Gronkowski in scoring in Weeks 1-4, more illustrating how hard it is for a rookie tight end to perform early than anything else. Fant has a high long-term ceiling, but for now he’s just a guy.

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