With the draft now behind us, so too – for the most part – are the rest of the offseason transactions that distract us from full focus on fantasy football. With our attention being refocused on box score projections and deep sleeper pickups, it’s time to reveal who of these newly drafted rookies will make the biggest and most immediate fantasy impact.


Deshaun Watson

Of all of the quarterbacks drafted last weekend, Watson was the one that, prior to the draft, I believed had the best chance to make an impact in Week 1. Now after the draft, that feeling has only been strengthened, as Watson has landed in Houston, joining one of the league’s best rosters and worst quarterback situations. From day one, Watson is not only the Texans most talented quarterback, but he also probably gives them the best chance to win. I fully expect him to win the starting job out of training camp over the underwhelming likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden and furthermore expect him to make an immediate fantasy impact in the 2017 season. That is something that I can’t say about any other quarterback drafted last weekend.

Running Back

In stark contrast to the quarterback position, I believe that there are a host of rookie running backs that will make a fantasy impact in 2017…

Leonard Fournette

The arrival of Fournette marks an identity shift for this Jaguars ball club. They appear poised to transition from an air it out/come from behind team, to a defensive oriented team that relies upon getting stops and controlling the football with their running game. There is no doubt in my mind that from day one Fournette is the most talented back on this Jags roster, so he should have no problem being named the starter out of training camp. His physical build at 6-foot-1, 240 lbs. is that of a true workhorse back, which means that he will be capable of handling at least 20 carries per game and ample goal line touches, ultimately making him an immediate fantasy presence in his rookie season. 

Christian McCaffrey

If you’ve been following along with me throughout this entire offseason draft process, you will already know how much I love McCaffrey. I honestly half feel that all of my gushing over him helped boost his draft stock into the top-10. With that being said, you should already know how I feel about his prospects as a Rookie of the Year candidate, especially now being placed in this talented Panthers offense. He will serve as both their top rushing and receiving option from Week 1, which will make him one of the more intriguing fantasy options this season, rookie or not.

Dalvin Cook

I hate Latavius Murray and have made that no secret over the last couple of years. Considering that, Cook is a rookie back that I love headed into 2017, as I believe that he will become the lead dog in Minnesota’s backfield in no time. Beyond his situation, there is no questioning the talent of Cook, as he possesses a rare vision and burst combination, that makes him one of the most elusive rookie backs in memory. His added production as a receiver out of the backfield should add to his value in PPR formats early on.

Joe Mixon

Mixon is a curious case, as while many considered him the most talented back in the class, he fell in the draft due to a domestic violence incident that occurred a few years ago. With Mixon formerly apologizing to the victim and all charges finally being settled, this chapter of his life appears to be behind him. Going forward, it’s strictly football for Mixon, whose talent alone makes him the best running back on the Bengals roster from day one of camp. It may take him a few weeks to earn the respect of the coaching staff, but I believe sooner rather than later, Mixon will be the lead back in Cincinnati. He can run it well between the tackles, while as a receiver he is one of the most accomplished backs in the draft. He should factor in both standard and PPR formats by the mid-point of 2017 at the latest.

Samaje Perine

Admittedly, Perine may actually be my favorite rookie fantasy option this season, as he offers the perfect combination of late-round value, top-tier talent, and touchdown upside. Sure he split touches and reps with Joe Mixon over the last couple of seasons at Oklahoma, but in spite of that, he still managed to set a few records along the way. Beyond being the NCAA single-game record holder for rushing yards (426), Perine managed to break Oklahoma’s all-time rushing record, edging out the likes of Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray, and Billy Sims. Combined with his excellent collegiate production, Perine offers a hulking build at 5-foot-10, 235 lbs. – a frame that led to 49 career rushing touchdowns at Oklahoma. From day one, it can be argued that Perine is the best back on the Redskins roster, while at the very least he should be considered for lead goal line duties. He wont break off huge chunk runs, as he lacks breakaway speed, but his patience and wrecking ball power will make him a consistent fantasy option early on in his rookie season.

Jamaal Williams

An early favorite for “deep sleeper” in all 2017 drafts, Williams fits a similar mold of Jordan Howard and happens to be the best natural running back on this Packers roster. Sooner rather than later, his talent will overshadow what Ty Montgomery can offer at the position, making Williams the lead dog out in Green Bay.

Marlon Mack

Indianapolis has needed a running back for quite some time, and while they didn’t take one early on in this draft, they ended up with a great value pick in Mack with their compensatory fourth round pick. He’s a lean built, homerun hitter, who offers elite burst after making an initial cut. His top-end speed isn’t what you’d expect, but his patient wiggle and subsequent ability to get to the second level in the blink of an eye will make him an explosive playmaker out of the Colts backfield going forward. While his projection as an every down back in the NFL is tough to visualize, the fact that Frank Gore has fallen off a cliff physically gives Mack a good chance to see at least 10-to-15 touches per game in his rookie season.

Wide Receiver

Corey Davis

Fourth in career receptions, second in career touchdowns, and the NCAA career leader in receiving yards, Davis is an incredibly talented wideout, who possesses an elite size, speed, hands, and route running combination. Given the dearth of playmakers on the Titans roster, Davis has a legitimate chance to enter 2017 as their number one receiving option. With Marcus Mariota slinging the rock; that should bode well for Davis’ fantasy projection.

Mike Williams

Williams is a towering target with a massive catch radius – a player who many argue made a lot of Deshaun Watson’s mistakes into huge plays. Considering the recent run of bad health for Keenan Allen, Williams has the chance to leave training camp as the Chargers number one option. Philip Rivers has a history of excellent fantasy production, as do his top targets, so putting two and two together means that Williams has sky-high rookie expectations.

John Ross

While Ross has no shot of entering his rookie season as Andy Dalton’s top target, he will enter the league as the fastest player. There is something to be said for a guy who can blow the top off of a defense – just ask DeSean Jackson and his millions of dollars… While possessing a similar skillset of Will Fuller – a rookie last season who produced well – Ross is a far more polished receiver and will be operating out of an offense that actually has a quarterback who can throw him the football – something Fuller couldn’t say last season. The Bengals were lost without a legitimate number two option across from A.J. Green in 2016, and they satisfied that need in the first round with the selection of Ross for sure.

Zay Jones

After losing Robert Woods this offseason, the Bills number two receiver spot is currently up for grabs. Jones – the NCAA career leader in receptions – is by far the favorite to fill that void, as his ability to handle a high volume of targets and an explosive after the catch skillset makes him the perfect compliment to Sammy Watkins. In essense, while Watkins will be considered the “top target,” I could see a scenario where Jones actually finishes with more receptions. Target Jones in PPR formats at the very least this season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Steelers are in a similar scenario to the Bills, as after Antonio Brown, there are a lot of question marks at their wide receiver position. Smith-Schuster – while not the most polished of route runners – is still only 20 years old and has drawn Terrell Owens comparisons. I personally see an Anquan Boldin/Dez Bryant hybrid, but essentially the point being is that he has elite potential. I love what he can do with the ball in his hands after the catch, and I equally love his ability to fight for it while it’s still in the air. If he wins a starting job out of camp, expect potentially elite rookie fantasy production out of Smith-Schuster, as Ben Roethlisberger has a knack of turning his receivers into fantasy all-stars.

Cooper Kupp

Kupp holds damn near every FCS receiving record, even shattering Jerry Rice’s career marks along the way. He’s a well built target, who while not a burner, has the route running savvy and high football IQ that can make him into a low-end number one target or a high-end number two at the worst. He will enter the season as the Rams most talented and most polished receiver for sure, and provided he shows that in camp, he will win a starting job for Week 1. His quarterback situation is less than desirable for sure, but his standing as a potentially number one option bodes well for his fantasy projection.

Tight End

O.J. Howard

Howard – one of the best tight end prospects in recent memory – joins a ready made, explosive offense in Tampa Bay. I expect him to be relied upon as the Bucs top underneath target, second red zone option, and primary between the hashes receiver, early on in his career. With Jameis Winston throwing all of those passes, I foresee top-10 fantasy tight end potential for Howard, as early as his rookie season.

Evan Engram

The beauty of Engram this season is that he will join the Giants as likely a big slot receiver and move wing, however he will possess the tight end position label. His production in this offense has a Jordan Reed ceiling and a Quincy Enunwa floor, so it is safe to say that he will be a fantasy factor in 2017.

David Njoku

I don’t love Njoku’s quarterback situation, however after the release of Gary Barnidge, he is the only legitimate tight end on the roster. That has to count for something, as does his raw athleticism and elite potential. He’s not number one rookie TE for me in terms of fantasy projections, but I think he has a chance to become a factor once they settle on a quarterback.