For the casual observer and player, it may be too early to start thinking about fantasy football. But if you don’t want to be your league’s version of the Cleveland Browns, it is never too early to do your homework. After all, you can never be over-prepared for a fantasy football draft. Part of being prepared is being able to recognize which rookies could be contributors.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the immediate value guys like Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones, and Royce Freeman could have. But can you recognize who the potential sleeper picks are? Can you recognize the guys who could become fantasy football assets if they get enough playing time?
The following seven players are rookies you’ll want to keep an eye on or stash on your roster (if you have space):
Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals: Next to Larry Fitzgerald, he’ll only have to compete with J.J. Nelson and Brice Butler for snaps. Neither has done much during their careers so far which means the door is wide open to whoever plays the best in the preseason. Kirk is good enough to beat out both.
With his hands and speed, he could easily become the next great possession receiver in the NFL.
Anthony Miller, wide receiver, Chicago Bears: The Bears went out and acquired a bunch of new targets for Mitchell Trubisky over the offseason, including second-round pick Anthony Miller. After catching 191 passes the last two years at Memphis, he appears to have the talent to contribute early on.
How early will depend on how quickly he can acclimate to the NFL game.
Michael Gallup, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys: After releasing Dez Bryant and with Jason Witten retiring, the Cowboys don’t really have a go-to guy. So, there is going to be an opportunity in Dallas for the right guy to emerge. Gallup, their third-round pick out of Colorado State, could be that guy. He certainly showed some potential the last two years with 176 receptions for the Rams.
However, he’ll have plenty of competition for snaps. Should he get off to a slow start, he may get lost in the shuffle.
Mike Gesicki, tight end, Miami Dolphins: He’s not much of a blocker, but he is a tremendous receiving threat. Ryan Tannehill has never really had a good receiving tight end. If he can do for Tannehill what he did for Trace McSorley at Penn State, he’ll make his fantasy owners and Dolphins fans very, very happy.
D.J. Chark, wide receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars: He’ll be in an enviable position because the Jaguars don’t really have a guy who can be called a clear-cut No. 1 receiver. There is plenty of competition for the role, but no obvious winner. Chark didn’t do much in college, but he made the most of what opportunities LSU’s run-heavy offense allowed.
Lackluster quarterback play didn’t help much either– so he’s already had a taste of what life will be like with the Jaguars.
Kerryon Johnson, running back, Detroit Lions: His stats were not as gaudy as some other backs taken in the draft. But over the course of his career with Auburn, he showed a knack for making the tough runs inside. For example, he only gained 104 yards on 30 carries in the Iron Bowl last season. However, it was his running that led to the win over Alabama.
If he can survive the hits he’s going to take at the NFL level, he could become a real asset.
Jordan Wilkins, running back, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts need a ground game to take pressure off Andrew Luck. They’ll look to Marlon Mack first. But fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for him to shine. He’s good in space, but not worth much between the tackles. Indianapolis will eventually turn to one of their two rookies, Nyheim Hines or Wilkins.
Hines looks more like a change of pace guy/receiver/kick returner. Wilkins, on the other hand, with his footwork and vision could be the guy the Colts have been looking for.