Top-10 Fantasy Football Rookies: Kyler Murray, Mecole Hardman, David Montgomery Among Standouts

Top-10 Fantasy Football Rookies

1. Josh Jacobs RB Oakland Raiders

In Josh Jacobs' three seasons at Alabama, he never led the Crimson Tide in carries but still ended up being the first running back selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jacobs is an elusive back that should become the Oakland Raiders' bell cow now that Marshawn Lynch retired (again). SportsLine projects Jacobs to finish as the 18th best running back in standard fantasy football leagues with 176 carries for 772 yards and 43 receptions for 454 yards. Oakland's leading running back from last season, Doug Martin, finished with 172 attempts for 723 yards. Jacobs is a big improvement over Martin from a talent standpoint and should probably see closer to 200 carries if he can stay healthy. The most carries that Jacobs had in a season at Alabama was 120, so durability might be a concern with an increase in volume of carries, but I think the lack of carries is a benefit to Jacobs who has less wear and tear than most backs entering the league. I expect Jacobs to finish with around 200 carries for 850 yards on the ground and around 500 receiving yards. Jalen Richard might be a threat to take some third-down receptions away from Jacobs, but Jacobs showed that he is a very capable receiver while at Alabama. Josh Jacobs should be a top-20 running back, and the Raiders ground game will benefit from opponents giving more respect to the Raider's passing attack with Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams out wide.

2.  David MontgomeryRB Chicago Bears

Montgomery is the perfect fit in Matt Nagy's offense and was a steal in the third-round. Montgomery should have no problem taking over the starting running back role from Jordan Howard and will form one of the better running back tandems with Tarik Cohen. The Bears have a good offensive line and passing attack which will put Montgomery in a great situation as a rookie. Montgomery was a workhorse at Iowa State and had over 250 carries in each of the last two seasons. Bears' starter Jordan Howard had 250 carries a season ago, and Montgomery should have no issue coming in and absorbing all of those carries. SportsLine projects Montgomery to finish 2019-2020 with 187 carries for 779 yards, 33 receptions for 320 yards, and 8 all-purpose touchdowns. I would not be surprised to see Montgomery rush for 1,000+ yards in his rookie season. Montgomery enters the league in the best situation out of any running back, and I think he is likely to finish with even more yards than Jacobs. Montgomery should be a high-end No.2 running back in fantasy football this season.

3.  Kyler MurrayQB Arizona Cardinals

Last year's Heisman Trophy Winner and #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has big expectations as a rookie. The Cardinals brought in air-raid HC Kliff Kingsbury and overhauled the offensive talent in the draft, adding Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson to pair with Murray. The Cardinals' had one of the worst Offensive Lines a season ago but traded for OT Marcus Gilbert which should help. Murray also has Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and David Johnson to work with. SportsLine projects Murray to finish with 3,689 passing yards, 577 rushing yards, and a 24/16 touchdown-to-interception ratio. These numbers put Murray as the 16th best quarterback in 2019-2020. Murray only had one season as the full-time starter in college, so it is a bit difficult to predict Murray's numbers. I would not be surprised to see Murray eclipse 30 TDs on the way to being a top-10 quarterback. Murray's potential is huge, but like any mobile quarterback, injuries are a concern and Murray will need to protect himself.

4.  Mecole HardmanWR Kansas City Chiefs

Hardman provides the Chiefs' with insurance in case Tyreek Hill misses a big chunk of the season to suspension. Like Hill, Hardman is not the biggest receiver, but he can fly. Hardman ran a 4.33 40-yard-dash at the combine and being able to pair that type of speed with Pat Mahomes at QB is not fair. SportsLine projects Hardman to finish the season with 38 receptions for 626 and 5TDs as a rookie. This is a solid stat line for a rookie, but I can see Hardman having 800+ yards this season with the uncertainty around Tyreek Hill. If I'm a Tyreek Hill fantasy owner, I would draft Hardman in the later rounds for some security.

5. Darrell HendersonRB L.A. Rams

Henderson put up video game numbers as a Junior at Memphis, averaging almost 9.5 yards per touch on his way to over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Henderson should benefit from the likelihood that the Rams limit Todd Gurley's carries in the regular season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. SportsLine projects Henderson to finish with 130 carries for 610 yards (4.7 AVG), 22 catches for 232 yards (14.5 AVG), and 6 all-purpose TDs. The Rams have one of the better Offensive Lines in the league, and teams won't be able to crowd the box with their passing attack. C.J. Anderson looked very impressive when Gurley was struggling with his knee injury last season, and I think Henderson will flash as well. It's hard to predict how many carries Henderson will get, but I think SportsLine's projection of 4.7 yards-per-carry seems about right. Henderson could be a late round steal.

6.  N'Keal HarryWR New England Patriots

N'Keal Harry is a freak athlete in a similar mold to Josh Gordon who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Patriots have had success finding lesser known receivers and turning them into stars, but they landed N'Keal Harry with their first round pick this past year. In his three seasons at Arizona State, Harry finished with just under 3,000 receiving yards and is third all-time in receiving yards in Arizona State history. With Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan, and Rob Gronkowski all gone, the door is open for Harry to come in and contribute immediately. SportsLine projects Harry to finish 2019-2020 with 54 receptions for 754 yards and 4 TDs. I would caution picking a Patriots' rookie because no one knows how much Bill Belichick is going to use him, but those are solid numbers that would warrant #2 WR consideration in some leagues.

7.  Noah FantTE Denver Broncos

Fant was the second TE drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft but don't be surprised to see Fant lead all rookie TEs in receptions and yards. Fant isn't quite the blocker that his college teammate T.J. Hockenson is, but he is a freak athlete that can catch almost anything coming his way. The Broncos brought in veteran QB Joe Flacco, who is used to utilizing his TE while playing in Baltimore. The Broncos have a couple of young receivers in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, but Fant offers athleticism at TE that the Broncos have been lacking since Julius Thomas. SportsLine projects Fant to finish with 48 receptions for 547 receptions and 4 TDs in 2019-2020. Those numbers should put Fant as a higher end #2 fantasy TE. I think 500 yards seems about right for Fant, but I expect more than 4 touchdowns from Fant who had 18 TDs in his past two seasons at Iowa.

8.  DK MetcalfWR Seattle Seahawks

Metcalf is more of a boom-or-bust player than any other rookie. Metcalf has unrivaled athletic traits and is sculpted like few other men, but his lateral agility is a big cause for concern. He measured in the combine at 6'3" 228 lbs with a 4.33 40-yard dash, 40.5 vertical jump, and did 27 reps on the bench press. However, Metcalf's 3 cone drill time of 7.38 seconds was slower than Tom Brady's time of 7.2 seconds. That combined with a neck injury caused Metcalf to fall to the Seahawks at the end of Round 2. SportsLine projects Metcalf to finish his rookie season with 37 receptions for 631 yards and 6 TDs. I think those projections sound about right for Metcalf who is a vertical threat with his strait-line speed and athleticism. Metcalf and David Moore are going to need to step up for the Seahawk's who lost Doug Baldwin to retirement.

9.  T.J. HockensonTE Detroit Lions

Hockenson was the first TE off the board in the 2019 NFL draft, going 7th overall to the Detroit Lions. The Lions also added former Steelers' TE Jesse James during Free Agency, and now have two legitimate threats at Tight End after having none last year. Hockenson is an excellent blocker, which should allow him to play almost every down immediately as a Rookie. After only totaling 320 receiving yard his redshirt-Freshman season at Iowa, Hockenson broke out with 760 receiving yards as a RS-Sophomore las year. SportsLine projects Hockenson to be the 12th best fantasy TE next season with 58 receptions for 601 yards and 5 TDs. These are borderline TE-1 fantasy numbers, but I would go ahead and draft Hockenson as a backup TE and let him prove himself before inserting him in your lineup.

10. Darwin ThompsonRB Kansas City Chiefs

Last season, Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. While Darwin Thompson wasn't undrafted, I can see him bursting onto the scene for the Chiefs as a relatively unheard of 6th rounder out of Utah State. At just 5'8" 200 lbs., Thompson cranked out 28 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds, ran a 4.50 40-yard dash, and recorded a 39-inch vertical jump during Utah State's pro day. After spending his first two seasons at a Junior College, Thompson rushed for 1,044 yards including 765 yards after contact. His 6.8 YPC was first in the Mountain West among qualified players. While Damien Williams is the Chiefs' starter, I could see Thompson having a Tarik Cohen-like role for the Chiefs this season and catching a lot of passes, especially with Tyreek Hill facing a possible suspension.

8 More to Watch:

1.       A.J. Brown WR Tennessee Titans

2.       Parris Campbell WR Indianapolis Colts

3.       Deebo Samuels WR San Francisco 49ers

4.       Miles Sanders RB Philadelphia Eagles

5.       Justice Hill RB Baltimore Ravens

6.       Andy Isabella WR Arizona Cardinals

7.       Devin Singletary RB Buffalo Bills

8.       Marquise "Hollywood" Brown WR Baltimore Ravens