Editor's note (9/9/16): We have updated the rankings heading into the first weekend of the NFL season. For changes,
In the world of fantasy football, drafting rookies is always risky business, especially in re-draft leagues. Keeper leagues and dynasty leagues offer the benefit of deeper foresight for your investment. For everyone else simply looking to capture a strong rookie performance for one season, it’s a bit more difficult. Regardless of the collegiate accolades and the draft pedigree of a player, the reality is that we’re taking a gamble on an unproven Pro.
In 2016, we’re faced with a relatively weak class of quarterbacks and tight ends. Fortunately, the potential that wide receivers and running backs present this season make up for it.
Let's take a look at each skill position, and consider which rookies are the best poised to become fantasy assets for your roster.
- Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (4)
- Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
- Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (1)
- Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos (3)
- Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns
Editor's update: Dak Prescott has taken over as starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys while Tony Romo rehabs his injury. Carson Wentz is starting for the Philadelphia Eagles following their decision to trade Sam Bradford.
Jared Goff may be the only fantasy relevant quarterback among the rookies in 2016, and even that may be a generous description of him. Goff will likely be the starter in Los Angeles in Week 1, but it’s difficult to envision him putting up any significant fantasy numbers. Neither the Rams nor coach Jeff Fisher have delivered a fantasy quarterback worth rostering in this decade, and rookie quarterbacks are a big enough risk as it is. The remaining quarterbacks among the top-5 rookies listed are primarily in order of who has the most opportunity to see playing time in 2016. Carson Wentz is behind Sam Bradford on Philadelphia’s depth chart, and it will take a lot for Bradford to keep the team’s second overall pick on the bench. Paxton Lynch is a player that his team is really hoping can step up. Mark Sanchez is currently the favorite to start Week 1, but it’s difficult to envision Sanchez offering much upside to the defending champions. Dak Prescott and Cody Kessler are simply a possibility either due to a veteran injury (Tony Romo) or a shaky starter for a dysfunctional organization (Robert Griffin and the Cleveland Browns).
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
- CJ Prosise, Seattle Seahawks
- Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens
- Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
Editor's update: No changes, but Dixon will move up once he recovers from his knee injury.
The only surefire workhorse on this list is Ezekiel Elliott, who will start behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in 2016. Elliott is battling a hamstring injury that could put his Week 1 status in jeopardy. Regardless, he’s the rookie RB to own. The remaining running backs have plenty of potential. Derrick Henry and CJ Prosise are each waiting for their chance behind shaky veterans (DeMarco Murray) or an unproven workhorse (Thomas Rawls). Kenneth Dixon and Devontae Booker have a shot for meaningful snaps in 2016. Dixon is behind an aging Justin Forsett in Baltimore, and Booker is battling for snaps with Ronnie Hillman in Denver. Dixon and Booker have more upside in dynasty leagues, but either one could take the reins and are worth monitoring on the waiver wire this season.
- Sterling Shepard, New York Giants
- Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns
- Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings (4)
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (3)
- Will Fuller, Houston Texans
Editor's update: We bumped Treadwell up, as Thomas is dealing with an ankle injury for the time being.
Sterling Shepard tops the list of wide receivers this season. Corey Coleman may be more likely to lead in targets his rookie year, but Shepard has more stability at quarterback and an elite talent sharing the field with him in Odell Beckham. Michael Thomas is one of the more intriguing rookies this season. Much like Shepard, Thomas has plenty of young talent around him. Of course, he also has the benefit of Drew Brees under center. If Thomas can continue his reportedly impressive offseason, he could see some very meaningful snaps in 2016. Laquon Treadwell should impress in Minnesota, but he may be held back a bit by a run-first offense and a dominant defense. We also have yet to see quarterback Teddy Bridgewater connect with any of his receivers on a consistent basis for a full season. Will Fuller is the final receiver on the list. He’ll see plenty of playing time alongside wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. However, Fuller’s targets may get watered down with Cecil Shorts and Jaelen Strong commanding a share of snaps. Fuller owners may need to be patient, as the Texans could ease him into a bigger workload through September.
- Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
- Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
- Tyler Higbee, St. Louis Rams (4)
- Cole Wick, Detroit Lions (NR)
- Jerell Adams, New York Giants
Editor's update: Not a lot of changes, but Nick Vannett's injury bumps him out.
It was a relatively weak year for tight ends entering the draft in 2016, and consequently there isn’t much to be thrilled about in the world of fantasy football. Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry may be the only two tight ends worth talking about in 2016. Both have the opportunity to step into a starting role under the right circumstances. Hooper only has Jacob Tamme to compete with in Atlanta. The Falcons are in search of new weapons to compliment wide receiver Julio Jones. Hooper could serve as a red zone threat if he can prove to be a mismatch as a rookie. Hunter Henry has a much better outlook than Hooper. Henry was the top tight end in the draft and is learning behind veteran Antonio Gates. If Gates gets banged up during the regular season, the Chargers won’t hesitate to put the second-rounder on the field. Beyond Hunter and Henry, we have tights ends like Nick Vannett and Tyler Higbee, who are unlikely to see much work behind veteran tight ends on their respective teams. Jerell Adams has plenty of upside, but he’s even deeper down the depth chart than the rookies ranked above him.