The 2018 NFL season is fast approaching, with training camp in full swing, and the preseason schedule kicking into gear. August is when fantasy football drafts take priority, whether you are drafting for a single year, or you’re in the deepest of dynasty leagues.

Everybody has some kind of strategy when they head into their annual fantasy draft. And most everyone sees their strategy derailed at some point. Regardless, you will have tough decisions to make when it comes to younger players in the NFL. Rookies in particular are extra difficult. Until an NFL rookie takes his first steps on the field, we’re working off of collegiate accomplishments, situation, and opportunity. Let’s take a look at how those elements can help or hurt the top-20 rookies ranked below:

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley, RB

New York Giants

The Giants could have drafted their quarterback of the future second overall, but instead they made it clear they are going to ride out the Eli Manning era as best they can. The team drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, and expectations for fantasy owners are sky high. His ADP heading into the preseason is sixth overall, going ahead of the likes of Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, and Melvin Gordon.

Barkley is going to be a workhorse running back, and considering Manning’s inconsistencies, he’s going to be plenty busy. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry in college, and while he won’t reach that mark in the NFL, he is one of the better volume plays out there.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Derrius Guice, RB


The LSU running back slipped to the bottom of the second round draft in spite of the consensus that he was a first round talent. There was talk of off-field issues, but it was not entirely clear what of it was enough to drop him. Regardless, Washington could have a steal in Guice, adding to their stable of running backs.

Guice will be the team’s starting running back, but Chris Thompson is likely to be the primary third down back. Guice will get some looks in the passing game, but Thompson’s presence is the only drawback for Guice at this point. He is a solid RB2 as a rookie, with RB1 upside sooner rather than later.

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Sony Michel, RB

New England Patriots

It’s fitting that Michel played in a committee at Georgia. He joins a Patriots that has regularly used a committee approach, frustrating fantasy owners. Michel has the talent to emerge from this group, bringing game-breaking acceleration and burst. James White will get the bulk of the pass-catching opportunities, and Michel will compete with Rex Burkhead for more traditional work. The Patriots prolific offense provides end zone opportunities, but Bill Belichick is a tough one for fantasy owners to figure out.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Rashaad Penny, RB

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are shaking up their offense around Russell Wilson, and that means adding depth to the running back depth chart. Penny led FBS runners with 2,248 yards in 2017. He did not see extensive work in the passing game at San Diego State, but put up huge numbers on the ground and earned a first round nod.

Penny’s primary competition in Seattle is Chris Carson. The Seahawks thought they had a diamond in the rough as the seventh round pick had 208 yards on 49 carries (4.2 yards per carry). However, he broke his leg in Week 4, and his opportunity might have passed. The Seahawks coaching staff has had high praise for Carson, but a first round pick is going to get the opportunity. Penny is a solid RB2 right out of the gate, but you might want to handcuff him with Carson.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

D.J. Moore, WR

Carolina Panthers

Moore was the first wide receiver to come off the board in the 2018 draft for good reason. In his college career at Maryland, he amassed over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Moore is a quick wideout that has a knack for getting yards after the catch. The Panthers hope their first-round pick will help stretch out the field and take tension off of No. 1 WR Devin Funchess, TE Greg Olsen, and RB Christian McCaffrey. He stands to see a lot of fantasy targets early if defenses decide to put their focus on the Panthers veteran skilled players.

The only downside for Moore is the Panthers receiving corps is crowded. He has to get in line behind three of Cam Newton’s proven passing options. However, there should be some targets left over for the rookie if he and Newton have good chemistry this offseason. Owners that have an eye on Moore should not draft him too early. He will be an upside pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.