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2017 Fantasy football rankings: Top 20 rookies

A new year brings new players for your fantasy consideration. We take a look at the top 20 rookies for redraft leagues. Check out our full 2017 fantasy football preview draft guide!

NFL Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Editor's note: Swing by our fantasy war room to get all your draft and roster questions answered!

Fantasy drafts are being organized all over the country in August. Mock drafts are in full force as fantasy players envision their ideal roster. Redraft leagues make for a new start. Keeper leagues allow for plenty of opportunities to build on the present and future. You may have your strategy figured out. You may also find that your strategy gets completely disrupted within a matter of rounds early in your draft. Either way, some of the biggest unknown commodities for fantasy drafts are the new faces in 2017: Rookies.

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:

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

The top running back off the board in the 2017 NFL draft is also the first rookie being selected by many mock drafters over the summer — and for good reason. The Jaguars struggled offensively in 2016 despite their above-average defense. The team drafted Fournette to pick up the slack that a struggling Blake Bortles gave the passing game. The Jaguars experienced a coaching overhaul throughout the 2016 season and brought on Tom Coughlin as the organization’s executive vice president shortly after.

Fournette was selected fourth overall in the draft, and he’ll be expected to serve as an offensive centerpiece for the team heading into the season. Fournette has the size, strength, and speed to make it all happen. He’s also a great blocker, which will only further encourage a lot of snaps in his rookie season. He’s been compared to the likes of Bo Jackson and Adrian Peterson. While no one should be drafting Fournette with such lofty expectations, it’s reasonable to expect low-end RB1 numbers from him out of the gate, making him the most appealing rookie in 2017.

2. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Mixon was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by a team that has two serviceable running backs in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Bernard has been the more exciting back as of late but is better-suited as a change-of-pace option who excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Hill started off strong in 2014 but has settled into a pedestrian 3.7 YPC over the past two seasons. Mixon was considered a first-round talent but fell in the draft due to video emerging from his 2014 assault case. He’s also an outstanding receiver when called upon, delivering the best of both worlds that Bernard and Hill can offer on a good day. Mixon has been compared to Le’Veon Bell. Despite the backfield competition, Mixon will see a healthy workload if his talent shines when he steps foot on the field in 2017.

3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Cook was selected in the second round after the Vikings delivered a league-worst rushing performance in 2016. The team scooped up former Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray in March, but Cook is expected to be an immediate contributor for the struggling backfield in Minnesota. Cook has excellent vision and excels in the red zone. He struggled with ball security while at Florida State, and he tends to leave yards on the table at the point of contact. However, he’s a strong runner who can perform at a high level especially when his blockers are in place. Cook should see plenty of opportunity at the start of the season especially with Murray spending much of the summer recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He’s certainly worth a gamble as a low-end RB2.

4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey is understandably being drafted early in many fantasy mock drafts due to his first-round pedigree. McCaffrey, selected eighth overall, will be sharing backfield duties with Jonathan Stewart, who hasn’t eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the team since 2009 and is now on the wrong side of 30 in age. McCaffrey has excellent vision, good hands, and excels at all gears on the ground. He leaves some room to be desired in terms of size and durability at just over 200 pounds. His PPR value takes a hit as well, as no Carolina back has managed 30 receptions over the past five seasons. His red-zone usage is also a huge question mark in Carolina. Still, McCaffrey is being drafted within the top 40 picks of many mock drafts, according to His ADP is a bit rich at the moment. In fact, McCaffrey’s presence arguably makes Stewart the better value pick as he approaches the double-digit rounds in many mock drafts. Regardless, McCaffrey is an intriguing flex option to start the season with a limited ceiling to consider in PPR formats.

5. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Hunt capped off his college career with an impressive 2016 season. He managed 1,475 yards rushing and 403 receiving yards along with 11 total touchdowns in his senior year. The Chiefs traded up to acquire Hunt in the third round. He’s above average in power and has impressive elusiveness for his size. Hunt will be competing with Spencer Ware, who fizzled on the back end of his 2016 season, and Charcandrick West. There’s a very good chance Hunt will be given the keys to the backfield to start the season, and the Chiefs have proved to be a team capable of producing quality running backs when the next man is called up.

6. Samaje Perine, RB, Washington

Running back Robert Kelley was a fantasy darling midseason in 2016. Kelley eventually slowed down his production, finding the end zone just twice and failing to crack 100 all-purpose yards in his final six games. Perine may be able to handle the heavy workload right out of the gate. He’s a physical downhill runner with 233 pounds behind his 5’11 stature. He’s been understandably compared to running back Michael Turner. He’s not flashy, but he can get the job done between the tackles. In fact, in terms of physicality and speed, he’s not a far cry from Kelley himself. Washington is likely bringing Perine on board in hopes of reigniting the flame Kelley offered the team’s running game in 2016. Perine will have every opportunity to maintain a sizeable workload if he can prove reliable at the pro level.

7. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

Davis was the first wide receiver drafted in 2017. He’s the ideal all-around receiver in terms of size, speed, and route-running ability. He’s particularly gifted as a red-zone threat. Davis delivered a barrage of touchdowns for Western Michigan in 2016, finishing with a stunning total of 19. The Titans haven’t seen a wide receiver eclipse 1,000 receiving yards since 2013 (Kendall Wright). Davis should find himself in a position to make his mark early.

His size and ability drew comparisons to Eric Decker, who was coincidentally picked up by the Titans in June. While Decker’s presence takes some edge off of Davis’ ceiling in 2017, he’s still a receiver who should be considered when building your depth at the position. He has added value in keeper/dynasty leagues, as Decker’s contract is only a one-year deal. For redraft purposes, expect WR3 production from Davis especially as the season progresses.

8. Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers

The Packers have had their share of running back woes over the past several years. The Eddie Lacy era is over, and Ty Montgomery has been working hard in the offseason to complete his transition into a full-time running back. If Montgomery can hang onto the position, Williams could be sharing time with fellow rookie running back Aaron Jones. If Montgomery can’t deliver as a three-down back, Williams has the ability to take the position. Even if Montgomery occupies the RB1 position on the team’s depth chart for the entire season, Williams could have some touchdown value. Williams is worth a late-round stash as the Packers sort out a long-term backfield solution in 2017.

9. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

In 2016, a 33-year-old Frank Gore somehow managed over 1,000 yards rushing behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. He may be on borrowed time, but Gore certainly deserves his RB1 status in Indianapolis until he begins to diminish his output. Mack was drafted in the fourth round as the Colts look to prepare for a new era in their backfield. Mack became the all-time leading rusher for USF in his junior year. It remains to be seen if Mack can be an every-down weapon as a pro, but he’ll be expected to excel in a complementary role at the very least. Mack is an intriguing late-round handcuff that could produce even with Gore on the field.

10. John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Ross is hands down the fastest player from the 2017 draft. In fact, Ross is the fastest player to participate in the NFL Combine. He made headlines after running the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.22 seconds. Andy Dalton isn’t a gunslinger, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be. Ross is a home run threat whenever the ball is in his hands. If the Bengals can find ways to get Ross into open space, he’ll have a very successful rookie season. With Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, and tight end Tyler Eifert sharing the field, it’s difficult to envision Ross delivering week-to-week reliability for fantasy owners. Ross may be more of a DFS option in the world of fantasy football for 2017, but he’s worth a WR4 stash in redraft leagues if only for his tremendous upside.

11. Joe Williams, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Carlos Hyde’s inability to stay healthy has kept him from eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards in his three-year career. He’s coming off an impressive 2016 season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, but the team’s new head coach, Kyle Shanahan, handpicked Williams for what could signify a new direction for the San Francisco backfield. Williams has some weaknesses, particularly as a receiver. Hyde may be the better option in passing downs as a result. Regardless, Williams is a surefire bet for a respectable dose of touches in 2017. If he can improve on his ball-security issues from his college days and prove to be a competent option in the passing game, Hyde may find himself taking a backseat sooner rather than later. As of now, however, Hyde is reportedly the camp favorite to start the season.

12. OJ Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie tight ends rarely deliver in fantasy football; Howard would be a tight end to serve as the exception. He’s a prototypical tight end in today’s NFL. At 6’6 and 251 pounds, Howard managed a 4.51 40-yard dash. His size is coupled with feet quick and light enough to resemble a wide receiver at times, with no shortage of toughness when occupying the middle of the field. Howard may end up being the best tight end drafted in 2017. Unfortunately, he may not be able to truly prove it in his rookie season. Like most tight ends fresh out of college, Howard could be difficult to trust on a week-to-week basis. When the season is over, his stats could resemble a top TE2 or low-end TE1 despite being a risk as a plug-and-play option as the season progresses. He has exceptional value in dynasty/keeper formats.

13. Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills

The Tyrod Taylor era in Buffalo has yet to produce a receiver with over 60 receptions. It makes sense that the team would target Jones, who managed a whopping 158 receptions his senior year at East Carolina. While arguably a product of circumstance at East Carolina, there’s no doubt that Jones is gifted when it comes to making tough catches. Taylor and the rest of the Bills offense would be wise to lean on Jones’ skill set.

However, the Bills are coming off a league-best rushing performance in 2016. Even if Taylor starts slinging significantly more passes downfield, running back LeSean McCoy remains the favorite for checkdown passes. Jones should eventually serve as a true threat alongside wide receiver Sammy Watkins, but his number of opportunities early on remain a giant question mark. Jones is worth a late-round gamble as you round out the bench on your fantasy roster. Of course, he has added value in PPR formats.

14. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans

Foreman led the nation with 2,048 rushing yards in his final season with the Texas Longhorns. He declared for the draft after his junior year. He has all the attributes of a workhorse running back. Unfortunately, Foreman has experienced his fair share of offseason controversy between showing up overweight in the offseason and charges of carrying a weapon and marijuana in July. His criminal charges are currently being fought and he tested negative for the drug shortly after his arrest. Foreman still has plenty of opportunity in Houston despite a semi-breakout performance from running back Lamar Miller in 2016. However, his odds of making an immediate impact as a rookie aren’t trending in the right direction for the time being. He’s a strong handcuff for Miller owners, as Alfred Blue hasn’t been able to find consistent success when called upon.

15. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Kamara may be one of the better sleeper candidates for 2017, particularly in PPR formats. Kamara, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, was targeted by coach Sean Payton because of his ability to create mismatches as both a running back and receiver. Kamara could be Payton’s attempt to find the team’s next Reggie Bush. New Orleans has a talented backfield, provided it can remain healthy. Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson should handle the bulk of early down work, but Kamara could see a lot of action as a receiver. If the touches are there, Kamara is an exciting PPR prospect. He should be drafted in all PPR leagues in the final few rounds.

16. Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers

Samuel was drafted by the Panthers in the second round of the draft to address the lack of speed on the roster after losing Ted Ginn Jr. to the New Orleans Saints. In his 2016 season at Ohio State, Samuel operated much like Percy Harvin did for coach Urban Meyer during his Florida days, rushing for 771 yards to go along with 865 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns. There are a lot of mouths to feed on Carolina’s offense, but none of them has quite the skill set that Samuel does. It’s difficult to envision consistent numbers during Samuel’s rookie season, but he’s one to keep on your radar throughout the season. He’s hovering around top-five status in dynasty leagues.

17. David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

The Browns traded up to select Njoku in the first round and were swift in releasing Gary Barnidge as a result. Coach Hue Jackson wanted an upgrade at the tight end position, and Njoku appears to have the tools to deliver for the team. He’s 6’4 and 246 pounds with the athleticism of a wide receiver. Njoku can line up almost anywhere. Regardless of who ends up being the signal caller in Cleveland, Njoku provides a valuable security blanket. If he can adapt quickly, Njoku should have some big weeks. Of course, with the Browns still trying to sort out their answer at quarterback, it’s difficult to sell Njoku in redraft leagues. He has a high ceiling nonetheless and is worth a look if you’re looking to incubate an extra TE behind a consistent veteran on your fantasy roster.

18. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

Eli Manning has plenty of targets in 2017. Odell Beckham Jr. will look for continued success, Sterling Shepard will look to build upon his respectable rookie season, and Brandon Marshall is now in the mix. This doesn’t necessarily bode well for Engram from a fantasy perspective. However, Engram’s athleticism and ability to line up all over the place made him a first-round target, which is exactly where the Giants selected him. He’ll be exciting to watch on any given week, but it’s difficult to envision any consistency for fantasy purposes, at least in his rookie season. Engram could be drafted as a TE2 if you’re looking to gamble on his rookie ceiling behind a more stable option on your fantasy roster.

19. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Kupp may be the dark horse among the rookies of 2017. It’s tempting to round out the top 20 with a quarterback like Deshaun Watson, who will likely start for the Houston Texans at some point in 2017. However, the quarterback position is deep in fantasy as of late. It’s also worth mentioning JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will be looking to carve out a role for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates are still looking for targets behind elite fantasy receiver Antonio Brown.

The risk with Kupp, of course, is his quarterback, Jared Goff, who struggled mightily in his rookie season. Kupp leaves a lot to be desired in terms of speed at his position, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for with some of the best hands in his draft class. If he had been drafted by a team with a better quarterback, Kupp would undoubtedly be a top-10 rookie prospect in fantasy. If he proves to be a security blanket for Goff, Kupp certainly has some value in PPR formats.

20. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

The biggest concern with Williams heading into the season is the fact his health is a huge question mark. He opened training camp on the active/PUP list, and it seems pretty certain he will spend at least the first six weeks on the reserve/PUP list. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn won't rule him out for the season, but he would not commit to anything. We've left him on this list because if he can get back onto the field for at least half the season, his value in Los Angeles is tremendous. Despite the weapons at quarterback Philip Rivers’ disposal, Williams is a much-needed asset. Williams is a big, physical receiver who’s as big of a threat on deep routes as he is over the middle. As Williams loses valuable offseason work, Rivers will be re-establishing chemistry with a completely healthy Keenan Allen. He’ll also have Dontrelle InmanTyrell WilliamsTravis Benjamin, second-year tight end Hunter Henry and veteran Pro Bowler Antonio Gates. Williams has the talent to rise above Rivers’ slew of targets at his disposal, but his delayed preparation makes him a late-round fantasy prospect with an intriguing ceiling later in the season.