That’s really the only word to describe the state of rookie drafts at the moment. Dynasty owners and fantasy football enthusiasts all over the globe are clearly perplexed after we’ve seen a preseason and training camp full of unexpected performances from veterans combined with disappointing statistical outcomes or injuries from high priced rookies. While this is no time to panic (and I really can’t stress this enough), one thing is becoming very clear – there is more risk within this group of rookies than many had initially expected. Players like Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny have all seen their rookie draft stock become much more volatile based on injuries or a perceived poor start to their careers and they’re not alone.
Knowing what we do now and evaluating the rookies based on their performances thus far, there are also several youngsters who seem to have either outplayed their early rookie draft position or solidified themselves as a very safe selection in rookie drafts. While any of them could still bust and the sample size we have is extraordinarily small (again, I really can’t stress this enough), there are six players who stick out to me as the safest players to draft at the moment. If you’re a rebuilding team or someone who is risk averse, these may just be the players for you to target. Keep in mind this is my own personal list and not based on anything other than my own evaluations. With that being said, here are my six safest bets in rookie drafts at the moment.
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Saquon Barkley, RB NYG
DLF Rank: 1.01
Rookie ADP: 1.01
Before you start rolling your eyes and accusing me of stating the obvious, consider something very important – anyone who drafts Barkley isn’t just using the coveted 1.01, they’re also turning their backs on multiple trade offers that could (or should) include players in the top 12 overall. Drafting someone with that kind of capital is inherently risky, no matter how talented or highly coveted they are. Even with that in mind, Barkley clearly has the “it” factor and has looked great in limited action. A true three down bellcow, Barkley looks poised to become the next great player in fantasy football with the potential of being the 1.01 overall in the next few years. Yes, he has that kind of talent with a situation ideal to make use of it.
Royce Freeman, RB DEN
DLF Rank: 11
Rookie ADP: 1.08
This one is going to come with a major asterisk. Freeman seems to be one of the best bets for production based on his preseason performances thus far that have included 15 impressive carries for 84 yards and three touchdowns. However, this has somehow vaulted his recent rookie draft status all the way up into the top three and I’ve personally seen him taken second in many recent drafts. Even though there seems to be a lot to get excited about with Freeman, that’s a pretty big gamble, regardless of Derrius Guice’s injury. I like him if he’s taken in the range we have him ranked and where his ADP has been (between 1.01 and 1.11), but the top three seems to be a bit of a reach. With all that out of the way, Freeman has looked like the best running back in Denver and while he may start out in a timeshare, he looks explosive and experienced enough to be the lead runner in Denver sooner rather than later. He doesn’t have the upside of some of the other running backs but he’s also in a better situation than most, if not all of them. If he’s there in the later part of round one, I like the selection and feel it could not only be safe, but a relative bargain in that area.
Courtland Sutton, WR DEN
DLF Rank: 9
Rookie ADP: 11
Sutton continues to look like a great value in rookie drafts. While owners will likely need to be patient as they wait for Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas to move on, Sutton has looked the part in practice and in preseason games so far. He sewed up the third wideout job nearly instantaneously and while his short term value may not be as high as some others, his long-term outlook is very bright. Many believed Sutton could develop into a true WR1 eventually and it looks like that could happen for dynasty owners and the Broncos alike. In short, Sutton has looked like a future stud.
Christian Kirk, WR ARI
DLF Rank: 12
Rookie ADP: 12
Kirk has been everything the Cardinals and the dynasty community could have asked for already. It seems nearly inevitable he’ll be starting from week one and should find himself being a major contributor to the Cardinals and in dynasty leagues from the very early stages of his career. With six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in his first two preseason games, Kirk has simply looked the part. With just Chad Williams, Ricky Seals-Jones, Brice Butler and JJ Nelson to beat out for targets behind Larry Fitzgerald and with Fitzgerald himself at the end of his career, the stars have aligned for Kirk in dynasty leagues very quickly.
Anthony Miller, WR CHI
DLF Rank: 13
Rookie ADP: 15
While Miller isn’t a true “sure thing” at the position, the early reports on him have been nothing short of fantastic. While the production on the field this preseason (four catches for 32 yards) has left a little to be desired, you have to love his upside within the big group of second tier receivers that includes the aforementioned Kirk, Michael Gallup and James Washington. With Gallup feeling forced to be a WR1 on team before he may be ready and Washington battling so many other elite receivers for catches in the foreseeable future, Miller seems like the player from that group who may be the best bet to stay off the bust list. While his upside may not be quite as high as some of the others, it’s hard to see a scenario where he isn’t getting a massive opportunity to play early and often to prove his worth – that’s really all you can hope for when drafting rookies.
Dallas Goedert, TE PHI
DLF Rank: 26
Rookie ADP: 27
The name of the game in dynasty leagues is patience and anyone who takes Goedert will need to exhibit a healthy dose of it. With Zach Ertz entrenched as the clear TE1 in Philadelphia and a top five option in dynasty leagues, the best owners can likely hope for from him in the short term is him filling the old Trey Burton role for the Eagles. However, when you look at things with a long-term lens, you can easily see Goedert has the talent to be an elite option at the position in Philadelphia or elsewhere. The roster landscape of NFL teams changes very quickly and while it’s easy to look at him getting buried on the depth chart at the beginning of his career, there’s some real serious upside here. In short, Goedert is going to be a starter in the NFL and in dynasty leagues at some point in his career. Getting a player with that kind of upside in the third round or later? Sign me up.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
Latest posts by Ken Kelly (see all)
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