It’s always a bit of a let-down to realize just how quickly the NFL season passes. Months and months of buildup are followed by a short-lived whirlwind of actual football. The calendar has turned to a New Year, your favorite team’s playoff dreams are being dashed left and right, and the fantasy playoffs are a fading memory. This year we thought we’d go ahead and take a hard look at our annual predictions series. We’ll see who was very right, who was very wrong, and try to pick a true winner for each category. Here are the categories we tackled:
- Fantasy MVP
- Fantasy Rookie of the Year
- Sleeper Rookie of the Year (outside our top 24)
- Bust of the Year
- Fantasy Sleeper
- Best Dynasty Buy
- Best Dynasty Sell
- Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
We’ll continue our retrospective by taking a look at our picks for the (Non Obvious) Fantasy Rookie of the Year. A quick note on the category from the original piece:
“We typically have a category for “Rookie of the Year,” but I really didn’t want to bring you an article with 15 of our writers talking about Saquon Barkley. Instead, the directive was to choose any Rookie of the Year other than Saquon.”
On to the retrospective!
Calvin Ridley, WR ATL
It’s hard to feel great about any of the rookie campaigns outside of Barkley’s. It seems as though most offer low ceilings and the rest offer low floors, so you could take a couple of players here. I’ll go with Ridley. He was my WR1 entering the draft, is deftly polished in every facet of the game, and will play in an ecosystem that hopefully boosts his value, rather than subtracting it — which I fear for players like D.J. Moore and Nick Chubb. – Stephen Gill
It’s no secret that I was a big fan of Calvin Ridley. I loved his route running, and I thought his skills could translate quickly, especially with a strong offense around him like Atlanta. It seems Stephen was in the same frame of mind, and picked Ridley here for similar reasons. While Ridley did disappear at times in his rookie year, as young players often do, he also put up some big stat lines. Sadly, not a ton of people started Ridley for his 40-point effort in week three, but they sure started him after that.
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Kerryon Johnson, RB DET
The Detroit backfield is crowded, but Johnson has the most talent out of the group. After all, Alvin Kamara was in a crowded backfield to begin last year and look what he did. Detroit bolstered their offensive line and their passing attack is one of the best in the league. I am expecting Johnson to start off slow with limited touches but slowly earn himself more as the season progresses. He is more of a second half of the season play for me, but with a lot of rookie running backs struggling out of the gates this preseason, I am planting my flag on Kerryon to be the second best rookie behind Barkley. – Kyle Holden
Kyle had a good call here with the rookie running back from Detroit. The 2018 running back class had a number of highly drafted, talented backs, but not many of them really panned out. Kerryon Johnson is one of the few that really earned his draft slot. He was on his way to a very strong rookie season before injury derailed the Kerryon train. Still, in only ten games he was a top 12 rookie after week 16.
D.J. Moore, WR CAR
I love D.J. Moore. He has been my 1.02 since the draft was over. I think he’s talented enough to immediately step in as a starter and produce. With his talent, it shouldn’t take long to pass Devin Funchess as the top targeted receiver for the Panthers. From there, even with a quarterback who runs a lot, I think the sky’s the limit. – Zach Wilkens
Opportunity will be the key for Moore as he could easily outplay Devin Funchess and lead the team in targets. Moore has gone under the radar in rookie drafts as some of the running backs have locked down the top five spots. However, as the running backs disappoint and fail to secure lead roles, Moore should have no problem getting 100 targets. – Kevin O’Brien
Another instance of double dipping here, as both Zach and Kevin went with the latest wide receiver prospect out of Maryland. Moore’s rookie season was a bit up and down (surprise, surprise) and it looked at times as if Carolina didn’t really know how to use him (or the rest of the Panther weapons, to be honest.) Still, it seems they found the plot with Moore later in the season and he ended week 16 as the ninth overall rookie in PPR scoring.
Royce Freeman, RB DEN
I love Royce Freeman. The way he runs reminds me of Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew but he’s hella thick at 6’0” and 238 pounds. Arm tackles won’t get it done with this guy as he has a mean streak. Denver can mess around with Devontae Booker being the starter all they want but Freeman is going to destroy this backfield. With Case Keenum, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton keeping defenses honest, he isn’t going to see stacked boxes either. – Eric Olinger
Again, reading an article with 20 writers saying Saquon Barkley would be the Rookie of the Year seems, well, stupid. Barkley is the obvious choice and should ultimately take home the prize. However, the race for silver should be an interesting one. With all the early turmoil with many of the rookie running backs, Freeman has quietly posted a great preseason and looks poised to overtake Devontae Booker to become the primary running back in Denver. While he may not have the long-term dynasty value of some other running backs in the class, Freeman looks ready to contribute right away. – Ken Kelly
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Case Keenum, and I think that means good things for the Broncos’ offense in general. Freeman has broken multiple PAC-12 records and I can’t see any reason that some of that success won’t translate to the NFL. I know Vance Joseph is saying Devontae Booker is still going to be the starter but that’s not going to last long. – Bobby Koch
Our first triple dip here, and it comes on the bad side of the ledger. Eric Olinger, Ken Kelly and Bobby Koch all saw good things in the future of a Denver running back – they just picked the wrong one. These three musketeers were far from alone on the early Royce Freeman bandwagon. It looked like a great, fairly open opportunity with a talented running back ready to take advantage. All three writers guessed correctly that Devontae Booker was no real threat to run with the starting job, but it turns out that Freeman just wasn’t the fit many had hoped.
Rashaad Penny, RB SEA
It’s amazing how quickly the April first-rounder has been left for dead, especially for a back (Chris Carson) who is best thought of as and valued by the coaching staff as a special teams ace. Penny was and is the best runner in the class and will have a stranglehold on the job by the end of the season. – TJ Calkins
It was all there for Penny this season. He had the draft capital, and he certainly had the college production. He also went to a team that leaned on the running game heavily all year, perhaps to a fault. A combination of injury issues and just plain disappointing play sunk the high hopes many had for Penny. There were times late in the season, however, that it appeared Penny was starting to get a better handle on running the ball in the NFL.
Nobody got this one right. There were some strong choices, sure, but neither contender for this award was chosen by a single writer. Those contenders (in my mind) are Phillip Lindsay and Baker Mayfield. Lindsay was the obvious pick in the Sleeper Rookie of the Year, so we have to go with Mayfield here. He is likely the right choice in any case. Mayfield didn’t see the field until the third game, but still ended up with the second highest rookie point total in 2018. He was a huge part of leading a long-time irrelevant Browns team back to the national football conversation. It’s honestly a little scary that Mayfield was just getting started this season.
Is Baker Mayfield your pick, or do you have someone else in mind?