Top 12 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings 2020 + Dynasty Rookies

The 2020 NFL draft wrapped up on Saturday with plenty of talent flying off the board, even on Day 3. With months to go until the (hopeful) start of the season, depth charts around the league are starting to crystalize, and we can begin to project statistics for the rookie skill position players from this class. As always, several factors can make these numbers look silly a year from now, whether it be injuries, a quicker-than-expected transition to the pro game, or unexpected trades or signings. It’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of these guys will help their teams more on the field than they will produce impressive stats in year one. I’m going to start by ranking the top twelve fantasy assets for redraft leagues from this rookie class, and in the end, I’ll throw out my long-term rankings for those of you playing in dynasty leagues.

Note: for now, I’m only including guys who are guaranteed playing time at some point this year, so Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert won’t make the cut. Although it’s highly likely we see those two first-round quarterbacks on the field at some point, it’s impossible to know for how many games and they won’t (and shouldn’t) factor into your fantasy draft day plans.

#1: Joe Burrow, QB (Bengals)

PASS YDSPASS TDINTRUSH YDSRUSH TDFPTSFPPG
4,12522122432265.316.58

joe burrowThe media and fans have been heavily pushing the narrative of the Bengals being a poor landing spot for Burrow, which I find unfortunate. Zac Taylor comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree, and Andy Dalton put up fine stats in the 13 games he played last year, although the offense as a whole struggled. I’m hopeful of Jonah William’s return from injury, improving the offensive line situation, although Burrow showed a solid ability to work under pressure at LSU. The wide receiver core on this team may be one of the best in the league on paper with A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Tee Higgins. Burrow won’t put up the insane numbers he did in his Heisman winning season, but his accuracy and decision-making should allow him to have a solid season overall – these stats would have made him a top-15 guy at the position last year. I wouldn’t spend more than a late-round flier on Burrow, but he could have surprising fantasy value this season.

#2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
663642317319412.13

Kansas City ChiefsThe starting running back in an Andy Reid offense has always been a valuable fantasy asset, and Edwards-Helaire was hand-picked by Patrick Mahomes to join an attack that already boasts Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins. Stacked boxes won’t be much of a factor at all for CEH, and his combination of balance, quickness, and agility should make him a yards-per-carry freak even as a rookie. Edwards-Helaire is also an awesome route-runner and should be heavily involved in an already-dominant passing offense. The Chiefs do return Damien Williams as the incumbent starter, which may limit Edwards-Helaire’s upside early on, but I think CEH could be the more talented player. LeSean McCoy is no longer on the team, and he leaves behind plenty of touches to support both of them. If Edwards-Helaire can take over the starting role and majority of backfield snaps as the season goes on, he could be a league-winning fantasy asset as an RB1 down the stretch. Fantasy football is about two things – talent and opportunity. The former LSU running back is arguably the most talented back in this draft class, and there may not be a better opportunity than possibly becoming the starting running back for an offense coached by Andy Reid and run by Pat Mahomes.

#3: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB (Buccaneers)

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
7107352652186.511.6

Tampa Bay BuccaneersPeyton Barber left behind 154 carries when he departed in free agency, and it was widely expected that the Bucs would add a running back with better three-down abilities than Ronald Jones. The Bucs could have one of the best passing offenses in the NFL with Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Rob Gronkowski, which should open up all kinds of opportunities for Vaughn as teams will rarely be able to stack the box. Each of Jones and Barber scored six touchdowns last season, and the red-zone opportunities should only improve with the increased overall efficiency. Vaughn scored 30 times at Vanderbilt and should factor into the red-zone equation. Brady has also made a career peppering his running backs with passing targets, so Jones or Vaughn should see heavy passing work. Jones has struggled to emerge as a receiving threat in his two pro seasons, though, and Vaughn figures to be the more reliable third-down guy with his strength and size, making him an awesome pass-blocker. At the beginning of the season, Jones could be the lead guy due to his multiple seasons in the NFL, but he wasn’t drafted under the Arians regime, and his flaws should pave the way for Vaughn to become the preferred option early in the season.

#4: D’Andre Swift, RB (Lions)

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
6743453633184.711.54

DAndre SwiftMany draft analysts had Swift rated as the best running back prospect in this year’s class and the most likely to be taken with a first-round pick. The Lions didn’t make him wait long on Day 2 to hear his name called, as he came off the board with the 35th overall pick. Swift rushed for 6.6 yards per carry across his three years at the University of Georgia and had over 1,000 yards in each of his previous two seasons. Kerryon Johnson is likely still the starter in Detroit, but he has been unable to stay on the field consistently, and it was a smart move for the Lions to bring in another talented back to take some pressure off him. Johnson was on pace for about 246 touches had he played all 16 games last year, but that number will likely be reduced with Swift in town. Each of them could see somewhere around 180 touches, with Bo Scarborough and Ty Johnson’s roles greatly reduced. The Lions could be surprisingly good in 2020 after adding Jeff Okudah, Desmond Trufant, Duron Harmon, Reggie Ragland, Danny Shelton, and Jamie Collins to their defense. Matthew Stafford will hopefully be healthy, and with a receiving corps featuring Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and T.J. Hockenson, the offense could be much-improved as well. Swift will be an important part of that, and his three-down skillset should see him involved in the offense early on. If Kerryon Johnson is forced to miss any time, he would likely become a top-15 guy as well.

#5: Jerry Jeudy, WR (Broncos)

RECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
558226173.210.83

Jerry JeudyProjecting stats for rookie receivers is always a challenging task as most wideouts don’t dominate in their first season, no matter their talent. AJ Brown became just the 21st receiver of all time to put up 1,000+ yards in his rookie season last season. The Broncos have been very open about their desire to be more of a run-heavy offense in 2020, investing in their interior offensive line and signing Melvin Gordon as a free agent. The offense’s lower passing volume and the solid status of Courtland Sutton as the #1 receiver will limit Jeudy’s upside in 2020, but his talent should still show out. Jeudy figures to have a high yards-per-catch rate with his electric YAC ability, and he could pop off for a few long touchdowns this year. Sutton and Noah Fant will likely be the preferred red-zone receiving options, with the run-game also being the driving force of the team’s scoring production. Jeudy is likely a low-ceiling, high-floor low-end WR3 this season, but he has the talent to become a top-ten guy in fantasy in the not-so-distant future.

#6: Cam Akers, RB (Rams)

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
8753322232171.810.74

Los Angeles RamsAkers was the most underrated running back in this draft class, in my opinion. His college production was nothing special, but that becomes a lot less difficult when you see the film – the Florida State offensive line was just awful last year, and he was hit behind the line more times than just about anyone. In Los Angeles, Akers will have a lot less pressure placed on him with Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee leading a high-level passing game. Sean McVay will find a variety of ways to include Akers in the offense, and the 223 carries left behind by Todd Gurley from last season are more than just about any team is faced with. Darrell Henderson’s athletic profile makes him more of a change-of-pace back, and Malcolm Brown hasn’t proven himself to be anything other than a high-level backup, so there is all the opportunity in the world for Akers to become the lead guy in 2020. The fact that the Rams didn’t have a first-round pick and still elected to use a second-round pick on him shows how important it was to them to find a running back who can be relied upon in 2020.

#7: Jonathan Taylor, RB (Colts)

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
857816961165.310.33

Jonathan TaylorThe Colts didn’t have a huge need for another running back, so it was surprising when they used a second-round pick on Taylor. Ten years ago, Taylor would have been a top-ten pick in the draft as he led the class in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns last season. His status as a power back who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash makes him a super enticing prospect. However, with Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, and Jonathan Williams in place, it’s unclear how much of an opportunity Taylor will step into. Marlon Mack likely won’t repeat with his 16-game pace of 282 carries from last season – I see each of him and Taylor getting around 180 carries in 2020. Hines is one of the premier pass-catching backs in the league, so the opportunity for a high reception total likely won’t be there for Taylor. The Indianapolis offensive line is one of the best in the league, though, and could pave the way for a high yards-per-carry number for him. I wouldn’t be particularly shocked if Taylor leads all rookies in rushing yards and touchdowns on this offense. Mack is a free agent after this season, so Taylor could take the reigns of the backfield as the season goes on.

#8: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Raiders)

RECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
527955161.510.09

henry ruggsThe Raiders turned some heads when they made Henry Ruggs the first receiver off the board on Thursday, as virtually every scout and their mother had CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy higher rated. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash and took 25% of his college catches to the house – he’s a premier deep threat at the receiver position. Derek Carr isn’t exactly a gunslinger at quarterback, though, and players like Ruggs (think DeSean Jackson, Marquise Brown) tend to make their impact on their offense more in their ability to stretch out opposing defenders. Ruggs will have a few game-breaking displays where he scores on a long bomb or takes a reverse/screen to the house, but I don’t see him with a heavy passing-game volume in 2020.

#9: Justin Jefferson, WR (Vikings)

RECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
617624161.210.08

justin jeffersonI have Jefferson projected with almost the same number of fantasy points as Ruggs, but they will get to that number in very different ways. Jefferson profiles as the starting slot receiver for the Vikings, a role that should see him peppered with targets as Kirk Cousins love throwing it to his slot receivers. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Jefferson lead the rookie receivers in catches due to his role in the offense. He’s not an insane YAC player or a receiver with elite top-end speed, but he has the potential to be a PPR gem early in his career. The Vikings are a very run-heavy offense, which could significantly hamper his upside, but I’d still be comfortable grabbing Jefferson with a late-round pick.

#10: CeeDee Lamb, WR (Cowboys)

RECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
587834160.310.02

ceedee lambI had a tough time projecting Lamb’s 2020 stats. I could be convinced that he’s the most talented offensive player in this entire draft class, but the position he finds himself in may not be conducive to statistical production early in his career. The Cowboys have an efficient offense in place and will need to get Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup their touches. Lamb could end up being the best receiver out of the three likely starters, but as a rookie, it may take him some time to get adjusted to the level of competition in the NFL as compared to the Big 12’s porous defenses. I would be willing to take a later-round flier on Lamb just because of how massive his upside could be, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with a quiet rookie year.

#11: Denzel Mims, WR (Jets)

RECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
537635159.39.96

New York JetsThe Jets had a huge need at receiver entering the draft, and after passing on the top names in the first round, they grabbed Mims in the second. Mims is pretty raw as a prospect, but his elite size (6’3″, 207 lbs) and speed (4.38 40-yard dash) make him one of the best athletic specimens at receiver in this draft class. The Baylor receiver’s slide down the draft reminds me of DK Metcalf’s fall last year, as criticisms surrounding both players accused them of being athletic flashes in the pan with little real ability to play wide receiver in the NFL. Metcalf had an awesome rookie year, and while Sam Darnold isn’t Russell Wilson, I think Mims will be surprisingly productive in Year 1 as the top receiver on that team.

#12: Zack Moss, RB (Bills)

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
7236221362155.99.74

Buffalo BillsZack Moss was one of my favorite prospects at the running back position in this draft class with his receiving ability (2nd-highest YAC in rookie class) and the ability to force missed tackles (2nd-most in class). Devin Singletary should still be heavily involved in the offense, though, and the thunder-and-lightning combination may be frustrating for fantasy owners. I would still draft both, perhaps even on the same team. Moss is the bigger and tougher player than Singletary, and he should be the more involved player in red-zone carries. If either one misses significant time in 2020, the other would instantly become a must-start in fantasy, but even still, they should both have value for fantasy football owners next season.

More Fantasy Rookie Options

  • Handcuff running backs with upside: JK Dobbins, Anthony McFarland, AJ Dillon
  • Receivers in crowded offenses: Jalen Reagor, Michael Pittman Jr., Tee Higgins
  • Quarterbacks who would have value if they start games this year: Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts

Dynasty League Rookie Rankings

jk dobbins

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire: Damien Williams is a free agent after this season, and his departure would leave CEH as the clear lead back in the offense. That role could become a top-15 guy easily at the running back position in 2021.
  2. Cam Akers: There may not be a better offensive mind in football than Sean McVay, and Akers should win the starting running back role on this offense as the season goes on with his significant level of talent. The Rams are better when their run game is rolling.
  3. JK Dobbins: The Ohio State product won’t have much value beyond that of a handcuff this season, but Mark Ingram will be 31 after this season, and the team could cut him with a minimal dead cap hit. Dobbins has a three-down ability and could be an elite fantasy option playing next to Lamar Jackson. He’ll be one of my favorite handcuffs this season.
  4. CeeDee Lamb: I don’t think it will take a long time for Lamb to win a significant role in the Cowboys offense with his elite contested-catch ability and physical receiving style. He could evolve into a top-ten receiver for fantasy in not much time at all, especially if Dak Prescott resigns.
  5. Jerry Jeudy: The Broncos will be more of a run-heavy offense, and Courtland Sutton is still the #1 guy at receiver, but I am a fan of Drew Lock’s long-term potential. I love Jeudy’s talent, and he may not have to be a target monster to be an elite fantasy option sooner rather than later.
  6. Jonathan Taylor: Marlon Mack could be gone after this season, which would leave Taylor with a massive opportunity as the lead back behind a dominant offensive line. There is an overall level of uncertainty about the future of the Colts’ franchise after Philip River’s 1-year contract expires. Still, Taylor should have value even if the team can’t find a good quarterback option for 2021.
  7. D’Andre Swift: Kerryon Johnson still has two years under contract, and as a huge Johnson fan, this pains me but I think Swift becomes the lead guy as soon as this season. It’s still a committee deal there, with less opportunity to gain a full-time starting role than other backs in this class, but I love Swift’s talent.
  8. Denzel Mims: I have minimal faith in Adam Gase, but Mims has awesome physical traits and could become an early-round fantasy guy if he can claim the number-one role on the Jets offense. If you believe in Sam Darnold’s future as a starting QB in this league, which I do, it would be smart to invest in the guy who should be his top weapon, at least for the next few seasons.
  9. Tee Higgins: A.J. Green only has one year remaining on his contract, and he may not be back in Cincy in 2021. I loved Higgins as a prospect with his jump-ball ability and athletic traits. He could be a high-upside 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown guy as early as 2021 with Joe Burrow at quarterback.
  10. Anthony McFarland: McFarland won’t have much of a role this season, but if he can prove his talent in minimal snaps, it may convince the Steelers to not bring back James Conner as a free agent after this year. McFarland has awesome speed and elusiveness at the running back position and could become the starter as early as next season.
  
There are few things I love more in this world than the sweet glory of fantasy football. It's a year round sport and championships are won and lost well before the draft. When I was 15 I put together my first fantasy league and I was hooked for life.

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