Finding gems among the young, fresh-faced rookies can be a crucial differential for fantasy owners in securing an edge over the competition. Snapping up the right players in the right situations before their names get hot is the first step. The following young players are in prime positions to turn opportunity into fantasy points.
Consider these players priority adds in rookie drafts and in subsequent free agent runs.
(Credit to idpguru.com for stat crew grades.)
DE Tyquan Lewis, Indianapolis Colts
Tyquan Lewis lands in a situation ripe with opportunity. Colts general manager Chris Ballard pumped draft picks into his defense, and Lewis stands out as the player whose skill set lends itself to an immediate impact. A very solid run defender, he should be able to earn a starting job in a defensive line populated by veterans like Jabaal Sheard and Margus Hunt.
If you are in a league that puts a premium on pass rushing statistics, Lewis may be a player to avoid. If, however, you believe that the Colts defense is very much a work in progress and that game scripts will conspire to provide ample tackle opportunity, then investing in this rookie could pay dividends.
Stat crew grade: Poor (ranked 30th in 2017’s total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
DT Maurice Hurst, Oakland Raiders
The consensus among the football cognoscenti is that the Raiders brass did little right on draft weekend; Maurice Hurst may be the exception. A dominant three-technique at Michigan, Hurst is built the same way as a certain Aaron Donald. Undersized, yes, but his lack of ideal measurables did not affect his performances. Hurst’s low center of gravity and comparably lower weight for his position (280lbs) will present problems for offensive linemen.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the heart condition that propelled his fall down the board to the fifth round. Oakland took the gamble – and it may pay off spectacularly. While Hurst may never play 10-12 years, like a comet he will burn brightly for a short time and can be a thorn in the side of the 31 teams that passed on him.
He has a straightforward pathway to meaningful snaps and could be a very useful IDP addition in year one.
Stat crew grade: Favourable (ranked 12th in 2017’s total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills
Athletes like Tremaine Edmunds are rare at linebacker, so it was no surprise to see the Bills nab him in the first round. The defense that Sean McDermott runs is zone-heavy, and it just so happens that Edmunds is an elite click-and-close linebacker capable of closing on ball carriers with ease. At his best, he can be the Luke Kuechly of this unit.
Edmunds has a lot to learn and will be just 20 years old on opening day of the 2018 season, but his competition for tackles is negligible and his draft pedigree will ensure a swift insertion in the starting line-up. The expectation is that Edmunds will become an IDP darling in short order and could even rival the Bears’ shiny new toy Roquan Smith for the top rookie linebacker in 2018.
Stat crew grade: Very favorable (6th in solo tackles awarded per opportunity)
LB Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
What sets Bradley Chubb apart in this class of edge rushers is his technical prowess. He is adept with his hand usage at the point of attack and can win in a variety of ways. This is not to discount his outstanding traits like explosiveness and his ability to crunch offensive players in the run game. His nous as a technician, however, is what will lead to an instant role, and an impact one at that.
The majority of fantasy league management websites have designated Chubb as a linebacker, which will mean his value in standard scoring IDP formats will be depressed. If, however, you play in big-play heavy scoring formats, Chubb could approach the levels of a Khalil Mack or Von Miller in time.
To ask that of him in his rookie season might be premature, but don’t be surprised if Chubb is in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year accolades. Playing opposite Von Miller can’t hurt either.
Stat crew grade: Average (16th in total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
S Justin Reid, Houston Texans
The Texans aren’t exactly flush with depth at safety, in case you haven’t checked their depth chart recently. The signing of Tyrann Mathieu was a nice start, but the selection of Justin Reid - who many thought could have been a first-round pick - in the third round was a steal.
Reid’s game is built on knowing where receivers and backs will be before they get there. He wants to outsmart his opponent and showed at Stanford that he could read the game very quickly and effectively. His fluidity in his backpedal isn’t ideal, but if the Texans deploy him the right way he could become a very useful player for them.
Reid should challenge Andre Hal immediately for snaps. Another feather in his cap is his ability to play nickel cornerback.
Stat crew grade: Average (15th in total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Could Rob Gronkowski finally have met his match in coverage? It is too soon to make such pronouncements, but the Dolphins feel they’ve massively improved their defense with the addition of Fitzpatrick. Operating largely from the slot at Alabama, it appears the Dolphins plan to use Fitzpatrick as a ‘joker’ in their scheme, a player who can just as comfortably cover backs and tight ends as play deep half.
Indeed, Fitzpatrick has been assigned the ‘S’ tag in league management systems, so he should quickly vault himself into the conversation of the best breakout safeties in IDP leagues. T.J. McDonald will be looking over his shoulder as the boisterous, brash rookie makes a splash in camp.
Plan for Fitzpatrick to start Week 1 and be an impact player immediately.
Stat crew grade: Poor (28th in total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
CB Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have sorely lacked a speed demon at cornerback, and they addressed that perceived weakness with LSU product Donte Jackson. Some have railed against the lack of his ideal size, concerned that he will be consigned to a slot role. The Carolina brass has quickly shut down such chatter, however, insisting Jackson will play outside cornerback.
Ross Cockrell, who signed this offseason to provide depth and competition, will be Jackson’s primary competition on a crowded depth chart. Realistically, it is Jackson’s job to lose. The Panthers will move to more man coverage under new defensive coordinator Eric Washington, so Jackson should have a good chance to add a few big plays to the expected ‘rookie corner rule’ bump of tackles.
Take note of Jackson’s name in your leagues and watch closely how he is used in the preseason and camp. If, as suspected, he lines up outside and moves to the slot in certain packages, snap him up immediately and watch the points pour in.
Stat crew grade: Poor (29th in total tackles awarded per tackle opportunity)
Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your rookie drafts.
If you have any questions regarding IDP fantasy football, please drop me a line on Twitter @davlar87