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NFL Rookie’s To Target

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The NFL season is finally here. After what seemed like an eternity since the Chiefs were crowned the Super Bowl champs in February, football has returned and that means that Fantasy Football is back as well.

There are plenty of top performers from the 2019 season who will be hot commodities entering the 2020 campaign. Those names include Christian McCafrey, Michael Thomas, Saquon Barkley, Deandre Hopkins and many more. But there are also plenty of new faces that will be making an impact in the league immediately.

Last year, rookies were a staple on offense and made a huge fantasy impact. Kyler Murray tore up the NFC in his rookie year, winning AP Rookie of the Year Honors and is now ESPN’s 4th best fantasy QB in 2020. Miles Sanders proved to be a versatile offensive weapon out of the backfield in Philadelphia and this year is ranked the 12th best option at running back.

So who will shine in 2020 in their rookie season? We will talk about a few options that you should look into drafting or trading for, but there is one rookie who will be a rockstar in his first campaign. 

The Rockstar: Clyde Edwards-Helaire  – Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs selected the LSU National Champion with the last pick of the first round in the 2020 NFL Draft. Edwards-Helaire was a 2019 First-Team SEC selection after putting up 1,414 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He was Joe Burrow’s right hand-man in that offense and finished off his year with a dominant 164 all-purpose yards performance in the National Championship.

Edwards-Helaire is RB1 for the Chiefs this season after Damien Williams opted out of the season. This means he will be the bell cow in one of the most electric offenses in the league. He is currently ESPN’s seventh best back, high praise for a rookie. If you’re a running back hoping for a big season, Andy Reid is the coach for you. He had great success with Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware earlier in his Chiefs tenure. Early on, he is already impressing his teammates, especially the 2018 MVP.

“Clyde has done a great job in the reps that he has gotten,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes told NBC Sports. “He’s playing fast, and he has incredible vision. That’s what’s been the biggest thing so far.”

ESPN projects that Edwards-Helaire will post 227 fantasy points this season. They are predicting 897 rushing yards with eight touchdowns and another four in the air with 434 receiving yards. Similarly, ESPN predicts that fantasy football All-Star Saquon Barkley will have a projected 259 fantasy points, just 32 points better than a rookie.

It is not often that a rookie running back is given the reigns to the starting job in year one, but it is even more unlikely that it comes on the defending Super Bowl Champs roster. With a top-three offense in the league, the rookie runner is primed for a ton of red-zone touches and a new partnership with the best quarterback in the league. Sell high on Edwards-Helaire and don’t let the rookie label scare you away. If you can draft him, do it. If you can get away with a trade for him, do it. Edwards-Helaire is a legit RB1.

Primed for Success: Joe Burrow – Cincinnati Bengals

This one might seem almost too obvious. Joe Burrow has a long way to go before Cincinnati is a playoff-contender, but in the meantime, he has numerous offensive weapons that will help the number one overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft succeed in year one.

The former Heisman winner is ranked 17th in ESPN’s quarterback rankings. This means that he probably won’t be your primary quarterback, but Burrow has great value at his ADP of 151. If you can get Burrow in a later round, he is a great backup to have, especially in a keeper league.

Burrow put up one of the greatest college QB seasons of all-time. It ended with a Heisman Award and a National Championship ring. Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns while throwing just six interceptions. Burrow will have an adjustment period in the NFL, but coming off a season like that is hard to question. So far, reports out of Training Camp are that Burrow is torching defenders and turning heads. A proven winner, Burrow plays like a quarterback who can always find a way to win.

For a rookie quarterback who is going to immediately start, there are usually multiple pieces that are missing on offense, but that is not the case for Burrow. He will have Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, John Ross III and Joe Mixon to help him along. Mixon is the ninth best running option in fantasy, while Green and Boyd are both top-30 options.

Burrow has the chance to develop a relationship with head coach Zac Taylor who has long been seen as a top offensive mind in the league. He has helped develop Ryan Tannehill and Jared Goff. He had the opportunity to learn under Sean McVay as well. Taylor is a great coach for Burrow to learn from immediately. Taylor believes Burrow will provide a spark plug for the offense.

“Probably the thing that gets him the most is when he thinks the error is his own and he doesn’t want to replicate the same mistake twice,” Taylor said. “But he’s a competitive guy, and we expect him to lead this offense to a lot of points.”

Washington running back Antonio Gibson (24) runs with the ball during practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Sleeper: Antonio Gibson – Washington Football Team

TheWashington Football Team did something that no one saw coming. They dumped a future Hall of Famer for a rookie running back to lead their offense into week one. Adrian Peterson was released last week in favor of rookie back Antonio Gibson.

The Memphis product put up 1,104 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season. He was primarily a receiver for the Tigers but the Redskins plan to use the versatile weapon mostly out of the backfield.

Gibson is an offensive player who is primed to create mismatches in coverage and pick up a ton of yards. Gibson currently ranks as the 30th best running back fantasy option and his ADP is 135.1. Head coach Ron Rivera compares Gibson to Christian McCafrey, an elite comparison before he has ever taken a snap in the league. Adrian Peterson, even after being released, praised the rookie back and sees why Washington likes him so much.

“Look, Gibson is a hell of a talent. … This system really fits him. I feel like I can do that pony style too, more as a receiving back.”

These are just three rookies who you can target in your fantasy leagues this year but there are plenty of others who could make a big impact right off the bat in your league. Guys like CeeDee Lamb, Jonathan Taylor, Jerry Juedy, J.K. Dobbins and Cam Akers could have a major impact.

While they are unproven and untested in the National Football League, a rookie shouldn’t be passed up just because they don’t have the experience yet. If you find a rookie in a later round who could blossom into a top talent, take the flyer and hope for the best.