Every year, the NFL draft helps many college football players’ dreams come true of making to the utmost level of professional football. There are always a handful of offensive players selected in the first few rounds that are seen as immediate producers for their respective teams during the upcoming season. Whether it’s a quarterback, running back, or wide receiver, there are always rookies who break onto the scene to everyone’s surprise. Last year it was Alvin Kamara. As many fantasy owners know, Kamara became a stud across fantasy leagues and helped many owners capture their league’s championship.
This year has been no different. I’m going to take you through 5 rookies that have put up numbers through four weeks that fantasy owners may not have expected to come into the season. Everyone knew that Saquon Barkley would be a key part of the New York Giants’ offense and was selected in the first round of many fantasy drafts, but these players were rarely even drafted outside of dynasty leagues. However, they have performed well enough to start to catch the attention of many fantasy owners and are making a case to be added across all formats in fantasy football leagues.
After being drafted 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons, Ridley was seen as the complementary wide receiver to line up beside Julio Jones. As one of the only rookie receivers taken in fantasy football drafts, people had high expectations for Ridley. However, no one thought his production would happen this quickly. After having no catches in Week 1, Ridley has vaulted himself into the top 10 scoring wide receivers by hauling in 15 passes for a total of 264 yards and 6 touchdowns over the past three weeks. His six touchdowns now lead the entire NFL.
It’s hard to see Ridley’s touchdown percentage remaining as high as it is, but there is no reason to believe his target share will decrease. With the opposing secondary accounting for Julio Jones, Ridley should see some favorable matchups. He’s quickly become one of Matt Ryan’s go-to targets and has established trust with his quarterback. Looking forward to the rest of the season, Ridley could easily continue to put up WR3 numbers. His ceiling is a WR2, especially if he keeps up the work he is currently putting in on the field. He should be picked up in every league as well as started in most. At the very least, he’s worthy of being started in the FLEX position until he slows down.
As a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions, Johnson came into the NFL as part of a crowded backfield. He joined Theo Riddick, a consistent running back for the Lions, and LeGarrette Blount, the veteran who just signed with the team this past offseason. Through the first four weeks of the season, Johnson has emerged as the starter for the Lions. Although Blount is still averaging almost 9 carries a game, Johnson has made the most of his opportunity by rushing for more than 40 yards in each of the past three games.
Furthermore, Johnson also sees most of the work in the red zone, scoring his first touchdown in Week 4. He gained popularity among Lions fans after he became the first Lions running back to rush for more than 100 yards since Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving back in 2013. That was a stretch of 70 games for the Lions that finally ended after Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries in Week 3. As we look ahead, Johnson is not going to become the running back you put in your starting lineup and expect to produce week in and week out. However, his recent performances have shown the Lions his capabilities as a player and as long as he continues to see carries, he should be in the discussion of starting in the FLEX position. He is also a capable fill-in for when your starting running backs are on bye and worthy of a spot on your bench.
After he was selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, it was announced that Rosen would serve as the backup for Sam Bradford in the 2018 season. However, Bradford struggled through the first three weeks and Rosen found himself being subbed in for Bradford near the end of the fourth quarter in Week 3. The Cardinals decided to go with Rosen in an attempt to make a comeback in the game. Rosen ended up throwing an interception and the Cardinals could not complete the comeback, but it showed that it was Rosen’s time to start down in Arizona.
In his first career start, Rosen completed 15 of 27 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks. He was far from perfect, but Rosen stepped up to the plate as the Cardinals nearly won their first game of the season, losing due to a Seahawks field goal as time expired. Most importantly, Rosen committed no turnovers in the game and showed plenty of promise. His touchdown pass was an impressive completion to Chad Williams between double coverage. In regards to the rest of the season, it is doubtful that Rosen will put numbers worthy of being a starting quarterback in fantasy, but look for him to be added in a lot of leagues as the team’s backup quarterback. He is definitely a streaming option for teams to consider when their starting quarterback is on their bye week.
As a fourth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts, Hines came into the NFL in a similar situation to Kerryon Johnson’s. The Colts backfield consisted of Marlon Mack, running back fantasy owners still hope to break out, and fellow rookie Jordan Wilkins, who was selected in the fifth round. Hines was never projected to be the starting running back as he is known for his pass-catching abilities out of the backfield.
Through four weeks, Hines has shown that he has carved a spot for himself in this offense. Earning 4-5 carries a game to go with an average of 5.5 receptions a game, Hines touches the football often throughout the course of the game. On an even better note, Hines has proven to be a force in the red zone for the Colts. After rushing for a touchdown in Week 2, Hines saw two of his nine receptions reach the end zone in Week 4. At this point in the season, fantasy owners can look at Hines as a poor man’s James White or Theo Riddick. He has the capability to catch 5+ passes, see a few carries, and score a touchdown to go with it. Fantasy owners can’t expect that kind of production each and every game, but as the season goes on, Hines could potentially see enough time on the field to warrant a spot in your FLEX position. For now, stash him on your bench and see how he progresses moving forward.
As a fourth-round pick by the Houston Texans, Coutee joined a wide receiver core that included DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. As the season started, Coutee was battling a hamstring injury that ended up making him miss the first three games of the season. Because of this, almost no fantasy owner saw Coutee worthy of a bench spot on their team. Coming into Sunday, Coutee was owned in only .4 percent of leagues. That will definitely change after his performance on Sunday helped lead the Texans to and an overtime victory at the Indianapolis Colts.
In his NFL debut in Week 4, Coutee put on a show. He caught 11 of his 15 targets from quarterback Deshaun Watson for a total of 109 yards. Even without a touchdown, Coutee still racked up 21.7 PPR fantasy points. It is hard to determine why Coutee lead the Texans in targets and receptions in his first career game, but it is definitely something fantasy owners don’t mind seeing. Watson seems to already have a rapport with Coutee and that code bode well for both of them. Watson relied on a smaller, slot target when he lead the Clemson Tigers to an NCAA National Championship. Hopkins and Fuller will always see their targets, but Coutee seems to have a strong claim on the slot receiver position. Looking forward, it is tough to predict whether or not Coutee’s hot start is something that will keep happening or just a fluke. For now, add him in deeper leagues or if you have the room on your bench. He is the ultimate example of a risk/reward add and could develop into a FLEX position starter if his numbers from Sunday become a regularity each week.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.