By: Nate Leer
The 2018 NFL Draft resulted in another bumper crop of RBs for fantasy drafters to consider this year. Starting with Saquon Barkley there will be plenty of touches going to new talent around the league and our jobs come draft day is to determine which players will have the best combination of opportunity and talent. For my money Barkley, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones and Royce Freeman went to the best spots while Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel have more talent than Jones or Freeman but their situations have more risk through competition for touches and/or weak OLs. As usual, I will be trying to get in front of as many talented RBs as possible and have no problem getting 4 or even 5 of the RBs listed below on my team. However, I suspect those will be the only rooks I draft.
Top 12 Players From The 2018 NFL Draft To Watch For Fantasy Football Impact:
1. Saquon Barkley – RB – NYG: Barkley is clearly the class of the draft both for overall ability and from a fantasy football perspective. Opinions may be mixed about how good of a landing place the Giants are but his talent makes him a likely 1st round pick. I think he will transform the Giants O along with 2nd round pick G Will Hernandez. I put him just ahead of Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara in the middle of the top 10.
2. Derrius Guice – RB – Was: Guice dropped largely due to off the field issues. If he takes his place in the NFL seriously, he has every opportunity to make a big splash this year. Washington desperately needed a play making runner. He is arguably the 2nd best rookie RB talent and landed in one of the best spots. I got him as a borderline 2nd round pick.
3. Rashaad Penny – RB – Sea: I have had a fan crush on Penny since the Senior Bowl. Obviously the ‘Hawks agree. With a putrid OL, crumbling D and Chris Carson as a quality RB option, Penny’s role and opportunity are in question. He looks like a high risk/high reward 4th round prospect to me.
4. Ronald Jones – RB – TB: Jones has less talent than Penny but looks to be in a much better situation. Jones will have some competition for touches but he seems like clearly the most talented player among Tampa’s RBs.
5. Sony Michel – RB – NE: The Pats used a surprisingly high pick on Michel which would seem to signal a lead role for him. However, HC Bill Belichick likes to rotate RBs and has very little patience for rookie mistakes so Michel could disappoint if overdrafted
6. Royce Freeman – RB – Den: Unless Devontae Booker improves considerably as a runner, I expect Freeman to take the lead RB job and run with it. If that happens, he is certainly a breakout candidate.
7. Nick Chubb – RB – Cle: The Browns stacked Chubb behind free agent signee Carlos Hyde. However, Hyde is injury prone and less talented than Chubb at this point. Cleveland invested heavily in their O so Chubb could surprise if given a chance.
8. Kerryon Johnson – RB – Det: The Lions have a quality big back (LeGarrette Blount) and an excellent receiving back (Theo Riddick) so Johnson’s role could be limited. It’s also possible he breaks out when given touches and becomes the clear cut lead RB Detroit has been seeking for years. If he falls far enough in your draft, he is a nice upside pick.
9. Calvin Ridley – WR – Atl: I am not sure Ridley is as NFL ready as some people feel he is but I really like his landing spot. Few rookie WRs make a fantasy impact but Ridley has a good chance to put up highly productive weeks. He could edge out Mohamed Sanu as the clear cut #2 target for QB Matt Ryan or at least produce big plays as the #3.
10. D.J. Moore – WR – Car: Moore might immediately become the most reliable WR on the Panthers. He isn’t likely to be hugely productive but could certainly help fantasy owners as a late round flyer or in season pickup.
11. Christian Kirk – WR – Ari: Kirk could conceivably be the #2 WR and 3rd in line for targets after WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. I like the additions of QB Sam Bradford and rookie Josh Rosen and think between them they could provide competent QB play for most or all of the season. That makes Kirk very viable for fantasy.
12. Derwin James -S – LAC: James is the rare D player who can have a standard league impact for fantasy. However, James becomes an additional playmaker for a pretty good fantasy D and brings them up to top 5 on my board. If they are still available around round 12 or 13, they could be worth a bit of a reach up in the draft from the usual last or 2nd to last round pick for a D.
Others with potential impact this year: Michael Gallup – WR – Dal, Mike Gesicki – TE – Mia, Bradley Chubb – DE – Den, Josh Rosen – QB – Ari, James Washington – WR – Pit, Jordan Wilkins – RB – Ind.