Are fantasy football owners in for some surprise picks early on? The chances of a few head turning moves in the first 4 rounds may be higher than most players think due to a very strong rookie class.
Here are a few big names to look for in this year draft:
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only started hot out of the gates by getting their new franchise quarterback but they also drafted two offensive linemen to protect him. He also has Vincent Jackson and second-year wideout Mike Evans to throw to so expect big things in Winston’s rookie season.
The Buccaneers may get on track with winning early with Winston and the revamped offensive line. The one potential knock on Winston is that he may throw several interceptions in the first three games before finally settling down.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 4,335 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, 7 interceptions.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: Gordon may not be the fastest running back fans have seen, but he is elusive and can break tackles much like Adrian Peterson. Owners should expect Gordon to be the missing link in the Chargers young and electric offense that will feature Gordon a lot early on, in addition to San Diego’s usually dominant passing attack.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 1,095 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns
Philip Dorsett, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Colts fans are going to love their offense with the addition of former Miami Hurricanes speed threat in Philip Dorsett. This is great news for the fantasy football owner that takes him early because Andrew Luck is going to enjoy throwing touchdowns to him out of the slot. He was really impressive in the combine and Dorsett should be considered this year’s Odell Beckham Jr.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 1,115 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders: Cooper was the most polished receiver coming into the draft. Second-year quarterback Derek Carr was a surprise last year, so Cooper has a really good chance to be productive. It’s possible Cooper could emerge as Carr’s favorite passing option so expect his production to be very high.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 1,017 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns
Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears: White has the speed to get past cornerbacks and safeties just like Dorsett, which for embattled Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is good to finally have a deep threat to throw touchdowns to.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 985 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Jaelen Strong, WR, Houston Texans: Strong isn’t fast like Dorsett and White. He is strong and is excellent at route running. He may not get as much production as Dorsett, White and Cooper. He is strong enough to create separation and will get plenty of chances for receptions.
If Houston starts Brian Hoyer then Strong should be considered a potential flex player or high impact substitution for injured players on your roster or players on a bye week.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 1,007 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans: Mariota may not experience as much success as Jameis Winston but college football’s golden boy will still be a hit in the country music capital because of his accuracy but not until the second half of the season.
No one should expect Mariota to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his rookie year. He will fall just a little short of numbers that fans typically demand. It would be best to consider Mariota a strong backup quarterback option with starting consideration if he surpasses expectations.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 3,905 passing yards, 8 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, 5 interceptions
Dark horses to look out for:
Everyone likes a few dark horses to pay attention to. Here are a few potential surprises that fantasy owners should be tempted to draft.
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns: This will come as a shock to owners. Why should anyone pick the running back that will likely be 3rd string at this point? For one thing, Johnson will be more like a 3rd first-string running back because he has the speed to start in the NFL. The Browns selected him to establish the NFL’s top rushing offense since they added him to last year’s surprising rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell.
Whether the Browns use him regularly or in red zone possessions, Johnson is a sure thing as a really good backup on any owner’s team. Owners should look and feel smart for taking Johnson even if he is the last player an owner selects. Johnson would have been a fantasy starter if he didn’t have to share the carries with West and Crowell.
Johnson could also be considered a good flex option but he is a better backup.
Projected stats according to Wilder: 867 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns.