Tuls' Takes 8.0: Rookies to Draft in Fantasy Football

Photo: USA TODAY Sports - Kirby Lee

The preseason is dwindling down, which means we are one step closer to real football. We are also one step closer to fantasy football, and many of you will be drafting your rosters in the next two weeks. So with some initial impressions from the preseason with this rookie class, here are some of the top first-year players at each position I’ll be prioritizing in my fantasy drafts this season.


Top Target: Kyler Murray

This is no surprise. With his rare dual-threat value in a potentially explosive and high-scoring Kliff Kingsbury offense, Kyler Murray could be a league winner late in your draft. He is a high risk-high reward dart throw if drafted as a QB1, but if you draft a high floor QB2 like Kirk Cousins, the risk with this pick is significantly decreased.

Sleeper: Daniel Jones

Laugh all you want, but Daniel Jones has been excellent this preseason and is showing that he has a chance to truly be the New York Giants’ future at quarterback, sooner rather than later. He is likely a waiver wire add during a bye week because I don’t think he will start until midseason. Keep an eye on him though because he is not just a pocket passer. Jones has legitimate mobility and rushing value in fantasy, and I think he could have value as a QB2, but it’s all dependent on him becoming the starter.

Running Back

Top Target: Joshua Jacobs

Also no surprise: Oakland Raiders rookie running back Joshua Jacobs will be the top rookie drafted this year in fantasy. No team takes a running back in the first round without a plan to use them. In fact, I think in terms of overall volume, Jacobs will be in the top 10 at his position. He clearly has goal line and touchdown value, but also has PPR potential with his ability to catch the ball and stay on the field on third down because of pass protection. Start considering him towards the turn of the second and third round.

Sleeper: Tony Pollard

Regardless of whether Ezekiel Elliott continues his holdout or not, Tony Pollard will have a role in this Dallas offense. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and this front office have repeatedly compared him to Alvin Kamara stylistically, and that’s how they plan on using him. If Elliott is missing, Pollard is an instant RB2 with RB1 potential because of pass game value. If Elliott returns, Pollard is a deep-league flex option in PPR leagues because of what he offers in the passing game. There is little risk drafting Pollard because of how late his ADP is, but the reward could be monumental.

Wide Receiver

Top Target: N’Keal Harry

I could be convinced to go with another rookie receiver in this top spot, specifically Arizona Cardinals rookie Andy Isabella, but I decided to choose N’Keal Harry because of his red zone value. Harry is expected to be a starter for the Patriots, and even if he does not get a ton of looks with Josh Gordon returning, I know that he will be a red zone monster. In fact, I think he will fill Rob Gronkowski’s void in this regard. Harry is super talented and physical, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a favorite target for Tom Brady.

Sleeper: Mecole Hardman

Mecole Hardman is my super sleeper this fantasy season. In fact, I think he has league-winning potential if you draft him late. He’s going undrafted in most leagues, but think about his game and the situation he is in. Hardman is super explosive and essentially Tyreek Hill-lite, as we have seen this preseason. In addition, he’s playing with the league’s reigning MVP and strongest-armed quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Hardman has “big play” written all over, and I know he will have a big role in this offense. If nothing else, Hardman is going to be a great DFS value play most weeks.

Tight End

Top Target: TJ Hockenson

Need a low risk, high upside tight end, but don’t want to pay the cost for one? Look no further than TJ Hockenson. He is the unquestioned top tight end for the Detroit Lions and will consistently be a three-down option for the offense because of his blocking value, which means he will always be on the field. In addition, he’s going to be a big red-zone weapon. Think of Hockenson as a George Kittle discount late in your fantasy draft.

Sleeper: Josh Oliver

Hear me out here. I know Josh Oliver is likely going to go undrafted in nearly every 10 to 12 team league this fantasy season, but he could end up being one of this year’s big steals on the waiver wire. Why? He’s a playmaking tight end catching passes from Nick Foles. Zach Ertz caught 116 passes in 2018, and while I’m not saying Oliver will replicate it, I know that he will get a ton of targets, especially with the Jaguars lacking a primary weapon on the outside. In addition, Oliver will provide instant red-zone value.

Written By:

Jonah Tuls

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. As heard on ESPN radio, Sirius XM, and the Sports Illustrated podcast. Texas Tech University journalism graduate.