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Published: May 4, 2015 at 03:14 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2015 at 07:41 p.m.

Top 20 Fantasy Rookies

If we have learned anything in recent seasons, it's that rookies can come in and make an instant impact both in the stat sheets and in fantasy football. Owners who fielded Odell Beckham Jr., Jeremy Hill or Mike Evans (to name a few) last season can attest to that. So, who are the first-year players with the most potential for 2015? Here's a look at 20 rookies you should target.

20 Photos Total

  • Johnson figures to move up the Arizona depth chart quickly, but it doesn't look like he'll unseat Andre Ellington as the team's top runner. In fact, coach Bruce Arians has already said that he'll use Ellington in the same role as he did last season. Johnson, who has a similar skill set to that of his veteran teammate, should emerge into the top fantasy handcuff for Ellington in deeper, seasonal leagues as a rookie back. 20

    Marco Garcia

    20. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    Johnson figures to move up the Arizona depth chart quickly, but it doesn't look like he'll unseat Andre Ellington as the team's top runner. In fact, coach Bruce Arians has already said that he'll use Ellington in the same role as he did last season. Johnson, who has a similar skill set to that of his veteran teammate, should emerge into the top fantasy handcuff for Ellington in deeper, seasonal leagues as a rookie back.

  • The Panthers drafted another big wideout in Funchess (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) to pair with 2014 first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin, making life a little easier for quarterback Cam Newton. However, I don't see the rookie out of Michigan making a major fantasy impact in his first NFL campaign. In fact, his seasonal-league value will be limited to that of a late-round flier as a No. 5-6 fantasy wide receiver. 19

    Tony Ding

    19. Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers

    The Panthers drafted another big wideout in Funchess (6-foot-4, 232 pounds) to pair with 2014 first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin, making life a little easier for quarterback Cam Newton. However, I don't see the rookie out of Michigan making a major fantasy impact in his first NFL campaign. In fact, his seasonal-league value will be limited to that of a late-round flier as a No. 5-6 fantasy wide receiver.

  • Conley was one of the heroes of the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.35 40-yard dash with a 45-inch vertical leap. While his collegiate numbers didn't pop in his final season at Georgia, there's upside here on a team that has Jeremy Maclin and not much else at the wide receiver position. Conley is a good bet to start for the Chiefs as a rookie, making him worth a potential late-round flier in re-drafts. 18

    David Stephenson

    18. Chris Conley, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    Conley was one of the heroes of the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.35 40-yard dash with a 45-inch vertical leap. While his collegiate numbers didn't pop in his final season at Georgia, there's upside here on a team that has Jeremy Maclin and not much else at the wide receiver position. Conley is a good bet to start for the Chiefs as a rookie, making him worth a potential late-round flier in re-drafts.

  • Ajayi dropped like a stone in the draft, due in large part to long-term concerns about his knee. There are reports that suggest he'll be fine as a short-term option, though, as Ajayi could etch out a role in the Dolphins’ ground attack behind Lamar Miller. With that said, the rookie out of Boise State projects to be worth a late-round flier in seasonal leagues with much more value in dynasty formats for 2015. 17

    Lenny Ignelzi

    17. Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins

    Ajayi dropped like a stone in the draft, due in large part to long-term concerns about his knee. There are reports that suggest he'll be fine as a short-term option, though, as Ajayi could etch out a role in the Dolphins’ ground attack behind Lamar Miller. With that said, the rookie out of Boise State projects to be worth a late-round flier in seasonal leagues with much more value in dynasty formats for 2015.

  • Strong has great size (6-foot-2, 217 pounds) and reliable hands, and there's some potential for him to produce as a rookie wideout. The Texans did add Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington in the offseason, but neither is what you would call a lock to be a starter opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Consider Strong a potential late-round flier in re-drafts  ...  if he can make some waves in training camp and the preseason. 16

    Matt York

    16. Jaelen Strong, WR, Houston Texans

    Strong has great size (6-foot-2, 217 pounds) and reliable hands, and there's some potential for him to produce as a rookie wideout. The Texans did add Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington in the offseason, but neither is what you would call a lock to be a starter opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Consider Strong a potential late-round flier in re-drafts ... if he can make some waves in training camp and the preseason.

  • Winston has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger for his size and skills, and you have to like the talent he has around him in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, can he break the trend of Florida State quarterbacks failing to produce great numbers at the NFL level? The position is also quite deep around the NFL, so Winston's 2015 draft value will be greater in dynasty formats. 15

    Doug Benc

    15. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Winston has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger for his size and skills, and you have to like the talent he has around him in Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, can he break the trend of Florida State quarterbacks failing to produce great numbers at the NFL level? The position is also quite deep around the NFL, so Winston's 2015 draft value will be greater in dynasty formats.

  • Cobb lands in a great situation, as Bishop Sankey did last season in his rookie campaign. The question now is, can Cobb succeed where Sankey failed? A potential three-down back at the pro level due to what he can do as a pass protector, the Minnesota product has some definite sleeper appeal with just Sankey and Shonn Greene ahead of him on the depth chart. Cobb is definitely someone to watch next season. 14

    ANDY KING

    14. David Cobb, RB, Tennessee Titans

    Cobb lands in a great situation, as Bishop Sankey did last season in his rookie campaign. The question now is, can Cobb succeed where Sankey failed? A potential three-down back at the pro level due to what he can do as a pass protector, the Minnesota product has some definite sleeper appeal with just Sankey and Shonn Greene ahead of him on the depth chart. Cobb is definitely someone to watch next season.

  • So much for the Zach Mettenberger era. The Titans land Mariota, who put up video-game numbers in the spread offense at Oregon. He's going to find things more difficult in the NFL in an offense with very little firepower. On a positive note, Mariota did rush for 29 touchdowns in college. The bad news? The last great NFL quarterback to come out of Oregon was Dan Fouts ... in 1973. He's a late-round pick at best. 13

    Ric Tapia

    13. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

    So much for the Zach Mettenberger era. The Titans land Mariota, who put up video-game numbers in the spread offense at Oregon. He's going to find things more difficult in the NFL in an offense with very little firepower. On a positive note, Mariota did rush for 29 touchdowns in college. The bad news? The last great NFL quarterback to come out of Oregon was Dan Fouts ... in 1973. He's a late-round pick at best.

  • Green-Beckham (no relation to Odell Beckham Jr.) is a raw wideout with massive size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) who could find it tough to make an immediate impact on the field. The Titans already field the likes of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas, so DGB could see limited opportunities as a rookie. He's not a wide receiver that fantasy owners in seasonal drafts should target until late. 12

    Sue Ogrocki

    12. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans

    Green-Beckham (no relation to Odell Beckham Jr.) is a raw wideout with massive size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) who could find it tough to make an immediate impact on the field. The Titans already field the likes of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Hakeem Nicks and Harry Douglas, so DGB could see limited opportunities as a rookie. He's not a wide receiver that fantasy owners in seasonal drafts should target until late.

  • I love Miami (FL) running backs because they often transition into productive NFL players. However, Johnson is joining a crowded backfield that already includes Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. That's not to say that he can't pass them both on the depth chart, but it certainly isn't a very desirable spot on paper. Johnson and the Browns backfield situation is now one to watch during the preseason, regardless. 11

    Nati Harnik

    11. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns

    I love Miami (FL) running backs because they often transition into productive NFL players. However, Johnson is joining a crowded backfield that already includes Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. That's not to say that he can't pass them both on the depth chart, but it certainly isn't a very desirable spot on paper. Johnson and the Browns backfield situation is now one to watch during the preseason, regardless.

  • Any time a young, talented player with upside enters the offense of coach Chip Kelly, well, you can be certain the term "sleeper" is going to be uttered. Enter Agholor, who posted 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. While I've never been very big on USC wide receivers (for good reason), Kelly's system alone is enough to make Agholor someone to watch in training camp and the preseason. 10

    Mark J. Terrill

    10. Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    Any time a young, talented player with upside enters the offense of coach Chip Kelly, well, you can be certain the term "sleeper" is going to be uttered. Enter Agholor, who posted 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. While I've never been very big on USC wide receivers (for good reason), Kelly's system alone is enough to make Agholor someone to watch in training camp and the preseason.

  • Parker has a lot of potential at the NFL level, as he possesses great hands and some real-long term value in fantasy football. Whether he makes an immediate impact is questionable though, as the Dolphins have a lot of mouths to feed in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron. With that said, I'd pass on Parker until the latter rounds as a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout in his rookie season. 9

    Garry Jones

    9. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins

    Parker has a lot of potential at the NFL level, as he possesses great hands and some real-long term value in fantasy football. Whether he makes an immediate impact is questionable though, as the Dolphins have a lot of mouths to feed in Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and Jordan Cameron. With that said, I'd pass on Parker until the latter rounds as a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout in his rookie season.

  • Abdullah is a smaller runner at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds, so he's not likely to come in and steal early-down or goal-line opportunities from Joique Bell. Instead, the rookie will no doubt push Theo Riddick as a change-of-pace option to replace Reggie Bush (49ers). He would need to improve his pass protection and cure the case of fumbilitis he had in college to make an immediate fantasy impact, but there's upside. 8

    Nati Harnik

    8. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

    Abdullah is a smaller runner at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds, so he's not likely to come in and steal early-down or goal-line opportunities from Joique Bell. Instead, the rookie will no doubt push Theo Riddick as a change-of-pace option to replace Reggie Bush (49ers). He would need to improve his pass protection and cure the case of fumbilitis he had in college to make an immediate fantasy impact, but there's upside.

  • With Torrey Smith in San Francisco and Steve Smith Sr. entering his age-36 season, Perriman is in a great position to earn targets as a rookie. He'll be used in the "X" position for new OC Marc Trestman, which had been Smith's spot, and should move up the depth chart quickly with the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Mike Campanaro in the mix. Look for Perriman to be seen as a late-round, deep-sleeper selection. 7

    Michael Dwyer

    7. Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

    With Torrey Smith in San Francisco and Steve Smith Sr. entering his age-36 season, Perriman is in a great position to earn targets as a rookie. He'll be used in the "X" position for new OC Marc Trestman, which had been Smith's spot, and should move up the depth chart quickly with the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Mike Campanaro in the mix. Look for Perriman to be seen as a late-round, deep-sleeper selection.

  • An athletic wideout with good size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), White figures to move right into the starting lineup in the absence of Brandon Marshall (Jets). While you can't expect the rookie to come in and make up for Marshall's production himself, there is a lot of upside with the West Virginia product playing alongside Alshon Jeffery. Look for White to be selected in the mid to late rounds in most re-drafts. 6

    Sue Ogrocki

    6. Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears

    An athletic wideout with good size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), White figures to move right into the starting lineup in the absence of Brandon Marshall (Jets). While you can't expect the rookie to come in and make up for Marshall's production himself, there is a lot of upside with the West Virginia product playing alongside Alshon Jeffery. Look for White to be selected in the mid to late rounds in most re-drafts.

  • The No. 1 wide receiver in the 2015 draft class, Cooper lands in a good situation with the Raiders (at least, on paper). While the team is deep at wide receiver, Cooper is without question their best playmaker at the position. In fact, I see him as a potential No. 3 fantasy wideout who will be well worth a middle- to late-round choice. Cooper's presence makes Derek Carr an even more attractive fantasy sleeper this season. 5

    Aaron M. Sprecher

    5. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

    The No. 1 wide receiver in the 2015 draft class, Cooper lands in a good situation with the Raiders (at least, on paper). While the team is deep at wide receiver, Cooper is without question their best playmaker at the position. In fact, I see him as a potential No. 3 fantasy wideout who will be well worth a middle- to late-round choice. Cooper's presence makes Derek Carr an even more attractive fantasy sleeper this season.

  • The Falcons needed a running back, thus the selection of Coleman ... and I project the rookie to open the season atop the depth chart. He's got good size at 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, making him more likely to be an early-down back than Devonta Freeeman. Plus, he's a one-cut runner and a good fit for the offense of Kyle Shanahan. Fantasy fans should consider Coleman a viable No. 3 fantasy runner with potential. 4

    Darron Cummings

    4. Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons needed a running back, thus the selection of Coleman ... and I project the rookie to open the season atop the depth chart. He's got good size at 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, making him more likely to be an early-down back than Devonta Freeeman. Plus, he's a one-cut runner and a good fit for the offense of Kyle Shanahan. Fantasy fans should consider Coleman a viable No. 3 fantasy runner with potential.

  • I'd be surprised if Yeldon isn't the starting running back for the Jaguars in Week 1, as Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart will move down the depth chart. While he's not a speedster, the Alabama product can be a three-down back who can also pass protect. He's going to be in the conversation as a potential No. 3 fantasy running back, though it is difficult to see him break out behind a subpar offensive line. 3

    Brynn Anderson

    3. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    I'd be surprised if Yeldon isn't the starting running back for the Jaguars in Week 1, as Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart will move down the depth chart. While he's not a speedster, the Alabama product can be a three-down back who can also pass protect. He's going to be in the conversation as a potential No. 3 fantasy running back, though it is difficult to see him break out behind a subpar offensive line.

  • This was not a best-case scenario for Gurley's fantasy value. While he's more talented than incumbent starter Tre Mason, Gurley is no lock to come in and become a featured runner in 2015. Furthermore, he might be PUP'ed for the first six weeks to give him more time to recover from a reconstructive knee procedure. Gurley's fantasy stock remains high in the long term, however. As for Mason's, well, not so much. 2

    David Goldman

    2. Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

    This was not a best-case scenario for Gurley's fantasy value. While he's more talented than incumbent starter Tre Mason, Gurley is no lock to come in and become a featured runner in 2015. Furthermore, he might be PUP'ed for the first six weeks to give him more time to recover from a reconstructive knee procedure. Gurley's fantasy stock remains high in the long term, however. As for Mason's, well, not so much.

  • Well folks, Gordon is the No. 1 fantasy rookie in my re-draft rankings, at least for now. The explosive running back out of Wisconsin lands in a perfect situation to succeed, as the Chargers didn't have a lead back on their roster after Ryan Mathews left for Philadelphia. While Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are all on the roster, Gordon should still be on the radar as a No. 2 or 3 fantasy back. 1

    Andy Manis

    1. Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

    Well folks, Gordon is the No. 1 fantasy rookie in my re-draft rankings, at least for now. The explosive running back out of Wisconsin lands in a perfect situation to succeed, as the Chargers didn't have a lead back on their roster after Ryan Mathews left for Philadelphia. While Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are all on the roster, Gordon should still be on the radar as a No. 2 or 3 fantasy back.