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Published: May 2, 2016 at 11:39 a.m.
Updated: May 4, 2016 at 05:56 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 David Johnson, Jameis Winston and Amari Cooper last season can attest to that. So, who has the most potential for 2016? Here's a look at 20 rookies ranked in order of when they'll likely be picked in your seasonal fantasy football draft.

20 Photos Total

  • Excuse me as a I gush about Elliott, who figures to be the first rookie picked in all 2016 fantasy drafts. A three-down runner who will be tough to take off the field based on his skill set, Elliott figures to step right into a featured role in the Dallas backfield ahead of both Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. There's an argument to be made for him to be a first-round selection in 10-team seasonal formats. 20

    Bradley Leeb/Associated Press

    1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys

    Excuse me as a I gush about Elliott, who figures to be the first rookie picked in all 2016 fantasy drafts. A three-down runner who will be tough to take off the field based on his skill set, Elliott figures to step right into a featured role in the Dallas backfield ahead of both Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. There's an argument to be made for him to be a first-round selection in 10-team seasonal formats.

  • The first wide receiver taken in the draft, Coleman enters a tremendous situation in Cleveland. Unless Josh Gordon is reinstated before the start of the 2016 campaign, the explosive Baylor product figures to top the Browns' depth chart sooner than later. Fellow Baylor product Robert Griffin III is certain to look in Coleman's direction often as a rookie, making him a potential No. 3/4 fantasy wideout choice. 19

    Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

    2. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns

    The first wide receiver taken in the draft, Coleman enters a tremendous situation in Cleveland. Unless Josh Gordon is reinstated before the start of the 2016 campaign, the explosive Baylor product figures to top the Browns' depth chart sooner than later. Fellow Baylor product Robert Griffin III is certain to look in Coleman's direction often as a rookie, making him a potential No. 3/4 fantasy wideout choice.

  • Like Coleman, Treadwell enters a situation where he'll be allowed a chance to start right out of the gate. The Vikings field Stefon Diggs and little else behind him at the wideout position, so it wouldn't be a shock to see the Ole Miss product out on the gridiron when the Vikings line up their starters in Week 1. Treadwell's ceiling is much higher in the long term, but he'll be a No. 3/4 wideout as a rookie. 18

    Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports

    3. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings

    Like Coleman, Treadwell enters a situation where he'll be allowed a chance to start right out of the gate. The Vikings field Stefon Diggs and little else behind him at the wideout position, so it wouldn't be a shock to see the Ole Miss product out on the gridiron when the Vikings line up their starters in Week 1. Treadwell's ceiling is much higher in the long term, but he'll be a No. 3/4 wideout as a rookie.

  • The Ravens backfield is crowded with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro in the mix, but I think Dixon could open the season as high as second on the team's depth chart. He could etch out a decent role as a rookie and might even see a few starts if Forsett falters. I like him much more in the long term, but Dixon is a no-brainer to be picked somewhere in the middle to late rounds next season. 17

    Chris Tilley/Associated Press

    4. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens

    The Ravens backfield is crowded with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro in the mix, but I think Dixon could open the season as high as second on the team's depth chart. He could etch out a decent role as a rookie and might even see a few starts if Forsett falters. I like him much more in the long term, but Dixon is a no-brainer to be picked somewhere in the middle to late rounds next season.

  • Few Oklahoma wide receivers have made a significant impact at the next level, but Shepard as a legitimate shot to shake that trend. He has a tremendous all-around skill set and should push Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Odell Beckham Jr. A potential PPR sleeper, Shepard will come off the board somewhere in the later rounds. He's a player to watch during training camp. 16

    Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

    5. Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants

    Few Oklahoma wide receivers have made a significant impact at the next level, but Shepard as a legitimate shot to shake that trend. He has a tremendous all-around skill set and should push Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Odell Beckham Jr. A potential PPR sleeper, Shepard will come off the board somewhere in the later rounds. He's a player to watch during training camp.

  • Doctson might be the best wide receiver in the 2016 class when all is said and done, but can he make an impact as a rookie? That could be difficult with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Jamison Crowder all in the mix at the position in Washington. I do like Doctson far more as a dynasty-league selection, unless of course the Redskins cut ties with Garçon between now and the start of the 2016 regular season. 15

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    6. Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins

    Doctson might be the best wide receiver in the 2016 class when all is said and done, but can he make an impact as a rookie? That could be difficult with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Jamison Crowder all in the mix at the position in Washington. I do like Doctson far more as a dynasty-league selection, unless of course the Redskins cut ties with Garçon between now and the start of the 2016 regular season.

  • The Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason, so Boyd landed in a terrific spot to make an immediate impact. While he's thin and not a real speedster, Boyd can be a playmaker with the football in his hands. All he needs to do is beat out Brandon LaFell in training camp for the right to start opposite A.J. Green in Cincinnati's talented offense. Look for Boyd to be selected in the late rounds. 14

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    7. Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals

    The Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason, so Boyd landed in a terrific spot to make an immediate impact. While he's thin and not a real speedster, Boyd can be a playmaker with the football in his hands. All he needs to do is beat out Brandon LaFell in training camp for the right to start opposite A.J. Green in Cincinnati's talented offense. Look for Boyd to be selected in the late rounds.

  • I hate where Henry landed in fantasy football terms, at least for his rookie projections, because he's got no chance to start with DeMarco Murray ahead of him on the depth chart. While the Heisman Trophy winner should earn a role in what figures to be a smashmouth offensive attack, he should be seen more as a top handcuff. Henry could be a bargain if Murray can't stay on the field for all 16 games, however. 13

    David Goldman/Associated Press

    8. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

    I hate where Henry landed in fantasy football terms, at least for his rookie projections, because he's got no chance to start with DeMarco Murray ahead of him on the depth chart. While the Heisman Trophy winner should earn a role in what figures to be a smashmouth offensive attack, he should be seen more as a top handcuff. Henry could be a bargain if Murray can't stay on the field for all 16 games, however.

  • Prosise, who converted to running back after first playing wide receiver at the collegiate level, should come right in and serve as Seattle's third-down back behind projected starter Thomas Rawls. That makes him draftable in all leagues. Should Rawls and the health of his ankle come into question at the start of training camp, well, Prosise could be touted as a legit sleeper in Seattle's run-friendly offense. 12

    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    9. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks

    Prosise, who converted to running back after first playing wide receiver at the collegiate level, should come right in and serve as Seattle's third-down back behind projected starter Thomas Rawls. That makes him draftable in all leagues. Should Rawls and the health of his ankle come into question at the start of training camp, well, Prosise could be touted as a legit sleeper in Seattle's run-friendly offense.

  • Jeremy Langford dodged a bullet in that the Bears traded down in Round 2 and didn't take Henry at No. 41 overall. Still, the selection of Howard has to raise some eyebrows. He's a between-the-tackles bruiser who could push Langford and Ka'Deem Carey for carries all season long. While a featured role is out of the question as a rookie, I'd still consider Howard a potential sleeper choice in seasonal leagues. 11

    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    10. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

    Jeremy Langford dodged a bullet in that the Bears traded down in Round 2 and didn't take Henry at No. 41 overall. Still, the selection of Howard has to raise some eyebrows. He's a between-the-tackles bruiser who could push Langford and Ka'Deem Carey for carries all season long. While a featured role is out of the question as a rookie, I'd still consider Howard a potential sleeper choice in seasonal leagues.

  • Thomas landed in a nice spot in terms of who will be throwing him the football, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Saints offense. Brandin Cooks and Coby Fleener figure to eat up a lot of targets, so Thomas will have to earn his opportunities. He also needs to unseat Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman on the depth chart, so at this point it's tough to lock him into much more than a late-round selection. 10

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    11. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

    Thomas landed in a nice spot in terms of who will be throwing him the football, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Saints offense. Brandin Cooks and Coby Fleener figure to eat up a lot of targets, so Thomas will have to earn his opportunities. He also needs to unseat Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman on the depth chart, so at this point it's tough to lock him into much more than a late-round selection.

  • Drake was a major playmaker at Alabama, at least when he was on the gridiron, and figures to be a nice complement to Jay Ajayi in the Dolphins backfield. A terrific pass catcher, Drake should come in and see work when Miami wants to throw the football. He also has little competition for the second spot on the depth chart, unless the team brings in a veteran runner like Arian Foster closer to training camp. 9

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Press

    12. Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins

    Drake was a major playmaker at Alabama, at least when he was on the gridiron, and figures to be a nice complement to Jay Ajayi in the Dolphins backfield. A terrific pass catcher, Drake should come in and see work when Miami wants to throw the football. He also has little competition for the second spot on the depth chart, unless the team brings in a veteran runner like Arian Foster closer to training camp.

  • Booker is a talented runner, but he didn't land in the best spot from a fantasy perspective. The Broncos paid C.J. Anderson $18 million this offseason -- including $10 million guaranteed -- to be their workhorse of the present and future. So unless he turns into an absolute bust, I just don't see Booker seeing enough touches to make a major fantasy impact as a rookie. He's worth a late-round selection in 2016. 8

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    13. Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos

    Booker is a talented runner, but he didn't land in the best spot from a fantasy perspective. The Broncos paid C.J. Anderson $18 million this offseason -- including $10 million guaranteed -- to be their workhorse of the present and future. So unless he turns into an absolute bust, I just don't see Booker seeing enough touches to make a major fantasy impact as a rookie. He's worth a late-round selection in 2016.

  • Fuller was one of the fastest players in the 2016 class, running a 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He's still a bit of a project though, as Fuller is rail thin and dropped too many passes at the collegiate level. He's also no lock to start opposite superstar DeAndre Hopkins either, as Jaelen Strong will also be in the mix for that role. Fuller has a boom or bust sort of feel at the next level. 7

    Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

    14. Will Fuller, WR, Texans

    Fuller was one of the fastest players in the 2016 class, running a 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He's still a bit of a project though, as Fuller is rail thin and dropped too many passes at the collegiate level. He's also no lock to start opposite superstar DeAndre Hopkins either, as Jaelen Strong will also be in the mix for that role. Fuller has a boom or bust sort of feel at the next level.

  • The Giants have Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen as their current 1-2 backfield punch, but the addition of Perkins is notable. While he's not going to be a three-down runner at the next level, the UCLA product could fit into a decent role if Jennings, 31, goes down with some sort of physical ailment. There could be some late-round value in seasonal leagues, but Perkins should be on the dynasty radar in drafts. 6

    Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

    15. Paul Perkins, RB, Giants

    The Giants have Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen as their current 1-2 backfield punch, but the addition of Perkins is notable. While he's not going to be a three-down runner at the next level, the UCLA product could fit into a decent role if Jennings, 31, goes down with some sort of physical ailment. There could be some late-round value in seasonal leagues, but Perkins should be on the dynasty radar in drafts.

  • There's no question that Lamar Miller will be Houston's workhorse runner heading into next season, but who projects to be his handcuff? Before the draft, that answer would have been Alfred Blue. With the selection of Ervin, however, fantasy fans now have to wonder if that's still the case. The San Jose State product won't be selected in most 10-team leagues, but he'll leap onto the radar if Miller goes down. 5

    John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

    16. Tyler Ervin, RB, Texans

    There's no question that Lamar Miller will be Houston's workhorse runner heading into next season, but who projects to be his handcuff? Before the draft, that answer would have been Alfred Blue. With the selection of Ervin, however, fantasy fans now have to wonder if that's still the case. The San Jose State product won't be selected in most 10-team leagues, but he'll leap onto the radar if Miller goes down.

  • There's been a lot of talk about Robinson, who has some NFL potential but was a bit of a knucklehead at the collegiate level (he was suspended four times). Still, he's a name to watch during training camp. No one is locked into the No. 2 and 3 spots on the depth chart in Kansas City, so Robinson could earn targets if he performs better than Chris Conley, Albert Wilson and Rod Streater during training camp. 4

    Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

    17. Demarcus Robinson, WR, Chiefs

    There's been a lot of talk about Robinson, who has some NFL potential but was a bit of a knucklehead at the collegiate level (he was suspended four times). Still, he's a name to watch during training camp. No one is locked into the No. 2 and 3 spots on the depth chart in Kansas City, so Robinson could earn targets if he performs better than Chris Conley, Albert Wilson and Rod Streater during training camp.

  • Lynch is the lone quarterback on this list, and who knows if he'll even be allowed to make an impact as a rookie. The Broncos could decide to use Mark Sanchez as the bridge to Lynch, but do the Super Bowl champions want to have a Sanchez-led team defending the Lombardi Trophy? If Lynch gets the call, he'll have a ton of weapons on offense and could turn into a matchup-based starter for fantasy football owners. 3

    Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

    18. Paxton Lynch, QB, Broncos

    Lynch is the lone quarterback on this list, and who knows if he'll even be allowed to make an impact as a rookie. The Broncos could decide to use Mark Sanchez as the bridge to Lynch, but do the Super Bowl champions want to have a Sanchez-led team defending the Lombardi Trophy? If Lynch gets the call, he'll have a ton of weapons on offense and could turn into a matchup-based starter for fantasy football owners.

  • Ryan Mathews was one of the biggest winners following the 2016 NFL Draft, as the Eagles didn't pick a runner who will compete with him for the top spot on the depth chart. Fantasy owners know that he hasn't been the most durable running back on the planet though, so Smallwood could end up seeing snaps in a worst-case scenario. He's a player to watch during camp and could push to be a late-round pick in drafts. 2

    Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

    19. Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles

    Ryan Mathews was one of the biggest winners following the 2016 NFL Draft, as the Eagles didn't pick a runner who will compete with him for the top spot on the depth chart. Fantasy owners know that he hasn't been the most durable running back on the planet though, so Smallwood could end up seeing snaps in a worst-case scenario. He's a player to watch during camp and could push to be a late-round pick in drafts.

  • The Raiders didn't draft a running back to compete with Latavius Murray for the top spot on the depth chart, but Washington could earn a role on third downs and as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Remember, Roy Helu Jr. is coming off hip surgeries and Taiwan Jones hasn't established himself as much more than a bench option in Oakland. In a best-case scenario, Washington could be worth a late-round choice. 1

    Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

    20. DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders

    The Raiders didn't draft a running back to compete with Latavius Murray for the top spot on the depth chart, but Washington could earn a role on third downs and as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Remember, Roy Helu Jr. is coming off hip surgeries and Taiwan Jones hasn't established himself as much more than a bench option in Oakland. In a best-case scenario, Washington could be worth a late-round choice.