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Published: May 1, 2017 at 03:36 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2017 at 01:28 p.m.

Top 20 fantasy football rookies for 2017

If we have learned anything in recent seasons, it's that rookies can make an instant impact both in the stat sheets and in fantasy football. Owners who fielded Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Michael Thomas last season can attest to that. So, who has the most potential for 2017? Here are the top 20 rookies with the best chance to make some noise in your leagues both next season and into the future.

20 Photos Total

  • 20. ArDarius Stewart, WR, New York Jets 20

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    20. ArDarius Stewart, WR, New York Jets

    Stewart likely won't make a major fantasy impact as a rookie, but he could be a nice dynasty selection down the line. Eric Decker is coming off hip and shoulder surgeries, and there's still talk that the Jets could release him. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are also in the mix, but Stewart will no doubt have a chance to shine sooner rather than later for a franchise that is in rebuilding mode. Consider him more of a dynasty pick.
    Projection: 28 receptions, 349 yards, 2 TDs

  • 19. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    19. Jeremy McNichols, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The Buccaneers backfield is a bit of a fantasy mess, as Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games while Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims are also in the mix. With that said, McNichols could still find it hard to create a role in the offense as a rookie. With Martin more likely to remain with the team following some off-field issues, I'd project McNichols as more of a dynasty-league option as a rookie runner.
    Projection: 37 carries, 151 yards, 0 TDs, 13 receptions, 139 yards, TD

  • 18. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants 18

    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    18. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

    The G-Men passed on David Njoku and took Engram in the first round, which filled their need at the tight end position. A talented pass catcher, the Ole Miss product could produce TE2 totals as a rookie. His ceiling is a bit limited, however, as superstar Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard are all very likely to see more targets. Consider Engram a late-rounder in most 2017 seasonal fantasy drafts.
    Projection: 41 receptions, 408 yards, 4 TDs

  • 17. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans 17

    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    17. Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

    I don't think there's a Dak Prescott level quarterback in the 2017 class, but Watson would be the closest comparison. While Tom Savage is still considered the projected starter in Houston, I'd be shocked if Watson didn't get a shot at some point during his rookie campaign. His biggest fantasy asset is his rushing skills, as he ran for over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in his final two collegiate seasons at Clemson.
    Projection: 297 completions, 498 attempts, 3,379 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs, 53 carries, 287 yards, 3 TDs

  • 16. David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns 16

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    16. David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

    Could Njoku be the next in a long line of Miami (FL) tight ends who have emerged into fantasy stars? He's in a good position for success under the watch of coach Hue Jackson, who has done well with the position in the past. The Browns also released Gary Barnidge, so the job is Njoku's for the taking. Rookie tight ends rarely make a huge impact, though, so I like him more in dynasty leagues than seasonal formats.
    Projection: 46 receptions, 487 yards, 4 TDs

  • 15. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints 15

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    15. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    Kamara was one of my favorite sleeper rookies heading into the draft, but he ended up in a nightmare spot with the Saints (at least for 2017). With Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson ahead of him on the depth chart, Kamara will be mostly relegated to work on passing downs next season. With that said, he'll have some seasonal PPR value for fantasy owners and could be a major dynasty-league factor in the near future.
    Projection: 34 carries, 141 yards, 0 TDs, 36 receptions, 269 yards, TD

  • 14. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans 14

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    14. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans

    Foreman is a talented runner who rushed for over 2,000 yards with 15 touchdowns en route to the Doak Walker Award in his final collegiate season at Texas. He isn't much of a pass catcher, though, and the presence of Lamar Miller makes him a tough sell outside of the late rounds of seasonal leagues. I do think Foreman will emerge past Alfred Blue as the preferred handcuff for owners who land Miller, however.
    Projection: 103 carries, 392 yards, 3 TDs, 2 receptions, 11 yards, 0 TDs

  • 13. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    13. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Howard was the top tight end in this class, and his upside at the NFL level is massive. With that said, fantasy fans need to keep in mind that rookie tight ends rarely make a significant statistical impact. Howard will also have to contend with Cameron Brate, who found the end zone eight times last year. Howard will be worth a late flier as a No. 2 in seasonal leagues, but most of his appeal will be in dynasty formats.
    Projection: 35 receptions, 444 yards, 4 TDs

  • 12. Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers 12

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    12. Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers

    Samuel is a player to watch during camp, as the Panthers don't have much at wide receiver behind Kelvin Benjamin (who is reportedly overweight) and Devin Funchess. A versatile player in the mold of a Percy Harvin, Samuel could etch out a role in the Panthers offense as a potential slot receiver who also sees a handful of carries. The Ohio State product will have some late-round appeal in most fantasy leagues.
    Projection: 21 carries, 113 yards, 0 TDs, 47 receptions, 506 yards, 4 TDs

  • 11. John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals 11

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    11. John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

    Best known for breaking the record for the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Ross went 10th overall to a Bengals offense that now boasts a bunch of talented pass catchers (none more than A.J. Green). Therein lies the concern, as Ross won't be in a position to emerge as a high-volume wideout as a rookie and beyond. I'd temper expectations, at least in the short term, and call Ross a late-round flier.
    Projection: 42 receptions, 598 yards, 4 TDs

  • 10. Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills 10

    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    10. Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills

    Jones landed in a great spot, as the Bills lacked a No. 2 wideout after Robert Woods left as a free agent. The East Carolina product was a star at the NFL Scouting Combine and is the current FBS all-time leader in receptions. Assuming he starts opposite Sammy Watkins, who has been prone to injuries at the pro level, Jones should see enough targets to be worth a late-round flier in most seasonal fantasy football drafts.
    Projection: 49 receptions, 673 yards, 5 TDs

  • 9. Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers 9

    Ryan Kang/Associated Press

    9. Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers

    The Packers drafted three running backs, but Williams is the one to watch. While coach Mike McCarthy has said that Ty Montgomery is still the top back on the depth chart, one has to wonder if the converted wideout can handle a full season of backfield work. Christine Michael is now out of the mix, so there is less resistance in Williams' path to stardom. He will be well worth a middle- to late-round choice in all re-drafts.
    Projection: 123 carries, 491 yards, 4 TDs, 6 receptions, 58 yards, 0 TDs

  • 8. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs 8

    David Richard/Associated Press

    8. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

    Hunt is going to be mentioned often as a potential sleeper in fantasy circles. An elusive runner at the college level, he has three-down potential in the pros and is a nice fit for what coach Andy Reid likes to do with his running backs. While Spencer Ware is locked in atop the Chiefs depth chart, Hunt could push for a role on passing downs and end up as the preferred fantasy handcuff. He'll be worth a late-round choice.
    Projection: 93 carries, 390 yards, 3 TDs, 28 receptions, 201 yards, TD

  • 7. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers 7

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    7. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    Williams is one of the best wide receivers in the 2017 class, but he's unlikely to bring immediate fantasy value. That's due to the fact that the Chargers have a crowded core of pass catchers including Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin, Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. While I do like his long-term prospects, Williams won't be worth much more than a late selection in seasonal drafts.
    Projection: 48 receptions, 686 yards, 5 TDs

  • 6. Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins 6

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    6. Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

    NFL Network's resident GM Charley Casserly told me that Perine is a player for fantasy fans to watch, and I'm in total agreement. Rob Kelley did well as the starter last season, but he's by no means locked into a true featured role ... especially if Perine looks good during training camp. A potential short-yardage and goal-line asset who could pass Kelley on the depth chart, Perine is worth a middle- to late-rounder.
    Projection: 167 carries, 652 yards, 5 TDs, 17 receptions, 158 yards, 0 TDs

  • 5. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans 5

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    5. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

    Davis, who has drawn comparisons to Terrell Owens, will no doubt be the first rookie wideout drafted in both seasonal and dynasty formats. He lands in a great spot in Tennessee, as the Titans lack a true No. 1 wide receiver (sorry, Rishard Matthews) and field a talented young quarterback under center in Marcus Mariota. Davis could push for flex-starter value as a rookie, and his long-term outlook is very bright.
    Projection: 61 receptions, 793 yards, 6 TDs

  • 4. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals 4

    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    4. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    Mixon has all the tools to be a first-round selection, but his off-the-field issues kept him on the board until the second round. Regardless, I like him to start ahead of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard at some point in his rookie season (if not right out of the gate). A potential three-down back at the next level, Mixon could be a top-50 seasonal selection and he's a lock to be a first-rounder in all dynasty league formats.
    Projection: 183 carries, 783 yards, 5 TDs, 23 receptions, 171 yards, TD

  • 3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings 3

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Press

    3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    The Minnesota backfield is a crowded one with Cook, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon all on the depth chart. The rookie has the most talent and upside of the trio, however, so I see him earning the starting job sooner rather than later. Once he assumes a bigger role in the offense, which could be a few weeks into the season, Cook should be able to produce RB2 totals for fantasy fans. He'll be worth a mid-rounder.
    Projection: 178 carries, 791 yards, 5 TDs, 27 receptions, 223 yards, TD

  • 2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers 2

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    McCaffrey isn't considered a good fit for the Panthers offense in the minds of some analysts, but has this unit ever had a runner with his skill set? You don't draft someone eighth overall and not use him to the best of his abilities, and he fills a need in an offense that lacks playmakers. McCaffrey can do it all on the gridiron, and I think he'll be a better fantasy option than veteran Jonathan Stewart as a rookie.
    Projection: 153 carries, 677 yards, 4 TDs, 54 receptions, 433 yards, 2 TDs

  • 1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars 1

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Press

    1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    A bruising, between-the-tackles runner who has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson, Fournette will be the first rookie picked in countless seasonal and dynasty leagues. He should be considered the main man in the Jaguars backfield, even with Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon in the mix, and a lock top-50 overall selection. Fournette won't make an Ezekiel Elliott impact in 2017, but he'll be a solid No. 2 running back.
    Projection: 241 carries, 1,066 yards, 8 TDs, 23 receptions, 165 yards, 0 TDs

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