Whether you only play in redraft leagues, keeper leagues, or Dynasty leagues, the first night of the NFL Draft is a big one. For one, it means the 2017 fantasy football season has kind of/sort of started, but more accurately, it's the first time you really start thinking about where these rookies are going to fit in your draft strategy. You do some quick mental rankings and decide on the must-haves (Leonard Fournette?), the sleepers (Corey Davis?), and the busts (Mitch Trubisky?). It's that easy, right?
No, it's definitely not. We're all going to flip-flop on these guys at least 20 times before Week 1, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start the process now. With that said, here are our initial thoughts on the QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs drafted in Round 1.
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NFL Draft 2017: Top fantasy football rookies
Leonard Fournette, Jaguars. This might seem like a crowded backfield with T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory still on the roster (for now), but when a team uses the fourth overall pick to draft a running back, it's sending a strong message that he's "The Guy." Fournette will be "The Guy" in the Jags' backfield this year. Will he be Ezekiel Elliott 2.0? That remains to be seen, but he's a sure fantasy starter from Day 1, likely a second-round pick (maybe late first) in redraft leagues, and one of the top picks in Dynasty Leagues.
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers. Is McCaffrey a running back or a wide receiver? Sounds like he'll be a little of both, and while we don’t have overly high hopes for his rushing or touchdown totals in his rookie season, he could still put up a decent amount of total yards. It's tough to imagine him being a consistent, week-to-week play, but Jonathan Stewart is no picture of health, and if he gets hurt, it's hard to really assess what McCaffrey's ceiling could be. Consider him a worthwhile lotto ticket toward the middle of drafts.
Corey Davis, Titans. The problem with virtually all rookie wide receivers is that they're rarely consistent. For someone like Davis, who's going to a team that ranked just 28th in pass attempts last year, it's difficult to sign off on him as anything more than a bye-week fill-in. He looks the part of a future big-time receiver for Marcus Mariota, but that doesn't mean you should spend anything more than a late-round pick on him in redraft leagues. He's much more attractive in Dynasty formats.
Mike Williams, Chargers. Williams seems like the type of player who should have success with Philip Rivers. He's big, strong and loves to go up and get it in the red zone. However, Antonio Gates is still hanging out around the goal line and Hunter Henry is establishing himself as a red-zone threat. Plus, there's 6-4 Tyrell Williams and 6-3 Dontrelle Inman to contend with. Even if Keenan Allen is a lost cause, Williams has competition for touchdowns. Overall, he might have the most upside of any receiver taken in the first round, but it will likely be an inconsistent rookie season. While it's tempting to say Williams has more value in Dynasty leagues, the potential of a Philip Rivers retirement in the coming year(s) is a bit of a worry.
John Ross, Bengals. The lazy analysis here is that Ross will see single coverage opposite A.J. Green and just streak down the field past helpless defensive backs. Sure, that will probably happen a few times this year, but the NFL usually doesn't work that way. The speedster out of Washington will have to earn his playing time, and Ross will have to get in sync with Andy Dalton. While Ross has "big-play machine" written all over him, his ascension could be more of a slow burn, ironically. And even if the yards are there, the TDs might not be.
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers. Like receivers, it's usually rare to see a rookie tight end produce consistently for fantasy owners, but Howard has so much talent and is in such a good situation than you can bet plenty of people will talk themselves into him on draft day. And why not? We know Jameis Winston loves his big targets in the red zone, and Howard can get out and move in the open field. It will likely be a season filled with 2-catch 29-yard performances followed by six-catch, 71-yard, one-TD performances, but as long as you don't go overboard, there's nothing wrong with drafting Howard as a fringe starter.
Evan Engram, Giants. The Giants need a tight end, so this looks great on paper, but, again – rookie tight end. Engram doesn't have elite size, which is somewhat of a worry at a position that so often rewards size in the red zone, but he does have great speed, which will certainly help him in the open field. It's tough to recommend drafting Engram, but he's one of those guys who will go off the waiver wire quickly if he has a good start to the year.
David Njoku, Browns. Let's be honest: Njoku is probably a stayaway this year, even with Gary Barnidge getting cut. Yes, we know coach Hue Jackson is a bit of a "TE Whisperer", but one can only do so much in this situation. That's not to say Njoku lacks talent – far from it. It would shock no one if he's putting up numbers in Year 2 or 3 once Cleveland gets its QB figured out, but for now, we're not too excited about this pick for 2017.
Mitch Trubisky, Bears. After the Bears paid Mike Glennon this offseason, it seems unlikely Trubisky will open the season as a starter, but as we saw last year with Carson Wentz, a lot can happen between now and Week 1. Of course, even if Trubisky is starting Week 1, he's about as far from a fantasy asset as you can get – and we don't even mean that as a knock to him. The Bears' wide receiver corps can be defined as "inconsistent, at best", and the offense figures to skew toward the run as much as possible. It's tough to assess Trubisky's value in Dynasty leagues, so we'll say somewhere between Jared Goff and Wentz. How's that for faint praise?
Patrick Mahomes II, Chiefs. It's tough to imagine Mahomes II playing much, if at all, this year, but does he have Dynasty potential? Sure, all QBs do, but the current iteration of the Chiefs' offense seems limiting to fantasy quarterbacks. Perhaps Mahomes II is so talented he rises above that, or perhaps by the time he's starting everything will be different in Kansas City – who knows? He's a total wild card over the long term unless Alex Smith gets hurt this year.
Deshaun Watson, Texans. "This Year's Dak", right? Maybe, but keep in mind no one thought Dak Prescott was "Last Year's Dak" until, like, Week 6. As impressive as Watson's college resume is, the slate is wiped clean entering the NFL. He steps into a good situation, complete with an All-Pro-caliber No. 1 receiver, explosive secondary receivers, reliable TEs, strong running game, and decent O-line, but obviously any sort of meaningful production will fall on Watson. His running ability is what makes him intriguing to fantasy owners, and, indeed, will probably get him drafted in the late rounds of redraft leagues this year. There's nothing wrong with that (you know, assuming Watson wins the starting job), but he's much more interesting as highish-round pick in Dynasty leagues.