Don’t look now, but we are a quarter of the way through the 2017 NFL season. Four weeks of regular season football is a suitable amount of time to evaluate the progression of the latest rookie class; one of which that was considerably heralded heading into the season, and has thus far showcased current and future fantasy stud-worthy performances. On the flip side, injuries have both slowed and delayed the career launch of several top prospects, which could lead to interesting dynasty buy-low opportunities. One quarter down, let’s review this year’s rookie class on a position-by-position basis:
While four quarterbacks were selected within the first 52 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, only Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer saw significant snaps in the first quarter of the season. Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes, on the other hand, saw none.
Deshaun Watson has taken the league by storm, having nearly outdueled the greatest QB of all time, Tom Brady, in Week 3, and accounted for five touchdowns in the total destruction of the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. Watson has shown many of the same things that he exhibited at Clemson, and Bill O’Brien has done a good job of making his rookie quarterback comfortable by implementing many of the same concepts that Watson displayed while leading the Tigers to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances, as well as a national title. Watson has struggled a bit with accuracy, especially downfield, and that may be something he always struggles with. Although, after being handed the reins from Tom Savage after halftime of Week 1, Watson has led the Texans offense with the command and intangibles that defend the notion of why he was the QB1 in the 2017 Draft for so many analysts. Watson appears to be a future stud at the quarterback position and can be the cornerstone of your dynasty team, particularly in superflex and two-quarterback leagues.
Things have not been as smooth for the other rookie quarterback who has seen playing time this season. DeShone Kizer is still winless in 2017 for the Cleveland Browns and even though he has his flaws, he has not received much help from his receiving corps. Dropped passes, penalties, miscommunications, and even a migraine are just a few of the obstacles the former Irish signal caller has encountered while trying to turn around a Browns franchise that is on quarterback number 27 since their return in 1999. The best thing going for Kizer in his quest to become a quality NFL starter is that he is being coached by Hue Jackson, who has a wonderful reputation for developing quarterbacks. Kizer has revealed the strong arm, athleticism, and toughness that coaches desire from a franchise quarterback, but will need to improve his accuracy and mental processing speed before he can reach the potential the Browns sought when they selected him in the second round.
Mitchell Trubisky will make his starting debut in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Patrick Mahomes is sitting behind Alex Smith for the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, a place that Andy Reid would probably love to see his young quarterback remain for the duration of the 2017 season.
Nathan Peterman, C.J. Beathard
Early-season rumors were announced for Nathan Peterman and C.J. Beathard to replace Tyrod Taylor and Brian Hoyer, but both veterans’ jobs appear safe for the time being.
Four weeks in, there appear to be several talented signal callers from the 2017 rookie class. Time will tell if Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Mitchell Trubisky, and Patrick Mahomes are ready to take the QB1 torch from Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers in the dynasty fantasy football world.
The 2017 running back class was greatly heralded during the 2016 season, leaving many owners salivating at having endless first-round picks in preparation for their offseason rookie drafts. While some of that hype cooled down as the offseason evolved, the rookie class has not let its owners down during quarter one of the 2017 campaign. From solid performances by Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook, into the welcoming start of the year by Kareem Hunt, and ending with the depth provided by Tarik Cohen, Chris Carson, and Alvin Kamara, this running back class appears primed to provide several years of strong fantasy contributions.
In looking at this class, you have to start with the aforementioned Kareem Hunt. An injury to Spencer Ware propelled the rookie from Toledo into the spotlight for the undefeated Chiefs, and he has done nothing short of delivering. Through four weeks, Hunt has carried the ball 68 times for 502 yards, reached paydirt four times on the ground, and added 13 receptions for 157 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Those numbers have Hunt on pace for numbers that would rival some of the best seasons by any running back. Hunt has used great balance and vision to take advantage of the holes made by a very good offensive line, leading the way for a Chiefs offense that has started its season on fire. While it is difficult to imagine Hunt maintaining this pace, he resembles a running back that will remain a top 5 producer at the position for 2017.
Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook
Although Dalvin Cook was sidelined for the year with a torn ACL in Week 4, both he and Leonard Fournette appear to be players that will be workhorse running backs and strong fantasy contributors for the Vikings and Jaguars, respectively. While his yards per carry averaged a mediocre 3.6 yards per attempt through four weeks, Fournette has been the focal point of the Jacksonville offense. If the Jaguars offensive line can give him a little help, the former LSU Tiger should see that number climb. Fournette has also shown a better-than-expected ability to catch the ball. The injury to Dalvin Cook was a major disappointment, as the Vikings second-round selection was displaying the talent responsible for locking him in as a top 10 offseason mock draft pick. Cook fell to the second round after off-field concerns and a subpar Combine generated red flags. There was no denying Cook’s talent, and that was revealed during his brief rookie season. The silver lining for Cook is that his injury occurred early in the season and therefore, should recover in plenty of time for him to be a top fantasy RB option next season. Both Cook and Fournette appear to be the cornerstone-type players that dynasty teams desire.
Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey
A couple of buy-low options from the 2017 running back class include Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey; two players that are immensely talented but have seen slow starts to their seasons. Mixon may be the most talented running back from the class, but the Bengals offensive line has been an awful run blocking group through the first four weeks. McCaffrey, on the other hand, should be a PPR dynamo the more he adapts to the NFL game.
Tarik Cohen, Chris Carson, Wayne Gallman, Elijah McGuire, Alvin Kamara
Tarik Cohen has lived up to his college nickname, the Human Joystick. Chris Carson showed some flashes before a leg injury, while a chance to return near the end of the season remains, cut his rookie year short. Wayne Gallman may get a shot to be the Giants lead back. Elijah McGuire has looked good with limited touches so far this season. Alvin Kamara appears to be the best option for the New Orleans offense and is currently a must-buy candidate.
The 2017 running back class has had an impressive start to their careers, and projects to be an integral part of the dynasty fantasy football puzzle for years to come.
For as strong as the running back position from this draft class has seemed, the wide receiver class has resembled the opposite. Injuries have been a big part of the disappointment and should be to blame for the lack of success. There were three top 10 picks in this class; Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross. These three wide receivers have combined for seven receptions, 73 yards, and zero touchdowns. These numbers were attained by Davis before he was injured in the second game of the season.
Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams has been the most productive receiver in the class with 14 receptions for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Kupp has resembled that of solid slot man and should continue to have a significant role in the rejuvenated Rams offense.
Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Kenny Golladay exploded onto the scene in Week 1 with a two-touchdown performance before he too acceded to injury that has slowed his progress. After a similarly slow start, JuJu Smith-Schuster has risen up to the third spot on the Steelers wide receiver depth chart, and he has shown promise to be an effective big slot receiver in the Pittsburgh offense. Although the Steelers have started slow, you have to consider that a Big Ben led offense will pick up steam as the season moves along. The upside to having a rookie start slow is that it allows favorable buy-low opportunities that allow owners, whether rebuilding or competing, to take advantage of.
After seeing 10 targets last week for the 49ers, Trent Taylor is an interesting option to attain favorable PPR points. He is another receiver that works from the slot and will inevitably share comparisons to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
Zay Jones has an opportunity to catch more passes with Jordan Matthews out with a hand injury.
Getting past injuries is paramount for Curtis Samuel. Doing so could offer dynamic game-breaking ability for a rejuvenated Cam Newton led offense.
Taywan Taylor has carved out a role in the Titans offense, but his upside is limited by the exotic smashmouth offense that Mike Mularkey prefers to run.
Chris Godwin, Keelan Cole, Amara Darboh, Ardarius Stewart, Mack Hollins
Chris Godwin, Keelan Cole, Amara Darboh, Ardarius Stewart, and Mack Hollins have all flashed potential for their respective offenses and are not only worth monitoring, but should be considered stash acquisitions in dynasty leagues with deep rosters.
The top to bottom talent in this year’s rookie tight end class is as good as it gets. The hype hasn’t shown up quite yet from a numbers standpoint, but tight end is generally one of the more difficult positions to expect early contribution from in the NFL.
Through four weeks, Evan Engram has 19 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown. He has been the cream of the crop at the position from this class and has been a very steady option in a struggling Giants offense.
David Njoku, George Kittle
David Njoku, who has battled with some early-season drops, and George Kittle, have been contributors to their team’s offense. Njoku has had nine receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns, while Kittle has 10 receptions for 83 yards, but has yet to reach the end zone.
OJ Howard, the top drafted tight end of the class, has been playing behind Cameron Brate but has managed to reel in four receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Jonnu Smith, Gerald Everett, Adam Shaheen
During the first quarter of their first season, Jonnu Smith, Gerald Everett, and Adam Shaheen, three tight ends who currently appear to be playing second fiddle at the position for their respective teams, have contributed positively in limited snaps.
Look for many of these tight ends to get implemented into their respective offenses as this season moves on and, by the end of the year, they may live up to the title as one of the best tight end classes of all time.
It isn’t logical to make be-all and end-all type proclamations for any of these rookies at such an early stage of their careers. In a few weeks, after the second quarter of the season, another evaluation of these rookies will be made. Hopefully, some of the wide receivers will not only have seen more of the field but will subsequently hint on why they could be in line for a breakout during the second half of the season.