With the 2020 NFL season a little over two weeks away, fantasy football draft season is officially here.
With players opting out, no preseason games, and the added challenges with COVID-19, fantasy football players can expect more uncertainty than usual as they construct their virtual rosters. Many NFL teams may be forced to rely on new players to step up, and some will turn to their rookies to contribute to the action.
With a number of big names entering the league this year, here are five rookies to target from each position for your fantasy draft this year.
Preseason rankings: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defense/Special Teams | Top Rookies | 10 sleepers and breakouts | Tips for a perfect draft | Players to avoid drafting early
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Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
Edwards-Helaire is in the best position entering his rookie season and will likely be a major contributor in Kansas City this year. He is a running back capable of catching the football, which fits perfectly into Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s offense. His knack for earning yards after contact will serve him well in the NFL after he charted an SEC-high 782 yards after contact last season at LSU. He also led the conference in 71 broken tackles in the run game and added 14 more in the passing game. Additionally, Chiefs running back Damien Williams announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, leaving more opportunity for Edwards-Helaire to step up. For points per reception leagues, Edwards-Helaire is an even more appealing draft candidate.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
After becoming one of the most successful running backs in college football history, Jonathan Taylor is certainly a name to look out for as he makes his NFL debut this season. At Wisconsin, he charted over 6,000 rushing yards and 55 touchdowns in his career. He also finished in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting all three years of his career. He is another back who excels after contact and led the nation with 3,921 yards after contact since 2017. He will have to compete with Marlon Mack who rushed over 1,000 yards for the Colts last season, but his ceiling is extremely high if he can find consistent playing time.
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Dobbins is another strong running back who could step into a significant role on an NFL roster this season. He will be joining the skilled Ravens rushing group, which set an NFL record last season for rushing yards. While last year's starter Mark Ingram Jr. compiled over 1,000 rushing yards, his hard-hitting style will work in tandem with Dobbins’ ability to run for long yardage. The former Ohio State running back led FBS with 31 rushes for over 15 yards in 2019, and Baltimore will look to their rookie for breakout plays. Similar to Taylor, consistent playing time will be the key to Dobbins having a strong rookie campaign.
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
The Lions struggled in the run game last season, so D’Andre Swift has a chance to help resolve their issues this year. His stellar hands and athleticism will bode well for his success in the pros. Last season, he averaged 6.6 yards per carry and 9.1 yards per reception. He also recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Georgia. While he will have to compete with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarborough for the starting role, Johnson especially has struggled to stay healthy, missing 14 games in his two NFL season. If he goes down, Swift could become one of the best fantasy running backs.
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
Despite playing behind a below-average Florida State offensive line last year, Akers was dominant and rushed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. With the Rams cutting ties with Todd Gurley this offseason, Akers, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown will all compete for minutes, but the rookie has a solid chance at leading the pack.
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb could potentially become one of the top offensive threats in the NFL and will step into a significant role in his first season in the league. At Oklahoma, he showed an incredible ability to operate in the middle of the field, averaging 24.2 yards per reception from the slot last season (second-most in FBS). With defenses forced to account for Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Lamb could be left open and be dangerous for opponents, especially after the catch where he averaged 11.2 yards in that category last season. The Cowboys offense adding Lamb is a classic example of the rich getting richer.
Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders
Ruggs is entering the NFL as one of the fasted players in the league after running a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. His elite speed made him an easy choice for the Raiders and his impressive stats at Alabama leave his team hopeful for his success at the next level. Last year, he averaged 18.6 yards per reception and 10.5 yards after the catch. His oversized hands (nearly 11 inches wide) are extremely reliable and led to only two drops. While he is not a tackle breaker and could struggle in tight coverage, he will have to count on Derek Carr’s willingness to launch the ball downfield.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
As a reliable and competitive receiver, Jefferson will be a huge asset for the Vikings and any fantasy team this year. He is a good size, great route runner, has reliable hands, is extremely athletic and can jump to get contested balls. The former LSU receiver set a school record with 111 catches last year, the third-most in SEC history. He caught 12 of 13 contested targets for 92.3% –– the highest rate among FBS wide receivers. After Minnesota traded away Stefon Diggs, Jefferson could step into a crucial role in his rookie year.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
Jeudy is another talented receiver to enter the league this year. His route running skills, speed and acceleration make him an attractive candidate for any team. His great hands led him to record over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019 at Alabama. He was also named the nation’s top receiver in 2018 and will likely step into a starting role with the Broncos.
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
Not only is Pittman Jr. a big, strong and talented wide receiver, but he is also exactly what the Colts need on their roster. At USC, he was one of only four FBS receivers to catch 100 passes last year and only had two drops in 140 targets. He led the Pac-12 in deep receptions and receiving yards and could bring the deep passing game to the Colts this year, who recorded the fewest long receptions in the NFL last season. Additionally, based on receivers who have had success with Philip Rivers in the past, Pittman fits the model perfectly as a bigger-bodied, athletic wideout who excels in pulling down contested catches.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Without a doubt, Joe Burrow will find his way onto many fantasy rosters this season. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and is walking into the starting role in Cincinnati, hoping to help put them back on the right track for the future. Last season alone at LSU, he threw for 5,671 yards and a whopping 60 touchdowns. He had a 76.3% completion percentage and averaged 10.8 yards per attempt. He also ran for 368 and five scores and added a Heisman Trophy and National Championship to his resume. In addition to his personal skills, Burrow will be able to work with weapons like AJ Green, Tyler Boyd and Clemson rookie Tee Higgins to further elevate his game.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
While Tagovailoa is now better known for his devastating hip injury, he put up big numbers for Alabama in 24 games across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He threw 76 touchdowns in his time and ran for seven more while averaging 11.2 yards per carry. He has a strong arm, great footwork and is an extremely mobile dual-threat quarterback who has a chance to thrive in the NFL. Miami will certainly rely on both his arm and his legs to bring success to their program this year.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Herbert is another top prospect entering the league who will step into a starting role in 2020. At Oregon in his final two seasons, he threw for over 6,500 yards and 62 touchdowns in 27 games. He has a strong arm, great size, is very agile and will bring a fresh start to the Chargers’ offense. Whether he overtakes teammate Tyrod Taylor for the starting position remains to be seen.
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
While Love won’t hold the starting role in 2020 with Aaron Rodgers returning, he could become a crucial backup given the unprecedented nature of this season with COVID-19 and the regular unexpected injuries that occur. The Packers shockingly chose Love in the first round out of Utah State and saw good potential in his future. In 2018, he threw for 32 touchdowns and ran for seven more. While he regressed in 2019 due a coaching change and threw 17 interceptions to 20 touchdowns, he has a strong arm and fearless passer. But for now, the Packers are Rodgers team.
Jacob Eason, Indianapolis Colts
The former Washington quarterback will also hold a backup role this season behind veteran Philip Rivers. He is a strong-armed quarterback who threw 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Similar to Love, he could be a solid pick in dynasty leagues, but don't expect him to be a difference-maker during the 2020 season.
Devin Asiasi, New England Patriots
The former UCLA tight end will play a role in New England’s offense this season, which is in the process of remodeling its tight end position. He is a strong, athletic blocker and reliable pass catcher, recording 44 catches for 641 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
As of late, Notre Dame has produced many talented tight ends like Tyler Eifert, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, and Kmet hopes to be another. He good size and able to brush off tacklers easily, which led to his 515 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver Broncos
While Okwuegbunam finds himself stuck by Noah Fant in the lineup in Denver, the former Missouri tight end has the athletic ability at the catch point that could earn him snaps this year. His 4.46-second 40-yard dash alone bodes well for his future in the league, and while he isn’t the strongest of blockers, he makes up for it as a pass catcher – and averaged 12.1 yards per reception in his college career.
Harrison Bryant, Cleveland Browns
Bryant is another who excels after the catch and uses his athleticism to his advantage. While he needs to improve as a blocker, he will challenge David Njoku and Austin Hooper in Cleveland. At Florida Atlantic last season, he recorded over 1,000 yards receiving, six touchdowns and 15.4 yards per catch.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints
While Trautman sits behind multiple other talented tight ends on the Saints roster like Jared Cook, Josh Hill and Taysom Hill, the small-school product out of Dayton could become a huge asset for the team in the red zone this season.