Top-5 Rookie Landing Spots by Vacated Touches
First round picks generally produce in fantasy regardless of the situation, but not all players come in and make an impact right away. Landing spots can play a large role for players in fantasy. After free agency, there are carries and targets up for grabs. In this article, we will explore the top-five landing spots for rookies in the NFL draft based on these vacated targets, carries and overall touches. We will also give three options for each team based on best fits and draft capital. So with that, let’s begin:
5. Washington Redskins – Wide Receiver
The Washington Redskins are in prime position to add an explosive pass catcher. The Josh Doctson experiment has not worked and overpaying for Paul Richardson is not the answer. With Jamison Crowder taking his talents to New York, the Redskins need to add a young receiver. Yes, they need a quarterback. However, with the state of this draft class and their draft position, they have a slim chance to grab a top QB unless they make a trade. Washington can add an elite receiver to bolster a somewhat bland offense even with the return of 2018 second round pick Derrius Guice. The Redskins only lost 20% of their target share but lost 38% of their market share air yards. With 97 targets up for grabs in Washington, the Redskins would be smart to use an early round pick and add a top-tier receiver. Adding a dynamic playmaker on the outside is something this offense desperately needs, regardless of who is under center.
DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Metcalf is fresh off an exceptional combine performance that has skyrocketed him to a solidified top-3 player in rookie drafts. (He recently went third overall in the FFS Staff Rookie Mock which you can read about here.)
A blazing 4.33 in the 40-yard dash with a 6-foot-3, 228-pound frame that included 27 bench reps, Metcalf possesses the elite size, speed, explosiveness and playmaking ability needed to transform an entire offense from bland to above average and even elite if the right QB makes their way to Washington. Metcalf has the potential to step in immediately and take on a load of those missing targets. He could take over some of the 113 targets between Doctson and Richardson and still allow Trey Quinn to play out of the slot.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
A more polished route runner than Metcalf, Harry has the potential to be a WR1 in fantasy for the next 10 years. Another big-frame receiver, he can come in and make an immediate impact as the WR1 for the lackluster Redskins offense. As you can see, he dominated at the collegiate level and improved each year. Harry would give quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Case Keenum a clear number one target in an offense that desperately needs one. Harry was the clear number one overall rookie pick heading into the 2018 college football season. He has all the tools to be dominant in fantasy and this opportunity in Washington could lead him to a dominant career in the NFL.
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
Butler does not have the freak athletic ability that Metcalf possesses or the polished route running Harry shows. However, he is bigger than both of the other two. Butler can dominate on the outside. He has 10.75-inch hands – nearly two inches bigger than Drew Lock – and can snatch the ball out of the air with his 35-inch arms. I expect him to be a day-two guy. He could be a steal for Washington with one of their three day-two picks.
4. Miami Dolphins – Running Back
Frank Gore has left the Dolphins, but he is not retiring. No, seriously. Gore is on to Buffalo and the Dolphins have not added anyone in free agency to replace his 156 carries. Adding a quality running back would go a long way in moving on from 30 years of mediocrity and the last seven years of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Over 42% of the rush attempts are gone and Kenyan Drake is still a receiving back. Can he carry the ball 200+ times and be effective? Drake has never carried it more than 133 times in a season. How about Kalen Ballage, the 2018 fourth round pick a season ago? He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, but only rushed 36 times. There are over 150 carries up for grabs, and the Dolphins will not pass on a running back. The volume is there, even in a split backfield, for a rookie to make a major impact with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Miami.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
Jacobs could come into this offense, take 125+ carries and jump-start the Dolphins offense. He is also a receiving threat out of the backfield that could add another weapon for Miami. The Dolphins lost some targets too, which Jacobs could come in and rack up as well. Taking Jacobs at 13 would be a gamble, but there is no guarantee he makes it to their second-round pick at 48. Miami could be a potential candidate to trade down if a team like Washington or New York move up ahead of them to snag a QB. If the Giants want to trade up, look for Miami to take pick 37 from New York and look for Jacobs to be a potential option.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
A likely day-two pick, Harris fits perfectly as a compliment to Kenyan Drake. Much like Gore, Harris would fit the role of the bruiser between the tackles, allowing Drake to catch the ball more out of the backfield. Harris only caught 52 passes in college, 22 of which came his senior season. But he carried the ball 135+ times in three different seasons, averaging 6.76 yards per carry. If the Dolphins can draft Harris at 78, I think that is an absolute steal. It would also propel Harris to the middle of the first round in rookie drafts purely based on the opportunity this offense presents.
Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
Similarly to Harris, Weber is not a huge factor in the passing game, totaling just 54 catches in his three-year career. In two of his three seasons, the Ohio State product carried the ball more than 170 times. With only 455 carries in his college career, Weber has pretty fresh legs and could step into this Dolphins offense and carry the ball 150 times. The MS data shows that over the last two seasons Weber carried the ball fewer times per game than the average. A likely day-three draft pick, the Dolphins would be fortunate to get Weber to come in and earn some legitimate carries as a rookie.
3. Kansas City – Running Back
A year ago, we never would have thought the Chiefs would be looking for another running back. But with Kareem Hunt gone, Kansas City could be in the market for a ball carrier even with the signing of Carlos Hyde and emergence of Damien Williams over the last four weeks of 2018. The third running back on their current roster is Darryl Williams, who has 13 carries for 44 yards in his career.
Damien Williams is 27 years old and has never been a feature back. Hyde is only on for a one-year deal. The Chiefs need to improve their running back position and could look to add a dynamic playmaker to earn carries immediately. Hunt accounted for almost 47% of the Chiefs carries and he only played 11 games. A high round investment on a running back in this class could create an RB1 for the foreseeable future, much like Hunt who finished both of his seasons as an RB1.
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Anderson is coming off his second season-ending injury for the Sooners. Despite this, Anderson is FFStatistics’ consensus 6th ranked running back. In his one healthy season at Oklahoma, Anderson averaged 6.2 yards per carry and 16.5 yards per reception. Anderson is a more natural talent than Hunt and has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He could step right into the RB role in Andy Reid’s offense and be an RB1 immediately barring injury. Projected to go on days two or three, the Chiefs can invest their first round pick to try and fix their defensive woes before adding an immediate impact player in Anderson later in the draft.
Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
The great Saquon Barkley’s heir to the Nittany Lion backfield, Sanders did nothing but put up numbers in his single season as Penn State’s lead back. The 5-foot-11, 211-pound back rushed for over 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns his junior season before declaring for the NFL Draft. He added 24 receptions, showing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. A solid 4.49 40-time and an impressive 6.89 3-cone drill have skyrocketed Sanders up rookie draft boards. He could sneak into the back part of the first round come April 25, but he is most likely a day-two draft pick and the Chiefs could get a steal.
Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
Hill broke out as a sophomore at Oklahoma State, rushing for 1,467 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 31 passes and another TD. Just 198 pounds, Hill is not the biggest back. But his 5.6 yards per carry over his Oklahoma State career is impressive. He is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, but he is much more than that as a runner. He was well above average in MS rushing yards for his age each of his first two collegiate seasons. Hill carried the ball more than 150 times in each of his three collegiate seasons and has the potential to do so for the Chiefs in year one. Kansas City does not have to invest a high pick in Hill and much like Hunt, he could contribute from day one.
2. New England Patriots – Wide Receiver/Tight End
With Rob Gronkowski announcing his retirement, the Patriots are in need of a pass catcher at the tight end position and a red zone target. With at least 5 targets in all but four weeks in 2018, Gronk was a security blanket for Tom Brady. The Patriots are not necessarily locked in to taking a tight end and almost certainly will not be in a position to snag one of the Iowa boys (Fant/Hockenson). But with 27% of targets gone, New England has to go grab a receiver of some kind. Quarterback Tom Brady is over the hill and the Patriots should do all they can to surround him with as many playmakers as possible.
Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
As mentioned, both Iowa tight ends are projected to go well before the Patriots even have their first round draft pick. Most likely, New England will trade out of the first round entirely and could target Smith with the second round pick they trade down to. With just 58 total catches in his college career, Smith has not had a large sample size. But this past season, Smith turned his 44 receptions into 710 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has the potential to be an elite pass-catching tight end in the NFL and the Patriots need to replace Gronk.
Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri
An athletic receiver burdened by injuries, Hall has the potential to stretch the field for New England. Hall averaged over 20 yards per reception for the Tigers, including 24.8 and 22.4 over the last two seasons, respectively. He ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 43.5-inch vertical. At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, Hall has the ability to dominate on deep routes and the size to win contested catches. He is only 21 years old and pairing with a QB like Brady can transform Hall into a very good NFL receiver that can take over some of Gronk’s targets.
Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts
Isabella to the Patriots? What a cop out. This dude is so basic selecting another quick, undersized, slot receiver to New England. Not so fast my friend! Isabella is not your average Patriots receiver. The dude can FLY. An absolutely blazing 4.31 in the 40-yard dash separates him from the typical New England receivers. He is undersized, sure. But he will run by you and he can get open. Isabella’s MS data was off the charts in 2018, nearly doubling the baseline. The Biletnikoff finalist can make an impact early in his career if paired with Brady, and he gives the Patriots a dynamic and versatile weapon they can move around to confuse defenses.
1. Baltimore Ravens – Wide Receiver
Here we are at my number one landing spot, the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver position. A lackluster group led by Willie Snead, the Ravens will surely target a receiver to pair with a sophomore quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who is in full control of the offense after Joe Flacco’s trade to Denver. After releasing Michael Crabtree and losing John Brown to Buffalo, the Ravens have lost a whopping 197 targets and over 35% of their target share. Jackson needs a young, dynamic receiver that can get open to be successful in that offense. With no second-round draft pick, the Ravens will have to target a WR in the first round or wait to draft one with one of their two third-round picks.
AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
My top overall fantasy prospect in this draft class, this would be a great fit for Brown. He can play both in and out of the slot, giving Baltimore the ability to move him around and get creative on offense. Even with D.K. Metcalf and Demarkus Lodge competing for targets at Ole Miss, Brown’s MS data is impressive over his last two seasons. At just under 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, Brown is a physical receiver that does not stop until the whistle blows. With an impressive 7.1 yards after catch per reception in 2018, he not only has the ability to get open and make contested catches, but he is never out of reach of the end zone. If the Ravens want him though, they will have to take him at 22. But this is a win-win landing spot for both the Ravens and Brown.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Another receiver high on my rankings, Samuel lit up the Senior Bowl and made a name for himself. A solid combine has solidified him as a day two draft pick. As a senior, Samuel caught 62 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Gamecocks. He is 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. He did not wow anyone with his athleticism, he just showed up, did all the drills and measured average to above average. And I think that is an exact representation of what you are going to get with Samuel. A guy who may not be the best at his position, but who is going to show up, do what needs to be done and have a solid NFL career. If the Ravens can steal him in the third round, look for Samuel to have an immediate impact.
Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
A wide receiver that seems to be slipping down draft boards, Harmon did not have the best combine. A below average 4.60 in the 40-yard dash and questions about his actual age have pushed him out of the top-five. Harmon posted two 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Wolfpack, including 1,186 yards and 7 touchdowns a season ago. He improved each season at NC State before foregoing his senior season to enter the draft. Harmon is a big-bodied receiver that can fight for contested balls and looks to be a solid possession guy at the next level. This is something Jackson and the Ravens desperately need. If he is there for them in the third round, he would be an absolute steal.