The Rookies of Fantasy: Running Back and Receiver

Fantasy Football is one of the hardest games to play in the sports world due to a lot of uncertainty. Luck also plays a huge role in how successful you are. Sometimes, you’ll get the short end of the stick and your elite starting wide receiver will tear his ACL Week 1. Other times, you’ll get lucky and a late-round running back turns into a top-ten option.

In this study, I took every rookie running back and wide receiver drafted in the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. From there, I found which ones were deemed as fantasy-relevant rookies this season. I then calculated the percent chance that the players have of becoming fantasy relevant.

Rookie Running Backs

running back stats

This graph shows the percent chance running backs drafted in round one have of being a top-10 fantasy running back. Or the percent chance that a round three running back has to be a top-30 running back. As a real-life example, Josh Jacobs currently has a 55% chance of being a top 10 running back this season. On the other hand, David Montgomery has a 16% chance to be a top-10 running back.

This by no means is suited for every single running back drafted. This isn’t saying that if four running backs are drafted in the first round it is almost a guarantee that three will be a top 30 running back. This is just a guideline for the past seven seasons to show the trends of what running backs have done. It is highly unlikely that third-round picks Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery, and Devin Singletary are all fantasy relevant this season. Approximately, only one or two could be fantasy relevant.

Relating this to Fantasy Drafts

This gives a good reason as to why Josh Jacobs is being drafted higher than David Montgomery, for example. People may have their specific reasons, but it boils down to the fact that first-round draft pick running backs have a higher success rate than third-round draft pick running backs. This concept seems like common sense, but this graph gives a number you can attribute to how likely a running back will succeed.

Who Achieves these Percentages?

Round 1

  • Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
Josh Jacobs Running Back Oakland

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was the only back selected in the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft. I believe he is part of the top 20 running backs category. Jacobs is a talented running back who will get a lot of carries. To boot, Jacobs has minimal competition for touches with the aging Doug Martin and receiving back Jalen Richard filling in for depth.

Round 2

  • Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Miles Sanders Running Back Eagles

Miles Sanders of the Eagles was the only running back selected in the second round. My projections have him finishing outside of the top-30 and not fantasy-relevant this season. This would be with Jordan Howard as the lead dog with the goal line duties as well. It will be a committee backfield, but if anyone has a shot at being relevant, I have a hunch that it will be Jordan Howard.

Round 3

  • Darrell Henderson, LA Rams
  • David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
  • Devin Singletary. Buffalo Bills
  • Damien Harris, New England Patriots
  • Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
David Montgomery Running Back Chicago
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery runs with a ball during the NFL football team’s rookie minicamp at Halas Hall, Friday, May 3, 2019, in Lake Forest, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Five running backs were selected in the third round of the draft. First off, I believe Mattison is just the back up to Dalvin Cook ans he will not be fantasy relevant. Darrell Henderson has a chance of relevancy if an injury were going to occur to Todd Gurley. Otherwise, I’m avoiding him. Damien Harris is the back up to Sony Michel who also could go down with injury, but if Michel is healthy, he will most likely not be relevant. Devin Singletary could win the job in Buffalo and become fantasy relevant, but that backfield is way too crowded.

David Montgomery is the only running back that has a great shot at being fantasy relevant. He is very similar to Kareem Hunt who was very successful under Head Coach Matt Nagy when Nagy was in the Offensive Coordinator in Kansas City. Montgomery has to beat out change-of-pace back Tarik Cohen and a solid running back in Mike Davis, but he has a great shot of winning the job.

Rookie Wide Receivers

receiver stats running back

After seeing this graph, I am now almost completely shying away from rookie wide receivers. The low success rate on these receivers is scary. The success rate being so low is logical, but the fact of the matter is, you shouldn’t draft a wide receiver in about the first ten rounds. There are obvious exceptions, but the success rate in this graph is so low, players might be better avoided than to take the risk.

Relating this to Fantasy Drafts

These statistics seem to fit the trend that people are avoiding rookie wide receivers. The highest-drafted rookie wide receiver is N’Keal Harry as the 39th wide receiver coming off the board. He was even a first-round pick. People understand that it’s highly unlikely that a wide receiver finishes in the top 30.

Who Achieves these Percentages?

Round 1

  • Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
  • N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots
N'keal Harry wide receiver

The only one of these two that I could see achieving this is N’Keal Harry. If Josh Gordon isn’t playing, the Patriots only have two relevant pass catchers and one of them is a running back. N’Keal Harry has the best shot. He just needs to develop a rapport with Tom Brady.

Round 2

  • Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
  • A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
  • Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles
  • Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
  • Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals
  • D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
DK Metcalf Wide Receiver

There is only a 6.7% chance that one of these wide receivers are even in the top 30 for fantasy. D.K. Metcalf is the only one on this list that pops out to me as the possibility for it. And maybe Andy Isabella. Metcalf has the chance to be the main target for Russell Wilson. Tyler Lockett isn’t a huge target guy, so someone has to be. Metcalf could fit that role along with the role of being the red zone target.

Round 3

  • Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Jalen Hurd, San Francisco 49ers
  • Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
  • Miles Boykin, Baltimore Ravens
Wide receiver

For some odd reason, round three wide receivers have about a 4% better chance of being startable in fantasy than round two wide receivers. Terry McLaurin is the guy on this list that intrigues me the most. If Dwayne Haskins wins the job over Case Keenum, he already has a connection with McLaurin from their days at Ohio State. He could be the safe go-to option for him.

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One Comment

  1. Decoding

    July 30, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Love the article ffjoe! Rookie talent is crucial in fantasy, especially in dynasty formats. I absolutely love Montgomery in 2019. As a true 3-down back, the Ohio product possesses elite elusiveness, Yards after contact and most importantly for rookies, ball security (only 1 recorded fumble at ISU). One other similarity Montgomery shares with Kareem Hunt, is that the are both Matt Campbell products. I think baby Beast Mode can provide great value this season!

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