Over the last two seasons, rookie running backs and wide receivers have become a cornerstone to fantasy football teams. Last season alone owners regaled in the quick assimilation to NFL life and play from top rushers like the Rams’ Todd Gurley, the Cardinals’ David Johnson, and the Redskins’ Matt Jones, just to name a few.
The same could be said for the Raiders’ Amari Cooper, the Panthers’ Devin Funchess, the Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett, and the Vikings Stefon Diggs, all wide outs who caught fantasy owners and the NFL complete off guard to be some of the most productive at their position.
And owners should expect more of the same as the 2016 NFL Draft class offers a host of top notch talent at both running back and wide receiver, and all each needs is the opportunity.
It’s important to note that while owners shouldn’t expect the seven players below to produce right away, we’re projecting that at some point in the 2016 season these players will have some impact in fantasy lineups. Of course, dynasty league owners may choose to gamble and bank these players future more than standard league owners.
Each player’s current average draft position (ADP) is also included.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 97.0)
Potentially the next great back to come out of Alabama (e.g. Eddie Lacy), Henry’s also been impressing the Titans with his hands and owners need only check out his Crimson Tide highlights to see he can both deliver and take a hit in the NFL. The Titans ranked No. 25 in rushing last due to injuries and inconsistent production. DeMarco Murray does stand in Henry’s way, but as the season wears on he could be an excellent goal-line vulture.
C.J. Prosise, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 137.0)
A stellar athletic back capable of quick cuts for huge chunks of yardage, Prosise won’t be an every-down back in the NFL but his skill set could be likened to former Bucs star Warrick Dunn. In PPR leagues Prosise may prove invaluable as he totaled 62 receptions for 896 yards and three touchdowns during his time at Notre Dame. Seattle’s Thomas Rawls is coming off a serious ankle injury, while Christine Michael’s had tons of opportunities to be Seattle’s No. 1 back and hasn’t been able to get the job.
Tyler Ervin, Houston Texans (ADP: 224.0)
With proven backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue ahead of him on the depth chart, Ervin won’t be able to have much an impact in the first half of the season unless one of those two gets hurt. But the former San Jose State star showed he’s a capable two-way back with 1,601 yards and 13 touchdowns at 5.4 yards per carry, complemented by 45 receptions for 334 yards in his final season.
Paul Perkins, New York Giants (ADP: 158.0)
Rashad Jennings played a full 16-game slate for the first time in his career last season, and he only mustered 863 yards and three scores off 195 attempts. If that’s Jennings best, the Giants will be looking for a new No. 1 rusher and Perkins may be called upon. Should he can differentiate himself from Andre Williams and Shane Vereen during training camp, Perkins could show the Giants the player who totaled more than 2,800 yards and 23 touchdowns during his final two seasons at UCLA.
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 118.0)
The first-round draft choice is likely assured of a starting job as long as he can withstand his first NFL training camp. With defenses worried over running back Adrian Peterson, Treadwell and Diggs could both be huge sleeper picks in 2016. Treadwell averaged better than 14 yards per reception in his final season at Ole Miss.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (ADP: 95.0)
Just like Treadwell, there’s very little competition for Shepard to overcome in New York for regular playing time. Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis, Myles White, Tavarres King, and an ever-hurt Victor Cruz are Shepard’s biggest threats, but the former Oklahoma stud should be Odell Beckham Jr.’s running mate throughout 2016.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 150)
A lightning quick wide out with deep-threat speed and excellent feet managed to fall right into Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ lap? Thomas has Offensive Rookie of the Year potential and could be part of a huge bounce-back year for New Orleans.