NFL
July 22, 2020
BY Calvin McAlee

9 NFL Rookies You Should Draft in Fantasy Football in 2020

Finding valuable rookies before they become superstars — like, say, Christian McCaffery or Patrick Mahomes — is one of the biggest advantages in fantasy football

Predicting which rookies will be fantasy studs is not an easy thing to do, though. If you can draft the right rookies at the right times, that may be just enough to put your team over the top.

Depending on whether or not you are in a keeper, dynasty or a traditional redraft league, the need for these rooks will vary. However, each one of these first-year players will be a contributor at some point this season.

While there is considerable risk in drafting a rookie, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, these incoming players should provide value to a fantasy team, and potentially turn into a fantasy football league-winner

Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

Perhaps the most obvious rookie on this list, Joe Burrow was the first overall pick by the Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow will be the starter in Cincinnati from Day 1 and has almost no competition behind him with Ryan Finley as the backup.

An incredibly intriguing prospect for dynasty leagues, Burrow Burrow might not be the worst backup choice available near the end of the draft in redraft leagues.

Burrow should evolve into a premier fantasy quarterback in the NFL in a couple of seasons, and he could surprise in his first year on a Bengals team that has an atrocious defense. 

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs surprised many by drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the final pick of the first round. While the choice of running back wasn’t exactly shocking, selecting Edwards-Helaire over both D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor was a bit of an eye-opener. That means the Chiefs like Edwards-Helaire and he could be in line for a big role in the league’s best offense.

Damien Williams is listed as the starter for the Chiefs still but that likely won’t last long. After just six starts in 11 games last season, it doesn’t appear the Chiefs are locked in with him as the starter.

CEH's fantasy outlook is downright mouthwatering in the best offense in the league. CEH might be in a timeshare with Williams, but the former LSU's pass-catching ability gives him incredible upside in 2020 and beyond. 

D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

Some consider D’Andre Swift the best running back of the 2020 class. The Lions agree as they selected him early in the second round and already have him penciled in as the starter. Kerryon Johnson has done well in his time in Detroit, but his injury history makes him unreliable in real life and fantasy football.  

The Lions offense is a great offense for running backs in PPR leagues as a lot of screenplays and short passes are in the mix.

He won’t be a bell cow getting all the carries as Johnson will still be in the mix. However, with Johnson’s injury history, Swift could eventually be a three-down back with Bo Scarbrough barely stealing any of his touches.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Cam Akers could be one of the biggest rookie sleepers in 2020. 

With Todd Gurley now in Atlanta, the Rams might have found their new franchise running back in the Florida State product. 

Akers' biggest competition is second-year running back Darrell Henderson Jr., who struggled to acclimate to the Rams' zone-running scheme last season. 

Henderson didn’t start a single game during his rookie season and only averaged a modest 3.8 yards per carry on 39 rushes. He also only had four receptions on six targets.

In an offense like Sean McVay’s, Akers is a better fit than a smaller Henderson. 

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Perhaps one of the best rookies that nobody is talking about, Ke’Shawn Vaughn is in line to be a big part of the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With all the excitement surrounding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Vaughn could be a nice little surprise who could help put the Bucs up with the league’s elite teams.

Vaughn is listed behind Ronald Jones on the depth chart as of now. It will only be a matter of time before Vaughn looks to steal the job away from Jones.

If Vaughn can win the running back job, then he's in line for a lot of opportunity as a rookie.

Remember, Brady loooves passing to his backs. Vaughn could be his James White in Tampa. 

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos

The second receiver drafted, Jeudy joins a stacked offense in Denver. Thanks to his incredible route-running ability, the former Bama receiver should have an easier transition than other receivers to the NFL.  

While some might be rightfully worried about Drew Lock being able to sustain multiple fantasy players, he's clearly an upgrade over last year's starter Joe Flacco. 

There is a lot of young talent on this Broncos’ offense that will be a big surprise this season. Locking up their potential No. 1 WR would be a huge steal for this season and in future seasons as well.

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings finally moved on from the Stefon Diggs drama and replaced him with LSU receiver Justin Jefferson. That means more opportunities for Thielen, sure, but it also means that Jefferson could step into a starting spot in Week 1. 

Thielen is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver, but, as we've seen before, the Vikings can sustain multiple top-end pass-catchers in fantasy. 

It doesn't help that the Vikings are a run-first offense with minimal opportunities, but Jefferson's outlook seems to be a lot better than other fellow rookie receivers. 

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb didn’t have far to travel from Oklahoma to Dallas as he looks to make an immediate impact in the NFL. In an offense that likes to air the ball out, Lamb could be in for a Rookie of the Year-caliber season, even as the third wide receiver in Dallas.

Amari Cooper is the clear No. 1 receiver with the Cowboys, but Lamb could outshine Michael Gallup for the second spot on this team before the season ends.

Opportunities could be scarce with three viable fantasy receivers, but Lamb should star in the slot and see plenty of targets in a pass-friendly offense.

Lamb could make for a solid bye-week filler and possibly even a regular starter as the season progresses. At the very least, Lamb is a great dynasty pick as he should be one of the league’s elite receivers in a few years.

Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman Jr. may be the most surprising player on this list, but he is one that should not be overlooked in any fantasy league. The Indianapolis Colts are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the AFC as they have brought in a new veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers and could be a surprise team this season.

Pittman appears to be another rookie receiver who could step right into a starting role in the beginning of the season. Penciled in as the outside wide out opposite of T.Y. Hilton, Pittman could make an immediate impact on an underrated offense. 

With defenses put their main focus on Hilton, Pittman should do well flying under the radar. Could Pittman be Rivers' new Vincent Jackson? 

Photo: Getty Images