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Rookies I want now, later or not at all

The NFL Draft is over. @GBridgfordNFL takes a look at who you should pursue now, later, and never.

The 2020 NFL draft is officially in the rearview mirror. Outside of a few undrafted free agents, all of their rookies have their new homes. Rookie drafts, for better or worse, have inevitably started. It’s time for you to begin building your big boards so you can stock your cupboard full of great rookie assets. While there are some rookies, you’ll want to target for immediate return, who are the ones that you’re targeting for future production or that you’ll want to avoid altogether?

That’s what we’re here to look at today. I picked out a rookie at the big three positions, quarterback, running back, and wide receiver that you can look to grab for the present, future, or not at all. Rookie drafts aren’t going to be the end of your dynasty if you struggle there, but it can drastically impact your long-term success.

The logic behind each group is relatively simple. Rookies that I want now are going to immediately produce for me in the first year of their career because they landed in a perfect situation. Rookies that I want later are ones that might take a year or two to pop in the league, but they’ll have a high level of production. In that final group, I easily could have picked random prospects taken in the seventh round, but you weren’t looking at drafting them anyway. They don’t show a reliable path to future production.

Rookies I Want Now

Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow

Of the quarterbacks drafted this year, I think that Burrow in Cincinnati Bengals, or Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers, has the best chance to play as a rookie. With Burrow being the better player, he’s getting the nod in this category. Burrow is also set up for success better due to his team’s situation.

The offensive line is due to bounce back after a rough 2019-20 season due in large part to health bumps. Burrow has two stud wideouts in A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd already on the roster, and they spent a second-round pick on Tee Higgins to further round out the group. Add in an absolute stud running back like Joe Mixon, who can also catch passes out of the backfield when Burrow is pressured. He’s got the pieces around him to hit the ground running.

Kansas City Chiefs Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Chiefs stunned the fantasy twitter world when they took Edwards-Helaire at the end of the first round. He was widely considered to be the fifth-rated running back in this class, but he’s launched into the RB1 conversation in this draft. The Chiefs have had arguably the NFL’s best offense over the past two seasons. A major part of their offensive strength has been the ability to plug in any running back and be successful.

Edwards-Helaire gives Patrick Mahomes a natural pass-catcher out of the backfield, and he just got done showing for a full year what kind of production he could put up in an elite offense. The one thing to be nervous about with CEH this year is the workload that he gets compared to Damien Williams. If the Chiefs cut Williams before the season starts, you’re gravy. If he sticks around, he could wrestle touches away from Edwards-Helaireover this year.

Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Jefferson was just drafted in the first round after the Vikings shipped out wideout Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Outside of former pro-bowler Adam Thielen, they have a whole lot of nothing in the receiving room. Players like Olabisi Johnson, Tajae Sharpe, and Chad Beebe will be taking a back seat while Jefferson is given the keys to the car.

The one thing that will be interesting to watch for Jefferson is how the Vikings elect to deploy him. Last year, he had just seven receptions that came from an alignment other than the slot, and Thielen primarily lines up there. Regardless of alignment, 94 targets became available up when they traded away Diggs. While they don’t have a high-octane passing offense, he’ll still get a fair bit of work this year.

Rookies I Want Later

Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

This could have been Jordan Love. While he has a higher ceiling than Tua, he doesn’t have the same floor. He’s also more years away from producing in any way. Tua could start later this year, but he more than likely will take the field starting next year. By that time, the Dolphins will have built their offensive line up while adding more dynamic pieces to the offense. Honestly, if he doesn’t experience the hip injury, he likely would have been drafted number one over Burrow.

Outside of Devante Parker, the Dolphins have a lot of work to do with their wide receivers. Giving Tua this season to fully rehab from his hip injury while learning behind one of the NFL’s smartest quarterbacks in Ryan Fitzpatrick is precisely what he needs. Drafting Tua in your rookie drafts isn’t a great investment for now, but it is an excellent one for later.

Baltimore Ravens Running Back J.K. Dobbins

Credit: Washington Post

Unlike Tua, Dobbins is not going to contribute fully as a rookie because of who he’s behind. Mark Ingram finished just outside the top 10 running backs last season in fantasy points, and he might have cracked that mark if it weren’t for a lingering injury at the end of the year. Ingram has two years left on his deal, but he can be cut for a cheap amount of dead cap money at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Dobbins was the RB1 for a number of analysts this year, and he ended up in a perfect situation. The Ravens’ offensive line, outside of the now-retired Marshal Yanda, is intact and young. He has a defense-bending quarterback in Lamar Jackson that gives him plenty of room to operate due to the threat of his running. While Dobbins may not give you a ton in Year 1, it’s those next few years that you should be eye-balling.

Jacksonville Jaguars Wide Receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.

D.J. Chark is the top receiving option for the Jaguars, and they have a few other receivers on board. However, none of them have the talent that you get with Shenault. He gives them a chess piece on offense that can work in a variety of ways, but he also offers Gardner Minshew or whoever is the team’s quarterback of the future a reliable target underneath. Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, who are second and third on the depth chart, have zero seasons over 800 receiving yards combined.

Shenault is still recovering from a core injury that could slow him down during his rookie season, but it doesn’t project to be a long-term injury. Throw in his talent along with the fact that the two aforementioned receivers are free agents at the end of this season; he’ll be the team’s number two receiver right away.

Rookies I Never Want

Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Jacob Eason

Seeing Eason’s face every time a pick went through that wasn’t him was downright sad. While most of the other players in the digital green room were off the board within the first couple of rounds, he was still waiting on the call until Day 3. Despite the sadness I felt for him; I have zero intention of adding him to any of my dynasty rosters unless I have no other options to fill an empty roster slot.

Head coach Frank Reich is a quarterback whisperer, but I don’t think he can whisper the issues out of Eason. He struggles mightily with accuracy, and he doesn’t fit this team’s construction. Throw in the fact that he’s behind Philip Rivers, who has openly stated that he doesn’t like to mentor young quarterbacks; he’s not in the best situation possible for his growth.

Washington Redskins Running Back Antonio Gibson

Let’s start at the most obvious spot. Washington, with the addition of Gibson, now has seven running backs under contract. Three of them have been added this offseason, and they re-signed Adrian Peterson during free agency. There are too many mouths to feed, and Gibson isn’t exactly the bellcow back that will be getting a hefty workload. He’s a gadget player that gives them more versatility.

Gibson is likely going to fall into the Chris Thompson role with Washington, and that’s not a great thing. He’s going to get around ten touches per game, but that’s not enough for fantasy relevance. While he does some good things, he doesn’t do anything overly special that will result in him separating from the pack they already have on the roster.

San Francisco 49ers Brandon Aiyuk

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Brandon Aiyuk was drafted in the first round, which is fantastic. However, of the six taken in the first round, he is the one that I have the least desire to draft. First of all, he’s not a great fit for the team he was just drafted to. The 49ers’ offense works by leaning on the run game with passing sprinkled in. When they do pass, they focus on quick hitters near the line of scrimmage. That’s not where Aiyuk does most of his work.

He excels on routes that take him down the field, and he is more than likely going to boost up guys like George Kittle and Deebo Samuel as a result of his being on the field. Could he be successful? Yes. Is he in a perfect situation to be successful? No. For those reasons, he won’t be on my teams.

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