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September 05, 2019

Why every fantasy football team should add a rookie from waivers right now

Typically on a Thursday, we'd scour the waiver wire and look for some useful pick ups to help you build and keep a competitive roster, but with the season just starting, we decided to take a deep dive into an underrated part of the fantasy football landscape.

If you don't have at least one rookie on your roster, you are missing out.

Every season more than just a few players jump into the fantasy forefront and become every day contributors. If you have a keeper in your league, taking chances on rookie ballplayers with bench positions is almost a must do. 

Before we dive into this year's class, let's take a look at the last two years of rookie players. 

It is simply astounding how many top notch fantasy players came from the last two draft classes and how under-drafted they were as rookies. Here is the 2018 rookie class and the ADP (average draft position, using yahoo's fantasy database for PPR) from their rookie year to now (most drafts have 12 teams and 15 rounds, so the rankings stop after 180 players):

2018 rookie class ADP

PosPlayerRookie ADPADP now
QBBaker Mayfield128.864.8
QBLamar Jackson141.694.7
QBJosh Allen82.0
QBJosh Rosen —
QBSam Darnold165.8
RBSaquan Barkley6.81.3
RBNick Chubb110.08.2
RBPhillip Lindsay50.3
RBRoyce Freeman31.0101.0
RBKerryon Johnson54.628.9
RBJaylen Samuels124.7
RBRashaad Penny74.392.7
RBSony Michel76.735.4
RBDerrius Guice67.6
RBRonald Jones II96.6153.0
RBJustin Jackson104.0
WRCalvin Ridley123.057.6
WRMichael Gallup132.9116.2
WRAnthony Miller135.1125.1
WRDante Pettis103.6
WRJames Washington113.3
WRCortland Sutton160.6125.4
WRChristian Kirk162.289.9
TEMark Andrews133.3

With a few 
exceptions, almost all of the above players jumped double-digit spots in the draft from year to year, representing an entire round or more. And compared to the 2017 fantasy football rookie class, the 2018 class looks puny:

2017 rookie class ADP

PosPlayerRookie ADPADP Now
QBPat Mahomes 135.918.6
QBDeShaun Watson115.645.4
QBMitch Trubisky140.0
RBAlvin Kamara140.02.6
RBLeonard Fournette27.020.4
RBJames Conner7.6
RBChristian McCaffery22.92.6
RBJoe Mixon42.518.0
RBAaron Jones26.9
RBDalvin Cook27.513.1
RBDamien Williams30.1
RBMarlon Mack141.342.6
RBChris Carson149.723.9
RBKalen Ballage129
WRJuJu Smith-Schuster14.6
WRKenny Galloday151.648.0
WRChris Godwin43.0
WRMike Williams58.6
WRCorey Davis110.9109.0
TEEvan Engram58.1
TEO.J. Howard152.754.6
TEGeorge Kittle30.7

That is eight players who have gone from being undrafted in 2017 to being in the top 60 in 2019. 

Finding them, of course can be dumb luck. You either need to waste valuable spots on your bench on a whim, or you have to wait until a player starts to break out and either get lucky on waivers or expend a ransom from your waiver pool of cash. 

Regardless, based on the last two years alone, fantasy teams should all include at least one rookie flier every single season. 

2019 rookie class ADP

Shifting focus to this year's rookie class, just four of the top 26 projected rookie offensive players are owned by 90% or more of fantasy leagues this year. The list below could include the next Alvin Kamara, the next JuJu Smith-Schuster or the next Evan Engram.

If you have room to spare, now is the time to act. A player below will slowly start to round into NFL-playing form or could be forced into action due to an injured player. Getting in on the ground floor could be the difference between making a title run or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. And — if your league has keepers — nabbing a player off the wire who breaks out mid-season (like Nick Chubb last year, who jumped from the 110th pick to the 8th in one season), could give you incredible value in your 2020 draft.

Here are this year's rookies and their ADP, as well as Yahoo's percentage of leagues that DO NOT have the player on a roster:

PosPlayer2019 ADPAvail
RBDavid Montgomery29.72%
RBJosh Jacobs31.83%
RBMiles Sanders52.49%
RBDevin Singletary82.924%
RBTony Pollard83.345%
RBDarrell Henderson Jr.96.031%
QBKyler Murray109.88%
RBJustice Hill111.868%
RBAlexander Mattison127.278%
WRD.K. Metcalf132.865%
TET.J. Hockenson136.248%
WRMecole Hardman138.685%
RBDamien Harris143.479%
WRDeebo Samuel153.182%
RBDarwin Thompson62%
WRParris Campbell94%
WRK'Neal Harry12%
TENoah Fant
WRMarquise Brown
WRAndy Isabella98%
WRA.J. Brown
WR Diontae Johnson
WRJ.J. Arcegia-Whiteside98%
WR Miles Boykin
TEIrv Smith Jr.

Yes, we know it is a lot riskier to take an unknown rookie than an established fantasy contributor. But padding the last few picks on your roster with big swings on rookies could be a lot more valuable than picking Adam Humphries or Kenny Stills to warm your bench.

This is the time of year to strike — before bye weeks and injuries make the competition for back up players fierce. Take a swing off of the waiver wire and reap the benefits. 

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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