Punch Drunk Wonderland

NFL rookies who fantasy coaches need to watch

For those fantasy football coaches who are willing to take a chance when it comes to picking up points on a regular basis, drafting rookies can often be one of the most important aspects of putting together a roster at the start of the season. While unproven first-year players are unlikely to guarantee you the same instant success you might expect from the more established players in the league, they do often offer as much potential to repay their price and end up proving to be real bargains. While it won’t come as a huge surprise to see rookies Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and Jameis Winston all being tipped to make big impacts in their debut seasons in the NFL, there are a number of first-year professionals who many have overlooked who could end up surprising a lot of people come the end of next year. Here are just some players who could prove to be very worthwhile fantasy selections heading into next season.

Clive Walford (Oakland Raiders): Having picked up Walford in the third round, the Raiders will be well aware that they could have snapped up one of the best deals of the latter stages of the draft. Coming off a senior season in which he caught 44 passes for 676 yards and scored seven touchdowns, it was something of a surprise to see Walford not picked up before the Raiders were able to pick him. Desperately in need of a more dynamic receiving option than Mychal Rivera, the rookie has all the tools to be an effective pass-catching weapon this season, and is one Fantasy fans could do a lot worse than having on their roster.

Justin Hardy (Atlanta Falcons): Ranking third in the NFL last season with 632 passing attempts, the Falcons are always going to offer chances to their receivers, and Justin Hardy could be a big player for the franchise this season having been picked in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Needing to replace the free-agent bound Harry Douglas, the Falcons have pulled off a smart piece of business to pick up the East Carolina star, signing a player ideally set to fill the slot receiver role, boasting the speed, size and handling talent to become a useful route-runner for a Falcons team that really need more options in that particular area.

Cameron Artis-Payne (Caroline Panthers): While the Panthers might not be anybody’s betting favourites next season, the franchise do have one of the better running back departments in the league. Jonathan Stewart’s impressive form in 2014 was a huge bonus for the Panthers, although his injury record has given Carolina fans a lot to worry about heading into this season, and will have been a reason behind general manager Dave Gettleman’s decision to draft Cameron Artis-Payne in the fifth round. In his one season as a starter at Auburn, the rookie led the Southeastern Conference with 1,608 rushing yards, showing off some physical attributes that could make him a great weapon to have for the Panthers next season.


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