Who will be the next Ezekiel Elliot or Dak Prescott? John Sherman presents his top four potential rookie breakouts.
Football season is over, which means it's time to start speculating on what we can look out for this fall. Last year saw two incredible rookie breakouts with both Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott having historic debuts for the Dallas Cowboys. Fantasy owners that took a chance on Elliott were pleased to see their risk pay off, and now it's time to look for who might be the next big impact fantasy rookie. These are a few highly touted players that could quickly make their presence felt when they enter the league.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Christian McCaffrey could very well be the best running back in a draft filled with talented RBs. He holds the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards and will be a workhorse when he enters the league. The former Heisman runner-up has been called the ultimate triple-threat and could be more valuable than LSU's Leonard Fournette or Florida State's Dalvin Cook. What ultimately sets McCaffrey apart is his pass-catching ability, which provides options should the run game stall out. McCaffrey's versatility is his biggest strength and his talent as a kick return specialist is another reason that he's on the radar as a top pick.
2. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
As the NFL continues to move toward more pass-heavy offenses a good receiver is worth his weight in gold. It's been pointed out that the wideout is usually the safest bet to score a touchdown so it's important to have at least one receiver you can reliably count on to put points on the board. And when it comes to rookie receivers, your best bet will likely be Mike Williams from Clemson. Williams has been projected going as high as fifth to the Tennessee Titans and he could provide a much needed target for Marcus Mariota. He's been praised as a receiver with all the tools needed to dominate the NFL and could be a great option for your WR2 if you can grab him in one of the middle rounds of your draft. Williams is a physical wideout, but still has the agility to make tough grabs near the sidelines which could make him into a top receiver for 2017.
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
LSU's Leonard Fournette is another top RB that could find a lot of playing time starting on day one. It's looking likely that the Carolina Panthers might pick up Fournette, and he could work nicely behind Johnathan Stewart. As a powerful, bruising running back Fournette could take on a fullback role to help take some of the load off of Mike Tolbert as well. Fournette is fast and physical with the ability to make some long runs while also consistently grinding out yards. Many have him projected as a top ten draft pick, although it's also possible that he could slip toward the middle of the first round.
4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Meanwhile, Clemson's National Championship QB Deshaun Watson will also be in the draft this year and could add significant fantasy value for whichever team picks him up. It's been strongly hinted that Watson might go to the New York Jets where he'd presumably take over for the departed Ryan Fitzpatrick. While the Jets already have both Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, neither are materializing the way the team wants. Watson is the total package with the arm strength and has earned more than a few comparisons to Cam Newton for his running abilities and penchant for deep throws. He could really put up some big numbers in his first year.
John Sherman is a freelance writer and editor based in Washington D.C. He focuses on sports and tech. When he isn't writing John is usually enjoying craft beer or walking his dog around the city. He still thinks that this could finally be the Capitals' year to win the cup.