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In this position-by-position series, we'll look at rookies that should be on your radar before you begin your fantasy draft. It's important to understand that sometimes patience is required when selecting someone brand new to the league, but we want to be actively targeting players with a path to meaningful playing time. After a slow start to the season, Christian Watson was the WR9 after Week 8, while Garrett Wilson was the WR19 over that span. Brock Purdy didn't take over as a starter in San Francisco until Week 13 but was the QB12 to finish out the season - ahead of Justin Herbert and Deshaun Watson. If you had the good fortune of relying on Tyler Allgeier during your playoff run last year, he averaged 18.3 points, good enough for the RB8 spot. Teams have invested draft capital into their rookies, and eventually, they'll want to see if they have what it takes on Sundays.
Certainly, not every rookie mentioned below is worthy of being selected in your draft, but the aim here is to give you an edge over your leaguemates so you'll be ready to pounce before the rest of the league has had a chance to pick them up.
Let's take a look at the ever-volatile running back position, which figures to have the most rookies contribute across the fantasy landscape.
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
I probably don't need to tell you about Bijan Robinson, as he will likely be a first-round pick in your fantasy draft, but let's do a quick recap of everything he has going in his favor:
- Elite vision and contact balance
- Big-time threat in the passing game
- Head coach Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator for Derrick Henry's 2,000-yard season in 2020.
- The Falcons were 4th in the NFL with 4.9 yards per carry in 2022.
- Atlanta will continue to be a run-first offense.
- New starting quarterback Desmond Ridder should keep defenses more honest than 2022 starter Marcus Mariota.
Robinson is in line to have the best rookie season we've seen at the running back position since Saquon Barkley.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
Gibbs starred at Alabama in 2022 after a couple of years at Georgia Tech. He's got incredible quickness and immediately becomes a top 5 pass-catching running back in the league. The Lions prioritized him in the draft and took him with the 12th pick. Since 2015, running backs drafted 12th or higher have averaged 18.76 fantasy points per game in their rookie seasons. We know the Lions are committed to running the football after their backfield accrued the most fantasy points of any team in the league last season. They moved on from both Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift to bring in Gibbs and David Montgomery. For my money, Gibbs is simply too skilled to keep off the field, and I have him finishing the season as a top-10 fantasy back.
Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks
Fans of Kenneth Walker groaned when Seattle used a second-round pick on Zach Charbonnet in this spring's NFL Draft. The UCLA product could have just as easily been drafted as a bellcow back to a more RB-needy team. He has a complete skillset with a bullish running style and reliable hands catching the ball out of the backfield. Walker is still the top option, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if Charbonnet becomes the lead back as the season rolls on. He can be drafted about five rounds later than Walker, as well.
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