Immediate Impact Rookies: Quarterback and Tight End
Two traditionally tough positions to provide fantasy value in year one, the quarterback and tight end positions of the 2017 rookie class may yet bring roto riches to their respective owners. These are the guys I’m banking on:
DeShaun Watson, Texans: No other rookie QB has as much potential to pay dividends starting in Week 1 as the divisive Watson, despite the fact that Tom Savage has been hogging all of the early first-team reps. Watson’s “divisive” only in the sense that the football world seems torn down the middle about whether he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL. I have no such misgivings, as I fully believe he’s got the goods, and I’m not the only one – Houston HC Bill O’Brien stated recently that Watson is ahead of any rookie QB he’s been around at this point in the preseason with his development. Longtime Houston Chronicle sportswriter John McClain continued with the accolades, reporting semblances of a young Warren Moon in the rookie. Knowing he’s ahead of schedule for all intents and purposes, I would not be at all surprised if Watson leapfrogs the unspectacular Tom Savage for the starting job come the first game of the season.
Deshone Kizer, Browns: Browns camp began with Cody Kessler leading the pack at the QB position, but the second-year plunker is doing himself few favors by struggling with batted passes thus far. At 6’4″, Kizer is 3 inches taller than Kessler and has a better arm, not to mention the fact that he’s been upping his game, working out with QB guru Tom House in the offseason. I guess it’s paid off. The rightful heir to the clipboard in the equation, Brock Osweiler, was amazed with Kizer’s mastery of the playbook so early in the year, and Kizer is already playing ahead of the erstwhile “future of the Texans offense.” Kessler is still technically the no.1 in camp, but he’s underwhelming, and Kizer is nipping at his heels. The Browns have nothing to lose by throwing the rookie in the fire from the get-go.
Evan Engram, Giants: It can be tough for a rookie tight end to make a fantasy impact his first year in the NFL, but that’s ok for Engram, as the Giants are moving him all over the field, giving him snaps at wideout and even fullback. Honestly, Engram is really just a big receiver, and the Giants definitely want to get him involved. The only impediment to that is the plethora of pass catchers already on hand in the Giants receiving corps. Targets may be hard to come by for Engram, but plenty of the looks he does get will come in the red-zone.
Gerald Everett, Rams: The rookie tight end with perhaps the greatest chance of actually making a name for himself this year, is actually the least known one of the lot. Everett was a second=round pick, but he played at South Alabama so he hasn’t gotten much coverage from the press. As a Ram, he doesn’t have the highest ceiling playing with Jared Goff under center, but Everett will presumably come in as the starter on an offense that is likely to cede a lot of targets to their safety blanket tight end. Almost 65% of Everett’s yards in college came after the catch, so Goff doesn’t have to do much of the work. As long as Everett gets the ball in his hands, he’s going to have a real shot at making a difference early and often.
David Njoku, Browns: The Browns felt good enough about Njoku to cut Gary Barnidge loose, and though the SPARQ freak of an athlete is dealing with fumbling issues in camp, he’s going to get plenty of opportunities in the Cleveland offense. Njoku has the best combo of opportunity and upside of the 2017 tight end class, but second-year end Seth DeValve is going to be an option too if he can’t get it together sooner than later.
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers: Though Howard is the best blocker and has arguably the best hands of the rookie tight end class, the presence of tried and true veteran Cameron Brate is going to make it difficult for Howard to slide right into consistent fantasy consideration this season- Brate already has solid chemistry with QB Winston, as evidenced by a 660 yard, 8 TD 2016 campaign. Still, Howard is making waves in camp with his innate playmaking ability, and as a once in a decade talent it’s going to be a considerable task to keep him off the field, no matter who the other tight ends in play are.