Whether you’re building a dynasty league, a keeper league, or just looking for high upside value, it can be difficult to decide which rookies to take a chance on. If you are one of those people that drafted Bishop Sankey ahead of Jeremy Hill or Brandon Cooks ahead of Odell Beckham Jr, you were probably kicking yourself by the end of last season. Here is a top 15 list of 2015 rookies you should take a look at.
15. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, QB
The former Heisman and National Championship winner is probably best for dynasty league drafts, but Winston is worth a look in later rounds for all formats. Winston will be surrounded by the NBA-sized receiving corps of Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This - along with one of the easiest strength of schedules for a QB and the Tampa defense ranking in the bottom half of the league - should give Winston plenty of opportunities to put up decent fantasy numbers.
Projections: 3,700 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 12 INTs, 167 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
14. Jaelen Strong, Texans, WR
Now that Andre Johnson has parted ways with them, the Texans have been searching for their number two receiver to play opposite Deandre Hopkins. Though, they brought on Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington, it is more than likely Strong will emerge as the guy lining up across from Hopkins by week 1. Strong is a big target at 6’2” and 217lbs and is coming off back to back 1,000 yard seasons in college. He should make for a great redzone option for Houston and a TD machine for fantasy owners who take a shot on him late in the draft.
Projections: 48 receptions, 520 yards, 4 TDs
13. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins, RB
Lamar Miller looks poised to have a breakout season, but that does not mean there is no room for Ajayi to have an impact. Ajayi is a very versatile all around back with great footwork, thanks to his soccer background. He is also a very intelligent player and a good blocker able to recognize and pick up the blitz. These strengths may ensure he’s on the field quite a bit, if his knee holds up. Ajayi would be higher on this list if he wasn’t playing behind (or at least sharing time with) Miller. In fact, I have him as the 4th best dynasty prospect at RB coming out of this rookie class.
Projections: 96 carries, 490 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 18 receptions, 119 receiving yards
12. David Cobb, Titans, RB
An underwhelming year by 2014 rookie Bishop Sankey has left the door open for 2015 rookie David Cobb. Even in a time share situation, Cobb will very likely see quite a bit of action, as he is a better receiving back than Sankey. After selecting a 330lb offensive guard and a 254lb fullback in the 2015 NFL draft, the Titans drafted one of the strongest RBs in the draft. It would seem they are headed in a power run game direction to take the heat off of rookie QB Marcus Mariota.
Projections: 165 carries, 624 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 22 receptions, 156 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
11. Duke Johnson, Browns, RB
What a surprise. A Miami (FL) running back on a top 15 rookie list. Johnson may be the most explosive player in this rookie class, rivaled only by fellow Miami (FL) teammate Phillip Dorsett (who, unfortunately, did not make this list). Though Cleveland already has a couple of serviceable backs in Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West, they will still look to find plenty of opportunities for the 3rd round selection. If Johnson can find a way to unseat Crowell and West, look for a big fantasy year for him.
Projections: 121 carries, 596 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 21 receptions, 216 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
10. Nelson Agholor, Eagles, WR
Agholor figures to be the other half of that ever productive Eagles receiving duo that has been in place since Chip Kelly took over. Replacing Jeremy Maclin, Agholor will make a nice complement to Jordan Matthews. Agholor is a very precise route runner and should become a reliable target for whoever Kelly decides to start at QB.
Projections: 51 receptions, 732 yards, 5 TDs
9. Devante Parker, Dolphins, WR
Yes, Miami has a lot of mouths to feed with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and Jordan Cameron, but Parker is the most talented receiver on the team. He’s an absolute freak and the tallest of the group. Parker should very well end up being one of Tannehill’s most reliable pass catchers. Parker could steal quite a few redzone targets from Cameron; just keep a close eye on his recovery from the foot surgery.
Projections: 52 receptions, 668 yards, 6 TDs
8. Breshad Perriman, Ravens, WR
Though, Perriman is not the most talented receiver on this list, he is one of the most physical and quickest and he will see quite a bit of playing time in replacement of Torrey Smith. Perriman is the perfect fit for new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman’s system. He should be targeted early and often by Joe Flacco and could end up being this year’s Kelvin Benjamin.
Projection: 50 receptions, 820 yards, 7 TDs
7. Devin Funchess, Panthers, WR
Funchess recently moved from an honorable mention to 7th on this rookie list, due to the injury to Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess and Benjamin are nearly identical in size and neither is known for their speed. Funchess, however played TE most of his college career and presents that big red zone target Newton will be missing with the loss of Benjamin. If Funchess can reduce the amount of dropped balls he had in college, he has a chance to hit that 1,000 yard mark. Keep in mind Newton has had a 1,000 yard receiver all but one year he has been in the league.
Projections: 62 receptions, 856 yards, 8 TDs
6. TJ Yeldon, Jaguars, RB
Yeldon will be given every chance to be a top rusher in the league this year. Unfortunately, he plays behind an offensive line that ranks in the bottom 4 of the NFL. Shear volume alone, though, puts him as a number 3 fantasy RB option with a very high upside. He’s a powerful running back, much like most running backs from Alabama, and is an every down back. Yeldon should be targeted as a RB 2 in dynasty leagues.
Projections: 197 carries, 800 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 36 receptions, 267 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD.
5. Tevin Coleman, Falcons, RB
Coleman could turn out to be the steal of fantasy football drafts in 2015. Atlanta is a pass heavy team and Coleman will not see more than 250 carries, but he should see plenty of holes open up, thanks to Atlanta’s prolific passing game. He is also a violent runner that finishes runs. Devonta Freeman will is battling hard to keep the starting gig and, as of now, they are sharing time. Expect Coleman to get the lion’s share of touches this season.
Projections: 190 carries, 780 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 23 receptions, 175 receiving yards, 1 receiving TDs
4. Ameer Abdullah, Lions, RB
Out goes Reggie Bush. In comes the extremely agile Abdullah. Joique Bell seems to be the number one back for the Lions, but Abdullah will be an excellent complement on a team that loves using RBs in the passing game. Expect Abdullah to beat out Theo Riddick for the number 2 RB spot and see quite a few 2 RB formations. Abdullah is one of the best handcuffs to have this year and could very likely end up being the featured back.
Projections: 121 carries, 580 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 28 receptions, 308 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
3. Amari Cooper, Raiders, WR
Cooper is clearly the number one receiver on this team and Derrick Carr will be targeting him often. His acceleration and ability to separate from defenders is a rare commodity. Oakland got pretty good quarterback play from Carr last year and he should be even better this year. Cooper is a solid flex play and a low end WR 2.
Projections: 72 receptions, 1,080 yards, 8 TDs
2. Todd Gurley, Rams, RB
Gurley may have been number 1 on this list, if not for injury. Still recovering from a torn ACL, Gurley may not be ready to go week 1. Regardless of how well Tre Mason may play in that first week or two, Todd Gurley will still be given the starting job as soon as he is cleared to play. Maybe the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, Gurley should be targeted early in dynasty and keeper leagues.
Projections: 185 carries, 890 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 22 receptions, 236 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
1. Melvin Gordon, Chargers, RB
Gordon comes into the NFL as the collegiate record holder for average yards per carry for RBs at 7.79 and was drafted into the perfect situation. He should be San Diego’s starter from day 1. Gordon should be targeted as a RB 2 with potential to be a RB 1. With high praise from Charger’s great Ladainian Tomlinson and Phillip River’s comparison of Gordon to Jamaal Charles, expect big things from the rookie out of Wisconsin.
Projection: 232 carries, 1,066 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 31 receptions, 239 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Honorable mentions: David Johnson, Cardinals, RB; Maxx Williams, Ravens, TE; Phillip Dorsett, Colts, WR; Doreal Green-Beckham, Titans, WR;