It is extremely common in Fantasy Football for the eventual league winner hit a home run on a free agent pickup or drafted player that doesn’t make an impact early on in the season. Patience is often a virtue as young players will frequently take a half-season or more and those fortunate owners will eventually reap the rewards of their willingness to hold tight on a guy who doesn’t take off right away in September or October.
But, a lot of us are impatient – myself fully included. When money is on the line, you’d like to get some production early and often from your draft picks. The perfect storm of situation, scheme, player, and surrounding talent are all factors to be looking at when you are trying to grab some young players to make an instant impact.
This year, there are five guys (and quite possibly a couple more) who I have zero issues with taking in your drafts and more importantly relying on them to help carry your squads.
David Montgomery – RB; Chicago Bears
It took all of a half of the first preseason game for Bears fans to start thinking Montgomery is the next in a long lineage of great running backs in Chicago lore. And I’m 100% drinking the Kool-Aid on the third-rounder from Iowa State. Just look at this cut:
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) August 9, 2019
The quick first step and elite vision he displayed in college was obvious and evident to even untrained eyes. The departure of Jordan Howard and Ryan Pace making the move up in third round to take Montgomery show that the organization fully believes in him. Reports of him being a workaholic at Iowa State have not been tempered by the NFL’s charter franchise.
Tarik Cohen is the type of complementary back that is not going to hamper production of a more traditional three-down back because of his ability to split out from the backfield and frequently line up as a wide receiver. Mike Davis is a fine running back, but he’s a much better fit in a backup role.
Head Coach Matt Nagy has raved about him from the onset of post-draft mini-camps. He’ll find creative ways to utilize him and very strong offensive line built by Pace will create lanes for days for Montgomery. His ADP is going to continue to skyrocket as the preseason continues on.
Situation – Check. Scheme – Check. Player Talent – Check. Surrounding Talent – Check.
N’Keal Harry – WR; New England Patriots
Wide receivers, in general, can take a bit more time than their backfield counterparts to start impacting games statistically speaking which is what ultimately is relevant for fantasy football purposes. Further, the Patriots, in general, don’t typically offer up their premium draft equity in the form of pass-catchers – Terry Glenn, in 1996, being their last first-round pick at the position.
Harry though, gives you a reason to think they are onto something (aside from it being the Pats). The 32nd pick out of Arizona State has the size coaches dream of when envisioning their WR1’s – 6’2, 228 lbs. – and also proved he can run registering a 4.53 at the combine in the 40-yard dash.
#Patriots — Rookie WR N’Keal Harry. Aligned as the boundary X receiver on this snap. That’s where he can use his frame/catch radius to win matchups. Adjust to the ball on the back-shoulder throw. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/aK0fPEY3wS
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) August 9, 2019
Add to it, he steps in as the likely number two target for the greatest quarterback to ever play the game behind veteran Julian Edelman. Edelman, small, quick, and dominant in the short passing attack is the perfect player to counter Harry’s skill set. Scouts rave about his willingness to block in the running game so you can feel good that his snap count will be conducive to high-level production.
No Gronk. Demaryius Thomas coming back from a devastating injury, and the unknown status of Josh Gordon and you start seeing the path to a monster rookie season opening up.
Josh Jacobs – RB; Oakland Raiders
Jacobs was the first running back taken off the board in the draft. The 21-year-old Bama product will step into the Raiders backfield as the presumed starter in Week 1 as Marshawn Lynch is now retired. Further, Doug Martin stinks and Derek Carr is in over his head with Antonio Brown and Jon Gruden. Jacobs has to produce if the Raiders want to prove to be anything more than a dumpster fire this season. And I’m quite confident he will.
Carrying a similar frame as the aforementioned Martin – short, but stout – and strong enough to carry the load 20+ times per game. He split time with Najee Harris and Damien Harris last season, so he was able to avoid the beating that most high-level backs take at the collegiate level.
Jacobs is also strong as a pass-catcher as well and this is huge when you start talking PPR type scoring. Backs that run the ball 20 times and catch 4-6 passes each week are gold. He’ll go off the board a bit sooner than you may like, but if you take the chance on him, it should pay off right away.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 3, 2019
On a recent episode of the The Money Line podcast, my co-host Nick Petro suggested the Raiders as a team he could see making a bit of a leap this year. Jacobs is going to be a big part of that if the Raiders can translate the talent they have started to amass with production on the field.
Noah Fant – TE; Denver Broncos
The second of two Iowa Hawkeye tight ends taken in the first round, Fant is an absolute monster of an athlete (side note: seems like a bit of a TE factory at this point with George Kittle as well).
OK, Noah Fant, OK. Fant dominates the 40-yard dash on Saturday morning.pic.twitter.com/15iY8kuQWE
— PFF (@PFF) March 2, 2019
Checking in at 6’4 250 lbs. and registering a 4.5 40, Fant will be a go-to guy for new Bronco QB Joe Flacco. Flacco was never shy about going to his young tight ends in Baltimore and he never had a guy with a ceiling like this. I also prefer his path to targets more so than former college teammate T.J. Hockenson – drafted 8th by the Lions. WR’s Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are talented, but also unproven.
Flacco fits the “game manager” type mold as a quarterback at this point in his career. He’s got to protect the ball and allow his playmakers to rack up yardage and move the chains. Fant will give him options both inside and out, as well as the ability to be a major mismatch against linebackers and safeties opening up some really huge big-play potential at a position where there isn’t a ton.
One X-factor to consider too is the presence of new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Scangarello spent the last two seasons coaching the quarterbacks in San Francisco where Kittle exploded onto the NFL season as a dynamic option in the aerial game for the Niners. You have to think he sees a similar skill set in Fant that he can attack the middle of opposing defenses with.
Darrell Henderson; RB – Los Angeles Rams
If you want to see a back with an elite level explosion – he fits the cliche of shot out of a cannon – look no further than the former Memphis back taken in the 3rd round by the Rams. Clear 4.4 speed and a track record of production at the collegiate level make it very easy to see what Sean McVay saw at the draft.
Dalvin Cook and Reggie Bush walked into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory and Darrell Henderson popped out. pic.twitter.com/rkWEDRfryM
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) March 11, 2019
Another key factor as you can start seeing though is the path to production. C.J. Anderson came on late to the Rams and nearly helped propel them to a Super Bowl win as a replacement for the injured Todd Gurley.
Anderson has moved on though and the mantle is clearly Henderson’s to take off and run with. Gurley’s availability for the season is a legit question mark for the Rams and Henderson has the ability to at least make some plays to keep the running game going. The Rams will be dangerous in the passing game which should open up running lanes for the dynamic back to exploit.
Even if Gurley is able to play a majority of games – very big if – Henderson will at least be a factor as McVay will almost assuredly preserve Gurley from taking a beating. I’m banking that his athleticism and proven ability to be a workhorse back at the collegiate level will at least offset some of the typical rookie issues.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @schools_01