NFL Draft: 10 Rookies Who Can Make an Immediate Fantasy Football Splash
I'm not sure about you, but all the talk I hear about this draft is that there's no "star power."
Sure, last year's NFL Draft had five first-round quarterbacks, but the five combined for exactly zero playoff wins and zero division titles. We love big-name rookie quarterbacks on draft night, but they're rarely the first-year players who impact winning.
If you're a fantasy football fan, you should hold this opinion -- this draft is absolutely stellar. Several impact college position players will transition to the NFL, and some are coming off absurd, do-it-all efforts on college teams that weren't very good overall.
There's not a standout stud like Ja'Marr Chase, but I have 10 guys -- five wide receivers, two tight ends, and three running backs -- who I've had my eye on due to their insane production in college football daily fantasy last season. A few of them are getting slept on while others are well-known commodities.
Let's break them down.
Drake London, USC
If I didn't know any better, I'd have guessed Drake London was a 5'9" slot receiver.
From a college DFS perspective, his results closer mirrored Cooper Kupp's more so than the 6'4" possession receiver he profiles to be in the NFL.
London saw a whopping 15.1 targets per game on a depleted Southern Cal offense. That was third in all of FBS. He was their do-it-all swiss army knife -- just as Kupp is for the Rams.
Amazingly, despite being limited to just eight games, London scored seven times. That's closer to the Mike Evans comparison you'll see tossed around given their frames. He also broke the 1,000-yard mark (1,083) with pedestrian quarterback play.
Given his evaluation from scouts of elite hands and ball skills, London's future would be incredibly bright on a high-powered offense as a big red-zone threat.
Personally, I'd like to see the Jets give Zach Wilson a bigger body to work next to Elijah Moore, so London could be a perfect fit to Gang Green with one of their first-round selections.
Chris Olave, Ohio State
Everyone seemingly has an opinion on the Ohio State star duo of wideouts. I prefer Chris Olave, but I'm not going to call anyone out for siding with Garrett Wilson instead.
Wilson's drawbacks aren't captured in his analytical profile. He ran the most routes of the trio at OSU, so it's no surprise to see his team target share (27.9%) and yardage share (24.2%) higher. He posted 1,058 yards to just 936 for Olave.
However, the scout in me can't ignore Wilson's stiff route running. He plays more like a possession wideout at 6'0", but I feel like Olave is more fluid and holds a better idea of route concepts. He gets rave reviews for his buttery-smooth operation. He reminds me of Paul George on a football field.
As a speed wideout, Olave had more touchdowns (13) than Wilson (12), which is notable. Olave was often the "Z" receiver to Wilson's "X," so that type of nose for the end zone could be crucial in fantasy.
When we're talking about just a first-year impact, Olave could potentially drop below his former teammate but wind up going to a better team, which could help his fantasy potential next season.
Because of his pro-ready qualities, the Green Bay Packers would be an other-worldly fit.
David Bell, Purdue
David Bell's top athletic comparisons in my colleague Brandon Gdula's physical comparisons piece were Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Chris Godwin.
That will work. So will Bell's production at Purdue.
Bell was ninth in FBS in yards (1,273) and ninth in FBS in receptions (92). The Boilermakers didn't score as much as the nation's top offenses, but Bell absolutely did his part between the 20s.
For the life of me, Bell's fleeting draft status -- likely based on a mediocre 4.65 40-yard dash -- is this class's largest puzzle.
But, it's really not a massive surprise. After all, despite their elite college numbers, Godwin and Adams slid out of the first round in favor of other wideouts who tested better.
Going for the best overall pass-catchers with some of the picks from their Tyreek Hill trade, Kansas City might scoop up a potential hidden gem with Bell, and that would obviously be an ideal landing spot for any wideout in this class.
Jahan Dotson, Penn State
The most impressive part of Jahan Dotson's production is that he had to overcome really mediocre quarterback play at Penn State to put up numbers.
Dotson was right behind Bell in production (91 catches), was tied with Wilson in overall scores (12), and was 14th in the FBS in receiving yards (1,184).
While some prospects have their worst games against tougher competition, Dotson lit up the Buckeyes for 11 catches, 127 yards, and 2 touchdowns in Columbus.
At 5'11", Dotson is a speed guy who was outrun by the Ohio State pairing in the 40-yard dash, so he'll likely slip out of the first round. Scouts are also concerned about his physicality inside the hashes.
Dotson's draft leadup is very reminiscent of that of Tyler Lockett's. Lockett tested well at the combine -- but not well enough to go in the first round and overcome concerns about his height or physicality. It'd be ironic if Seattle used their newly acquired draft capital to select Dotson to eventually replace Lockett as the Seahawks embark on a rebuild.
Wan'Dale Robinson, Kentucky
Speedsters Skyy Moore and Calvin Austin III are flying up some boards in a league increasingly built on speed. The problem with that, to me, is if you're going to take an undersized home-run threat, take the one with the same production levels in the SEC.
Wan'Dale Robinson gave even the conference's best defenses fits. With 93 catches, he also led all Power 5 schools in percentage of his team's receiving yards (43.6%) through a schedule that included Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Iowa. Sheesh.
The problem? A 4.44 40-yard dash gave him a 25th-percentile speed score, per PlayerProfiler. A speed guy without relative speed could be an issue, but Robinson's game isn't just to run "go" routes past corners. He's very much a smaller version of a Deebo Samuel-type who gets the ball anywhere and everywhere.
Robinson is likely looking at a third-round draft spot at the apex. However, I think that could force him into an optimal spot -- a weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. He's the type of gadget guy who can add versatility to an offense where CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup will be productive downfield.
Breece Hall, Iowa State
Breece Hall is the only running back with even a prayer to go in the first round, but despite being a tremendous prospect, he likely won't be taken on Day 1.
Hall's upside -- beyond his stupid good athleticism scores -- comes from his dual-threat ability. He was fourth in FBS in rushing yards (1,451) and also held an 11.4% target share on an Iowa State team that had a productive passing game. In fact, his teammate will make an appearance here shortly.
This article is about first-year splashes, and Hall could absolutely leap into an immediate RB1 (top-12) season in the right fit. He's got the talent. That fit, though, will be crucial.
To me, the perfect spot would be as an impact offensive weapon for the Houston Texans. Houston needs playmakers other than Brandin Cooks, and Hall would likely see good volume right away for the Texans.
I'm actually lower on Hall than most as an overall prospect just because of the insane workload he held in college (718 total carries). That's just a worry on longevity, though. He's an unreal player right now and is ready to make a splash on an NFL roster.
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Sometimes, to make an impact as a rookie running back, a back needs to have the ability to carry a three-down load if the existing starter in a projected committee goes down.
I don't know if Kenneth Walker III (4.7% college target share) will be trusted in that type of role. I'm certain Rachaad White will be.
White was a dual-threat wizard at Arizona State this past season. His 17.3% target share this season was tied for third in all of FBS among running backs, and he also handled 46.5% of ASU's total rush attempts. He put up exactly 1,000 yards on the ground and another 513 yards through the air.
White is a projected Day 3 pick. I don't really get it considering most of his athletic scores are 80th-percentile clips or better, and he proved to be a productive three-down player in college. The Pac-12 this year was no weaker than the ACC in Javonte Williams' last season at North Carolina.
Personally, I'd love to see White in the mix in Atlanta's backfield. I can see an instant burst into a three-down role for the Falcons.
Tyler Badie, Missouri
I truly don't know what kind of pro player Tyler Badie will be, but his college career was very similar to Wan'Dale Robinson's as a tailback.
Badie was the lifeblood of an inept Missouri offense. Badie had 1,938 of the Tigers' 5,379 total scrimmage yards -- a 36.8% share that is insane for a running back. Keep in mind that this was against the SEC, and Badie still maintained 5.96 yards per carry. Again...sheesh.
Like Hall, that's a lot of experience that has him pro-ready entering this draft. His size may limit him to more of a pass-catching role in the NFL, but Gdula's athletic comparisons listed Aaron Jones and Darren Sproles as similar comps. I'd throw in Giovani Bernard from my scouting eye.
Badie had a 17.3% target share at Mizzou. In some ways, backs who can handle pass-game work have an easier path to the field in their rookie season. I think he'd be an awesome fit behind Derrick Henry in Tennessee to handle third downs -- with upside for more if Henry were to get injured again.
Trey McBride, Colorado State
As a Colorado alum, I definitely know about Trey McBride.
Forgetting for a second that he plays tight end, McBride was 22nd in total receiving yards for all players in FBS (1,121). That blew away all other tight ends in the nation. He held a gaudy 36.2% target share for Colorado State this season.
With a small-school program, evaluating prospects against their best competition is crucial. McBride cruised through bowl-bound Boise State for 10 catches and 103 yards, and he still had a modest showing against the Iowa Hawkeyes with 6 catches for 59 yards as the center of attention.
McBride's strong draft process has cemented him as the top tight end in this class by a country mile.
Though it's difficult for rookie tight ends to be fantasy-relevant, the Cincinnati Bengals really have no need more glaring than tight end after C.J. Uzomah left in free agency. Uzomah's production in 2021 wouldn't be out of the question for McBride in 2022 as another red-zone weapon for Joe Burrow.
Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
Considering Charlie Kolar was in an offense with Breece Hall and 2023 NFL Draft prospect Xavier Hutchinson, it's noteworthy how involved he was for Iowa State.
Kolar was second amongst Power 5 tight ends in receptions (60), and he was third in yards (740). The only two names in his class were Notre Dame's Michael Mayer and Georgia's Brock Bowers. Both of those guys will likely be first-round picks whenever they come out.
Most impressively of all, at least in my eyes, is that his 24.2% target share was second among all Power 5 tight ends. There were other well-deserving candidates for work in this offense, and Kolar doubled the next-highest Cyclone receiver behind Hutchinson (Jaylen Noel; 12.1%) in target share.
Kolar is a projected Day-2 pick, but that could also land him in a high-functioning offense. The Colts have two Day-2 selections, and one of their big needs is an additional passing-game weapon for Matt Ryan. As a guy praised as much for academics as his work on the field, Kolar should fit right into Chris Ballard's high-IQ culture.