For several hopeful young prospects, NFL Draft weekend is when fantasy finally becomes a reality. And for many diehard football fans out there, NFL Draft weekend is when fantasy finally becomes... more fantasy! Fantasy football, that is, and all the speculation and strategy and planning that goes along with it.
Obviously, the only positions that come into play for this article are at offensive skill positions. What isn't obvious, however, is which guys that have been taken will be the best fantasy plays, will project to have the most value in 2020 and will outperform expectations. Draft order isn't everything when it comes to fantasy football.
Just look at last season, when N'Keal Harry was the only receiver selected in the first round. He was subsequently outperformed by A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and a whole slew of other receivers for numerous reasons. But while it wasn't possible for us to project that N'Keal Harry would deal with injuries and that Ryan Tannehill would unlock the Tennessee offense, it was possible to predict that Metcalf would fit into a Seattle offense that had lost its WR2 in Doug Baldwin and needed someone to fill in the gap.
So without further ado, let's try our hand at this year's draft class, through the first three rounds, to find the guys with the best chance of having explosive rookie campaigns, especially in the fantasy sense. If one of the rookies you're excited about isn't on the list, it means I just can't really see them legitimately "exploding" in their rookie season.
And if there appears to be a lot of "low" probability of a breakout, that's probably okay. Rookie skill players tend not to do too much fantasy-wise. For instance, last year there was only one rookie quarterback (Kyler Murray) and one rookie wide receiver (A.J. Brown) that ranked in the top 12 fantasy scorers at their positions. Zero running backs made the cut. Lots of opportunity and a significant role are paramount in making these determinations, and those are often hard to come by in a player's first year of action.
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Chance to Post Top-10 Fantasy QB Numbers in 2020: Moderate
He certainly has no shortage of weapons to work with. A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate and now Tee Higgins are all at his disposal. It's exactly for this reason that we don't include Tee Higgins on this list, as we just can't see him making an overly noticeable impact in such a crowded receiver corps.
But can we envision Burrow making a notable impact on your fantasy leagues? Absolutely. Tom Brady, who was barely inside the top-12 fantasy quarterback rankings in 2019, posted numbers of just over 4,000 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. With Burrow's group of receivers, a high-tempo Zac Taylor offense pushing him every step of the way and the whole entire city of Cincinnati at his back, Burrow should easily be able to surpass those averages of 250 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. The defense also adds an element to that, seeing as they're rebuilding but still not great, which should lead to some high-offense matchups.