Fantasy football players already are hard at work preparing for the upcoming NFL season.
While some of last year’s crop of rookies failed to launch their careers in 2018, others demonstrated they not only belong in the NFL but also can thrive as pros. Having overcome the dreaded “rookie wall,” many second-year players are poised for breakout seasons in 2019.
Here are seven of them you should consider drafting onto your teams.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Michel shouldered a heavy workload in 2018, rushing 209 times for 931 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. He just might play a bigger role in the Patriots’ offense this season, with Rob Gronkowski having retired. Quarterback Tom Brady will continue to move the ball well but also will need someone to finish drives. Perhaps Michel will assume that duty more often.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
Miller had just 33 receptions for 423 yards in 2018, but his seven touchdowns ranked second among all rookie wideouts. If quarterback Mitchell Trubisky targets Miller more often — and he might if injuries hamper Allen Robinson or Tyler Gabriel — this season, then Miller’s numbers are bound to improve.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Moore’s receiving stats — 55 receptions for 788 yards and two touchdowns — were good, but they appear even more impressive when you consider he didn’t break into the starting lineup until Week 7. If quarterback Cam Newton reclaims the form that once made him an NFL MVP, Moore, who was second among rookies in receiving yards, could reap some of those rewards.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Ridley led his rookie class in receiving yards (821) and touchdowns (10) during his impressive rookie campaign. Although Julio Jones is the Falcons’ go-to wideout, their pass-happy offense will create plenty of chances for Ridley to shine, especially if he remains one of quarterback Matt Ryan’s favorite targets.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson now runs Baltimore’s offense, since it traded Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos in the offseason. Jackson’s passing statistics didn’t wow anyone last season, but the threat he poses while running with the ball suggests he could be a breakout star in 2019. After all he threw for five touchdowns and rushed for four more in just seven games as a starter. The Ravens won six of those contests.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Mayfield had to wait until Week 3 to become the Browns’ starting quarterback and he lived up to his billing as the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He passed for 3725 yards and 27 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Expect the first two numbers to climb and the third to fall dramatically as he joins the ranks of elite NFL quarterbacks in 2019.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
As is the case with Mayfield, Barkley broke out in his rookie season, rushing for 1307 yards with 11 touchdowns en route to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and Pro Bowl honors. Barkley led the NFL with 2028 total yards from scrimmage, and we expect him to shoulder a similar workload as the perhaps the NFL’s premier dual-threat running back.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images