Rookie contributions to fantasy teams at the high end of the spectrum tend to be streaky but worth the risk once injuries have impacted a roster. There are several examples of players who saw reps and workloads beyond their experience and were also selected late in fantasy drafts, giving them keeper potential. A few examples of these players, along with their final position ranking from the 2022 season, are Tyler Algeier, Garrett Wilson, and Isiah Pacheco.
Allgeier (RB31) battled with Cordarrelle Patterson for carries in the first half of the season before emerging as the bell cow in Atlanta’s offense late. From Weeks 15-18, when fantasy championships are decided, Allgeier racked up 79 carries, 431 rushing yards, and two touchdowns, good enough for RB5 status.
Wilson (WR19) was targeted among the top ten players in the NFL last season and finished as the 15th-best receiver or better six times as a rookie. His average ADP last season was 144th, ranking him 49th among wide receivers.
Pacheco (RB35) vaulted himself from a seventh-round pick into weekly fantasy starter status for the final half of the regular season. The Chiefs running back was a top-20 performer at the position seven times and was RB14 from Weeks 11-18 to close out the year.
Ahead of the 2023 season, we’ll preview some options for fantasy value among the rookie class who may be overlooked to this point.
Jordan Addison, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ADP 93, WR39)
Addison’s name is recognizable to most football fans who followed the NFL Draft, but his value in fantasy drafts does not match his potential. He could immediately step into the role Adam Thielen vacated in free agency, one that included 95+ targets in five of six years, and be a go-to player for Kirk Cousins.
TJ Hockenson’s volume as a pass-catcher could carve into Addison’s slice of the target pie, but the chance that Addison establishes himself early in the season as a reliable option means he has the potential to see 100+ targets as a rookie.
Roschon Johnson, RB, Chicago Bears (ADP 154, RB49)
The former Longhorn has become backfield mates with Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman in Chicago and finds himself in a familiar position.
Johnson had to work to earn every carry behind Bijan Robinson at Texas and was effective in a limited role. He gained 5.6 yards per carry in four years while averaging fewer than 100 totes per season.
Chicago is a run-first team, and the Bears have the second-best schedule for RBs, according to FantasyPros. Johnson enters the league with a manageable number of hits sustained in college and an opportunity to rise on the depth chart without established lead backs ahead of him.
Sam LaPorta, TE, Detroit Lions (ADP 170, TE21)
The latest Iowa tight end product was surprisingly taken before Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer in the 2023 NFL Draft. LaPorta now finds himself as the likely day-one starter in Detroit, following in the footsteps of fellow Hawkeye TJ Hockenson.
Jared Goff is a tight end-friendly passer, helping the Lions franchise set a new season-best with 12 touchdowns thrown to tight ends.
According to a FanNation post from January, Goff’s three highest passer ratings to individual pass-catchers were all to tight ends. LaPorta’s target volume will be something to monitor as the season progresses.
Puka Nacua (ADP 233, WR102)
Another team that is looking to fill a positional void is the LA Rams at receiver. Nacua is billed as a receiver without dominant physical traits but understands schemes well and routinely gets to open space. Does that remind you of any other receiver in the Rams’ offense in recent years?
This offense is built around a creative mix of run and pass plays under Sean McVay, and Nacua could be the latest player to emerge from their player development system to shine for fantasy teams.