Ok, I admit preseason games are rarely an indicator of future success for a rookie. With the vast majority of veteran players not participating until the regular season, those receiving regular reps are rarely tested against the very best the league has to offer. Nevertheless, these games do give FF owners an opportunity to unearth potential game changing additions to their rosters, additions that could ultimately make the difference when one of your star players inevitably goes down with injury and/or suspension. Subsequently, with the second round of preseason fixtures now complete — here I take a look at 5 offensive rookies who have a real shot of contributing to their respective teams this season.
1. Jakobi Meyers, WR (New England Patriots)
As the de facto GM of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick has rarely landed talent at WR during each of his last 20 NFL drafts. The last great success was Malcolm Mitchell (who had is career cruelly cut short due to a chronic knee injury). Yet he might have unearthed another diamond in the rough. Enter Jakobi Meyers. Despite going undrafted, the 6’2″ former NC State QB/WR had a great college career in what is widely considered an ultra competitive ACC. Having received rave reviews during training camp Meyers has excelled in each of his first 2 preseason games despite limited game time; posting 12 catches, 151 yards, 2 TD’s as well as hauling a two-point conversion. Despite Josh Gordon’s reinstatement, at this rate Meyers will not only make the Patriots active roster — he could very well start alongside Tom Brady and co. week 1 of the NFL regular season. Draft him while you still can.
2. Jalen Hurd, WR (San Francisco 49ers)
Who better than Kyle Shanahan to unlock the potential of a 6’5″ former RB transitioning to WR? Selected with the 67th pick, the former Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year has everything to be a future success in the NFL. Starting opposite fellow rookie WR Deebo Samuel against the Cowboys in week 1 of this years preseason, Hurd caught each of his three targets — with two resulting in TD’s. Subsequently, the 49ers could very well have shown their hand with how they wish to utilise Hurd long term. Rarely does a player have both the size and speed to be a genuine red zone threat in the pros and he has significant experience running the ball. Because of this I expect Hurd to see meaningful game time in 2019. Additionally, due to said size and athleticism, I really would not be surprised to see him line up as a flex TE against some of the more weaker offensive lines too, thus allowing the 49ers to look for a potential mismatch that George kittle can exploit.
3. Mecole Hardman, WR (Kansas City Chiefs)
According to Draft Wizard Mecole Hardman’s current ADP is down to #161. Of course this is likely where one would expect a rookie wide receiver who was selected in the second round to fall. Nevertheless, despite his elite speed and exceptional college career, what makes Hardman such an intriguing prospect is the organisation to which he was drafted. With Tyreek Hill facing indefinite suspension amid allegations of child abuse, Hardman was largely considered to be Patrick Mahomes insurance policy heading into 2019. However, with the NFL reinstating Hill due to a perceived lack of evidence the Chiefs suddenly find themselves having to incorporate both players into what is already considered to be the NFL’s most explosive offence. With Mahomes, Hill, Watkins and Kelce drawing significant attention, Hardman could legitimately wreak havoc across the league. Additionally, as a special team specialist Hardman will likely take the field as the Chiefs primary kick/punt returner — much needed points that are often disregarded by FF owners.
4. Devin Singletary, RB (Buffalo Bills)
With a backfield consisting of veterans LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, the Bills were always going to add a much younger, cheaper option at RB during the 2019 off-season. However, many across the league gasped when the Bills took a shot on Devin Singletary with the 74th overall pick having played for a relatively unknown college program at FAU. However, during his last 2 seasons Singletary would lead all Division I FBS RB’s with 54 combined rushing TD’s. Despite said risk, production like that was obviously too hard for the Bills to turn down and Singletary could potentially pay dividends. Add to this rumours of the Bills waiting to release McCoy before the regular season and with Gore turning 36 years old, it would come as no great surprise to see Singletary move up the depth chart as the season progresses. Additionally, as inclement weather inevitably approaches, expect Brian Daboll to run the ball as much as he possibly can — making Singletary a prime target for any FF owner between weeks 10 and 16.
5. Ryan Finley, QB (Cincinnati Bengals)
Ok, having observed the first 2 weeks of preseason Ryan Finley is somewhat of a wildcard. Nevertheless, question marks remain over Andy Dalton’s fitness as well as his ability to perform at the highest level — having thrown for just 1 TD and being picked off 6 times in 4 postseason games (all losses). Additionally, two of Cincinnati’s AFC North rivals (Baltimore and Cleveland) have their QB’s set for the foreseeable future and it won’t be long until Pittsburgh have to find Big Ben’s successor. Put simply, the Bengals are not expected to win in the short term and could very well give significant game time to a player former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner believes to be “the most impressive rookie QB” in this years draft class. Yes it may take some time, but I fully expect the Bengals to be out of the playoff picture by week 10 and Finley could very well stand to benefit from any further decline in Dalton’s game. Will he post huge numbers? Probably not. But if you want to be your FF league’s Jedi Master and like to gamble, then stash Finley away and hope he gets the call from Zac Taylor when Dalton inevitably fails to impress. J
Notable mentions: Hunter Renfrow, Preston Williams, Jarrett Stidham