Don’t be a rookie; grab these players

By Steve Shonder

It’s a wonderful world for fantasy football rookies.

Rookies are always a tough sell in fantasy football. Sure, most of them were great in college, but who’s to say if they’ll be great in the NFL? I am to say. Let me rephrase that: I am to say which fresh-faced NFL rookie is going to be the new stud fantasy player.

Kelvin Benjamin

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin remains my favorite rookie.

Benjamin probably won’t win any Rookie of the Year awards from the NFL, but he’s a good bet to win Fantasy Rookie of the Year, a far more prestigious award.

Benjamin has only had one subpar performance — against a pretty solid Detroit Lions defense — and it doesn’t look he’ll have too many serious match-up issues for the remainder of the season, especially since he’s turned into the Panthers’ only reliable target outside of tight end Greg Olsen. Benjamin has some issues with drops, but that should go away as he grows into his role as Carolina’s No. 1 wideout. He’s getting the targets, which is all you can want.

Get your hands on Benjamin before he officially becomes the league’s newest hot commodity because Carolina’s refusal to let quarterback Cam Newton run wild means he’s going to need to target Benjamin more and more.

Brandin Cooks

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks is my second-favorite rookie. He comes with a whole host of hype, and he’s sort of lived up to it. That’s more of a symptom of being in the Saints’ offense: It’s a feast or famine place for fantasy football.

Cooks is in the same position as Benjamin. The Saints’ schedule favors their passing game for the most part, and the wealth of pass catchers means Cooks won’t be lined up against any of the league’s top corners. He going to continue to be hit-or-miss throughout the year, but his hits are going to be huge.

Bishop Sankey

In the backfield, there’s a pair of rookie running backs I like — Bishop Sankey and Carlos Hyde — but only one of them is going to do anything worthwhile this year.

Sankey, who many tabbed as a serious Rookie of the Year candidate, is finally getting the production to warrant the hype.

The touches aren’t there yet for Sankey, but the Tennessee Titans don’t have a better option. He’s been electric when the ball is in his hands. He outstripped Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster Sunday. It’s only a matter of time before Sankey becomes the lead back. When he does, watch out.

At worst, Sankey is a claim-and-stash guy for the moment. I’m confident he’ll be the Titans’ go-to back when they face the Cleveland Browns. He’s doing a lot with nothing, and now it’s go time.

Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles

Over at quarterback, we saw the brighter future in Minnesota and a less “Robocop”-influenced one in Jacksonville. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was fantastic against the Atlanta Falcons. His ankle sprain is going to work against him as a fantasy starter next week, but if he’s healthy he will be a must-start.

Yes, Bridgewater hasn’t seen a powerful defense, but that’s no reason to doubt him. He’s surrounded by good offensive weapons and has a semi-creative offensive coordinator. He’s in the running to be one of the best fantasy football quarterbacks by the end of the year.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, on the other hands, was good, but he’s surrounded by the Jacksonville Jaguars. There’s some serious potential there, but his biggest value is going to be garbage-time points, assuming the Jaguars remain the Jaguars. If they ever get their act together, Bortles could be more than a garbage-time god. He looked solid on read options, which should give him a little space in the passing game.

Basically, Bortles is worth a serious look. He’s going to be a good quarterback and could lift a pathetic offense out of the doldrums.