2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Meet the 2019 rookie class

What's the best way to describe the 2019 draft class? Hmm, that's a tough one. It's a deep group, but there appear to be more contributors and role players than superstars.

Take the running backs as an example. You'll learn everything there is to know about Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Miles Sanders here, but beyond those three are plenty of backs with lots of potential to help a run game, not lead it. Maybe that changes in time in the case of Devin Singletary, but even he's not a cinch to be a Fantasy contributor.

The receiver class is equally challenging to sort out. All three of our CBS Fantasy analysts has a different receiver at the top their dynasty positional rankings — none being the first receiver taken in the actual NFL draft! The good news is several receivers landed in places where they can make a modest impact right away.

If there's a position where there's a consensus on long-term optimism, it's tight end, with T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Both have appeal as difference-making tight ends, even if it's not happening in 2019. Same goes for Jace Sternberger and Irv Smith. This fab four could make appearances in Fantasy drafts for the next five years.

But the most polarizing rookie is the one taken at the top of the NFL Draft: Kyler Murray. While the rest of the well-known rookie quarterbacks figure to struggle in limited playing time this season, Murray found a spot where he'll start in Week 1. If his game is anything like it was in college, Fantasy managers will be excited to draft him now and into the future.

Whether you're drafting in dynasty leagues, or just window-shopping for some sleepers, our rookie class preview is designed to give you an idea of what to expect in 2019 and beyond.

*Listed ages as of Week 1 of 2019 season

Running Back

5-10, 220, 21 years old

Jacobs doesn't carry the sure-fire Fantasy stud label Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott entered the league with, but he's pretty close. A prototypical three-down running back who should thrive in Jon Gruden's offense, Jacobs enters the NFL with minimal experience, with only three career games with 15-plus carries. He left Alabama with just under 300 career touches, but it was enough to prove he played with good speed and lateral agility with a knack for falling forward to pick up extra yards. He also displayed natural receiving skills and is a solid blocker to boot. In 12 years of playcalling, Gruden has led a running back to over 1,000 total yards 10 times and at least seven touchdowns seven times. He also pushed one of the Raiders' less-than-stellar rushers to 15-plus touches in 10 of 16 games last season. Jacobs is as good as it gets from this rookie class.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Between 35th and 45th overall in every league.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.

5-10 1/8, 222, 21 years old

Montgomery has a complete skill set — from strong athleticism to nimble feet and good hands and blocking skills — but he doesn't flash a ton of speed. That means he needs volume in order to be effective for Fantasy — and it's volume he'll get in Chicago. Over the past two years at Iowa State, he's turned in back-to-back 1,400-total-yard campaigns with at least 11 touchdowns in each. If he replaces Jordan Howard's workload from 2018, Montgomery is in line for 15.6 carries per game with at least a few weekly targets. In an offense with a solid line and a penchant for creativity, especially near the goal line, that's a valuable role. Tarik Cohen typically gets around 10 touches per week and new Bears runner Mike Davis could also fill in, but Montgomery's legit strength and youthful legs should put him atop the depth chart.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Within 10 spots of when Jacobs is picked, most likely between 40th and 50th overall in every league.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Should be a top-3 pick across the board.

5-10 1/2, 211, 22 years old

The guy behind Saquon Barkley for two years at Penn State, Sanders figures to spend the early part of his rookie year as a part-timer before evolving into a three-down back for Philadelphia's hulked-up offense. What Sanders lacks in terms of power he makes up for with lateral agility that helps him stop on a dime to change direction and burst past defenders. It all came into play last season when he rocked defenses for 5.8 yards per carry and nine touchdowns. There's potential for him to grow as a pass-catcher (24 catches last season) and he is a work-in-progress in pass protection, but once those areas bloom, he'll be great. Expect a slow start and a big finish from Sanders.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Between 60th and 70th overall in every league.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Deserving of a top-5 choice — and a steal if after that.

5-8 3/8, 208, 22 years old

The good news is Henderson's landing spot will open him up to some creative usage thanks to Sean McVay. The bad news is that he's behind Todd Gurley on the depth chart. Among the fastest breakaway running backs in the 2019 crop, Henderson crushed defenses for 25 total touchdowns and 2,204 total yards in 13 games with Memphis. Nice numbers, but Henderson's best work came in open spaces, not between the tackles. While he looks like a strong back, he rarely played like one. He's also incomplete as a pass blocker. Henderson will probably spend his rookie year playing a handful of snaps each week until or unless something happens to Gurley.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Gurley fans will take him in Round 8 or 9. So will high-upside drafters.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Top-15 for sure, top-12 by running-back needy managers.

5-7 1/2, 203, 22 years old

With LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon all expected to make the Bills roster in 2019, the odds are stacked against Singletary getting a large workload. Singletary is undersized, doesn't have rocket speed, isn't an accomplished blocker and is an unproven receiver, but man, can he juke people out of their cleats! His uncanny ability to create yards on his own by using a perfect combination of patience, balance and lateral agility helped him notch back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and score 66 times in 38 games for Florida Atlantic. It also helps that he's powerful enough to pick up chunks of yardage after contact. If you draft Singletary in long-term formats, enjoy the ride but be patient this year.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Someone will grab him in Round 12 or later.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: A cinch for the top-15, he's a heck of a wait-and-see choice to spend a late first-rounder on.

5-10 5/8, 221, 21 years old

Coming off back-to-back 1,000-rush-yard, 12-score seasons at Boise State, Mattison finds himself in position to backup Dalvin Cook, a gig that has kept players busy over the past two seasons. His best attributes are his size, his lateral quickness, his patience and his hands. If only his speed was an asset — he ran close to a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash and will get caught behind by defenders regularly. Mattison could find some meaningful reps this season if Cook misses playing time. That's enough to make him worth a draft pick — and a must-own for those who choose Cook with a top-20 pick.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Round 10 or later.

Wide Receivers

5-11 7/8, 205, 22 years old

Campbell is a good talent who landed in an amazing situation: Catching passes from Andrew Luck in the Colts' exciting and creative offense. Not bad for a receiver with very good speed and an 82 percent catch rate in college. A smooth and diverse route runner, Campbell specialized in the slot at Ohio State and worked in the short-area as a chain mover. If used similarly with the Colts, he'll be an instant hit as a middle-of-the-field target for Luck, particularly one who will never have to worry about coverage zoned in on him thanks to T.Y. Hilton. But there's also room for him to develop into a better all-around receiver, including a deep-ball threat. That kind of potential is sweet for Fantasy fans to think about, making Campbell a reliable high-volume wideout for years to come.  

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Around 75th overall in PPR leagues; between 80th and 90th overall in non-PPR leagues.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: The safest rookie receiver out there — good enough for a top-five pick.

5-10 1/4, 187, 21 years old

Is Hardman the heir-apparent to Tyreek Hill? That would be a juicy role to settle into as a rookie, albeit one with massive expectations. Hardman's break-neck speed can at least stretch defenses right away — it's what he can do with the ball that matters. At Georgia, Hardman was not only a consistent deep threat but also did well on screens, slants and other short-area routes. He also contributed as a return man. Giving Andy Reid a slightly less refined version of Marquise Brown could have some dangerous results, but like with Hill when he entered the league, it could take a while to pay off. And, with Hill's status still up in the air, you can't exactly bank on Hardman being worth using in 2019.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Hardman's worth the risk starting at 110th overall in every format.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Believe it — he's a first-rounder, just not in the first five or six picks.

5-9 3/8, 166, 22 years old

There isn't a receiver with as much potential as Brown thanks to his rare speed and instant acceleration. A two-year starter at Oklahoma, Brown used an incredible mix of top-notch footwork and body moves to get wide open and make big play after big play. He's uncoverable, but he's also diminutive. Even smaller than DeSean Jackson and T.Y. Hilton, there are some real concerns about how he will hold up in the NFL, especially after fracturing his foot late last year. He's not physical, isn't a good run blocker, gets tackled easily and didn't play special teams. Making matters worse is his landing spot with the Ravens, who are currently constructed as a run-first offense with a low-percentage deep-ball passer. But this is the NFL, and speed is the ultimate trump card. Brown has it.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Soon after 100th overall in all leagues.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: He's going to be a volatile Fantasy receiver, but that doesn't mean he can't be a top-5 pick.

6-3 3/8, 228, 21 years old

While Metcalf may look like a Calvin Johnson clone, he doesn't play like Megatron. He has undisputable straight-line speed in a towering, beastly body that will be tough for defenses to match up with. But up to this point he has not been asked to run every route, doesn't have loose hips or quickness to shake defenders and is simply very raw. At Ole Miss, he never had more than seven scores or 646 yards in any campaign thanks to some significant injuries and a limited skill set. The Seahawks raved about Metcalf after rookie minicamp, but he's got much to learn about the position before emerging as a polished product. Pete Carroll is adamant about adding speed to his passing game, but it's hard to count on any wideout as a one- or two-trick pony. Metcalf must prove he's not that.   

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Metcalf has immense potential but has serious role-player downside (think Ted Ginn or Torrey Smith). He's worth a cautious back-of-the-first-round pick.

6-2 3/8, 228, 21 years old

Harry's a solid, well-refined receiver who can line up anywhere, run great routes and use his wide body and large catch radius to snare anything thrown at him. If there's a weakness, it's that he doesn't possess very good speed and typically separates with his strength, not his feet. This doesn't mean he can't play, but it does suggest he'll need a lot of targets to be good for Fantasy. Outside of Randy Moss, there isn't a great track record for perimeter receivers in the Patriots' offense. Harry's a longshot to find big stats as a rookie and probably won't play with Tom Brady for more than two or three years. Expect people to overvalue him based on his new team.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Harry is safe but doesn't have spectacular upside. He'll go in the first round for sure.

6-5 3/8, 227, 23 years old

You won't find many receivers with Butler's height, and you won't find anyone with his wingspan (83 7/8 inches, biggest in combine history). He's an oversized receiver fortunate enough to have solid speed and quickness to help him get open and make plays after the grab. He can line up anywhere and run nearly every route, which will help him a ton in Arizona's pass-first, pass-often offense. The nuances he must learn — catching the ball away from his body and improving on jump-ball receptions — aren't that much to ask. He must beat out a lot of competition for playing time in training camp, but he and Larry Fitzgerald are the only roster locks that stand over 6-foot-1.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Butler has his fans and his detractors, but someone in every dynasty league will value him as a high-upside stat machine. He'll go in Round 1.

5-11 1/4, 214, 23 years old

Here's a rookie where the opportunity is too good to pass up. After three modest seasons with South Carolina, including an injury-shortened 2017 (broken ankle), Samuel erupted for 882 yards on 62 grabs with 11 touchdowns last year. He's a deceptively quick and definitely powerful catch-and-run specialist who might fit best in the slot thanks to his excellent route-running. Samuel doesn't have many guys to beat out for playing time in San Francisco, and the offensive system matches up well with his strengths.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Samuel is a sneaky-good top-15 choice in dynasty.

6-0 1/2, 226, 22 years old

Brown is a terrific slot receiver who landed in a lousy situation. The thick-built, quick, route-savvy Brown had back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons at Ole Miss, playing alongside D.K. Metcalf. That was in an offense that was multiple and asked its receivers to run to open space. In Tennessee, the Titans' plan is to have Derrick Henry run to open space as they've pledged to be run-friendly. That doesn't help Brown, nor does it help that he'll compete with free-agent signee Adam Humphries for slot time. The rotten cherry on top? Marcus Mariota has failed to produce even one 1,000-yard wideout in his four-year career. Brown would have been better off on another team.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Brown has first-round talent but a second-round landing spot. Patient Fantasy managers will check him out before Round 2.

5-10 1/4, 183, 23 years old

Johnson gives the Steelers an instant bolt of speed and quickness that they need after trading Antonio Brown. Used in and out of the slot, Johnson can change gears to either launch past defenders or slow down to create space and make a play after the catch. That was all he needed to land over 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns in his last 27 games. He also is an accomplished return man. Where Johnson needs help is in mastering his route-running, which the Steelers have succeeded doing with many of their draftees. Once that happens, there's an opportunity for Johnson to emerge as a quick-twitch catch-and-run receiver in Pittsburgh's explosive offense. It's possible he puts it together this year — his competition for playing time is limited to Donte Moncrief and James Washington.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Somewhere between 13th and 20th overall.

6-2 1/2, 221, 22 years old

Capable of lining up anywhere but doing most of his work along the outside for North Carolina State, Harmon ripped defenses apart with his dominant physical traits and reliable hands. He's a good route-runner who thrived on contested catches by making the most of his wide catch radius and ball-tracking skills. A speedster he's not, but receivers like Anquan Boldin made great careers for themselves without that specific trait. Harmon needs an opportunity to play every down and work with a good quarterback, and he could very well end up with both in Washington as soon as Week 1.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Potential late-round pick.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Somewhere between 15th and 25th overall.


5-10 1/8, 207, 22 years old

Big things do indeed come in small packages. While Murray is slight of build, he's got a whopper of an arm and wheels to drive defenses crazy. More importantly, he's familiar with the new offensive system installed in Arizona by Kliff Kingsbury, who has known (and recruited) Murray for seven years! There are even receivers on the Cardinals whom Murray has practiced with before at Texas A&M. It's a dreamy landing spot for a passer who rocked big-time college football programs for 311.5 pass yards per game, 71.5 rush yards per game, nearly four total touchdowns per game and just seven interceptions total in 2018. His accurate, strong arm meshed with his calculated mobility could make him a stat monster for Fantasy. It all comes down to how his body holds up behind the Cardinals' suspect offensive line.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: With quite possibly the highest upside of anyone taken after the first half of drafts, he's worth stashing with a pick as soon as Round 10.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Somewhere between 10th and 16th overall.

6-3, 231, 22 years old

Only six quarterbacks in FBS history have thrown 50 or more touchdowns in a single season. Haskins is one of them. With his strong arm and big size, Haskins can make any toss and throw his receivers open, which is perfect for Washington's offense. He's got some mobility issues and has to master reading the field, and he doesn't have much experience after starting only one season for Ohio State. That might lead the Redskins to bringing him along slowly, particularly since their receiving corps is pretty thin. He could be a useful Fantasy quarterback down the line, but not this year.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Unlikely to get drafted
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Somewhere between 20th and 25th overall.

6-5 1/8, 221, 22 years old

We have to cover the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft, even if Fantasy fans won't rush to get Jones since he's not expected to play much. NFL talent evaluators coveted Jones because of his league-ready skill set and traits. He's smart, he's mobile and he's durable (he got beat up behind Duke's poor O-line). His arm? It's not bad, but it's not as strong as you normally look for from a top pick in the draft. The Giants will develop his strength while acclimating him to the pro game while Eli Manning puts the final touches on his career.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Unlikely to get drafted

Tight End

6-4 3/4, 251, 22 years old

Hockenson is not just the best all-around tight end in the draft, but he's among the best all-around skill-position players in the class. He caught nine touchdowns over 73 grabs in 2017 and 2018, never missing a game and averaging 14.8 yards per catch. He's proven to have good blocking skills (with room to improve) and very good receiving capabilities, making him a day-one starter in Motown and an eventual Pro Bowler. With no questions about his skill set, the concern turns to the size of his receiving role. The Lions haven't had a tight end with over 90 targets since 2012. Maybe that changes with Hockenson's arrival and only Danny Amendola threatening to take looks away in the middle of the field, but the risk is there. That would obviously keep Hockenson from realizing his ceiling.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Anytime from 110th overall or later is fine.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll get snared anywhere from fifth to 10th overall as the safest player available.

6-4 1/8, 249, 21 years old

More a receiver than blocker, Fant is a mismatch player the Broncos can use against slower linebackers and smaller safeties. That was something he did a lot of in the red zone at Iowa, scoring 18 times over 69 catches his final two seasons. But he averaged just 40.5 yards per game and had plenty of mishaps (botched plays, bad blocking, awareness issues). With very good speed and unique size, Fant has the athletic profile to dominate. He must improve his route-running skills and get tougher with tacklers before ascending to the elite level of the position. He also must manage to connect with Joe Flacco this year and Drew Lock in the coming years, which doesn't sound like a big problem but might be given the depth of young receiving talent in Denver.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Once you hit Round 11, he's fair game.
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: A lot of people like Fant, so don't be surprised to see (or afraid to take) him within the first eight picks.

6-4, 251, 23 years old

What a fun fit this could turn out to be! Sternberger is a big target who had a Gronk-like effect on the competition at Texas A&M, scoring 10 times over 48 catches for 17.3 yards per catch. He did it with swift speed and height, lining up all over the field and making moves after the catch. So why did he get taken in Round 3 instead of Round 1? He's considered far from NFL-ready because his route-running and blocking are unrefined. But that could be something the Packers train him on while he plays. The potential of a receiver this big catching passes from Aaron Rodgers is pretty exciting to think about.

  • 2019 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Late-round pick
  • ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: If you miss out on Fant, Sternberger offers a similar profile. You can find him in Round 2.

So what 2019 Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get 2019 Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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