2019 Rookie Review: Part 1
With the fantasy football “off-season” in full swing, It’s time to take a look at the top rookies from 2019. This series will be a review of how each rookie performed in 2019 and preview what to expect for 2020. I’ll be taking them on in order based on August ADP provided by fantasydata.com.
1.01: Josh Jacobs
2019 finish: RB18 – 13 Games, 242 att 1150 yards 7 TD – 27 targets 20 rec 166 yards 0 TD
As the only RB drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft Josh Jacobs came with high expectations. He was expected to continue the trend of rookie RB’s becoming fantasy RB1’s. Unfortunately for fantasy owners and the Oakland Raiders, that would not be the case.
During his time at Alabama Jacobs was praised for his ability to catch the ball. 2019 though saw him catch no more than 3 or gain 30 receiving yards in any matchup this year. It was widely assumed that Jacobs would be used the same way that Jon Gruden used Charlie Garner. This assumption meant that he would get a healthy target share in the passing game. This lack of volume on passing downs puts a definite cap on his value moving forward. On the bright side, he totaled 242 rushing attempts for 1150 yards as a rookie which is nearly 5 yards per carry.
Despite solid production, Jacobs was met with durability concerns spending five games on the injury report missing three. He was never forced to be a workhorse in college so we can expect 2020 to be littered with questions about his durability. Should these questions be as big of a concern as many will make it? Of the top 24 RB’s in rush attempts, only 11 appeared in all 16 games. RB is a violent position and for a potential star to appear in over 80% of his games should be considered a win and is worth the risk.
So what should we expect in 2020 and beyond? The Raiders want to make Jacobs the focal point of the offense. DeAndre Washington, 41 targets, and Jalen Richard, 43 targets, are both UFA in 2020 and I expect at least 1 of them to walk. With 27 targets, Jacobs should be expected to make a big jump in 2020 while he should maintain his rushing workload. RB18 could be a realistic floor for Jacobs with a top 6-8 ceiling for 2020.
1.02: David Montgomery
2019 finish: RB25 – 242 att 889 yards 6 TD – 35 targets 25 rec 185 yards 1 TD
David Montgomery was a fast riser during the offseason. With Jordan Howard being traded to the Eagles before the NFL draft it was apparent the Bears were going to have to draft a RB. Montgomery was the 3rd RB off the board and landed in what appeared to be a prime location. The hype train was running through the entire off-season with few signs of slowing.
By week 1, everyone fully expected Montgomery to receive the bulk of the carries while Tarik Cohen was expected to oversee pass-catching duties. He ended up receiving only 7 touches for 45 yards in his first NFL action (Ouch). Week 2 he inefficiency turned 18 carries and 1 reception into 68 yards (Double Ouch). If you played him you were thankfully saved by a rushing TD. His 12.8 fantasy points and 19 touches were probably enough to give you some confidence going into week 3 but he would go 4 consecutive weeks scoring under 10 and even going -.1 in week 7.
By the time you were finally comfortable benching him or maybe found a suitable replacement he scores 20.7 and 19.6 in weeks 8 and 9 respectively. What a mess. Then in weeks 10-16, Montgomery hit the tank again and would hit 6.6 points only once in that span. The startling part of that is the fact that he had at least 14 touches in every single game. If you needed a glimmer of long term hope he would put up 113 yards and a TD in week 17, just in time for your fantasy season to be over.
Montgomery sent fantasy owners on a roller coaster of a ride in 2019 and that may be enough to scare people off from drafting him or wanting him on your dynasty team but he is projected to be the lead dog. Not too many players have 300+ opportunities for a season but Montgomery does. If he is to improve on his 3.7 ypc Montgomery will be a steal at whatever his ADP or price is in August. No one is denying his opportunity, only his performance and consistency. Montgomery is definitely a “buy low” candidate for the 2020 offseason but I would temper expectations until he proves he can provide a more efficient baseline.
1.03: Kyler Murray
2019 finish: QB7 – Passing: 542 att 349 comp 64% 3722 yards 20 TD’s 12 INT
Rushing: 93 att 544 yards (5.8 ypc) 4 TD
As the first overall pick of the 2019 draft, Kyler Murray put together an impressive rookie season that shows a ton of promise. Coming into a spread offense that depends on passing volume we would expect Murray to have a low TD rate. What you didn’t expect was his lack of rushing. 544 yards is good but was underwhelming for your expectations coming into the season. Kyler Murray failed to exceed 30 rushing yards in 8 of 16 games. Altogether, he surpassed 40 rushing yards in only 4 games on the season.
Much like Lamar Jackson in his rookie year, Murray never seemed to have that week-winning type of performance you were hoping for but he still gave you solid production most weeks. It was most certainly a tale of two halves, unfortunately. In weeks 1-11, Murray was the QB8 in fantasy points per game. Weeks 12-17, however, Murray seemed to slam into the rookie wall. During that stretch, he was QB27. Some of the guys who outscored him in individual weeks include David Blough (Week 13), Devlin Hodges (Week 14), Eli Manning (Week 14) and AJ McCarron (Week 17). Murray absolutely destroyed you despite the Cardinals actually winning 2 of those 5 games thanks to Kenyan Drake and the run game. Murray never scored more than 17 points in that span.
Luckily there is a lot to build off of for the future of Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. Murray plays in a system that is tailored to his strength. If 544 rushing is Murray’s floor you will be happy with whatever outcome he has in the passing game. The positives to build off of are the 64% completion percentage and a 3.7% TD rate. I fully expect Murray to surpass every milestone he set in 2019. It’s important to note that the biggest jump in performance for QBs is typically from year 1 to year 2. With the possible return of Kenyan Drake and another year in this offense expect Murray to be in the conversation as a top 5 QB for the foreseeable future.