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These Are the NFL Rookies Your Fantasy Team Needs

There are newcomers worth looking into at every position — even at kicker

Elias Stein/AP Images
Elias Stein/AP Images

Since we already know everything there is to know about the NFL’s 2016 rookie class, we might as well use this knowledge to our advantage. The Ringer cares deeply about your fantasy football team’s success this season, so what follows is our official preseason All-Rookie fantasy roster. (Spoiler alert: Carson Wentz didn’t make the cut.)

QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Look, I don’t care that Prescott is still a backup, or that we covered his glorious ascent just two days ago. The Dak Attack further confirmed his budding superstar status in Thursday night’s preseason clash against the Seahawks, in which he went 17-of-23 for 116 yards and a touchdown. I don’t know why the NFL doesn’t give out an August MVP award — just another way Prescott’s shine is being blocked — but Dak would take it, hands down.

Of course, Prescott’s sizzling performance was overshadowed by Tony Romo’s back injury, which sidelined the veteran quarterback early in the first quarter. Although Romo claims to be “fine,” the scare was another reminder of the 36-year-old’s durability issues. He hasn’t played a full season since 2012, so chances are Prescott’s going to get an opportunity to start this year. And when he does, you’ll want to have him stashed on your roster.

RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

So what if Zeke visited a Seattle pot shop on Thursday? Weed is perfectly legal in the state of Washington, and Elliott reportedly didn’t even purchase anything. I can’t fault him for taking advantage of his trip to the Pacific Northwest to absorb the local Kush Tour scene.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a few choice words regarding Elliott’s dalliance with the dispensary: “It’s just not good.”

What is good? Zeke played like a monster in his preseason debut, rushing for 48 yards on just seven carries.

When Kam freaking Chancellor is impressed with your physicality, it’s safe to say you had a good night. Elliott was the no. 4 pick in April’s draft, so he’s an obvious and boring choice here, but how could we not include him? He’s going in the first round of most fantasy drafts, rare for a rookie; for comparison, 2012 no. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson was selected in the third round on average; 2015 no. 10 pick Todd Gurley was a fifth-rounder, due to the amount of games he was likely to miss due to rehab. Behind Dallas’s all-world offensive line, Zeke has the potential to be your team’s cornerstone from the jump.

RB: Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens

The Louisiana Tech product has flown under the radar this preseason, but that shouldn’t stop you from targeting him late in your draft, especially in a keeper league. Dixon was a paragon of productivity in college, totaling 1,537 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns in 2015, and the door is wide open for him to unseat Justin Forsett as the Ravens’ starter. After all, Forsett is coming off a season in which he scored just two touchdowns and missed six games due to injury, and he can’t compete with Dixon’s speed.

WR: Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns

Coleman is set to make his preseason debut on Friday night against the Bucs, and based on the rave reviews from training camp, expectations are high. The nerds at Pro Football Focus deemed him the best receiver in this year’s rookie class, and the Odell Beckham comparisons are impossible to ignore. Of course, much of Coleman’s rookie success will depend on the legitimacy of two things: Robert Griffin III’s resurgence and the curse that has caused the Browns’ streak of horrendous first-round draft picks. Then again, why not go all in on the Cleveland sports powerhouse narrative? Josh Gordon’s Week 5 return will make it tough for opposing defenses to focus on Coleman, and the days of the Browns having the worst receiving corps in the NFL are decidedly over:

WR: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants

Remember the last time an enormously talented rookie Giants receiver fell in fantasy drafts because of a minor preseason injury? The same thing is happening to Shepard now, and I, for one, have learned my lesson. Pass on the route-running genius at your own peril. New Giants coach Ben McAdoo has given Eli Manning a mandate to air it out, and Shepard’s fantasy owners will benefit accordingly.

TE: Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

With Jared Cook off to Green Bay, only Lance Kendricks stands in Higbee’s path to the starting lineup. The fourth-rounder has turned heads in training camp, developing a rapport with Jared Goff and showcasing his 6-foot-4, 243-pound frame, and caught five balls for 49 yards in his preseason debut. Watching him in action, there is a little Yi Jianlian in Higbee’s game; he dominates the open air just like Yi did in his NBA predraft workouts:

K: Roberto Aguayo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Never mind that Aguayo has struggled so much this preseason that he’s getting mercilessly booed in practice and felt the need to enlist the help of a mental coach. Despite missing more extra point attempts in two exhibition games than the 59th overall pick did in his entire 41-game college career, we still believe in the Florida State product’s NFL potential! Sure, the Bucs picked him WAY too high, but there was a reason for that: Aguayo was automatic with the Seminoles, connecting on a whopping 88.5 percent of his career field goal attempts and winning the Lou Groza Award as a freshman. The Bucs thought they were getting a machine; Aguayo missed only nine times out of 276 kick attempts in college. He’s proven himself to be human, but the leg is still there, right? Aguayo is a special talent, and cut me some slack — he’s the only rookie leg we’ve got.