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Fantasy football: Chiefs’ Edwards-Helaire, Vikings’ Jefferson should produce as rookies

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are among the top rookies I expect to breakout for fantasy football teams in 2020.

The 2020 NFL Draft featured several former college football stars with supreme talent, but talent is just one factor for success when you get to the NFL. Players must also land in the right system, have enough opportunity and stay healthy if they want to have a succesful fantasy football season.

Edwards-Helaire and Jefferson, former LSU teammates, were each first-round picks, with Jefferson going to the Vikings at No. 22 overall and Edwards-Helaire going to the Chiefs at No. 32.

Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but it’s typically difficult for rookie quarterbacks to make an immediate fantasy football impact. The same could be said for Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Chargers rookie Justin Herbert.

I expect rookie wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy to also be worthy of fantasy football starter status at some point during the 2020 season.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Chiefs rookie running back should make an immediate impact for the Super Bowl champions. Edwards-Helaire won’t have to deal with a ton of defenders in the box as the Chiefs boast weapons all over the field and have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Edwards-Helaire will likely be selected in the middle rounds of your fantasy football draft and should be looked at as a low-end RB2 or flex. The ultra-shifty running back has been compared to LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman due to his dynamic skill set.

He told me at the NFL Combine that he modeled his game after Marshall Faulk, Kevin Faulk and Maurice Jones-Drew before he got to the NFL. If those comparisons pan out, Edwards-Helaire could be a fantasy football superstar for a long time.

Edwards-Helaire should be a monster in PPR fantasy formats. I expect the former Tigers star to compete for touches early on with veteran Damien Williams, but he should work into a bigger role as the season progresses.

“Edwards-Helaire is just a unique talent,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said after the draft. “He’s explosive, he has the ability to make something out of nothing and that’s what you look at with these running backs.

“This guy can consistently make plays when there is really nothing to be made, and now throwing him in there with [wide receiver] Tyreek Hill, [wide receiver] Sammy Watkins, [tight end] Travis Kelce, [wide receiver Mecole Hardman] and [tailback] Damien Williams, we think it’ll be really exciting.”

Edwards-Helaire could help you win your fantasy league if your team has enough depth to weather the storm of his limited opportunities early on. You might have to take him a round or two earlier than you would like, so make sure to grab another running back, who will get touches in their offense early in the season, in the rounds after you select the Chiefs rookie.

Justin Jefferson

The Vikings traded star wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills in March before they drafted Jefferson in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Like Edwards-Helaire, Jefferson should have plenty of opportunities to put up fantasy points.

He likely will line up opposite Adam Thielen and see a lot of targets from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings also have weapons at tight end and running back, which should help Jefferson see more one-on-one matchups from the secondary.

I don’t expect Jefferson to reel in a ton of catches in 2020, but he could score at least six touchdowns and be a fantasy football starter during a bye week or if he has a great matchup.

Henry Ruggs III

Ruggs watched his draft stock soar before the Las Vegas Raiders made him the first receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

He slides into the offense with a ton of opportunity, but his success will likely depend on quarterback Derek Carr and the team’s ability to sustain drives. Ruggs’ speed should give defenders a ton of trouble.

He is a great player to pick late in your fantasy football draft. Ruggs is a lottery-ticket type option who should stay on your bench until you learn how the team uses him.

The Raiders were led by a strong running game in 2019 and could have more balance in 2020 after they picked up Ruggs and wide receiver Bryan Edwards in the draft.

The Raiders also made several additions at tight end, which should help Carr spread the ball out and keep defenses honest.

Ruggs has the potential to post a 1,000-yard season if he stays healthy.

“He can run the deep routes,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said of Ruggs. “He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps. I think if you force defenses to roll coverage, it opens up our run game. You respect our deep routes, it opens up Darren Waller.

“I just think it does an awful lot of things for us offensively and I think the most important thing is I think coach Gruden and the staff will get everything out of him.”

Cam Akers

Akers is one of my favorite rookie sleepers for the 2020 fantasy football season. The former Florida State running back was a second-round pick and has a ton of opportunity to make plays in the Los Angeles Rams’ backfield.

The Rams released Todd Gurley this off-season, a move that will lead to a competition for the starting job.

The Rams also have Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown on their roster but Akers should get a lot of chances as a runner and pass catcher. He should be a very late pick or go undrafted in your fantasy football draft but will be a player to watch as the season progresses.

I expect Rams coach Sean McVay to find very creative ways to involve this rookie in the offense.

Jerry Jeudy

Ruggs’ college teammate at Alabama was arguably the best wide receiver prospect in the draft class. He ended up being the second wide receiver off the board. Jeudy fits in nicely with the Denver Broncos offense.

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock took a step forward toward the end of his rookie year. The Broncos picked Jeudy in the first round before they added wide receiver K.J. Hamler in the second round.

Denver also signed former Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon in free agency. Jeudy will line up opposite Courtland Sutton in the Broncos’ offense.

I don’t expect the Broncos to have a great season, in terms of wins and losses, but the offense should be potent enough to make Jeudy a reliable WR3 in good matchups.

“I feel like I’m a wide receiver who can play inside, outside or wherever they put me at to get the ball,” Jeudy said after the draft.

“I don’t feel like I’m a better inside receiver than outside receiver. I’m a good receiver overall. I know how to get open and press off against whoever is guarding me. I just know how to get open. That’s it.”

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