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Five rookies ready to make an impact in fantasy football

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is one of the rookies expected to make an impact this season. (Ralph Freso/Associated Press)
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College football stars don’t always shine bright in their NFL debuts, making rookies high-risk selections in fantasy football drafts. Since 2002, the first year the league expanded to 32 teams, veterans with at least one year of pro experience outperform rookies, on average, at every position, with the biggest disparities at wide receiver and tight end, per data from TruMedia.

However, there are always a few rookies that surprise you. Here are five who figure to be a big part of their team’s offense in 2019, giving them a chance to help you win that championship trophy. Several of them appear on our lazy person’s guide to fantasy drafting. And see also our list of the top 50 keeper prospects.

Next-level rankings: Season and weekly scoring projections

David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (3.09 ADP)

The Bears drafted Montgomery in the third round after he rushed for more than 1,100 yards for Iowa State in both 2017 and 2018 in addition to scoring 24 total touchdowns over those two seasons as well. His 185 forced missed tackles (broken tackles plus jukes and fakes) over the past two years with the Cyclones were also the most in the 2019 draft class, per the game charters at Pro Football Focus. And lastly, PFF noted Montgomery was “the only person ever to break more than 100 tackles (both rushing in receiving) in a single season.” And he did it twice.

Montgomery is expected to split time with Tarik Cohen for touches out of the backfield but the Bears’ running-back-by-committee approach last year netted the No. 2 rusher on the team 170 touches, which would have ranked 20th in 2018 for most touches by a running back. Montgomery needs to show more consistency in his pass-catching abilities but the opportunity is there for him to meet or exceed expectations in 2019.

Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams (8.01 ADP)

Henderson leads all Division I running backs (minimum 300 carries) since 1956 in career yards per carry (8.2). His 6.2 yards per carry after contact in 2018 ranks as the best mark since 2014, the first year Pro Football Focus started tracking college players. Henderson’s 2017 campaign (5.6) is No. 2.

The top running back on the Rams’ depth chart, Todd Gurley, is dealing with an arthritic knee, an injury that limited him to 43 (out of 65) snaps and 10 carries in the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport also reported in June “that it is understood in Los Angeles that Gurley will no longer be the bell-cow back that he was over the first four seasons of his career” after suffering the knee injury, opening the door for Henderson to become fantasy relevant in his first year in the NFL.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals (9.09 ADP)

Since 2002, the first year the NFL expanded to 32 teams, the top fantasy football seasons among rookie quarterbacks have a common thread: an ability to score touchdowns on the ground. Cam Newton (14 rushing touchdowns in 2011), Robert Griffin III (120 carries and seven rushing touchdowns in 2012), Dak Prescott (six rushing touchdowns in 2016), Russell Wilson (94 carries and four rushing touchdowns in 2012), Andrew Luck (five rushing touchdowns) and Jameis Winston (six rushing touchdowns) all provided extra fantasy points via the running game. Same for Josh Allen (89 carries and eight rushing touchdowns) and Lamar Jackson (147 carries and five rushing touchdowns) last season. Murray produced 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns on 140 carries in his final year with Oklahoma.

Plus, Arizona isn’t expected to be very good in 2019, giving Murray plenty of opportunities to throw the ball while his team trails on the scoreboard. NFL teams as a whole pass the ball more often when trying to make up points against an opponent.

Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills (9.11 ADP)

The risk with Singletary: He is behind two aging veterans on the Bills’ depth chart, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. However, neither asserted himself in 2018, giving Singletary a chance to take over lead-back duties for the franchise. At Florida Atlantic University Singletary rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons and in 2018 he ranked second among all running backs in forced missed tackles per attempt (minimum 100 rushing attempts).

DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks (10.05 ADP)

Seattle’s most targeted receiver of 2018, Doug Baldwin, retired, leaving Tyler Lockett and Metcalf at the top of the depth chart. If these two split the targets the way Baldwin and Lockett did (a near 50/50 split) then Metcalf should get a decent workload (approximately 70 targets). First-year wideouts with at least 70 targets in their debut season over the past 17 years include Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and A.J. Green. This isn’t to say Metcalf will be an overnight superstar but the average fantasy production by this group (which includes 90 qualified receivers) is 158 fantasy points in point-per-reception, or PPR leagues, in Year 1, a mark good enough for 35th among wideouts in 2018. Metcalf’s average draft position as of Aug. 19 is 44th among wide receivers.

There is an injury concern — Metcalf will undergo knee surgery before the season starts — but there is optimism he will be available for the Week 1 match up against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It was a minimal surgery and minimal findings, so we have high expectations,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told ESPN. “We’ll go week-to-week with it, see how he does. We really don’t have any concern that he won’t get back soon.”

Read more from The Post:

How to win your fantasy football draft using the Zero RB strategy

Last-minute fantasy football advice

Who to draft first in fantasy football? Start with Saquon Barkley.

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The lazy person’s guide to fantasy football drafts

The 50 best fantasy football keepers for 2019

Five fantasy football players to upgrade based on the NFL preseason (and one to downgrade)

Fantasy Football beginner’s guide

Two high-volume running backs you can grab after Round 1 of your fantasy football draft

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The riskiest fantasy draft picks by round

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The top 2019 fantasy football sleepers to draft late

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Use these fantasy football draft tiers so you’re not stuck on the clock

The top fantasy football quarterbacks to draft in 2019

The top fantasy football running backs to draft in 2019

The top fantasy football wide receivers to draft in 2019

The top fantasy football tight ends to draft in 2019