While bussing through the mountainous region of Andalucía, there continues to be one thing on my mind: how will the rookie class of 2017 pan out for fantasy this year? Will there be a huge surprise player much like Jordan Howard of last year or will it be the top skilled player being drafted earlier like Ezekiel Elliott of last year?

Did Elliott and Howard set the bar too high for the rookie running backs this year, giving most fantasy players false hope when it comes to the likes of Fournette, McCaffrey, Mixon, Cook and so on? Is it time for the receivers to take back the Fantasy Football Rookie of the Year (FFROTY) trophy, which has been given to the running backs since Odell Beckham Jr showcased his talents as the eleventh pick overall a few years ago?

Every year there is a breakout rookie. Whether it’s someone who is drafted as one of the top overall running backs or wide receivers. Normally, it’s not a quarterback, given if they are drafted as one of the highest picks they are going to a team who needs desperate help and a quarterback [in his first year] isn’t the answer. A running back or wide receiver can be put on a good team who dealt with numerous problems the year prior, but may just need one playmaker.

Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth overall to a team that boasted a phenomenal offensive line and had produced solid running back seasons year in and year out. Elliott then took the NFL by storm, producing highlight reels every week. After week one, it seemed the Cowboys couldn’t lose. Another FFROTY candidate from 2016 was a late round selection from the Bears, Jordan Howard, finishing the 2016 season with over 1,300 yards is a feat on bested by Elliott’s 1,600+ yards. 2 rookies leading the way in rushing yards is impressive in it’s own.

David Johnson, in 2015, hit home runs seemingly every time he touched the ball. Johnson had six touchdowns in the first five weeks without seeing more than seven carries or four catches in a single game. Getting the chance to only start 5 games in the 2015 season, Johnson still produced 1,038 combined rushing and receiving yards and 12 touchdowns (not including his 599 kick return yards and one touchdown).  

The point being that FFROTY candidates can come from anywhere. They can be drafted in any round. They can start at any week. They can be on any type of team. The list goes on. It’s easy to predict the top guys to be the best. In this years case it’d be simple to write this article about Leonard Fournette or Corey Davis. Both should see plentiful volume of snaps. Both showed amazing promise in their collegiate careers. Both should easily adapt to the speed and intelligence of the professional level.

I avoid saying anyone drafted in the first round. Let my imagination run a bit wild here. So my (maybe bold) prediction of 2017’s FFROTY is a man I fell in love with as soon as the draft came and went. A wide receiver who should be slated as the team’s number two ‘go to’ guy. Someone who’s only ‘real’ competition for targets at the receiver position is a man that was already notified that his 5th year player option would not be picked up. If you can’t guess by now I’m talking about Zay Jones.

The East Carolina product walked away from his senior year with astonishing receiving stats. Catching 158 balls for 1,746 yards through the air. Durability, speed, strength and a profound outing at the senior bowl moved Zay Jones from a fourth round selection to the fifth pick in the second round to a team who lost Robert Woods and seems to be moving away from WR1 Sammy Watkins.

Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills quarterback, is becoming more and more of a top-tier passer who starts his third year as leader of the team. Chemistry should be found between Taylor and Jones which could leave Watkins in the dust and make Jones one of the most highly targeted receivers in the NFL.

In fantasy perspective, Zay Jones is being drafted on average at the fourth pick of the 14th round. So with one of your last picks of your draft there sits a WR2, who has speed, and on a team with an improving quarterback and top wide receiver who’s being pushed out.

My FFROTY prediction for 2017 is Buffalo Bills, wide receiver, Zay Jones.