Thursday, August 11, 2011

Draft Day Tips: Rookies To Watch For

       Last year, only a couple rookies really made a splash in the fantasy football world. Those who stumbled upon the likes of Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount had to be extremely pleased with their solid production. Others, mainly Ryan Matthews and C.J. Spiller, were major disappointments and brought little to the table. But finding a solid rookie who can instantly produce is tough to come by these days and hardly predictable.
       For instance, someone like Jimmy Clausen who had one of the easier paths to becoming a starter, failed miserably to put up even decent quarterback numbers. But Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, rookie tight ends on the same team both became serviceable options at some point during the season. Last year's class is fairly promising for THIS years draft with Dez Bryant, Jahvid Best, Sam Bradford, and others looking to breakout this year. But, as for this years draft, here are my top rookies and the level of impact they will have this season.

       Daniel Thomas (RB, MIA, ADP 76): With both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams gone, Daniel Thomas will be the main feature in Miami. Oh wait, Reggie Bush is now there. But don't fret, Bush will keep his role as a third down back and won't hurt Thomas' value too much. This bruiser out of Kansas State should see a great amount of carries and will be Miami's workhorse. But, we all know that doesn't mean instant success for a rookie. Expect a solid impact with potential to be a high-end number 2 back.
       Mark Ingram (RB, NO, ADP 65): Once again, the New Orleans' backfield has become a three-headed monster with Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles. While early indications are that Ingram should see the bulk of the carries, there is no doubt that Thomas and Sproles both have potential to get their fair share. This limits Ingram's value despite his tremendous upside on the high-powered Saints. I would generally avoid Ingram considering his draft position, but he could put up solid stats. Expect a decent impact with solid number 2 RB potential.
       Julio Jones (WR, ATL, ADP 105): While fellow rookie wideout A.J. Green is being taken higher in drafts, I think Jones has more potential for his rookie campaign. Jones is being set into an already great offense with a fantastic quarterback in Matt Ryan. There are rave reviews right now for Jones and he could end up making a difference with Roddy White drawing double teams. Do not expect an immediate impact, but a good impact later in the season. Keep your eye on him.
       Roy Helu (RB, WSH, ADP 130): Regarded highly by Coach Mike Shanahan, Helu will definitely see some playing time. How much that is relies heavily on injury prone Ryan Torain and newly acquired Tim Hightower. While it is a cluttered backfield, Helu has great potential and could emerge as Shanahan's new guy. If Torain gets hurt, I think Helu could really shine and have a big fantasy impact. But until then, expect just a marginal impact on behalf of Helu.
       A.J. Green (WR, CIN, ADP 89): A.J. Green is in the perfect situation. He is a promising rookie wide receiver expected to start in week 1. And he plays for the mighty, oh, wait. Cincinnati Bengals. At least he has Carson Pal... Oh. Maybe not. Well, Green does have a promising future ahead of him with Andy Dalton looking to develop. But the Bengals, without Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, may have a rough time against punishing defenses like Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice a season. And with the chance of Bruce Gradkowski throwing to him, Green will find it tough to be fantasy relevant. Expect a marginal fantasy impact with potential to be a low-end number 3 receiver.
       Ryan Williams (RB, ARI, ADP 91): Arizona made a surprising pick with Williams despite taking Beanie Wells in the first round just two years ago. Williams will get carries, but needs time to adjust to the NFL especially coming off an injury. I do not see Arizona giving up on Beanie so quickly, but Williams could make a splash if Wells struggles again. Expect a moderate impact from Williams.
       Alex Henry (K, PHI, ADP 152): If you know me, then you know my thoughts on kickers. But Henry may actually end up being the most fantasy relevant rookie (kind of). He is on the high-powered Eagles and will see plenty of points. But is any kicker really more fantasy relevant than another? Even if you take him (it better be in the last round), it's not like he will be any different from any other kicker. Hard to predict (and even harder because he's a rookie) and not a difference maker. But he could finish in the top 10 at his position. Which is why I guess I have to say that he will have a solid fantasy impact.
       Cam Newton (QB, CAR, ADP 131): There is really no reason to draft him. Although he can compile rushing yards, expect no fantasy impact from Newton this season.
       Jacquizz Rodgers (RB, ATL, undrafted): Rodgers' value falls solely in PPR leagues. He is still the third man in Atlanta and very undersized. But he is electrifying and should find the field at least a little bit. Monitor him for leagues that give points for catches. Other than that, he really has no value.
       Dane Sanzenbacher (WR, CHI, undrafted): Consider him a very, very deep sleeper. His chances of even making the team are not that high, but they seem to improve every day. He is even challenging Earl Bennett for FIRST team slot reps. Who knows? He could be the next Wes Welker. While realistically he won't have value this season, I think he could surprise and see the field more than one would think. If you are in a deep league, give him a shot.
       My former fellow Illini Mikel Leshore would have made this list if not due to a season ending injury. He still has a promising future ahead of him. But with the luck the Lions have had drafting, maybe they should look at fellow Fighting Illini Nate Amodio who rushed for 1 touchdown in the intramural season. He could make the transition from QB to RB as long as the NFL makes a rule for the max player weight to be 150.

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