Where Should You Draft The Members Of This Year’s Rookie Class In Fantasy Football?
Did you know that since 2003 (the last 10 seasons) we have seen an average of just 5.7 starter-worthy (Top 15 QBs, Top 36 RBs, Top 36 WRs, Top 15 TEs) rookies per year? That’s just 7.3 percent of all rookies drafted. And don’t go thinking, “Well, it’s probably mostly running backs, which I target anyway.” There have been just 30 starter-level RBs, good for an average of three per year.
Like every Fantasy season, you will see rookies overdrafted based on potential and owners wanting to be “the one” who grabbed the next star. Instead of falling into that trap, read and save this piece for the real scoop on which rookies can make an impact in 2013.
E.J. Manuel, BUF – Cam Newton comparisons are legitimate. Out of this entire class, no QB has more upside, but the Bills will likely let Manuel sit behind Kevin Kolb (hopefully, not learning from him though). Manuel is a dual-threat QB, raw and inaccurate, but with a great arm and plenty of weapons from the draft. The Bills picked three WRs to add to Stevie Johnson and company, so at the worst, Manuel is a great long-term stash with future QB1 potential.
2013 Outlook: Speculative QB2 – mainly a dynasty or deep keeper option
Geno Smith, NYJ – The Jets, and Rex Ryan, are claiming this will be an open competition for the starting role. We know better, as it would be a disappointment if Smith doesn’t win the job… but hey, the Jets are used to disappointment at this point. Smith’s biggest downfall is his poor accuracy, but he has the tools to improve. Smith is no more than a QB2, and unless he improves his accuracy, he’ll never break out of that tier.
2013 Outlook: QB2 as offense and needed growth will limit him
Mike Glennon, TB – Standing 6’7”, Glennon is quite the figure at QB. Glennon’s game is suited for a pro offense, and given Josh Freeman’s own inconsistency and this being the last year of his contract, Freeman could be on a short leash. The Bucs won’t pull the plug quickly, but if we see more inconsistency or worse, Glennon could get a shot in 2013.
2013 Outlook: Undrafted, dynasty pickup
Tyler Wilson, OAK – Of all of the rookies, Wilson arguably has the best chance of starting. After all, Matt Flynn wasn’t guaranteed the job last year, even after signing a significant contract with the Seahawks. Issues abound, though, as Wilson has small hands coupled with a long release time.
2013 Outlook: Two-QB league grab if wins the job
Matt Barkley, PHI – All you hear are the negatives with Barkley, however, he is exceptionally intelligent and extremely accurate, and don’t underestimate his athleticism. Over the course of his USC career, Barkley threw an astonishing 16 TDs and zero INTs with a 69.2 completion percentage on designed rollouts.
2013 Outlook: Two-QB league grab if wins the job, which is unlikely, but we have no idea with Kelly at this point
Matt Scott, JAX – It was a bit shocking to see Scott undrafted. Scott is more dual-threat than many realize, as he ran for 506 yards and six TDs last year. Scott brings his great QB mind, good touch, accuracy and great mobility to a team with little standing is his way: Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert. Scott’s opportunity may come sooner than later.
2013 Outlook: Dynasty league option only
Landry Jones, PIT; Ryan Nassib, NYG; Zac Dysert, DEN; Tyler Bray, KC – All of these QBs are entering situations with set-in-stone QBs. Bray possibly has a shot if Alex Smith reverts to his subpar play without Jim Harbaugh, but Bray has several questions of his own. The other three have no shot at contributing outside of injuries, and their teams would prefer if they never saw the field.
Le’Veon Bell, PIT – Bell is a big back at 6’2” and 230 lbs., but still brings quality pass-catching ability. The Steelers claim Bell is a “workhorse back,” giving him plenty of upside. Bell has a real chance to be the top Fantasy rookie RB if he is the Steelers workhorse RB. The one area Bell needs to improve is fighting through tackles, especially now at the NFL level.
2013 Outlook: RB2 with borderline RB1 potential if works on running through small holes
Montee Ball, DEN – Ball had 83 career TDs at Wisconsin and is a good all-around back with decent pass-catching ability already. That will keep him on the field for third downs, and with Peyton Manning at QB, you know Ball will get his opportunities. The Broncos might be the highest-scoring offense in 2013, which means plenty of scoring chances for Ball. If the Broncos do release Willis McGahee, Ball will slide into the No. 1 spot for me.
Eddie Lacy, GB – Talk about a rollercoaster of Fantasy emotions as excitement ensued with the Lacy pick and disappointment followed with the Johnathan Franklin selection. Lacy was extremely productive in college, averaging nearly 6.8 YPC over his career. He looks to be the favorite for lead carries, but this isn’t a team with a ton of red zone rushing TDs. This is a clear timeshare, and it makes Lacy a mid-late round pick.
2013 Outlook: RB3/flex option based solely on lead carries
Giovanni Bernard, CIN – Bernard is elusive and a good addition to the passing game. However, BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn’t going anywhere and will be the red zone RB of choice. There will be opportunities and yards for Bernard, but he is more of a mid-late round option and RB3 at best. Take note that the OC, Jay Gruden, came out and said Bernard is not workhorse back and is a 10-15 carry guy.
2013 Outlook: RB3/flex with a bit more value in PPR leagues, but BJGE will see more TDs
Johnathan Franklin, GB – I actually preferred Franklin to Lacy coming out of college, but even with Franklin’s do-it-all ability (even running between the tackles), he’s likely the change-of-pace option. Monitor the Packers backfield through camp and the preseason. Unless Lacy’s toe really is an issue or Franklin severely out-plays him, Franklin is mainly a Lacy handcuff or late-round flier.
2013 Outlook: Borderline flex and more of a RB4 with more PPR value, but likely behind Lacy in value
Mike Gillislee, MIA – I would be surprised if Gillislee didn’t surpass Daniel Thomas on the Dolphins depth chart. He brings all-around ability and good patience in finding running lanes. Gillislee was also solid in pass protection at Florida, further helping his chances of unseating Thomas as Lamar Miller’s backup.
2013 Outlook: RB4 and must-handcuff to Miller if surpasses Thomas
Zac Stacy, STL – You have to take note when a running back posts back-to-back seasons with 1,100-plus rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns… at Vanderbilt. With a wide-open competition for lead RB duties with Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, you must keep your eyes on Stacy.
2013 Outlook: Anywhere from RB4/5 to low-end RB2 if wins the starting gig
Joseph Randle, DAL – Any time you’re DeMarco Murray’s backup, you have potential. Murray has struggled with injuries his entire career, dating back to his college days. Randle isn’t amazing in one area, mostly just a solid all-around option. He did average 5.5 YPC in his college career with 38 TDs the last two seasons, which shows he has upside should Murray get hurt… again.
2013 Outlook: RB4 and must-have handcuff to Murray
Knile Davis, KC – Speaking of RBs with a history of several injuries, we have Knile Davis. Prior to his injuries, Davis ran for 1,322 yards and 13 TD in 2010. Davis also brings amazing speed given his size at 227 lbs – ran a 4.37 and 4.48 40-yard dash. Like Randle, Davis is a terrific handcuff option.
2013 Outlook: RB4/5 and intriguing handcuff for Charles, but not a must-have
Latavius Murray, OAK – Murray heads to Oakland and has a great chance to become Darren McFadden’s backup. Like Davis, Murray is quicker than you would expect from a 6’2”, 223 lb running back with 4.38 and 4.40 40-yard dash times. He’ll have to unseat Rashad Jennings as the immediate backup, but Jennings isn’t a picture of health either.
2013 Outlook: RB5 if third on depth chart, jumps to RB4 and absolute, must-own handcuff to DMC
Christine Michael, SEA – Michael has the most pure talent of any running back not named Marcus Lattimore. Michael checks in at 220 lbs, yet still ran 4.54 40, has a 43-inch vertical and knocked out 27 225-pound reps at the combine. Unfortunately, he is behind the Skittles stud, Marshawn Lynch, and will battle Robert Turbin for the backup role.
2013 Outlook: RB5/6 or dynasty league option
Stepfan Taylor, ARZ – The Cardinals backfield is a Fantasy owner’s nightmare right now. Assumptions are that Rashard Mendenhall will lead the way, but if he falters, Taylor, along with Ryan Williams and Andre Ellington all lie in wait. Taylor is a good power back, but that would hold more weight if he were assured first and second down carries.
2013 Outlook: Could be a RB5/6 and dynasty grab, or could be a RB3/flex value RB if wins the starting role and others are released or injured
Marcus Lattimore, SF – The most talented rusher is also the most risk-laden and long-term option. Dynasty leaguers should draft Lattimore higher than keeper leagues, but redraft owners can simply stay away.
2013 Outlook: Dynasty league grab, and a great one
Andre Ellington, ARZ; Kerwynn Williams, IND; Jawan Jamison, WSH – Ellington will be in the competition for the Cardinals and may have more potential than Taylor… Williams is a good pass catcher with great speed… Jamison is in a crowded backfield, but Mike Shanahan knows how to make RBs good, and you just never know when dealing with Shanahanagins.
Tavon Austin, STL – Austin should be the first rookie WR off the board, just like in the NFL Draft. Austin is stronger than most would think (14 reps at combine). Austin has 40 times of 4.34 and 4.40 and immediately fills the hole left by Danny Amendola. Austin is also a multi-dimension threat a la Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb. Plan to draft him in the mid rounds, even as high as the sixth round in some leagues.
2013 Outlook: WR3/4 with guaranteed WR3 value in PPR leagues
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU – New York Football Giants wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks. That is the perfect comparison for Hopkins. He is an exceptional route runner and has amazing (and huge) hands. He caught 48 consecutive one-handed catches and even snatched one from two yards out on ESPN’s Sports Science. Hopkins will finally provide the threat needed opposite Andre Johnson on the field.
2013 Outlook: WR4 if starts opposite Johnson, which he should
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – Like Austin, Patterson can produce in more ways than just receiving (1,858 all-purpose yards last season). Patterson needs route running work and improved consistency. That said, the Vikings need a playmaker behind Adrian Peterson given Harvin’s departure. Greg Jennings is the team’s No. 1 receiving option, but Patterson can help in many areas.
2013 Outlook: WR4 given his ability to do damage in multiple areas
Robert Woods, BUF – Woods’ game performances were much better than his combine tests. Woods started as a potential Top 15 pick before Marqise Lee took over. Woods needs to improve his route running, but still has the talent to win the starting job opposite of Stevie Johnson. If he does, and Kolb starts over Manuel, Woods can provide deep-league value, but is still more of a keeper/dynasty target.
2013 Outlook: WR5 if starting, but QB play will limit 2013 upside
Aaron Dobson, NE – Will the Patriots wide receivers in complete overhaul mode, they need someone to step up. Amendola will be atop the chart, as long as he’s healthy, but all Dobson needs to do is surpass underwhelming Michael Jenkins for a starting gig. Dobson is another receiver on this list with great hands: 92 targets last season, zero drops!
2013 Outlook: If doesn’t grab a starting spot, Dobson is a WR5, if he does, jump him up to high-end WR4, then even more if Amendola gets hurt… again
Keenan Allen, SD – As a result of his knee injury, Allen went from first-round lock to being a third round selection. Allen still has upside given his physicality and excellent hands – not quite Hopkins level, but close. Allen’s 2013 stock all depends on whether he can emerge from the glut of options that include Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown.
2013 Outlook: Anywhere from undrafted if fourth on the depth chart to WR4 if he can grab a top-two spot
Terrance Williams, DAL – Williams has great speed and the ability to get behind defenses deep downfield. Granted, Baylor’s offense was one of the nation’s best, but 1,832 yards and 12 TDs is worth noting no matter where you play. Williams is a good bet to win the job as the Cowboys No. 3 option, and with how often Dez Bryant and Miles Austin get hurt, Williams is worth a late-round pick.
2013 Outlook: More of a dynasty option but rather deep leagues can monitor or stash given Bryant’s and Austin’s histories of injuries
Justin Hunter, TEN – Like Allen, Hunter was rated higher on draft boards pre-injury in 2011 (torn ACL), and he didn’t look the same afterwards. Hunter still has a good blend of size and speed, making him an intriguing long-term prospect. For 2013, a team filled with Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington gives Hunter a tough hill to climb, but Britt could be gone next season, opening to door for Hunter.
2013 Outlook: Dynasty option; too many WRs in front of Hunter
Quinton Patton, SF; Stedman Bailey, STL; Kenny Stills, NO; Da’Rick Rogers, BUF; Marquess Wilson, CHI; Markus Wheaton, PIT; Justin Brown, PIT – Patton is buried in San Fran, but can go up and attack the ball in the air… Bailey joins WVU alum Austin in St. Louis and had an astounding 25 receiving TDs last season… Drew Brees loves to sling the rock, and he will love looking for Stills deep downfield when he’s on the field… Wilson has a great size/speed combo and could push Alshon Jeffery if given the chance… Wheaton and Brown will battle for the No. 3 role in Pittsburgh, and while Wheaton has top-end speed, he runs soft routes and could fall behind Brown if he isn’t careful.
Tyler Eifert, CIN – Eifert is the complete package. He runs quality routes, attacks the pass in the air, fights through defenders, beats defenders downfield and even blocks extremely well. There will be concerns with Jermaine Gresham in the fold already, but he’s never reached the TE1 level. Conversely, Eifert has that ability and then some. Even if Eifert doesn’t pass Gresham immediately, the Bengals will have to use him in several two-TE sets, as Eifert could become Andy Dalton’s second-favorite target behind A.J. Green.
2013 Outlook: Guaranteed TE2 with clear potential for TE1 value
Travis Kelce, KC – As with Eifert, there is a tight end, well two (Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano) in front of him, but neither has the skillset of Kelce. Even though he missed the entire 2010 season due to a suspension (off-field), Kelce still registered 722 yards and eight TDs last year. Some have called him a poor man’s Rob Gronkowski given his hands and big-play ability. Even a poor man’s Gronk is high praise.
2013 Outlook: TE2 or undrafted unless he can pass over Moeaki and Fasano
Zach Ertz, PHI – At this point, we have no idea what Chip Kelly is thinking or planning. Ertz could become his No. 1 tight end or develop behind Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. His is similar to Eifert in many ways, albeit a bit slower, so the opportunity for production is here. It all depends on what Kelly decides.
2013 Outlook: Again, it’s the Kelly factor – undrafted or TE2, maybe even TE1, anyone’s guess at this point
Jordan Reed, WSH – In the passing game, Reed is a mismatch for most defenders, but he desperately needs to improve his blocking. Reed has more fantasy appeal than Logan Paulsen, but Paulsen is a superior blocker. Reed needs to pass Fred Davis, albeit by production or another injury to Davis. The latter is always a possibility, so keep your eyes on Reed.
2013 Outlook: Undrafted, but needs to be monitored along with Davis’ health
Gavin Escobar, DAL; Vance McDonald, SF; Dion Sims, MIA; Nick Kasa, OAK; Levine Toilolo, ATL – Escobar has more ball skills and catching ability than athleticism, but he will be learning from one of the best in Jason Witten… Exit Delanie Walker, enter McDonald, who is extremely versatile, shown by how much he lined up in the slot at Rice… Sims is behind Dustin Keller and is the next in former basketball players turned tight end… Kasa is a better blocker than receiver, but there isn’t an established TE option in Oakland… Toilolo is 6’8” 260 lbs and a physical beast, presenting a great option in the red zone once he’s done studying under the tutelage of the game’s best-ever tight end, Tony Gonzalez.