With the NFL season on the horizon, fantasy players all over the country are gearing up for their highly-anticipated draft day.
Now most astute fantasy players have a good idea of who they want and why they want them, but a lot of players miss the boat on the rookies. Of course the rooks don’t have the proven track record, but they can make or break a fantasy season if you pick the right one. Just go back a season ago, when Cam Newton took the NFL, and fantasy world, by storm on his way the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Is there a Newton-like player in this rookie class? That’s tough to say considering how well Cam played, but there are a couple of rooks who might have what it takes produce big first years for their respective teams and fantasy owners alike. I really like the marriage of Trent Richardson to Cleveland, and I think RGIII will benefit tremendously from playing for a coach like Mike Shanahan in Washington. Shanahan likes to move his QBs around, but he hasn’t had a player that can do that effectively in his first two years with the team. With Griffin, he has an amazing athlete who looks like a natural throwing on the run. He can also take off with that blistering speed when he sees fit, which makes him a very intriguing fantasy option.
Every year that I prepare for my fantasy draft, I always look at the rookie class. I remember my first ever fantasy draft I took LaDainian Tomlinson, and he helped me make a playoff run. Is there a Tomlinson-type player in this year’s rookie draft? Yes, I believe there is. And you can find him in the players listed below.
Here are my top 5 rookies.
1. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns: Before the 2012 NFL Draft got underway, Cleveland was intent on finding a way to improve an anemic running game that ranked 28th in the league rushing yards per game (95.7) and last in rushing scores (four). With the selection of Richardson, that should change drastically. Not only was Richardson the best back in the draft, but he could turn out to be the best player as well. The former Alabama star is a physical freak, and his angry running style just wears out opponents. Richardson’s game fits perfectly into a city that gets its share of wind, rain and snow, and he should be able to post big numbers running behind a solid offensive line.
2. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: Don’t think for a second that RGIII can’t help the Redskins win games and compete for a playoff spot. Washington knocked off the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants twice a year ago, and played a number of teams tight due to a sound defense and a surprisingly decent passing attack under veteran signal-caller Rex Grossman. Head coach Mike Shanahan loves to bootleg with his QBs, which will allow Griffin an opportunity to use his speed to get on the perimeter and find receivers downfield. RGIII is especially good at throwing on the run, and his accuracy is impressive. Yeah, Griffin’s speed and athleticism are what everyone harps on with the former Baylor star, but he’s extremely accurate throwing the football. His rushing stats will also be a major bonus when it comes to fantasy scoring.
3. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: New head coach Greg Schiano wants his teams to run the football and play sound defense, so Martin should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. Martin isn’t a flashy player, but he’s a guy that works hard and gets the job done. Last year at Boise, Martin ran for 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also added 28 receptions for 255 yards and two scores, which proves he’s a capable receiver. Remember, Schiano turned Ray Rice into a star at Rutgers by feeding him the ball. He also traded up to get Martin, which tells me he really likes his game. Don’t be surprised if Martin makes a big splash in his rookie season.
4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: If the season shakes out the way most think it will for Indianapolis, then Luck and the Colts will be playing from behind a lot. However, I’m not sold on Indy being the worst team in the league again because they still have some good players on their roster. I do think the Colts will be in some shootouts however considering they didn’t play well defensively a year ago. Some of that could’ve been credited to injuries, but poor defensive line play was a big reason for the team’s demise. Luck will have guys like Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen to throw to, but the big issue from him will be staying upright. The Colts offensive line was revamped in the offseason and the talent level isn’t what it’s been in years past.
5. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans: Wright is a heck of a player and could be the sleeper in this draft class if the Titans can get solid play from the quarterback position. Wright’s not a blazer, but he’s got great quickness and has a flair for the dramatic play. Last year at Baylor, he hauled in 108 catches for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also averaged 127.9 yards per game. He might not start right off the bat, but he could play a major role in the Titans offense as a slot receiver. Wright could also become a bigger factor for Tennessee if talented but controversial wideout Kenny Britt continues to have his share of off-field issues, which is intriguing. Wright reminds me a little of current New York Giants star Hakeem Nicks.