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Fantasy Impact: Rookies

Generally, rookies do not have much of an impact on the fantasy landscape. But, just like everything else, the fantasy world is reactionary. So, since a few rookies — e.g. RB Steve Slaton, RB Chris Johnson, and RB Matt Forte — had great seasons last year, people will expect the class of 2009 to produce some stars. Unfortunately, I do not expect this to happen. But there are some guys who you should consider on draft day.

QB Matt Stafford (DET): It is not even clear yet whether he will be the starter. I would bench him for a year. But I am not in charge. Even if he does end up as the starter, he is not a worthwhile fantasy option. Sure, he will throw a few jump-ball-touchdowns to WR Calvin Johnson, but he will be way too inconsistent to rely on.

QB Josh Freeman (TB): The Josh-Freeman-as-starter camp has been growing lately, but a lot can change between now and Week 1. Either way, he is not a viable fantasy option. Do not be fooled by the (appearance of) success of QB Matt Ryan and QB Joe Flacco last year.

QB Mark Sanchez (NYJ): See Stafford, Matt and Freeman, Josh.

RB Knowshon Moreno (DEN): If you are looking for someone who could make an inmpact, it is Knowshon. As of now, it looks like he is set to be the starter in Denver. And he has a very attractive combination of running and receiving skills. However, I do have some concerns about how new HC Josh McDaniels will use Moreno, given his extremely annoying tendency in NE to use multiple (marginal) RBs. Either way, the competition is fairly weak, so I expect Moreno to get every opportunity to shine. (But I am still holding out hope that RB Ryan Torain will recover from his knee injury and become the fantasy stud I expected him to be last year. But, at this point, that seems unlikely.)

RB Lesean McCoy (PHI): Fact: RB Brian Westbrook is breaking down. It is unfortunate. Because he has been a great fantasy player for a long time. But he is nearing 30, and he has a ton of touches over the past few years. Even if he can stay healthy this year (which is extremely unlikely), McCoy should get plenty of touches as the Eagles try to keep Westbrook fresh. And if Westbrook goes down, McCoy should do very well in that offense, which is set up to give RBs big numbers. If you draft Westbrook, do yourself a favor and take McCoy as a handcuff.

RB Beanie Wells (ARI): The Cardinals throw too much for Wells to be a stud, but he is by far the best RB (sorry, Edge) the Cards have had in awhile. RB Tim Hightower has a great name, but he had his chance to shine last year and he was less than impressive. I am not a huge Wells fan in general, because I think he lacks the mental and physical toughness necessary to be a good RB, but he does have the skills. So, if he can stay healthy, he should get plenty of goal line carries in Arizona’s offense, because they run the ball surprisingly often inside the 10-yard line.

RB Donald Brown (IND): I love this kid. He is smart and not flashy. And he ended up in a great situation. RB Joseph Addai has struggled with injuries lately (ahem, understatement), so Brown could get plenty of chances. Even if Addai stays healthy, the Colts will likely give Brown some carries early. They do not draft guys high to let them sit. And if (read: when) Addai goes down, he could be a stud in that offense (assuming QB Peyton Manning trusts him in pass protection).

RB Shonn Green (NYJ): I am skeptical of this kid. He was a one-year wonder in college and has never really impressed me. He did put up some good numbers last year at Iowa, but I just do not see him replicating that in the NFL (this year, at least). He is a guy to keep an eye on, though, because he is a very physical runner and could do well in NY, since they love to run the ball. Plus, RB Thomas Jones is getting old and RB Leon Washington is not a full-time RB. But the QB situation does concern me. Neither QB Mark Sanchez nor QB Kellen Clemens are going to scare many teams into not playing 8 in the box.

WR Michael Crabtree (SF): Crabtree is a great talent. Do not let his foot injury (or the fact that his coach made him cry) concern you. You should, however, be concerned about the QB situation in SF. Because, honestly, they are terrible. The problem with WRs is that, no matter how talented they are, they need a QB to throw them the ball. However, Crabtree could be a poor QB’s best friend, since he has fantastic body control and catches the ball at its highest point. Plus, he immediately becomes the best receiving option on that team. But I am guessing someone in your fantasy league will over-value him.

WR Brian Robiske (CLE): I love this kid, even though he played for THE Ohio State University. He has exactly what you need to succeed as a rookie WR in the NFL — intelligence, good hands, and route-running skills. Plus, he is penciled in as the starter opposite WR Braylon Edwards. Obviously there are QB concerns. But he should put up solid numbers as a rookie.

WR Hakeem Nicks (NYG): I think Nicks will be buried on the NYG depth chart behind guys like WR Steve Smith, WR Dominic Hixon, and WR Mario Manningham. People love Nicks because of his behind-the-back catch in college last year. Unfortunately, circus catches like that are not what you need to do well as a rookie WR in the NFL. So look for Nicks to be worked in slowly by the Giants.

WR Kenny Britt (TEN): The Titans sound like they want to bring this kid along slowly. Which is somewhat surprising, given their lack of talent at WR. But, again, it is difficult for rookie WRs to do well in the NFL. And the Titans do not pass the ball often enough to make their second or third option at WR valuable for fantasy purposes.

WR Percy Harvin (MIN): He is a superb athlete. But a very marginal WR. And usually, rookie WRs who have success in the NFL are very polished. However, early rumors out of Minnesota are that they will use Harvin in a variety of ways to try and get him the ball. Either way, I expect him to struggle as a WR, making him a very risky prospect. My guess is someone in your league will over-value him.

WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI): Last year, we saw WR DeSean Jackson blow up as a rookie in Philly. Could it be Maclin’s turn this year? Other than Jackson, he really does not have much competition. WR Kevin Curtis is solid, but he is getting old and, well, he’s white (and not named WR Wes Welker). I think Philly will give Maclin his chances, but I do not expect him to do much. If your league gives points for return TDs, though, bump him up a little.

TE Jared Cook (TEN): Rookie TEs are tough. Especially thin ones with suspect blocking abilities on teams that love to run. However, Cook is a great receiver and could provide a nice red zone  target for QB Kerry Collins. Recall that last year, Collins and the Titans offense made TE Bo Scaife fantasy-relevant. Cook may be young and raw, but he is twice the (receiving) talent of Scaife.

TE Shawn Nelson (BUF): Nelson is very talented, but as with Cook, he has suspect blocking abilities. However, there is very little competition in Buffalo, so look for him to get plenty of chances. With WR Terrell Owens in town, and guys like WR Lee Evans, RB Marshawn Lynch, and RB Fred Jackson getting looks in the passing game, do not expect too much.

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