After the season ends, loyal NFL fans look forward to April each year to see what gifts the NFL draft will provide them. Of course, the NFL will extend that wait until May starting next season. No matter what position your team is drafting in, you always hope that they will find gems to plug those gaping holes or find the heir to replace current studs at key positions. For us, we look across the league to see what players have been drafted onto teams in a spot that they will have an impact on the fantasy football landscape.
So, Maximum Fantasy Sports has put its collective heads together and has ranked the Top-5 fantasy football relevant rookies at the core skill positions and their projected draft round in standard 12-team fantasy football leagues. There was a time that we would avoid all rookie QBs that came into the league. However, the game has changed at the collegiate and professional level in ways that allow talented QBs to step under center and be productive immediately. It is amazing to look at the 2012 season QB stats and see multiple rookies near the top. Drafting RGIII last year got many teams to the fantasy playoffs. Adding Colin Kaepernick late in the season took many teams to fantasy gold. Who from this year’s draft will be the key players on your run to your championship? Below is the consensus review from Maximum Fantasy Sports for the new crop of NFL rookies.
1. Geno Smith (New York Jets): Draft prognosticators had Geno listed as the first QB off the board and many thought he would be drafted in the first round. Unfortunately for his ego, wallet and job satisfaction, he was drafted by the Jets in the second round. Shockingly, Jets fans weren’t thrilled by the pick. I am confused since the butt-fumbler is currently their starting QB. I would not be surprised to see Geno win the job in training camp. Too bad that he has no one to throw to. He is a 14th round pick at best.
2. E.J. Manuel (Buffalo): E.J. is this year’s dual-threat QB. He has the wheels and the arm, though not real accurate, to be successful. He will start on the bench with Kevin Kolb getting the starting position to start the season. Since Kolb is made of cupcakes and is not real talented, Manual should get the job before long. He is a speculative add, at best, with the last pick of your draft.
3. Mike Glennon (Tampa): Manuel is the “new NFL” QB and Glennon is the “Old NFL”. You are not going to see this kid running much. He is 6’7″ and has a cannon for an arm. Josh Freeman is the guaranteed starter, but really faltered down the stretch last year. Tampa has loads of talent on offense, so, if Freeman stumbles again, Glennon could take over. I would have no problem drafting Freeman as my QB2 and backing him up with Glennon as my last pick in my deeper leagues.
4. Tyler Wilson (Oakland): Well, it is better than New York, but not by much. Wilson joins a team that has been in search of a good QB since Rich Gannon took them to the Super Bowl in 2002. Matt Flynn gets the starting nod this year. Carson Palmer did put up good fantasy numbers last year, but I don’t expect anything good from Wilson, even if he gets the job at some point. Not draftable.
5. Matt Barkley (Philly): with Michael Vick and Nick Foles ahead of him, Barkley will probably not see the field this year. Sadly for him, had he come out in 2012, he would have been been a first round pick and may have seen some success. He has talent, so you could consider grabbing him at some point during the season if you are in a deep Keeper league.
1. Montee Ball (Denver): Ball steps into a good situation in Denver; they have a rock solid passing attack so teams can’t load the box to stop the run and the Broncos have a stable of RBs coming off of major injuries. The Wisconsin grad had been putting in NFL-type seasons in college (over 300 carries each of the past two years). Some people may shy away from him due to the workload. I think it has prepared him for a grueling NFL season. I would add him as a late 3rd round or early 4th round pick.
2. Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh): Bell is a great fit for the Steelers. He fits their mold at 6’2″ and 230lbs. The Steelers had no success with the various backs they tossed on the field last year and would love for Bell to be their workhorse. I thought Jonathan Dwyer was that player last year when the Steelers drafted him, but know they weren’t happy with him when they decided to draft another RB in Bell. He should be the next back off the board after Ball.
3. Eddie Lacy (Green Bay): Much like Bell, Lacy is going to a Super Bowl contending team in need of a go-to running back. Lacy would be tops on this list if the Packers didn’t pick up Jonathan Franklin as well. I love Franklin and have decided to add him here as a 3B. They are both draftable, with Lacy being a 5th round pick and Franklin being an 8th round pick, but they will split carries this season.
4. Zac Stacy (St. Louis): Who will replace Steven Jackson? The Rams are facing that dilemma. They have Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, but neither is assured of being The Man. Stacy tore it up at Vanderbilt, which is a good place to hide your talent. I would add him in the 11th round and hope St. Louis recognizes his talent and gets him the rock.
5. Stepfan Taylor (Arizona): The Cardinals can’t keep a starting RB healthy. The two guys ahead of Taylor; Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, are ACL casualties in recent years, so add Taylor in the last round if you draft either of these RBs.
1. Tavon Austin (St. Louis): Austin is a blazer and will love the turf in St. Louis. He will take the slot left open by Danny Amendola’s departure. Sam Bradford will call his number as often as he did Amendola’s. There is talk that he will even drift into the backfield a few times a game. With over 100 catches at West Virginia the past two years, you know he can handle the workload. I would draft him in the 6th round.
2. DeAndre Hopkins (Houston): FINALLY, someone that can play on the other side of the field from Andre Johnson. Schaub, Johnson and Hopkins are thrilled with this draft pick. He is a highlight reel mainstay and catches everything in sight. There is no doubt that he starts the first game and doesn’t look back. I would grab him in the 7th round.
3. Cordarrelle Patterson (Minny): Patterson’s stock dropped with questions about his character, which is funny considering that he took Randy Moss’ number; his idol! Should he stay focused, he is a big play waiting to happen. Greg Jennings is Minny’s number 1 receiver, but he is far from the deep threat that Patterson is. He won’t catch 100 balls this year, but he will have a big YPR and lots of YAC. He is a solid 9th round pick.
4. Aaron Dobson (New England): Out with the old and in with the new. Dobson joins a new receiver corp in New England. Tom Brady likes spreading the ball around and Danny Amendola will be taking Wes Welker’s spot, but Dobson should win Brady over easily. The kid had zero Drops last year! I would grab Dobson in the 12th round
5. Keenan Allen (San Diego): Based on pure talent, Allen would be ranked much, much higher. His problems are that he is coming off a knee injury and has a group of WRs in front of him that he will need to win time from. However, Vincent Brown is also coming off an injury, Robert Meachem was an overpaid no-show last year and Malcom Floyd is an enigma. He is worth taking a flier on in the last two rounds of your draft.
1. Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati): Eifert could almost be listed in the WR category since he has that make-up. The Bengals are sold that Jermaine Gresham is their number 1 TE but they are sure that Eifert could be that, and more. QB Andy Dalton likes throwing to his TE and adding Eifert makes him smile. Expect Eifert to be the second-leading pass-catcher for the Bengals this year. TE is deep in the NFL but I wouldn’t wait too long to add Eifert. 8th round seems like the ideal spot.
2. Travis Kelce (Kansas City): Kelce is joining a team that has 2 young TEs with NFL experience in front of him. However, Alex Smith likes his tight ends and Kelce is better than both Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano. Keep an eye on training camp this summer and see if Kelce makes some noise. If so, you can draft him around round 15.
3. Zach Ertz (Philly): Chip Kelly takes over in Philly and no one knows what to expect. Brent Celek has been the TE mainstay for years in Philly, but we give Ertz a good chance to unseat him. He is big and quick and should fit nicely into Kelly’s offense. That being said, we are talking about a rookie coach who may stick with his veterans out of the gate so, once again, pay attention to training camp and be ready to grab Ertz near the end of your draft if he looks like he is getting plenty of field time.
4. Vance McDonald (San Fran): McDonald was drafted to replace Delanie Walker. Not much of a blocker, but he is a talented receiver, albeit very raw. Vernon Davis did not click with Kaepernick until late last season and there is no guarantee that it will carry over to this season. McDonald is 6′ 4″ and 262lbs, so he is the right size to be successful. It is unknown how many of Walker’s targets he will actually see. I would not recommend drafting him, but keep him on your Watch list.
5. Jordan Reed (Washington): Reed was actually recruited by Florida as a QB. They converted him to a TE and became their leading pass receiver last year, though they weren’t blowout numbers. He is still raw and has Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen in front of him in the Redskins’ pecking order. He is not draftable this season and will only see the field through injury.