Rookie Watch

2012-06-11 12:08:57
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
RealTime Fantasy Sports

Griffin should make impact

Just like sleepers, everyone seems to love rookies. But much like sleepers, the rookies that pan out to be impact fantasy players are normally few and far between. This doesn't mean you should just ignore rookies, but do your homework and take the players with the best chance to succeed.

There are guys that will make a difference for fantasy teams. Just look at Cam Newton last season. Newton was among the best fantasy quarterbacks and a huge difference maker for fantasy teams. He was drafted as No. 2 or even went undrafted in many leagues, but ended up the third ranked quarterback at season's end. Needless to say, he carried many fantasy teams to the playoffs. Newton isn't the norm when it comes to rookie seasons but there can be rookie players that help fantasy teams.

Let's take a look at the quarterback position first. It used to be a rookie quarterback would have plenty of struggles during their rookie season but recent history shows this is changing. Don't be afraid to take a chance on a rookie quarterback.

Andrew Luck was the first pick in the draft but second pick Robert Griffin III probably is setup for the better rookie season. Griffin kind of has the makeup of Newton from last year but it would be a big surprise to see him come anywhere near Newton's huge numbers. Griffin has a better surrounding cast, though, than Luck and should be worth some spot starts for fantasy teams. He is a dual threat with touchdown and big-game potential. Don't rule out Luck for some big games but he has a lot less talent around him. He could have a few big games but is more a low-end No. 2 than anything for his rookie season. He'll be better down the road.

Another quarterback that should play a big role his rookie season is Brandon Weeden. Weeden isn't your typical rookie at age 28, so he might have a little better chance to succeed right from the start. He doesn't play in a great Browns' offense, though, and could be hit or miss in a starting role. He might be worth a spot start or two in the right matchup.

Our last rookie quarterback to watch is Ryan Tannehill. He is going to compete for the starting job with Matt Moore and likely won't win as he is pretty raw, but could get some playing time before the season is out. Don't discount Tannehill for a few big games in what should be a pass-first offense.

The running back spot can bring more immediate fantasy success than quarterback, though. There are a couple exciting candidates this season to be difference makers. The biggest impact should be made from Trent Richardson. He'll be the workhorse back in an offense that likes to one. He is setup for a big rookie year, getting plenty of carries.

Doug Martin is the other back expected to get a big workload as a rookie. Martin should be the immediate starter for the Bucs and projects as a three-down back because of his ability to also catch the ball. He has some nice total yardage potential in an offense that should be better.

A couple more rookie backs to watch include David Wilson and Lamar Miller. Wilson will be the top backup in New York, backing up and oft-injured back. Miller is a playmaker that should get chances to line up as a receiver as well as a runner. He could post some big games in what should be a better offense.

Our last three rookie backs that should make an impact are LaMichael James, Ronnie Hillman and Isaiah Pead. The 49ers have a lot of backs to compete with for playing time but James might be the best pass catcher of the group. He is a big-play threat with the ball in his hands. Hillman will play in an offense that might suit him better than starter Willis McGahee. It wouldn't surprise to see Hillman get a lot of chances, especially in passing situations. Lastly, the Rams finally addressed their backup running back needs, drafting Pead early. He'll backup Steven Jackson, who has battled injury of late, and should get chances in passing situations when not spelling Jackson.

Now the receiver spot is a different story for fantasy rookies. Young receivers can be big-time players and there are usually a few every season that fall into this category. And this season should be no different, especially guys like Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. Blackmon might be more talented than Floyd but probably won't have quite the stats. Playing for the Jaguars hurts his value but he'll still get plenty of targets in a more pass-friendly system. Floyd gets to play alongside Larry Fitzgerald and should have many chances to stretch the field, making big plays. Floyd is setup for a strong rookie campaign.

Some other receivers that should make an immediate impact and start from day one for their respective teams are Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill and Brian Quick. Wright is another explosive player with big-play ability that should get some targets in an improving Titans passing game. Hill isn't too exciting because the Jets are going to run a ton but he'll start and be the top big-play threat at receiver for the team. He has some upside for the big game. Lastly, Quick could be the No. 1 receiver for the Rams his rookie year. He is a big target that can stretch the field or make the tough catch underneath. He could lead the Rams in targets this season.

A few other rookie receivers to keep an eye on are Mohamed Sanu, Juron Criner, Rueben Randle and DeVier Posey. Out of that group, Posey might have the biggest impact as he has a good chance to start in a good Texans' offense. And with Andre Johnson showing signs of slowing down, Posey could get a few more targets than expected. He has some upside and is worth a late-round grab. Sanu is another guy that will challenge for a starting gig. He could be the starter opposite A.J. Green in another offense that is showing improvement in the passing game. Randle won't start but should be the No. 3 for the Giants, who produced some good fantasy players the last few years in this No. 3 role. And Criner has been turning heads in Oakland in early workouts. There is a chance he moves up the depth charts quickly, similar to Denarius Moore last season.

Similar to the receiver position, tight ends can make some fantasy noise their rookie seasons. The position isn't quite as hard to learn as say quarterback or running back. We don't have a ton of possible impact players in this year's draft, though. The big impact player at tight end will be Coby Fleener, who reunites with college teammate Andrew Luck in Indy. Fleener might be the top target for Luck early in his career. He could be a low-end No. 1 tight end his rookie season.

Two other tight ends to watch are Michael Egnew and Dwayne Allen. Egnew is a very talented pass catcher but not much of a blocker. But the Dolphins are looking for playmakers in their new offense, so Egnew could get some chances early in his career in obvious passing situations. Allen is another rookie tight end for the Colts, who seem to be going the way of the Patriots, loading up at the tight end spot. Although he won't start, he could play a similar role to Aaron Hernandez of the pats, getting plenty of chances to play.

To be honest, special teams is the place rookies have the best chance to make their mark. Rookies can use their natural ability on returns or even as a coverage man. The kicker position is another spot rookies can help on special teams. We have a few to keep an eye on this season. Randy Bullock is our top rookie kickers. He has the inside track to start for the Texans, who should produce plenty of chances for Bullock. He could be a legit No. 1 for fantasy teams.

Two others to watch include Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein. The Vikings don't have a great offense but have produced some decent fantasy kickers the last few years, so Walsh has some value there. He is going to start unless he implodes in camp and preseason action. And Zuerlein replaces Josh Brown in St. Louis. Zuerlein played in a small college, which is a concern as he moves to the pros, but the job is his for now. The Rams aren't a great offensive team but Jeff Fisher has had some big fantasy kickers through the years. He might be worth a shot for fantasy teams.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Jeff Paur at jeff@rtsports.com

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