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Fantasy Football 2012: Trent Richardson and 5 Rookies You Must Draft

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJune 11, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Trent Richardson and 5 Rookies You Must Draft

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    The 2012 NFL Draft produced an intriguing crop of fantasy football rookies.

    Take Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson.

    Seriously, take him. Every-down running backs are a rare breed in today's NFL. Richardson looks in line to receive a bulk of the Browns carries.

    While comparisons to Adrian Peterson may be overblown, they can't be ignored. In an age where NFL teams are drafting running backs with extra caution, the Browns took extra measures to make sure they secured him.

    You should too.

    Don't be foolish by drafting him among the top 10 running backs. Richardson still comes with all of the standard disclaimers attached to all prospects, especially as a first-year ball carrier in the stingy AFC North.

    But don't fool yourself into believing that the fourth round is too early for Richardson. When the price is right, high-upside rookies can be drafted with confidence.

    Here are a few other budding stars to watch out for on draft day.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

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    Don't draft Robert Griffin III as your starting quarterback. Trent Richardson is the only 2012 rookie worthy of a featured role in any standard re-draft league.

    Do, however, take the high upside risk on RG3 as your backup.

    Ask any owner that made a similar play on Cam Newton last year how that worked out for them. Griffin and Newton are not similar as real-life NFL prospects, but RG3's "transcendent speed and polished running ability" give him similar potential in Fantasyland.

    Serviceable backup quarterbacks are always available in standard-sized fantasy leagues. This makes taking a late-round gamble on a player like Griffin advisable for even the most risk-adverse managers.

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Doug Martin's fantasy value in 2012 depends on how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decide to use him. More specifically, it depends on how they split the carries between Martin and LeGarrette Blount.

    The prevailing projection is that Martin will inherit all of the third-down work as the better blocker and pass-catcher. Sharing the early-down work seems to be in play as well, although Blount remains the favorite to retain goal line duties.

    Owning a regular role running behind a solid offensive line comes with plenty of potential for consistent production. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams will draw their share of attention in the passing game, which only further helps Martin's chances to succeed.

    Don't hesitate to land "The Muscle Hampster" as your third running back in the middle rounds. The second best ball carrier in the 2012 NFL Draft landed in a great spot for immediate success as a pro.

    There is, however, too much uncertainty here to justify Martin as anything more than that. Some sites are pumping him as a RB2 with good odds to finish as the best rookie back this season.

    Keep Martin on your radar, but don't drink that much Kool-Aid.

Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants

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    Like Doug Martin, Rueben Randle comes as another fantasy prospect where talent meets opportunity.

    The New York Giants touted Randle as NFL ready when they drafted him. Now he seems to be earning that label in minicamp.

    Well, he better be. Even with injured Hakeem Nicks (broken foot) confident of his ability to play in Week 1, the departure of Mario Manningham leaves a clear path to consistent playing time for Randle.

    He's got the game. He's got the playing time. He also has two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning throwing him the ball.

    Give him a spot on your fantasy roster.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

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    Alshon Jeffery joins Rueben Randle as one of the few rookie wideouts to land a clear path to consistent playing time with a solid quarterback. That puts him on the short list of first-year targets with a chance to lead the class in production.

    Like the other players on this list, Jeffery is already making noise this offseason. ESPN's Melissa Isaacson reports that after the first day of rookie camp, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice described Jeffery as “picking peanuts off some guys’ heads.”

    “You can tell that he’s going to be a playmaker for the Bears for 2012, and hopefully for many years to come,” Tice said.

    Don't forget that Jeffery was once projected to be drafted among the first five picks of the NFL draft. The talent is there along with his great opportunity.

    You too can draft him at a bargain price.

Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams

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    You've heard it before. Somebody has to catch passes in St. Louis.

    That's been the rationale for taking a flier on various Rams receivers for several years. The problem with that rationale is that all of those somebodies in St. Louis were essentially the same player. Danny Amendola, Greg Salas, Austin Pettis, Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard, Brandon Gibson—the long list of slot machines lacking a true top-target skill set is exhausting.

    Remember, however, what Brandon Lloyd accomplished as the only dominant wideout under the arch during his short stay there last season. Brian Quick can fill that role and maybe more.

    His vertical jump (34"), size (6'4") and wingspan (81") all stand out among the other Ram pass catchers. If you're worried about him jumping from Appalachian State to the NFL, just talk to Greg Cosell from NFL Films. He notes that Quick is bigger and more athletic than Justin Blackmon. He also says Quick has a chance to be the best wideout in this draft class.

    You can't find much better upside at WR after the 10th round than that.

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