Fantasy Football: 5 Rookies Who Can Help Lead Your Team to a Championship
Every season, a rookie explodes onto the scene and establishes himself as an elite fantasy football option. From Adrian Peterson in 2007 to Cam Newton in 2011, identifying which young players will break out can help you land a potential starter in the later rounds and set you up for a successful fantasy season.
Though many of the younger skill position players from the 2012 NFL Draft may not make an impact right away, there are a few sleepers who have the ability to develop into quality starters throughout the fantasy season.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Though Justin Blackmon was the last first-round pick to sign, there is still very little doubt that he will be the Jaguars' No. 1 wide receiver when they open up the regular season.
Despite playing for a team that finished last in the league in passing last season, very few rookie wide receivers are able to enter their first year as the top playmaking option in their respective passing game, which will allow Blackmon to see a ton of targets and numerous red zone opportunities.
Blackmon has a great skill set and the ability to make plays after the catch. Assuming he doesn't struggle learning the playbook, he should be a potential No. 3 receiver in Week 1 with the ability to become a No. 2 wideout by the second quarter of the season.
2012 Projection: 70 receptions, 1,050 yards, 8 touchdowns
4. Coby Fleener, TE (Indianapolis Colts)
If Fleener had landed anywhere other than Indianapolis, the odds are he would not have made this list.
However, finding himself on a roster without many receiving threats and with a quarterback whom he has a great deal of familiarity with allows Fleener to have No. 1 tight end upside as a rookie.
Fleener has a great deal of physical skill and likely will be used purely as a pass-catching tight end, a position that enabled him to total 667 yards and 10 touchdowns with Luck at Stanford in 2011.
In a system that is being built around Luck, Fleener often will be used as a safety valve by a quarterback who is comfortable with him and an offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians who likes getting the ball to tight ends. As an elite red-zone target who knows how to use his size to shield off defenders, Fleener has the potential to make a run at 8-10 touchdowns in his rookie season.
2012 Projection: 65 receptions, 750 yards, 9 touchdowns
3. Robert Griffin III, QB (Washington Redskins)
When Washington went all-in to trade up for Robert Griffin III, it instantly committed to him as the future of its organization.
Though Griffin is unlikely to put up elite passing numbers on a Redskins offense that lacks a true No. 1 receiving option, his ability to extend plays as well as gain yards with his feet add a significant amount of value as a fantasy prospect.
RGIII enters the season as the unquestioned starter. In his first preseason game, he threw for 70 yards and a touchdown while displaying the skills that made him the second pick in the draft.
Though this pick comes with a solid amount of risk, Griffin enters his rookie year as a high-end backup quarterback with the ability to have a Cam Newton-like impact early on.
2012 Projection: 3,400 passing yards, 550 rushing yards, 25 total touchdowns
2. Trent Richardson, RB (Cleveland Browns)
If this list was put together last week, Richardson would have had a legitimate claim for the No. 1 spot, and even after having an arthroscopic surgery on his knee, he may still end up as the most productive rookie.
With that said, though, he currently is being drafted in the third round and simply doesn't provide the value the first player on this list does.
Regardless of the potential health concerns that have come up in recent days, Richardson is still blessed with an incredible skill set and landed himself on an offense that lacks true playmakers. Though he may not be getting a huge amount of carries in the first quarter of the season, he has the potential to put up big numbers as the fantasy season heads toward the playoffs.
2012 Projection: 250 carries, 1,150 rushing yards, 30 receptions, 250 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns
1. Doug Martin, RB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano recently said in a radio interview (h/t ProFootballTalk.com) that he hopes Martin will enter the regular season as Tampa Bay's starting running back, and Martin's performance thus far in training camp has done nothing to make me doubt that will be the case.
Throughout his time at Rutgers, Schiano demonstrated a willingness to pound the football and utilize his running backs as pass-catchers, something that Martin excels at. With LeGarrette Blount looking more and more like a pure power back, Martin will see the lion's share of the carries in Tampa Bay this season.
With an improved offensive line, featuring Carl Nicks, Martin should have the chance to produce big numbers from Week 1.
2012 Projection: 245 carries, 1,100 rushing yards, 40 receptions, 350 receiving yards, 10 total touchdowns
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