Fantasy Football 2012: Where to Draft This Year's Top Rookies
Some people may tell you to stay away from rookies in your fantasy football draft. If you didn't listen to them and took Matthew Stafford as your quarterback in 2009, you were disappointed. If you tried again with Sam Bradford in 2010, you were again disappointed.
So then in 2011, when you looked at your draft board and had to decide whether to take Cam Newton or a defense in the 12th round, you went for the defense. Newton then went on to have one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time. The point is, rookies are unpredictable. But that doesn't mean they're bad fantasy investments.
It's not that you should stay away from rookies entirely, but you do have to exercise caution when taking one, especially in the first half of the draft. In this intriguing article, Fake Teams gives a fact-based argument against selecting rookies, and it's worth the read.
But I think that times are changing in the NFL, and some rookies are worth a shot this season. Here's a look at where I would draft this year's top rookies versus their current ADP. For both the ADP and my own round rankings, I use a 10-team scale.
All Average Draft Position (ADP) stats are for standard scoring leagues, taken from Fantasy Football Calculator. ADP is updated as of Tuesday, August 14th.
Current ADP Rank: Mid-Late 11th Round (106.0 Overall)
My Rank: Last Round
Right now, Blackmon is not really worth taking, especially not in the 10th round, which is roughly where he is being taken. It seems like he has gotten off to a bad start in Jacksonville, and there are just too many questions about him right now.
He may be somewhat productive if he gets his act together, so take a flier on him if he's there at the end of the draft, but stay away from him any earlier than that.
There's still going to be a lot of receiver talent left around that 9/10/11 round area. Sidney Rice, Jon Baldwin, Randall Cobb, Greg Little and Mike Williams are all getting picked later than Blackmon, so take any of them instead.
Current ADP Rank: Mid 12th Round (114.5 Overall)
My Rank: Late 11th-Early 12th Round
Here's the first rookie that I think should be going a little higher than his current ADP. He checks out on every major quality: arm strength, arm accuracy, mobility, intelligence, leadership. While I think that RGIII will be a little better fantasy-wise, don't forget about Luck.
Contrary to popular belief, Luck also has some decent talent around him. Reggie Wayne has always been one of the most underrated receivers in the league. Austin Collie is a decent second option. Donald Brown and Delone Carter form a solid backfield. Coby Fleener was Luck's tight end in college, and their familiarity should provide a big boost.
Plus, the Colts will probably be trailing in a lot of games, so Luck should be given plenty of opportunities to air the ball out. He's my favorite backup fantasy QB option because the upside is obviously there.
Current ADP Rank: Mid-3rd Round (26.5 Overall)
My Rank: Mid-Late 4th Round
Until this past week, Richardson was being taken early in the 2nd round, sometimes creeping into the first. Even before it was revealed that he was undergoing knee surgery, I didn't like Richardson as an early second round pick. His draft stock has plummeted since the announcement of his surgery, but he's still going too high.
I don't doubt Richardson's talent, I just don't like his situation. Having a rookie quarterback, undergoing knee surgery and playing in a tough defensive division is not a good combination for a rookie running back.
The other thing diminishing Richardson's value is the rest of the Browns offense. Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and Chris Obgonnaya aren't exactly instilling fear in opposing defenses. Even though Richardson should get a ton of touches, opposing defenses will prepare all week to stop him and spend all game focusing on him.
Kendall Wright/Michael Floyd/Brian Quick
Current ADP Rank: Mid 13th-Early 14th Round (Wright 122.4/Floyd 130.7/Quick 131.4 Overall)
My Rank: Mid-Late 13th Round
With better quarterback situations, Wright and Floyd would be somewhere around the 10th round. But Wright will rely on Jake Locker, while Floyd has Kevin Kolb throwing him the ball.
Both players have big-play potential, and should be taken somewhere in the 12th round. I like Floyd a little more than Wright, because Floyd has that second WR spot all but locked up. Wright is fighting with Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, and TE Jared Cook could steal targets as well.
Over in St. Louis, Quick is lucky enough to have Sam Bradford throwing the ball to him. The Rams took Quick in the second round and he could be Bradford's top target this upcoming season. He is big, fast and athletic, and could actually have the most upside of the three wideouts.
Look for any of these rookies as the 13th round comes along. They have high ceilings and are worth keeping on your bench to see how they develop. Just make sure you don't reach for them higher than the 13th round.
Current ADP Rank: Mid-Late 4th Round (38.1 Overall)
My Rank: Same
Since Richardson's knee surgery, I have been mulling over whether I would rather take Martin or Richardson. Right now, I am leaning towards Martin.
The former Boise State star is very talented, and although he is currently battling LeGarrette Blount for the starting tailback spot, I think that he will amass significantly more touches than Blount throughout the season. Martin is a threat both running and catching the ball, which should give him an edge over Blount.
The signing of All-Pro Guard Carl Nicks is another big reason that I think Martin will have a successful rookie season. The signing shows that the Bucs are focusing heavily on the running game, and an improved interior offensive line will do wonders for Martin.
Current ADP Rank: Late 13th Round (127.4 Overall)
My Rank: Same
Fleener will benefit from a couple of the things I already talked about with Andrew Luck: familiarity and lots of passing. The Colts will throw the ball a lot, and the fact that Fleener has had years of experience with his quarterback already will pay off dividends, especially as a rookie.
In today's NFL, tight ends are becoming more and more important to offenses. Fleener is 6'6", 250 lbs., reminiscent of Rob Gronkowski, last year's breakout tight end. With good hands to go along with his massive frame, Fleener will be relied on by Luck, and should put up solid numbers.
Robert Griffin III
Current ADP Rank: Mid 9th Round (85.8 Overall)
My Rank: Early-Mid 10th Round
I'll start by saying that I don't love Griffin. I don't know what it is, but something about him doesn't instill confidence in me. At the beginning of last season, I knew about Griffin, and liked him then, but something felt off for me during his meteoric rise to fame. I'm not sold on RGIII just yet.
Maybe it's because I thought it was preposterous for anyone to think he should've been taken before Luck. Maybe it's because he tore his ACL a few years ago so I'll never fully trust that knee. Or maybe it's because I think he's just extremely weird.
But I can't deny that he's crazy talented. And I think there's a good chance he has a productive season, but he's just a rookie who will be relied on to carry an average offense. The ninth round is just a bit too high for me.
Current ADP Ranking: Mid 10th Round (94.4 Overall)
My Rank: Late 11th Round
Wilson is very intriguing to me. Ahmad Bradshaw is first on the depth chart, but the fact that the Giants took Wilson in the first round speaks volumes about the lack of confidence the organization has in Bradshaw.
As a junior at Virginia Tech in 2011, Wilson rushed for 1,709 yards and was named the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year. His talent is abundant, but he also has to compete with the under-appreciated D.J. Ware for carries. Ware has looked good so far this summer, meaning Wilson is in a crowded backfield.
But Bradshaw is somewhat injury prone, and if he goes down at all during the preseason, Wilson's stock should skyrocket. As it is though, 96th overall is too high. Jahvid Best and DeAngelo Williams are going later, but I would rather take one of them over Wilson.