Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Underrated Rookies Poised for Great Fantasy Seasons
To just about every football fan, fantasy football is anything but fantasy.
It makes you the general manager of a football team you get to name. It puts you in charge of making sure the best team is "on the field" at all times. And, best of all, it allows you to feel the intensity of a heated playoff and championship race.
But sometimes, you just have to cheat.
There are players that will surprise people. Fantasy owners across the country are aware of that. However, they aren't aware of who will surprise everyone and break out. I'm not sure either, but I can tell you some underrated rookies who could have great fantasy seasons.
Here are five rookies who have the potential to put up great fantasy numbers.
Note: There are no defensive players on this list, due to the fact that most fantasy leagues use teams and not individual defensive players.
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
Wright was overshadowed by Robert Griffin III at Baylor, but he was pretty darn good there.
The star wideout caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season at Baylor, and he helped RG3 win the Heisman. Wright's big-play ability helped Baylor win 10 games and the Alamo Bowl, and he is ready to help the Tennessee Titans win.
Tennessee's best receiver, Kenny Britt, is unsure about a possible suspension and about possibly missing time due to an injury. Britt will likely miss time, so the Titans will need a big-play threat for their quarterback (whoever that is).
Enter Wright. He has fantastic speed and knows how to break away from defenders and find space to catch a pass. Wright is versatile and can run routes well from any position, which will benefit the Titans and your fantasy team (if you draft him).
Fantasy football teams need players with the ability to haul in a long touchdown pass at any given time, and Wright has the ability to do that. Unless he gets injured, he'll contribute from Week 1 and become a brilliant steal in your fantasy league.
Then, he'll become one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Floyd isn't as fast or explosive as Wright (although he's pretty close), but he has the potential to become the next great Cardinals receiver.
The Notre Dame star caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Floyd has spectacular hands and is the complete package at wide receiver. Even though the Cardinals don't have a good quarterback, Floyd should haul in a lot of passes.
B/R NFL writer Matt Miller thinks Floyd is the most NFL-ready wideout entering the league this year, and I agree. Just like fellow Cardinal wideout Larry Fitzgerald, Floyd can jump or dive for a ball. He has a good frame, will never be out-muscled and will never avoid laying out to make a catch.
Despite his ability to make an immediate impact and to make tough catches, there is a risk to picking Floyd. Arizona doesn't know who will be their quarterback, as Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are both below-average passers. Floyd will have to make a lot of adjustments when the ball is thrown to him, and he'll probably be overthrown and underthrown a lot.
Arizona doesn't have a great offensive line either, which is bad news for Floyd. Levi Brown is terrible, and the Cardinals will have trouble protecting their quarterback. That means Floyd won't get as many passes thrown to him, which is a concern.
Don't make Floyd your top receiver, but target him in the later rounds of the draft. Even though Arizona doesn't have a good quarterback or offensive line, it's very hard to resist Floyd's upside. And because of the O-line and QB issues, other fantasy owners in your league may avoid him.
Which would make him a great steal.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has a good running back in LeGarrette Blount, but they wanted a bit of an upgrade.
And they got one by drafting Doug Martin out of Boise State.
Martin is fast and explosive with the ability to break tackles and drag defenders with him for multiple yards. He has a lot of qualities that NFL running backs need to have, which is good for him.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Bucs head coach Greg Schiano says the battle between Blount and Martin will continue to be wide open until one back shows that he deserves more carries. Martin is considered the favorite to win the job, and he could even get goal-line carries because of his ability to break tackles and fight for extra yardage.
Because he didn't play against great defenses and because he was drafted 31st, not many fantasy owners will target Martin. However, he will probably win the starting job, which means he'll get a lot of carries.
And, with Martin's ability, getting a lot of carries means picking up a lot of yards and scoring a lot of touchdowns.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Raise your hand if you knew who Victor Cruz was last August (cue crickets chirping).
Cruz started the season competing for a job as the Giants' No. 3 receiver, and he ended up winning the job. Cruz had a spectacular season and ended up helping New York win Super Bowl XLVI. Now, Randle is competing for that same job.
Randle caught 53 passes for 917 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior season at LSU, and he averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. Randle has good hands and good speed, but he isn't well-known because of LSU's run-based offense.
Eli Manning is a good quarterback, and if Randle sees playing time, he'll get the ball from Manning. Randle is a good all-around receiver, and ESPN Fantasy sees him as a clone of star receiver Hakeem Nicks. Randle should make an immediate impact, and he could end up being a huge steal.
Most fantasy owners are unaware of Randle's talent, and some are even unaware of who Randle is. Therefore, if you want depth in the later rounds, Randle would be a great steal. Just like most rookies, he will probably start the season without getting much playing time.
However, later in the season, Randle could be a huge addition.
Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets
Hill made just 49 catches in his college career, but, boy, were they good ones.
The former Georgia Tech receiver averaged over 25 yards per catch during his career while playing in an option offense. Georgia Tech never had a good quarterback, so Hill rarely ever got the ball. However, with the Jets, he will see the ball more.
Fantasy teams need a big-play threat, and that's exactly what Hill is. He is very fast and knows how to get downfield and haul in a deep pass, as you can tell by his average of 29.3 yards per catch in 2011.
New York has Santonio Holmes, but they would benefit from adding another big-play threat. If Hill gets a chance to play, he will be targeted on a lot of deep plays, and he'll make a lot of long catches. Some defensive backs will have lots of trouble with him, which means he will draw lots of separation.
Hill can lay out for a pass or make a catch in traffic, but he doesn't have the most reliable hands. Since he won't make many catches, don't make him your No. 1 receiver. However, if you want some depth at WR in the later rounds, Hill could be a great target for you.