Fantasy Football 2012: 4 Rookies Worth Taking Early

Erik Cotton@ IAugust 18, 2012

Cam Newton dominated fantasy football as a rookie in 2011.
Cam Newton dominated fantasy football as a rookie in 2011.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As most of you reading this know, fantasy football success is based on a number of factors. 

The health of your roster is No. 1. For those of us who picked Jamaal Charles last year in the first round, our seasons were pretty much doomed by Week 2. 

More than in any other sport, fantasy football requires participants to study and know matchups.  Knowing when to sit a normal starter and plug in a backup can be key throughout the season. When bye weeks come around, this takes center stage, as well. Which backups have the better matchups?

Two other important aspects of fantasy football are knowing which rookies will be in the best situations to succeed and gauging in what part of your draft you should take them. 

I've compiled a list of four such rookies worth taking relatively early in your draft that should contribute to your success in 2012.


1. Andrew Luck

Whether you buy all the hype on Luck or not, there's no denying that he's been given the opportunity to step right into Peyton Manning's vacated shoes in Indianapolis. 

Luck should be the big beneficiary of a Colts offense that saw very little turnover at the skill positions.  Re-signing Reggie Wayne was huge for his development. Wayne is a precise route-runner and is accustomed to getting separation from defenders in tight situations. 

The drafting of Coby Fleener in the second round was another smart move by Colts brass. The chemistry between Luck and Fleener is already three years in the making. Fleener gives Luck a safety valve he's already comfortable with, someone whose tendencies he already knows.

All in all, I see Luck's rookie season going much like Manning's. 

On a team that has big question marks on defense and in the running game, Luck should be throwing early and often. Playing from behind usually pads a QB's stats, so don't be surprised to see Luck throw for 4,000 yards and 25 TDs this year. 

Cam Newton showed us last year a rookie can most certainly be a QB1.


2. Trent Richardson

Not since Adrian Peterson has their been as much of a consensus on the talent of such a highly drafted rookie running back. 

However, Richardson had minor arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 9 to remove a small piece of loose cartilage from his left knee. He is expected back by Cleveland's season opener, though.

Some projected Richardson as high as a late first-round fantasy pick. Yet with his second surgery on that knee in six months and the talent surrounding him (or lack thereof) on the Browns offense, I see him more as a late second- to early third-round pick in 12- and 14-team leagues. 

Don't reach for him, but you could do a lot worse at the RB2 position than the former Alabama star.


3. Alshon Jeffery

The Chicago Bears have gone from having one of the worst WR corps in the league to potentially having one of the best.  The acquisition of Brandon Marshall and the drafting of Jeffery give Jay Cutler two legit targets to throw to, both of whom are quality red-zone options because of their heights.

Per (Tillman quote from the Chicago Sun-Times):

Jeffery has been a more advanced route runner than expected, and he's used his 6'3" frame and 36.5" vertical to reach over cornerbacks. "The best way to say it is, he's a Brandon Marshall in the making," said CB Charles Tillman. "He can definitely be on that level."

Jeffery forecasts as a solid WR3 and a potential flex position gold mine.


4. Doug Martin

Although Legarette Blount was listed as the starter on Tampa Bay's first depth chart, Martin has been taking the majority of first-team reps for all of camp. 

Fantasy owners are well aware that Blount offers nothing when it comes to receiving, so Martin will be on the field for all passing downs and should be valuable in PPR leagues. 

Splitting the early-down load with Blount should result in Martin decisively leading the Bucs in touches in 2012. His cutback ability and presence in the passing game should make Martin a solid RB2 or flex option.



As with all rookies, draft these four at your own risk. 

Then again, part of the intrigue of fantasy football is taking risks and having them pan out to help your team's overall success.