NFL Fantasy Predictions: 5 Rookies Who Will Make the Biggest Impact in 2013

Art EddyContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2013

NFL Fantasy Predictions: 5 Rookies Who Will Make the Biggest Impact in 2013

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    2012 was the Year of the Quarterback in the NFL draft class. Andrew Luck, RG III, and Russell Wilson all made a great first impression. All three helped to lead their teams into the playoffs. Just think about that for a minute. Three rookie quarterbacks leading their respective teams to the NFL playoffs. If you were smart to pick up these guys in your fantasy football league, I say, well done!

    History will not repeat itself by producing a strong pedigree of quarterbacks for this year’s draft. Yet there are other players out there who should be available in the later rounds to add to your fantasy team. Here are five players that could help bring your team to the fantasy football promised land.

1. Cordarrelle Patterson: Wide Receiver, Tennessee

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    The Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver stands at 6’3” and has proven to be a deep threat. He is fast and can accelerate to beat a DB for a jump ball with his ability to leap over defenders. At Tennessee Patterson hauled in 46 receptions with five touchdowns and 778 receiving yards. NFL.com has given Cordarrelle Patterson a draft grade of 90.6, which translates as an immediate starter for a team.

    In college, scouts saw him recognize and pick up corner blitzes to aid his quarterback to elude the pass rush. Sometimes in games he would line up as a running back, so the team could use his speed in hopes of turning it into a huge play. In the NFL we have seen players like Percy Harvin set up everywhere on the field to make an impact during the game.

    He does not use his hands to break free from a defender at the line of scrimmage, but with the right NFL coaching he will learn to integrate that into his game. Plus, he has been known to drop the easy pass, which may lower his draft rank on some teams. In a pass-happy league, Patterson could become a valuable late-round pick, especially if you can’t draft Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones in your league.

Giovani Bernard: Running Back, North Carolina

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    College did not start off as well as Giovani Bernard hoped it would. He tore his ACL during practice back in 2010. For Bernard the old adage is it's not how you start, but how you finish. In 2011, Bernard ran for 1,253 yards with 13 touchdowns. He also was named to the first-team All-ACC that year.

    In 2012, he led the ACC in average rushing yards with 122.8 per game. Bernard also was able to lead the team in average punt return yards. Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora remarked, "Gio is a special player and an even better person. He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program.”

    CBSSports.com ranks Giovani 59 overall for the upcoming draft. Some of his strengths are his quick feet and the ability to make cuts on the field and accelerate to blow by would-be tacklers. He has great vision to complement his speed, and he does fight for every yard. He is low to the ground, making it harder for defenders to tackle him. He also has the ability to run out and catch a pass, which makes him a dual threat.

    He does have issues with injury, so that is one reason that he is not higher on NFL teams' draft boards. But like David Wilson of the New York Giants, if this running back gets a chance to prove his worth, he may end up being a great late-round pick-up.

Zach Ertz: Tight End, Stanford

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    When a tight end who has not even played one NFL game is being compared to Dallas Cowboys star tight end Jason Witten, fantasy owners need to pay attention. Having played with Andrew Luck in a pro-style offense gives Ertz an edge in this year’s draft class. Ertz played alongside Colby Fleener, who teamed up in the NFL with Andrew Luck on the Colts. Fleener had 26 receptions and two touchdowns, which made for a nice fantasy bye replacement. Ertz should have the same results his rookie year.

    Last year Ertz played in all 14 games for Stanford and recorded a team-high 69 catches for 898 yards and 6 touchdowns. With his performance, he was on the first-team All-Pac 12 as well as garnering All-American honors. NFL.com has an overall score of 82.2 for the Stanford alum, which has him looking to become an eventual starter for a team. In the NFL, big and strong tight ends like Gronk and Vernon Davis are a high-valued commodity, and Ertz recently bulked up, adding 30 more pounds of muscle, which allows him to give his fair share of hard hits to oncoming defenders.

    With some past injuries, NFL scouts will need to make sure Zach can endure the grinding schedule of each season. Adding the extra weight, even muscle weight, could slow him down, which will be another key interest at the combine. Projected to be picked up in the second round, Zach could possibly be selected late in Round No. 1 by a team looking to shore up their tight end spots.

Keenan Allen: Wide Receiver, California

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    Even though Keenan Allen will not be working out at the combine, there are reports that Allen could still get picked up in the first round. Allen stands at 6’3” and weighs in at 212 pounds. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock sees Allen as a young Anquan Boldin. Allen can back up Mayock’s words since he is the all-time leader in receptions at California. The injury that is sidelining his workout at the combine is a Grade 2 posterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee that will keep him sidelined for six more weeks.

    Still, CBSSports.com has Allen listed at 13 overall with the Vikings, Dolphins and Steelers all interested in the rookie wideout. The first team All-Pac 12 wide receiver caught 6 touchdown passes and had 1,343 yards on 98 catches. With his height, he is also quick and agile to fight off defenders while running his route. He is a solid player, and when healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for many pro teams.

    As is the case for many young receivers, he does at times lose focus and drops easy passes. Fantasy owners will need to see which NFL team drafts him to see how high his fantasy value will be this upcoming season. If Allen is picked up by a team that has a great quarterback, his stock will rise up, especially in fantasy leagues that have a deeper roster.  

Eddie Lacy: Running Back, Alabama

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    Following in the footsteps of former Alabama running back Trent Richardson had to have been a daunting task, but Lacy proved to be up for the challenge. In 2012, Lacy was the main guy in the backfield for the Crimson Tide. Eddie ran for 1,322 yards and had 17 rushing touchdowns. He also was able to show his talent as a receiver with 22 receptions for 189 yards, with two touchdown passes. His performance last year allowed him to be elected on the first-team All-SEC team.

    Lacy may have moved up in the draft class with his performance against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game. Draft experts think that Lacy’s running back style is similar to Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers. Lacy is a strong, powerful and punishing back who will be able to pick up a first down on a third-and-one.

    He does need to work on his pass-blocking ability in the backfield, which is one reason why he is not looking to be drafted in the first round. Still, fantasy owners need to take heed to look at Lacy as a possible sleeper for a flex position for the upcoming season. Not saying he will produce Trent Richardson-like numbers, but both are coming from the same college, which gives you some food for thought.