With the free-agency frenzy in full effect, it won’t be too long until the NFL Draft will also enamor us with hope and buzz.
For fantasy purposes, the NFL Draft should never be ignored. You can never underestimate the significance of what a rookie can do for your squad. Just ask the owners of Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
While this year’s class will have a hard time replicating the success of last year’s, there is no shortage of talent that will be available in this year’s draft. Counting down from 10 to one, here are the rookies who should make a fantasy impact in 2013.
After an up-and-down four-year career (particularly his senior season) at USC, Matt Barkley is slipping on draft boards.
However, you can’t deny Barkley’s talent. Barkley usually makes good decisions with the ball and comes from a pro-style offense, which some teams will value.
With all the teams that are looking for help at quarterback, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Barkley could potentially land himself a starting job next fall. If he lands with the right team and opportunity, Barkley could make for a solid late-round selection with huge upside.
Tyler Eifert is widely considered the top tight end prospect in this year’s draft, although Stanford’s Zach Ertz comes close.
Eifert is the most polished tight end coming into the league. While at Notre Dame, Eifert became the Irish’s most reliable, sure-handed option in the passing game. Eifert also has the requisite height and speed to make the adjustment to the NFL right away.
Eifert should go late in the first round or early in the second round. Because of that, he could land on a solid team and be a featured weapon (think New York Giants, Chicago, Green Bay, Denver etc.).
If it wasn’t for his posterior cruciate ligament injury, Keenan Allen could lay claim to being the most coveted receiver in this year’s draft.
If you can overlook his injury, Allen could be a steal in both the NFL Draft as well as your fantasy draft. Allen has great natural skills, while possessing above-average size and strength, making him a dangerous weapon in the red zone.
If Allen could show some improved speed and burst at a workout he is holding on April 9, he’ll regain the trust of many and likely become a high-end first rounder.
DeAndre Hopkins is one of several gifted receivers targeted to possibly go in the first round in April’s draft.
At 6’1", 200 pounds, Hopkins has a good combination of size and speed. One of Hopkins’ strengths is his good footwork and ability to run great routes.
He’ll make some team happy at the end of Round 1 or early in Round 2. As such, you should keep an eye on him this summer.
The diminutive and speedy Tavon Austin is as good a possession receiver as there is in this year’s draft.
Austin has fantastic hands and the ability to make defenders miss him in open spaces. Despite his size (5'9", 176 pounds), Austin will be a valuable asset for any team in need of a dangerous playmaker.
Austin’s value will be increased if he lands in the right place: a contender. Some mock drafts have him possibly landing in Houston while some suggest he’ll be the perfect replacement for Danny Amendola in St. Louis.
Wherever he goes, Austin should be monitored prior to your fantasy draft.
Joseph Randle recently raised a lot of eyebrows at the combine with his legs.
In a game dominated by speed, Randle is now rapidly ascending up draft boards this spring. When you combine his speed and skill, what you have is a keeper.
Randle impressed in his final season at Oklahoma State, rushing for a whopping 1,417 yards on 274 carries while also scoring 14 touchdowns.
Randle should compete for some major playing time for whatever NFL team drafts him. Randle should make for an excellent late-round sleeper.
While a bit raw, Cordarrelle Patterson is dripping with big-time athleticism and is the receiver who is surging up draft boards the most after a stellar combine.
Blessed with great size and speed, Patterson will surely land in the first round in April’s draft. If he ends up on a team with a promising offense (say, Miami with Mike Wallace now in tow), Patterson could be a position to succeed right away.
Although he may not land in the first round of the NFL draft, Giovani Bernard will be a highly sought after commodity for fantasy purposes, solely because he is a running back with a chance for immediate carries.
Bernard, who scored in each of his 12 games at North Carolina last year, will likely challenge to be some team’s starting running back. While at North Carolina, Bernard amassed some staggering numbers. Just last year he had 1,228 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per carry. And who can forget his game against Virginia Tech in which he rushed for 262 yards and a touchdown?
With all that said, the sky is the limit for Bernard. As such, expect him to land in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
With the success that big-armed, spread-option quarterbacks are having in the NFL, scouts can’t contain the excitement they have over the potential Geno Smith possesses.
Smith can adapt to any offense and has game-changing skills at quarterback. Hence, that is why Smith should have his name called within the first 10 picks of the NFL draft.
If Smith is not getting it done with his arm, he can use his legs to generate offense. With the seasons that Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick just had, there is every reason Smith can come in and make a similar impact.
While he may not be drafted as a starter for fantasy purposes, the upside is strong enough to make him a solid, middle-round selection.
Everybody loves a talented, fresh-faced running back entering the NFL, and Eddie Lacy is perhaps the best of the best at his position. Therefore, he will probably be the first rookie taken in fantasy drafts this summer.
Lacy is a powerfully built back who could burst through holes with ease. Lacy also possesses above-average speed and is one of the most complete backs entering the draft.
Depending on where he lands, Lacy should be poised for a good number of carries and become the starter for the team that drafts him.