Fantasy Outlook for the Top Rookies Selected in the NFL Draft
If you were looking for a “sexy” NFL draft, then the 2013 version was simply not for you. I mean, seriously, one quarterback taken? And no running backs?
With several linemen going early in the first round, it was a very in-the-trenches type of draft. That left skill position players an afterthought. If you are looking for fantasy contributors next year, Friday and Saturday’s selections may present better opportunities. That is when the running backs (Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Johnathan Franklin, etc.) will most likely be drafted.
That is not to say that the five skill-position players taken in Thursday’s first round can’t be impact players. It just may take a while before they can make an indelible impression.
So, in draft order, lets assess the top skill-position draftees and their fantasy outlook for 2013.
Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
Although they had the 16th pick, the Rams had to trade up with the Bills so that they can make sure they got their man in Austin with the eighth pick.
Simply put, Austin is an electrifying playmaker. Austin can play the slot position as well as be a dangerous asset on special teams.
With Danny Amendola leaving for New England, the Rams needed a playmaker to provide quarterback Sam Bradford with another weapon.
While it may take Austin some time to get acclimated to the NFL, his speed is something that will be put to good use right away.
Austin is definitely worthy of a flier late in fantasy drafts next summer.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
For months, everybody was tooting the horn of West Virginia’s Geno Smith as the quarterback du jour. Heck, some people even labeled Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib as better prospects than Manuel.
However, when the Bills finally picked at 16, they could not resist the temptation and drafted Manuel as their quarterback of the future.
There is a lot to like about Manuel, though. First, his size (6’5”, 240 pounds) is what makes him stand out. Add that to an impressive 4.65 40 and Manuel has the size and skill to make it in the NFL. Any mobile quarterback has to be able to endure his fair share of hits and that is a trait that Manuel possesses. Manuel is not brittle.
The learning curve is definitely on for Manuel and his fantasy value is strictly limited to keeper and dynasty leagues. Even if he supplants Kevin Kolb as starter (and eventually he should), Manuel is a project who needs time to fine-tune his skills.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals did themselves a favor by drafting the most polished and refined tight end on the board in Tyler Eifert.
Eifert does find himself in a peculiar situation, though, as the Bengals also have the semi-established Jermaine Gresham on the roster as well. However, this two-tight end set could work. Just look at what the Patriots have done with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Sure, Gresham and Eifert will not remind anyone of the Gronkowski and Hernandez duo, but when these two tight ends line up with A.J. Green on the outside, the middle of the field will be wide open.
Expect offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to open up the playbook and find plenty of sets that feature both Eifert and Gresham on the field together.
Eifert has a ton of upside; expect him to connect with Andy Dalton early and often. As such, don’t hesitate to snatch Eifert late in drafts. In keeper leagues, Eifert’s value only increases.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
For years, the Houston Texans have desperately tried to find a receiver to complement Andre Johnson.
They have tried with the likes of Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, Jabar Gaffney, Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey, but none have turned out to be a quality, dependable receiver.
That could all change, though, with the addition of Hopkins. Hopkins is a smart route runner with decent athleticism.
Hopkins is a cerebral receiver who has a good football IQ. He makes for the perfect complement to Johnson and it may be a matter of time before Hopkins breaks out.
Although he may have some trouble adjusting to the speed of the game, Hopkins is worth a late-round pick on draft day.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
With the Vikings trading Percy Harvin to the Seahawks in the offseason, upgrading the receiver corps was a major source of concern for Minnesota.
Well, the Vikings did their best to address that need by selecting Patterson late in the first round. Upside is the key word when discussing Patterson. After playing only one year at Tennessee, Patterson showed enough potential and above-average athleticism to make him an appealing prospect.
Like Hopkins, Patterson may need some time to develop and he is better left to be drafted in keeper/dynasty leagues.