Fantasy Football 2013: Rookies Ready to Make Instant NFL Impact

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJune 13, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Tavon Austin (R) of West Virginia Mountaineers reacts with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as they hold up a jersey on stage after Austin was picked #8 overall by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL draft produced a decent amount of playmakers, but those who will make the biggest impact weren't necessarily the first off the board. Some were added to an already stacked arsenal, while others are in a better position to thrive right away as rookies.

Former West Virginia star wide receiver Tavon Austin, though, was definitely the most electric skills player in the entire draft. That's why the St. Louis Rams traded up eight spots to acquire him with the No. 8 overall pick.

Let's take a closer look at what Austin brings to the Rams' offense, as well as a couple of other first-year players who should start and make an immediate impact.


Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams

Being selected as high as Austin produces weighty expectations and a lot of pressure to live up to the hype. Thus far, it's something Austin is embracing rather than shying away from.

Austin compares himself to current Seattle Seahawks star Percy Harvin, and he has the game to back it up. During his college days in Morgantown, the extremely versatile Austin lined up primarily in the slot as a receiver, but also thrived when taking hand-offs and can be a threat in the return game.

During a recent practice, punter Johnny Hekker confirmed that he was juked so badly by Austin in the open field that he acted as though he had a cramp to avoid embarrassment.

Punters aren't known for their tackling ability, but it doesn't really matter who's in Austin's way. It's nearly impossible to bring him down despite his diminutive, 5'9", 173-pound stature, because he is just that elusive and blindingly quick.

All of that helps the Rams immensely. GM Les Snead knew he needed a go-to target for former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford to throw to since Danny Amendola fled to the New England Patriots in free agency.

With this many potential uses for Austin, his fantasy numbers should be through the roof. If he even approaches the 100-plus catches he averaged in his final two seasons at West Virginia, owners will be pleased. Keeper leagues should consider selecting him very high.


Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos

The news of Willis McGahee's release was reported by Adam Schefter on Thursday, and it appears that will translate to a significant opportunity for Ball to shine.

Michael Fabiano of NFL Network even moved Ball ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell as his top rookie fantasy player in the league because of the somewhat surprising development.

Ball was a stud at the University of Wisconsin, setting the FBS record for rushing touchdowns (77) and total touchdowns (83) (h/t

There are still some hurdles to clear, though. Knowshon Moreno was considered a first-round bust before seeing the field more frequently in 2012. However, it is worth noting that Moreno averaged less than four yards per carry.

The team also drafted Ronnie Hillman last year in the third round, who will provide formidable competition.

If the Broncos were sold on Hillman and Moreno as the future with the knowledge they might cut McGahee loose, they wouldn't have taken Ball in Round 2 at 58th overall.

Ball has a rare nose for the end zone, which will add to the explosive passing attack orchestrated by Peyton Manning, who has Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker at his disposal at receiver. All those weapons will open up plenty of running lanes for Ball to succeed in 2013.


DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Quarterback Matt Schaub has been seeking a No. 2 wide receiver for a long time—especially in light of Andre Johnson's tendency to be hampered by injuries.

That's precisely why Hopkins was drafted in the first round at 27th overall. Collegiate production isn't always indicative of how a player projects in the pros, but Hopkins' explosiveness is undeniable.

Hopkins outshone electrifying teammate Sammy Watkins at Clemson in his final season, snagging 82 passes for 1405 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns.

After an encouraging performance in the Texans' organized team activities, it appears that Hopkins is catching on to the complex offense dialed up by head coach Gary Kubiak, according to's Nick Scurfield:

Adding a red zone target like Hopkins who typically wins one-on-one battles for the ball with sure hands gives Kubiak more creative latitude in the scoring area. It also provides fantasy owners with a player who has demonstrated a knack for scoring.