Heading into your fantasy football draft, there are some dynamic NFL rookies who will make a big impact early in their careers, but they won't be worth drafting early this season, despite their immense potential.
Tavon Austin is not one of them.
While Austin will make St. Louis Rams fans and fantasy owners happy this year, there are other explosive playmakers in the making who won't be able to produce consistently enough to make a big impact on your fantasy team.
These players will likely have a couple of monster games this season sprinkled into their stat sheet, but they'll disappoint you if you're looking for consistent production every week.
If you draft well early and land players you know you can count on to produce, then you'll feel safe stashing them in your back pocket.
That said, it would be a big mistake to draft them early.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
One of the most intriguing offensive prospects of the 2013 NFL draft class, Patterson possesses the physical tools to become a superstar wide receiver in this league.
He's also been receiving plaudits from teammate Greg Jennings, who is raving about Patterson's "definitive step," as noted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert. Seifert also wrote he's had "a half-dozen people tell me how impressive" the rookie has been during the team's offseason workouts.
There are a couple of big reasons to avoid buying into the hype building around this young man, however.
First and foremost, Patterson isn't going to be a focal point this season for the Vikings on offense. Despite the fact that head coach Leslie Frazier has expressed a desire for "a balanced attack," as noted by the AP (via ESPN.com), Adrian Peterson is the featured option within Minnesota's offensive attack.
After Peterson in the pecking order is Jennings and tight end Kyle Rudolph—both of whom have a proven track record of productivity in the NFL.
The second problem with the idea that Patterson will explode with a huge year?
He has yet to prove he's even worthy of being called a "franchise" quarterback.
Throughout his career—both in college and in the pros—Ponder has never been a quarterback who caused defenses to worry about getting beat deep. Posting career averages of 7.1 yards per attempt in college and just 6.2 yards per attempt in the NFL, he lacks the arm strength to make use of Patterson's freakish athleticism and speed.
Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Green Bay Packers
The Packers desperately want to run the ball effectively as a way to better protect Aaron Rodgers, who has been getting hammered by opposing defenses for the past few years.
Not only will a strong running game help to keep Rodgers off the turf, but it will also force defenses to necessarily play more balanced, which will open up passing lanes for the team's explosive aerial attack.
Therefore, it would be a safe bet to assume one of the rookie running backs drafted this past April will have a chance to become a big-time player this year.
Assuming it will be Lacy, however, would be a mistake.
He'll be battling with fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, along with James Starks, Alex Green and DuJuan Harris for first-team carries this summer, as noted by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Franklin was one of the top-rated running backs on many scouts' draft board this spring, and his ability to make people miss might mesh better with the Packers on offense.
Which player has the best chance of breaking out with a huge season as a rookie?
Even if Lacy ends up starting at tailback, there's a good chance he won't get 20 touches a game, as the Packers will always be a pass-first team with Rodgers behind center.
Markus Wheaton, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Many Steelers fans are likely hopeful that Wheaton will be able to step in and fill the void left by Mike Wallace, who bolted in free agency to the Miami Dolphins.
Wheaton, like Wallace, is a fleet-footed receiver who doesn't possess elite size, but who makes big plays on a regular basis. He ran an official 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the combine and averaged 13.2 yards per reception during his four years at Oregon State.
He's also a "tough and instinctive" player, as noted by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Watching Oregon St offense…Steelers are going to love WR Markus Wheaton. Quick, tough and instinctive.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 15, 2013
Unfortunately, Wheaton is getting a late start on learning the Steelers' offensive system, as noted by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Oregon State's final exams kept him away from the team until June 14.
Furthermore, Wheaton will likely be the team's fourth receiving option this year behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Heath Miller. Jerricho Cotchery will also be competing for playing time, and there's no guarantee Wheaton will see much time at all early in the year.
Don't get me wrong, I love what Wheaton brings to the table. He will likely turn into a star for the Steelers, but nobody should expect him to put up Wallace-type numbers in his first year.
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