Fantasy drafts are filled with owners who want nothing more than to have the newest of the new guys on their roster, to come away saying, "Rookie X is going to break out—you just watch."
Finding the right rookie arguably the trickiest part of any fantasy league's draft. For instance, here is a complete breakdown of the top 25 projected rookies for the 2013 NFL season.
Most of the time, picking players who haven't played an NFL down—especially this early in the process—is nerve-wracking. But you'll see plenty of owners on draft night who take rookies a round or two early, just hoping to look like the smartest guy in the room.
Last year it's likely our fictional owner was proven correct. Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris all finished inside the top 20 in scoring as rookies in 2012. (Please note for this fact and all subsequent that we'll be using ESPN standard scoring.)
While the Fearsome Foursome is proof that rookies can subsist in the NFL, just understand 2012 was a historical anomaly—one that won't repeat this season, if ever.
The 2013 NFL draft class was almost completely bereft of skill-position talent. Only five players taken in the first round are even eligible to be drafted in your standard, non-IDP league. That said, we would be remiss if we didn't take a long look at this class and mine for value.
Here is a quick look at some players worth monitoring in this class.
Players of Note
The Stud: Le'Veon Bell (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
There were many (myself included) who questioned the Steelers' decision-making with this pick. Bell saw a heavy workload at Michigan State, wore down as the season went along last year and carries a ton of heft on his 244-pound frame.
While we're yet to see Bell perform in a game, the skeptics may be asking for forgiveness—if they haven't already. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette has reported Bell is working almost exclusively with the first team and seems like a lock to line up behind Ben Roethlisberger Week 1.
The Steelers' reputation as a run-first team has taken hits in recent years, almost to the point where it's pure caricature. Pittsburgh finished 27th last year in Football Outsiders' adjusted line yards. But with the team adding more zone-blocking schemes to their running game, things should get better.
It's hard to pinpoint guaranteed stars. We do know Bell is the likeliest to be an effective starter at this point.
The Wild Card: Tavon Austin (WR, St. Louis Rams)
Outside of your Randy Moss-level flukes, rookie wide receivers are largely stay-aways in non-keeper formats. They take time to understand the complexities of NFL route schemes and coverages, all while realizing athleticism won't always get them by.
Tavon Austin is not your typical rookie wideout.
The former West Virginia standout did just about everything in Morgantown, catching passes, running out of the backfield and acting as a return man. The Rams drafted Austin to fill a similar hybrid role, almost to be their equivalent of Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin.
He's St. Louis' most talented receiver and should fill the slot, but his 2013 role remains unclear. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted that Austin could serve as a full-time returner, which could help him in leagues that reward points for such yardage.
Austin could be an all-purpose menace. Or the Rams could push traditional development, hoping for a longer-term return. Either way, you're taking a risk on Austin on draft night.
But it just might pay off.
The Sleeper: Zachary Stacy (RB, St. Louis Rams)
St. Louis has Daryl Richardson as the incumbent Steven Jackson replacement, but it also made a sneaky move in April, landing the former Vanderbilt standout Stacy in the fifth round. It's unclear whether Stacy has a chance to land top billing just yet, but the buzz around his name is starting to feel a little Alfred Morris-y.
He 's impressed in camp to the point Jo-Lonn Dunbar has begun calling him "The Juggernaut" (per Jamal Collier), emerging as perhaps the team's best all-around runner. While Stacy doesn't have the explosiveness of Richardson or Isaiah Pead, he could be a sleeper if either of those two falter in their training camp battle.
If you can land Stacy late in your draft—especially as a handcuff choice—he might prove to be a strong value.
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