2013 Fantasy Football: Buying or Selling Rookies as Fantasy Stars

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2013

2013 Fantasy Football: Buying or Selling Rookies as Fantasy Stars

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    Rookies are notoriously difficult to predict when it comes to fantasy football. There are simply too many unknowns—just how good they will be against NFL competition or what kind of opportunity they will get, for example—to nail down value for most rookies.

    For every Trent Richardson, there are dozens of Isaiah Peads. Will this year's top rookie receiver be an A.J. Green or an A.J. Jenkins?

    We have gotten some clarity for this year's rookies after a few weeks of preseason play, however. Which ones are on track to contribute in the fantasy realm, and which ones should you avoid?

    Click through to find out.

     

    Note: Rookies like Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins weren't included in this list. They are safe bets—neither has done much to raise or lower their good stocks this preseason.

Buy: Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, New England Patriots

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    Who saw this one coming?

    The Patriots had a giant question mark penciled in at No. 2 receiver heading into training camp, looking to a crop of rookies to fill the void Chad Johnson and Brandon Lloyd couldn't even begin to fill.

    Aaron Dobson figured to be that man, but it turns out, No. 85 isn't cursed after all. Thompkins has simply been fantastic for the Patriots, all but sowing up the starting job opposite Danny Amendola. He has showcased his upside throughout the preseason.

    Any starting receiver in the Patriots offense is capable of putting up big fantasy numbers. Yes, Johnson and Lloyd have fallen flat in those situations, but they were aging receivers who simply didn't fit.

    Thompkins looks like he belongs.

Sell: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    There was plenty of unwarranted hype behind running back Le'Veon Bell this offseason. It was largely due to the fact he was the de facto starter after Rashard Mendenhall's departure. Were Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer really going to be threats to the promising rookie?

    Bell never really gained traction in Pittsburgh's backfield. Injuries slowed him down during camp, then he suffered a serious foot injury after just four carries against the Redskins.

    He will be out for the foreseeable future—at least six weeks—depressing his fantasy value quite a bit.

Buy: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

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    It has been a somewhat tumultuous tenure in Green Bay for running back Eddie Lacy, thus far, but things are looking up for the rookie out of Alabama.

    It began with Lacy's fall in the NFL draft, where he was finally taken at the end of the second round after an injury-marred draft season. He was immediately touted as a big-time fantasy option until the Packers took Johnathan Franklin later in the draft.

    The rookie duo was in for a battle from incumbent DuJuan Harris, who remains the starter in name until Lacy overtakes him.

    Then there was the whole "he's fat" incident from a pair of poor-angle pictures of Lacy at the beginning of training camp.

    All that appears to be behind him as Lacy continues to look good in that Packers backfield. A good camp and a great preseason showing have put Lacy in position to be a big fantasy contributor this season after all.

     

Sell: Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    If the San Diego Chargers call you about a tryout at wide receiver, run the other way.

    The M.A.S.H. unit seems to get hit by another injury each week, which would theoretically give rookie Keenan Allen a boost. Except he is still dealing with a PCL injury from last November.

    If he can shake it off in time for the season, his outlook improves. How much can you trust him, however, given the general mediocrity on offense in San Diego? Philip Rivers seems like a shell of his former self, or at least he has retreated into one given the porous state of his offensive line.

Buy: Zach Sudfeld, TE, New England Patriots

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    Has there been a rookie with more hype surrounding him this preseason than Zach Sudfeld?

    The undrafted free agent has taken Patriots camp by storm, much to the delight of fans. It looks like he is more than capable of holding down the fort while Rob Gronkowski is recovering from his back issue, and Sudfeld could step into a solid role as the No. 2 tight end once Gronkowski returns.

    Remember, Aaron Hernandez was quite productive in that role for the Patriots.

    Don't mind Sudfeld's first-quarter fumble and apparently subsequent benching against the Lions. The Patriots don't exactly have other good options at tight end, and Sudfeld has been stellar otherwise.

Sell: Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets

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    The Jets offense is a mess. Mark Sanchez has been given four years and shown little to no improvement. Yet they persist in giving him chances.

    This is to Geno Smith's detriment. The rookie is battling Sanchez to a draw for the job, which is not exactly an endorsement.

    Smith reportedly showed up to camp out of shape, according to Brian Baldinger of NFL Network (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk), then he was injured in the first preseason game. He is being given a shot to start this week, which is promising. But even if he wins the job, Smith is faced with the same dearth of talent on offense Sanchez has had to deal with in recent years.

Buy: Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The hype train was a little late leaving the station this preseason for receiver Markus Wheaton, but it may well be the fastest one.

    Wheaton could make Mike Wallace a distant memory by the time he is finished in Pittsburgh. The speedy rookie looks like he will be a fine third receiver for the Steelers.

    He opened up the preseason with a one-catch dud against the Giants, but he followed that up by leading the team in receiving last week against the Washington Redskins. He has already built up a nice rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who loves the rookie's approach.

    Wheaton is largely being ignored in drafts in favor of some of his more popular peers, but he is well worth a late-round flier.

Sell: Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots

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    One man's gain is another man's loss. 

    In this case, the two risers in New England's offense are detrimental to wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who has not been able to gain traction as a pass-catcher, thanks to the exploits of some of his fellow rookies.

    The rookie has simply not shown what some of his fellow rookies have during the preseason. Kenbrell Thompkins looks like he is on track to be the No. 2 receiver, leaving Dobson on the outs. Julian Edelman could be the slot receiver, which would make Dobson about the 17th option in the passing game if he can get on the field.

    If you are going to draft a rookie out of New England, make sure it isn't Dobson.

Buy: EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills

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    Darn those pesky injuries.

    Thankfully for quarterback EJ Manuel, the knee injury he suffered against the Colts was a minor one. It still required surgery, however, which will keep him out for at least the rest of the preseason. Beyond that, there is no question he deserves the starting gig.

    Before his injury, Manuel proved he could handle the load at quarterback. He played two good games, while his roster nemesis Kevin Kolb looked like his usual lost self in his only appearance.

Sell: Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay Packers

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    Where running back Eddie Lacy has gained traction, Johnathan Franklin has been slipping up all over the place. The rookie hasn't lived up to his underrated label, as noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn:

    On the other hand, Franklin's game, based on the offseason and first three weeks of training camp, hasn't fit as well in the NFL.

    Franklin, 5'10" and 205 pounds, can't get out of neutral. He rushed seven times for 17 yards in the intrasquad scrimmage and nine for 23 in the first two games.

    It's just 16 carries, but Franklin's average of 2.5 yards is about on par with the way he has practiced, too.

    With Randall Cobb injured and possibly being phased out of the return game, the Packers have been force-feeding Franklin into a role he never played for the Bruins. He has encountered some ball-security issues in practice and hasn't done anything returning in games.

    Avoid Franklin in all your drafts.

Buy: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Perhaps no rookie running back's stock is higher than Giovani Bernard's, who has lived up to his draft status thus far with the Cincinnati Bengals. The North Carolina product looked excellent against the Tennessee Titans, rushing for 37 yards and a touchdown while showcasing his all-around game.

    Bernard's biggest appeal in fantasy football comes from his potential opportunity. Where other rookies have unsettled situations, Bernard looks like he will be in at least a 50-50 split.

    Given his upside when compared to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who doesn't have much upside, Bernard could be lining himself up for an offensive rookie of the year bid.

Sell: Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos

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    Rookie running back Montee Ball's fantasy stock took off like a Peyton Manning pass when Willis McGahee was cut. But it hasn't exactly been a downhill run for Ball in Denver thus far.

    Ronnie Hillman, last year's rookie, who couldn't make it past Lance Ball on the depth chart, appears to have the inside track on the starting gig, for now. At least until he fumbles the ball away another few times.

    But if Ball keeps getting Manning blown up like he did against the Seattle Seahawks, he's not likely to gain on Hillman. On the contrary, Knowshon Moreno, the ever-dependable plodding wonder, might be gaining on these two.