With some fantasy drafts recently completed by myself, I have decided to look into the fantasy depth and expectations of the rookie class of 2009. I've taken the approach of looking at the key offensive positions, where the players may be drafted, their possible playing time and touches, and their possible fantasy output.
The motive for this is mainly selfish, as I tend to only play in keeper leagues (I prefer to let the newbies play draft and trades). Of course, you won't agree with some (or maybe any) of my views—but there is a reason I annually finish in the top third of all my keeper leagues.
1. Mark Sanchez (NYJ)—Middle rounds of fantasy drafts. The newly named starter of the Jets probably has the best potential to contribute at the position. He has a ground game in NY and some reliable targets at TE and WR in place to go along with a great offensive line.
I drafted him as a backup, or trade bait, in one of my larger leagues and expect numbers similar to Flacco's 2008 campaign—around 2,800 yards and 16 TDs with about 12-14 ints.
2. Matthew Stafford (DET)—Undrafted or late rounds in deep leagues. Scouts have raved about his NFL-style approach since high school, but it is unclear if he will start from day one. (I don't see what harm he could possibly do to the team.) I expect he starts from day one, or at least by week six.
I'm optimistic on his numbers mainly because he has a good young running back with him, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew (continue reading), and they will be playing catch-up in most outings. I'm counting on about the same numbers as Sanchez, even if he doesn't start until a couple weeks in.
3. Pat White (MIA)—Middle rounds in most leagues, upper third of deep leagues. Maybe the hardest cat to figure out of the rookie class. Amid clouds of questions as to how he will be used, I would expect simply effectively. Yardage wise, I would venture a guess of about 1,000 combined rushing a passing with eight TDs, give or take. I will be honest here; he is a completed guess.
4. Josh Freeman (TB)—Largely undrafted. Doesn't look like he will start on opening day, but then again news broke today that Tampa is shopping a QB—which could open the door for the 6'6", 250 lb. monster. Nothing more than a third option in leagues with 12 plus teams.
1. Knowshon Moreno (DEN)—Middle rounds. A team full of holes on defense doesn't take a RB No. 12 overall if they don't plan to use him. Although I am not overly impressed with him or the touches he may receive, I would think that 1,000 rushing yards mixed in with more than a handful of catches (see, Orton to Forte). He's your perfect No. 1 bench back that you don't have to overspend on.
2. Chris Wells (ARZ)—Middle rounds in all leagues. I do not love him as an NFL player. Average size, speed, hands and toughness usually equal an average NFL career. However, with that said, he is my favorite rookie RB for 2009. So why did I rank him second? Injuries.
If healthy, he'll get his touches on his way to 850 rushing yards, 150 receiving, and eight total TDs. Not a bad hall for a rookie. I grabbed him very leate as my No. 3 back in two big leagues—and I am excited by the sheer number of touches he should receive.
3. Donald Brown (IND)—Middle rounds. With the injury history of Joseph Addai coupled with the departure of Harrison as a target, the Colts may run or dump to backs in the red zone more in 2009. That plays well for a rookie in a potent offense. He's probably a lock for 800 combined yards and four to six TDs. He is only another Addai injury away from 1,200 total yards and a great season.
4. LeSean McCoy (PHI)—Middle and late rounds in all drafts. I saw him play live a few times, and he is the fastest player I have ever seen live. He is special on returns as well and has above average hands.
It has been made clear publicly that he is a clone to Westbrook in terms of how he can be utilized. That should be enticing to anyone who is aware of the 30 year old Westbrook's injury history. I'm thinking somewhere around 500 rushing yards and 200 receiving with five TDs. Not bad as a handcuff if you own Westbrook or you stumble on him in the bottom third of your draft.
5. Shonn Green (NYJ)—Late rounds. The Jets seemed to target him by trading some picks to land him. Not sure where he fits into a crowded backfield in NYJ, but take whatever you think Leon Washington is worth, minus the return yardage.
6. Glen Coffee (SF)—Late rounds in deep leagues/largely undrafted in leagues under 12 teams. He could see some playing time in coach Mike Singletary's run-first offense and with the recent regress made by Gore. If you own him, hope for 500 rush yards and five TDs. Potential to get some touches however if he proves useful early.
1. Percy Harvin (MIN)—Top third to middle third of drafts. I am not sold on him, but he has been drafted first among the rookies in my leagues and I suppose with good reason in a below average field. With Brett, I would say 600 yards and four TDs are not a reach. He could find himself some rushing yards as well.
2. Darrius Heyward-Bey (OAK)—Middle rounds in most leagues. I am not a believer of any Oakland players. I think he will prove to be a bust, and I would be happy with 700 yards and four TDs from him.
3. Hakeem Nicks (NYG)—Middle to late rounds in deep leagues. He has gone undrafted in a few leagues, and I am not sure why. Anyone that saw him play in college loves his stuff, and the opportunity in NY in there. Eli is looking for a No. 1 and if he builds rapport, he has breakout rookie receiver written all over him.
4. Jeremy Maclin (PHI)—Middle to late rounds. He has good value as a bench player in leagues counting return yards, and he should see the field a bunch in 2009. I like his chances as good return numbers and 700 yards with limited touchdowns. He won't be a red zone target due to his size and Philly's options (Westbrook, Jackson, Curtis, Brown, McCoy, Celek), but don't doubt his ability to break away.
5. Brian Robiskie (CLE)—Undrafted. I may catch heat for this, but who else does Cleveland have after Edwards now that Stallworth is banned? He was a red zone target at OSU, and it would be nice if he could continue that in the NFL. Possibly 500+ yards and 5/6 TDs. Not a bad haul if you are in a huge league and looking for a fill-in.
6. Kenny Britt (TEN)—Undrafted. Loved the way he played at Rutgers, and he has the potential with the Titans' limited receivers to make an impact. His height gives him an advantage inside the twenty, and I like him for 600 yards and five scores. Don't be surprised if he gets on the field often though and leads the team in receptions.
1. Brandon Pettigrew (DET)—Later third rounds, undrafted. A deep TE crop across the NFL makes Pettigrew, who the Lions moved up to grab, the only one worth looking at.
I do like Shawn Nelson and Chase Coffman as well. The Lions moved up to get him in the first, and I like pairing young QBs with TEs. He can do it all (even block) and I expect him to be a red zone target. If you start two TEs, or have a flex that includes them, don't think that 500 yards and five TDs are out of the picture.
I am guessing many of you have looked into the 2009 class, mainly for your own selfish reasons, and undoubtedly will have your opinions. Of course there are some others worth looking at, and there are some flying under the radar as usual who will break out. Please, as always, let me know where you feel I am off - I'll gladly receive your advice in order to dominate yet another season of keeper leagues.