With two more preseason games to go until the start of the 2009 NFL season, I think now is a good time to provide an updated Rookie Report. This year’s rookie class is battling injuries, contract disputes, and serious runs to the top of the depth chart. Let us take a closer look at the 2009 rookies and see where they stand heading into the regular season.
1. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
Scoop: When the Lions drafted Stafford, I fully expected him to be the starter come game one of the regular season. It may be time to take that expectation back as Daunte Culpepper is giving him a run for his money. The word out of Lions camp is that the quarterback competition is very close between Stafford and Culpepper. The Lions drafted Stafford #1 for a reason and it was not so he could sit on the bench and learn from a washed up has been. What do the Lions have to lose by playing Stafford, another 0-16 season! Jim Schwartz will give Stafford the opportunity, but Stafford must make the best of this opportunity.
Fantasy Impact: While I do not think he will win the job over Daunte Culpepper, I fully expect Stafford to take over the starting job by midseason. I would not draft him as a QB1 or QB2, however, I would take a late round flier with the hope he would start by midseason. I would rank him a little higher in Dynasty and Keeper leagues as he is the future of this team and 2010 seems to be his breakout season.
2. Mark Sanchez – New York Jets
Scoop: When the Jets selected with the fifth overall pick, they jumped 12 spots in the draft for the opportunity to draft Sanchez. What this tells me is that the Jets do not trust fourth year quarterback Kellen Clemens to be their franchise quarterback. The writing was on the wall as Sanchez was named the Jets starting quarterback on August 26th. Speaking of starter, history will be made on 13 September against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Sanchez will be the first quarterback in the history of the Jets franchise to start behind center as a rookie.
Fantasy Impact: I really like Sanchez this season and I fully expect him to exceed the stats of Matt Ryan during his rookie campaign. Sanchez will have solid protection from his front five consisting of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, Brandon Moore and Damien Woody. Unlike Ryan, talented offensive players consisting of Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Jerricho Cothchery, Chansi Stuckey and Dustin Keller surround Sanchez. If the front five gives him enough time and I think they will, Sanchez should have a successful rookie season. You should feel comfortable with drafting him as your QB2.
3. Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Scoop: Josh Freeman has the ability to be the Buccaneers franchise quarterback, but this will not happen unless he gets the opportunity to shine. While the battle on paper is between Byron Leftwich and Like McCown, Freeman is slowly making his way into the fray. While he will more than likely be #2 on the depth chart behind Leftwich, he is one tap away from the starting job. Yes, I said tap because after one tap, Leftwich could be on the sideline toting a clipboard while he nurses a sprained ankle for the remainder of the season. With that said, the latest reports out of One Buc Place are that Head Coach Raheem Morris is molding the Bucs into a run first team with the three-headed monster consisting of Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Carnell Williams.
Fantasy Impact: What this should tell you is that Freeman will not have much of a fantasy impact, even if he becomes the starter at some point this season. While I could see him coming in to run a trick play here or there, he will not make any impact as a fantasy quarterback this season. I would draft him only if I was in a Dynatsy league and I had a free bench spot.
1. Knowshon Moreno – Denver Broncos
Scoop: As the first running back chosen and 12th overall pick, I fully expected Moreno to be a starting running back in his first year, assuming he was with the right team. While I do not think that Denver was the right fit, he was slated to become the starter until he sprained his left knee. Now, instead of being the game one starter, Moreno will be relegated to riding the bench until he can become healthy.
Fantasy Impact: Moreno is expected to be 100% during the Broncos second game of the regular season. While this will make a lot of fantasy owners excited to see him play, they need to keep in mind that by the time he comes back, five weeks will have gone by without Moreno playing a down, which is an eternity in the NFL. Do not get me wrong, Moreno has a ton of talent and will be a star in the NFL, but fantasy owners may need to temper their expectations this season.
2. Chris Wells – Arizona Cardinals
Scoop: Chris “Beanie” Wells was a star in the making while at Ohio State and he would have gone in the top five of the draft if it were not for his durability issues. During his first practice, he sprained his ankle and it has not been the same since. Wells played his first NFL game on Saturday and he looked good while rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns. If Wells has another solid outing against the Denver Broncos, Wells has a good chance of being named the starting running back over Tim Hightower.
Fantasy Impact: While Wells is in a pass first offense, I think he will be very productive, even if he is not the starting running back, as Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt likes using a RBBC approach. Here is how I see this battle shaking out; I think Wells will be the every down back while Hightower will be the redzone threat. You will have to review your league scoring to determine who will gain you the most points. If you draft Wells, it would be in your best interest to pick up Hightower as well. With his durability issues, Wells could become a stud or get hurt on the first play of the regular season.
3. Donald Brown – Indianapolis Colts
Scoop: Donald Brown is famous, even before playing a down in the NFL. He was the first player from the University of Connecticut to be drafted in the first round. Brown has impressed first year coach Jim Caldwell and at a minimum, Brown will be sharing carries with Joseph Addai. As a fantasy owner who has been burned by Addai, we all know that Addai cannot be effective alone and must share carries. Word out of Indianapolis is that Addai and Brown will do just that, share carries with Brown getting the goal line carries.
Fantasy Impact: I expect Brown to take over the starting job at some point during the 2009 season. In the meantime, he will be the touchdown vulture, which could pay off for leagues that award six points per touchdown. Like Wells, if you draft Addai, you should also pick up Brown as insurance since Addai has not had a healthy season since 2007.
1. Percy Harvin – Minnesota Vikings
Scoop: While Harvin was drafted much lower than he expected, he had to know that smoking marijuana at the NFL combine would have an adverse impact on his status. However, smoking marijuana does not take away from the fact that he has incredible speed and soft hands. Not to mention that he has Brett Favre at the helm and he should complement Harvin’s homerun style of play.
Fantasy Impact: Harvin is currently buried on the depth chart behind Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, and Jaymar Johnson. Do not let that status fool you as Harvin is slated to be a WR3 behind Berrian and Rice and I expect him to overtake Berrian as the WR2 by midseason. To play it safe, I would take Harvin in the later rounds and watch his status closely.
2. Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles
Scoop: While I think Maclin would have been better served to stay for his junior season, he is here now and this young man has a long way to go in order to be a starter in the NFL. The issue with Maclin is that he goes down after the first hit. While this can be taught, he is still third on the depth chart and his play will be limited unless Kevin Curtis is not able to stay healthy.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing has changed in Philadelphia; Andy Reid likes to spread the ball around to his wide revivers and tight ends. This is going to hurt his value slightly, so I would take a late round flier on Maclin and he would ride the bench until we see some consistency.
3. Hakeem Nicks – New York Giants
Scoop: Like many of the other rookies, Nicks is low on the depth chart, but he has the chance to make a run up to the top of the depth chart. The top two positions is between three players; Nicks, Domenik Hixon, and Steve Smith. If you watched the game on Saturday night, you would have seen Smith, who was wide-open, drop a pass from Eli Manning. The little things like dropping a potential touchdown pass will relegate you to the bench in Tom Coughlin’s offense.
Fantasy Impact: Hakeem Nicks has tons of potential and is in a good position to become a starter when the season begins. If it were not for the hamstring injury, he would be a starter today. With the many options in New York, your best bet would be to draft Nicks in the final rounds of your draft. He will not gain many points this season, but he would be a nice player to stash away in your Dynasty League.
1. Brandon Pettigrew – Detroit Lions
Scoop: While Pettigrew was not the only tight end drafted, he is the only one who has a chance to start. Pettigrew has been battling a thigh injury for the majority of the preseason. He played for the first time on Saturday and while he was a little rusty, he looked good.
Fantasy Impact: While Pettigrew does not fit the prototype of the tight ends today, he will be a good possession option and will be a consistent option in the red zone. I would not draft him in a redraft or keeper league, but I would draft him in a dynasty league.
Stay tuned for the final installment of the rookie report, which will feature rookies that will not see the field this season, but have a bright future in the NFL and have a good chance of becoming a starter one day.