If you liked the talent coming out of college and stocked your fantasy football roster with a lot of rookies this year, chances are your team’s playoff prospects are about as good as the Buffalo Bills’.
Life is hard when you are an NFL rookie. You have to catch up during training camp if you held out. You have to learn a new playbook and adjust to the faster speed of the pro game. And sometimes you have to carry the shoulder pads and pick up the dinner tab for a player much less talented than you are, like Dallas’ Roy Williams.
No wonder rookies have been having a hard time putting up points for their fantasy owners this season. Many of the first-round picks have struggled mightily, especially at running back, which is probably the easiest of the skilled positions for a rookie to play and produce immediately.
Here is a look at 11 of fantasy football’s most notable rookies—what they have and have not done during their opening season and what their grades are at the halfway point.
382 rushing yards, 92 receiving yards, 2 TDs.
Looks like Mathews graduated from the Matthew Stafford School of Fragility. Mathews has been battling a nagging ankle injury throughout the season. Just when it appeared he had finally overcome it and was on his way to a 100-yard game against the Houston Texans, he sprained his ankle for the 50th time. Thank goodness Philip Rivers and the Chargers do not need a healthy Mathews (or healthy receivers for that matter) to score points.
Mathews was drafted within the first three rounds in many, if not most fantasy leagues, but battering ram Mike Tolbert has been the better fantasy option so far.
150 rushing yards, 81 receiving yards, 0 TD
The path to fantasy football stardom seemed to be paved perfectly for Spiller at the start of the season. Fred Jackson had a broken hand and Marshawn Lynch was both banged up and being dangled as trade bait. So Spiller proceeded to run for six yards on seven carries during an opening-week debacle against the Miami Dolphins, and things have not gotten much better for him since.
Spiller has not received more than seven carries in any game yet. Earth to Buffalo—your team is winless and is not exactly overflowing with offensive talent. Get the ball in this kid’s hands!
345 rushing yards, 356 receiving yards, 5 TDs
Best busted out of the blocks like Edwin Moses during his hurdling days. Fantasy owners salivated as the multi-talented, multi-dimensional Best racked up five touchdowns over the first two weeks. Unfortunately, he has not found the end zone since, so somebody better buy him a compass for the holidays.
A toe injury has sapped some explosiveness from Best, hence the 3.2 yards per carry. However, fantasy owners are loving the extra points he gives them because of all the catches he makes out of the backfield.
1,674 passing yards, 11 TD, 8 INT
Bradford has outgrown the constant shoulder injuries that marred his final season at Oklahoma and has overcome throwing to the youngest set of receivers in the NFL to become a solid quarterback option for fantasy owners.
He sure does not look like another flop a la Ryan Leaf or Tim Couch.
36 receptions, 559 yards, 5 TDs
Williams only slipped during the NFL draft because of his countless attitude and off-field problems during his college career.
This lanky wideout can turn a 5-yard slant into a 50-yard touchdown and has all the tools to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Williams is on pace to have a 1,000-yard year and should continue hooking up on touchdown tosses with Josh Freeman.
34 receptions, 436 yards, 2 TDs
Wes Welker might be able to kick extra points, but Hernandez has been the one cushioning the blow of losing Randy Moss.
Hernandez is now the one racking up the 20-yard-plus plays and has quickly become one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets. Look for him to finish in the top 5 at tight end at season’s end.
38 receptions, 435 yards, 4 TDs
He might refuse to carry Roy Williams’ pads, but Bryant is one of the few Cowboys refusing to give up as the team slips into the depths of despair. His combination of speed, size, and leaping ability make him arguably the most dangerous rookie in the NFL.
If you own him in a keeper league, by all means pencil him in as part of your 2011 squad.
26 rushing yards, 0 passing yards, 2 TDs
Are you excited about Tebow penning an inspirational book? Fantasy football owners would be more excited about Tebow turning into a Gerald Riggs-like short-yardage back who scores once a week. But everything has gone against Tebow.
Kyle Orton is throwing like John Elway; the Broncos have one of the worst offensive lines in the league; and Tebow is being brought along at a turtle’s pace. His fantasy worth is virtually nil.
501 passing yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
Do we have another Rick Mirer on our hands here?
Clausen has looked lost when he has been called upon to start for the injury-riddled Matt Moore and has quarterbacked about as poorly as any signal caller in the NFL. His 46.8 completion percentage is downright laughable. This rook has a lot to learn.
31 receptions, 212 yards, 2 TDs
Gresham was supposed to be a big-play tight end, yet he is averaging a paltry 6.8 yards per catch. The top tight end taken in this year’s draft has been working the underneath routes while Terrell Owens puts up bombastic numbers down the field.
Gresham’s fantasy value will improve in the coming years as he could be another Antonio Gates, but for now he should not be used in fantasy lineups.
16 receptions, 215 yards, 2 TDs
Thomas landed on millions of fantasy radars after his scintillating 97-yard effort in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, he caught eight passes. In the six games since, he has caught eight passes combined. He has not been on the field or been targeted as much as Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney during that span.
Thomas has more talent than the cast of Glee, so let’s hope he re-emerges from hiding in the second half of the season.