Fantasy Football: 10 Can't Miss Prospects You Need To Draft Next Season

Shaun McPartlinCorrespondent IIIJanuary 22, 2011

Fantasy Football: 10 Can't Miss Prospects You Need To Draft Next Season

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    College superstars can quickly become NFL busts if their skills do not blend well with the fast pace of the NFL. Drafting rookies, especially with high picks, in your fantasy draft is something often frowned upon. Nonetheless, there are some guys you can't pass up.

    Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford, and Tampa Bay's Mike Williams all show us that there are exceptions to the rule. Rookies who find themselves in favorable situations can flourish as these players did. Some college studs could find the same success at the next level, and if you draft them, you can reap the benefits.

1. A.J. Green, WR Georgia

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    A.J GreenSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    AJ is probably the most explosive receiver in the draft this year. He has the skills and potential to have a Dez Bryant-type season. Green is a play-maker with incredible physical ability. 

    After missing the first four games of the season, Green still piled up nearly 900 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. The beast out of Georgia found pay-dirt in all but four games he played in.

    Both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay predict Green to be a top 10 pick. With this being said, his QB situation might not be ideal, but just look what Dez Bryant did with Jon Kitna. Green has the same, if not greater, potential.

2. Julio Jones, WR Alabama

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    Julio Jones has been a big name since he stepped on the field for the Crimson Tide back in 2008. Since then, he has consistently put up bigger and bigger numbers each season. In 2010, Jones posted 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. This is not too shabby for a man playing in the SEC.

    Both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay suspect the Rams to draft Jones. If this comes to fruition, we could be looking at a deadly duo with Bradford and Jones hooking up for years to come. 

    I can't think of a better fantasy situation.

3. Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri

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    With Andrew Luck opting to return to Stanford for his final season, Blaine Gabbert has become the top QB in this year's draft. Gabbert has been knocked for the spread system he played in at Missouri, but has many of the intangibles that QBs need to be successful at the next level.

    Gabbert, at 6'5" and 235 pounds, is a replica of Peyton Manning. Gabbert finished his junior year with 16 touchdowns and 3,186 yards. This was down from his sophomore season, but still is extremely impressive. 

    Blaine could find himself in a less-than-stellar situation. McShay projects him to wind up with the Bills and Kiper believes he'll end up with the Cardinals, but regardless, he could be starting immediately in 2011. With the emergence of Steve Johnson in Buffalo and an All-Pro wide-out in Arizona in Larry Fitzgerald, Gabbert could have a better rookie season than Bradford this year.

    Gabbert has the smarts to play in the NFL, and you would be smart to draft him.

4. Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame

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    Even though Kyle Rudolph is not projected to crack the first round, he still has the potential to be a star on all fantasy rosters. The tight end position is one that most lacks consistency and has added the likes of second-year man Brandon Pettigrew and rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to its elite ranks.

    Rudolph's stats at first glance are far from impressive. He finished his junior year with 28 receptions, three touchdowns, and 328 yards, but this does not take away from his physical ability. At 6'6", Rudolph could be a red zone gem. With that size, QB's will be looking for him inside the 20 yard line.

    Tight ends in fantasy are far from predictable. This season, we saw big names like Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark go down and Mercedes Lewis and the aforementioned guys step up. Rudolph could be the next late round steal.

5. Cam Newton, QB Auburn

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    In my opinion, Cam Newton is very similar to Tim Tebow. A college star whose game might not translate well to the NFL. You can not discount this player's ability to win, but wins and losses do not count in fantasy football.

    4,327. That is the number of total yards this young man accumulated last season. Let's not forget his 50 total touchdowns, his Heisman Trophy and his National Championship.

    He has a massive arm and the ability to move outside the pocket, which, in the right offense with the right offensive coordinator, can be lethal. 

    Both Kiper and McShay see Newton in Mike Shanahan's offense next season, which could be a perfect fit for Newton. McNabb is in the dog house and Rex Grossman is not the answer, leaving the door open for Cam.

    Newton could do what Tebow did for fantasy owners in 2011, post big numbers and prove the world wrong.

6. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama

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    Mark Ingram is a bruiser. He accumulated 32 TDs in his three years at Alabama. He ran away with the Heisman Trophy in 2009 and is ready to rumble through the NFL.

    He missed the first two games this season after minor knee surgery but still managed to find the end zone 13 times. His sophomore season was by far his most dominant, as he totaled 1,658 yards and 17 TDs.

    Mark Ingram draws comparisons to Jonathan Stewart for their nose for the end zone. He is projected to be drafted by either the Dolphins or the Patriots by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, respectively. If he ends up with either of those teams, he could be used in goal line situations or earn a time share in the backfield. His skill set could easily slate him as the feature back on either team.

    If Ingram can produce on a Jonathan Stewart level, owners beware, he could be lethal.

7. Mikel Leshoure, RB Illinois

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    Mikel Leshoure took over feature back duties and didn't fail to produce for the Illini this season. 

    Leshoure eclipsed 1,500 yards on the ground, finishing with 1,698. He also found pay dirt 17 times. No one finished the year as strong as Leshoure did, scoring 14 touchdowns including three in the Texas Bowl against Baylor. 

    Leshoure has the ability to be just as good, if not better, than his Illini counterpart, Rashard Mendenhall. He has also drawn comparison to Ryan Mathews, who was drafted 12th overall by the Chargers. 

    If he lives up to the hype, he could break onto the scene in 2010.

8. Jonathan Baldwin, WR Pittsburgh

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    Jonathan Baldwin has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald as soon as he put on the Pittsburgh Panther uniform. His skill set might not be as polished as Fitz, but he sure is as deadly. His 6'5" frame proves troublesome for smaller cornerbacks.

    Baldwin uses his size to his advantage and will be a prime target in the red zone. His junior season was not as impressive. During his sophomore year, he only hauled in 53 balls for 822 yards. Still, Baldwin is as athletic as they come and knows how to catch in traffic.

    His ability to make big plays and the looks he will get in the end zone will make him fantasy worthy.

9. Jake Locker, QB Washington

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    Jake Locker could really make some noise in the NFL. He plays in a pro-style offense under Steve Sarkisian in Washington and has shown signs of brilliance this year. His stats were not as stellar as they were in his junior year. He only threw for 2,265 yards and 17 TDs, but when he was on, he was on.

    Only Todd McShay sees Locker being drafted in the first round, while Mel Kiper has him ranked as the fourth best QB in the draft.

    If McShay is right and he is drafted by the Titans as he projects, Locker could find himself in a great situation. With the defense focusing on Chris Johnson, Locker could find Kenny Britt downfield and post some huge numbers. This could be a match made in heaven.

    Jake Locker is an NFL ready QB and could be just as valuable fantasy wise as Blaine Gabbert.

10. Torrey Smith, WR Maryland

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    Torrey Smith is fast, very fast. He has been clocked in the 4.3 range in the 40 yard dash. This brings the name DeSean Jackson to mind. Jackson is a speed demon who has learned to run precise routes and catch passes away from his body. Sounds pretty similar to Smith.

    Smith has the ability to be a playmaker on special teams and with some coaching, could improve his receiving skills. He has all of the intangibles, but just needs some polishing around the edges. 

    Keep your eye out for this guy before he blows past you on your draft day.