2011 NFL Draft: Top Ten Picks Most Likely to Be Fantasy Football Stars
Every year fantasy football players start their usual research by trying to understand what players will continue to put up big numbers, which players might take a step back, and which new players will burst onto the scene.
This includes rookies; some who go undrafted, and some who are expected to play at a high level almost immediately. This year's crop of rookies will be no exception. In fact, because of where a lot of skilled players landed this draft, you may just want to get a head start on your competition by knowing your top rookies and their potential for fantasy football greatness.
The Atlanta Falcons New Weapon: Julio Jones
The Atlanta Falcons paid top dollar to trade up and grab Julio Jones. And by doing so they are essentially saying this to the rest of the NFL: Our defense will be just good enough, but our offense will be unstoppable. When the Falcons were handed an embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers in last year's playoffs, they must have realized that their offense needed to be even more explosive.
Enter the big, athletic Julio Jones. Jones is a dynamic athlete who can beat even the most skilled defenders, but as a Falcon, he won't have to. With Roddy White on the one side, commanding attention from the opposition's best cornerback, Jones should be able to enjoy immediate success. Jones should be a consistent scorer for your fantasy football squad, especially with the reliable Matt Ryan throwing him the ball.
The Falcons plan may be to consistently score 40, so draft Jones and make sure you are getting a piece of the action.
The Guy Being Compared to Emmitt Smith: Mark Ingram
As long as Ingram avoids injury, he could be a great running back for the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy football players understand that there are just certain offenses that can produce a lot of points and top players, and the Saints are definitely one of those teams. Led by Drew Brees, the Saints are always a top scoring team, so it's no wonder that relative unknowns like Chris Ivory can break onto the scene and score some luck fantasy football owner a ton of points in the process.
And the Saints apparently recognize a need at running back by taking Ingram, the top ranked back in this year's class of rookies. Even if Reggie Bush returns, expect Ingram to be a point-scoring machine.
Ingram is a far more complete back than Chris Ivory and Lynelle Hamilton, and Reggie Bush has a more-defined role (if and when he is healthy for the Saints), so this could be a golden opportunity for Ingram. Taking him in a middle round of your draft could be a wise move, and you might also consider him with a much higher pick if you agree that he can be an immediate point generator for the Saints.
Detroit Is on the Up, Up, Up, so Consider Mikel Leshoure
When the dust settles, Mikel Leshoure may end up being the best running back of this draft class.
He has drawn comparisons to Steven Jackson, and looks like a complete player that can have a great career in the NFL. He also comes from a university (U of Illinois) that has produced very productive running backs like Rashard Mendenhall. In fact, Mikel has many similarities to Mendenhall—he fights hard for every yard, always manages positive yardage and is just a workhorse. Oh, and he can break off the big run at any time.
The Detroit Lions drafted Jahvid Best last year, and while he started off being extremely productive, injuries and ineffectiveness limited his numbers the rest of the way in 2010. Best is a small, shifty back who cannot be counted on to effectively block, so he is not suited as an every-down back.
Leshoure looks like the guy to carry the ball on 1st and 2nd down, and he could be very productive for the Lions early on. If Stafford can stay healthy, we could see a lot of Mikel Leshoure and a lot of point-scoring for fantasy football owners.
Kyle Rudolph May Be a Star for the Vikings
Kyle Rudolph is the most complete tight end of this draft, and by all accounts, his terrible hamstring injury has not taken much away from his game.
At least, the Minnesota Vikings don't believe so.
Whether it's Christian Ponder or maybe even Donovan McNabb throwing the ball, Rudolph will be an immediate impact player for the Vikings. Kyle has great size, speed and hands, and will be a perfect fit in this offense.
If Ponder is in fact the starter, expect the offense to look something like this: Run left with Peterson, run right with Peterson, and then dump off the pass to Rudolph. He may not crack the top five in fantasy football scoring tight ends, but he could be very close to that.
Lance Kendricks Will Be Sam Bradford's Favorite Target
Lance Kendricks is not just the other tight end. He is a complete player, a guy with tremendous hands and athletic ability, and a guy that can be a great playmaker for a Rams team that is moving in the right direction.
The Rams brought in Josh McDaniels to help bring the offense to the next level. In Lance Kendricks, they will be getting a great new weapon that Sam Bradford can rely on consistently. Expect McDaniels' offense to be efficient and high-scoring, and expect Kendricks to catch a lot of touchdown passes from the ultra-accurate Sam Bradford.
Titus Young Could Be a Titan Scorer
Titus Young can flat out fly.
And he will have Calvin Johnson commanding a lot of the defense's attention. He will also have Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball. Before Stafford was injured early in the 2010 season, that team's offense looked like it would be among the best in the NFL.
With Mikel Leshoure helping the team establish a reliable running game, and with that monstrous new defense getting the other team's offense on a regular basis, the passing game should really explode.
That means a lot of looks and catches for one Titus Young. Expect Young to be a great sleeper pick in a much later round of your fantasy football draft.
A.J. Green Is an Elite Player on a Rebuilding Team
A.J. Green can possibly become a top receiver in the NFL, but first he will have to find out who will be throwing him the ball.
Andy Dalton may be thrown into action as a rookie quarterback, but that shouldn't do much for Green's prospects as an immediate fantasy football scorer. As we fantasy football freaks found out with Larry Fitzgerald last season, it's not enough to be a great wide receiver. You need a solid quarterback to throw you the ball.
Still, it's possible that the Bengals will resolve that problem by the start of the season, especially once the Carson Palmer issue is corrected, and that means that you should probably not overlook A.J. Green.
Jacquizz Rodgers Is Really Fast
The Atlanta Falcons drafted Julio Jones in the first round, and then went with another explosive playmaker in the fifth round: Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is small, but ridiculously fast and elusive, and should be a great option for Matt Ryan on 3rd down situations.
I can also see Rodgers getting time as a return man, so if your fantasy football league is set up to add additional points for kick and punt returns, Rodgers could be a very savvy add to your team.
I expect Rodgers to have an immediate impact on a team that already has a featured back, but now plans to run up the score on its opponents. The Falcons consistently boast one of the best running games in the league, so this is the perfect fit for Rodgers.
The Newest Weapon for the Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin
Jonathan Baldwin is a very big and athletic target, and may end up being more reliable than Dwayne Bowe. There were times last season when the passing combo of Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe looked unstoppable, but there was always a question mark as to what other receivers could be counted upon.
The Chiefs will likely have one of the top running games in the NFL, which means that they will also have a lot of red-zone opportunities. I expect Baldwin to catch a lot of touchdowns from Cassel in his rookie year. Look for him to have the kind of immediate impact that Mike Williams had for Tampa Bay last season.
Miami's Daniel Thomas
Daniel Thomas is a highly productive running back who will fit in nicely with a Miami Dolphins team that loves to run the ball. The Dolphins consistently produce running backs that are worth of a roster spot on your fantasy football team, and that makes Thomas a real sleeper candidate for the upcoming season.
The status of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown is still up in the air, but regardless, it's very likely that Thomas will get his opportunities, since at least one of those players may be on his way out. Thomas is a down-hill runner with great vision and athleticism. He would be a great addition to a team known for running the wildcat and relying heavily on the run game.
He could be a wonderful addition to your fantasy football team, so don't overlook him.