Newton may have been first in the draft, but not in fantasy.
We'll be the first guys to tell you its way too early to seriously start figuring out your strategy for your league's fantasy football draft. Whether its mock drafts, fantasy rankings, or just playing the guessing game with trades, it truly is way too early to be doing any of this.
But that doesn't make it any less fun. In fact, if there's one thing that makes a ton of sense, it's projecting just how the top NFL rookies may fit with their new team and their potential role. With that thought in mind, we thought we'd also take a glimpse at each player's potential roles in the 2011 fantasy football season.
So, without further haste, let's kick off our initial fantasy football rookie rankings, as we breakdown the top five fantasy rookie options as the four major fantasy football scoring positions (QB, RB, WR and TE). We start with the signal callers:
1. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)
He's far from the sexiest option, but he is one of the smartest quarterbacks entering the league, and he actually has everything you look for in a starting quarterback. He's not the ideal replacement for a would-be franchise quarterback like Carson Palmer, but considering the route the Bengals have taken over the years, perhaps that's a good thing.
Dalton has enough athleticism and arm strength to keep defenses guessing, and he has some young talent to throw to, while a Cedric Benson return could give his offense the balance necessary for him to find early success. With Carson Palmer looking to be on his way out and Marvin Lewis confident in Dalton's ability to take over right away, the former TCU star heads out quarterback rookie rankings.
Which rookie QB has the best fantasy season in 2011?
2. Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings)
Ponder is a cerebral quarterback that can really turn it on in big moments, and has all the tools needed to become a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. The Vikings reached for him with the 12th pick in the draft, but if they were going for a smart leader who can will his team to victory, then they may have found their man.
Year one may be more about handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and simply making the right reads and decisions, and less about Ponder breaking out into some statistical stud, but he could still end up being a serviceable fantasy option. Leslie Frazier will bring in veteran competition, but it looks like the Vikings are looking for Ponder to make it happen right away.
3. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
Newton has excellent size with a great arm and elite mobility. However, he's no lock to start the season as Carolina's top guy, and even if he does, he isn't very refined and probably won't have a ton of proven weapons at his disposal. He'll have a bit of a learning curve, but his arm strength and athleticism should at least have him coming in at third in these rankings.
4. Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers)
If Alex Smith comes back in 2011, Kaepernick can bank on sitting at least one year before he gets thrust into action. At the same time, this is a kid with excellent athleticism and all the necessary tools to make it at the highest level. The kicker? His new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, just happens to specialize in offense and grooming young quarterbacks. Kaepernick is just oozing with potential, but until we know he's actually hitting the field, this is as high as he goes.
I love Locker as a long-term fantasy player, and I wouldn't hate him if he saw the field this year, either. However, the Titans aren't exactly stacked in the passing game, and there's no denying Locker's pocket and accuracy issues. However, he's an elite athlete with a good arm and the ability to make some of the toughest throws in the game. He's better off sitting for a year and won't likely impact your fantasy football league, but if he's thrown onto the field early, definitely keep your eye on him.
Odd Man Out: Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars)
It looks like Gabbert is the future of the Jaguars. However, it doesn't look like 2011 is going to fall under "the future". Until/unless David Garrard messes things up beyond fixing, there's little reason to think Gabbert will see meaningful action.
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