Fantasy Football 2011: Mark Ingram and 5 Rookies Who Could Star
For the hardcore fantasy football enthusiasts, drafting and acquiring players for one season just isn't enough. Because of this, we often speculate about which rookies we can anoint as "the chosen ones" for dynasty and keeper leagues alike.
We didn't see as much talent on offense in the 2011 draft as we saw in previous years, but there is still plenty for dynasty owners to be excited about. A former Heisman winner, a freakishly athletic wide receiver and a player with bigger hands than Hakeem Nicks all provide reasons for us to be on the edge of our seats this upcoming year.
Let's examine them a little more, and analyze a few of the 2011 rookies that could be fantasy football studs in the near future.
1) Mark Ingram, Running Back, New Orleans Saints
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There may not be a rookie that scores more fantasy points this season than Mark Ingram.
For all the amount of promise and praise that's associated with the 2009 Heisman Trophy recipient, he also receives a fair amount of doubt.
That's fine, and while there is interesting debate about that, what can't be denied is the opportunity he will get. And in fantasy football, a player's role often outweighs his talent level.
Historically speaking, the running back position can be capably addressed in later rounds of the draft. The fact that the New Orleans Saints traded a precious first-round pick in 2012 to acquire Ingram speaks volumes about how much they will want to use him. Like any other intelligent franchise, they will want bang for their buck.
With Pierre Thomas coming off of a nagging ankle injury and Darren Sproles better suited for passing downs, we can expect that Ingram will get plenty of touches, especially in valuable goal-line situations.
2) Julio Jones, Wide Receiver, Atlanta Falcons
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Pick your poison, defenses: Julio Jones or Roddy White?
The Atlanta Falcons seemingly gave up everything short of the kitchen sink to acquire Julio Jones with the sixth-overall pick, but he will be thrust immediately into a beneficial situation.
Many talented rookies drafted early are usually taken to be the primary building block of the offense. But this wasn't the case with Jones, who will be eased into a more comfortable role as a complement to White, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.
Since the pieces are in place, I would not be surprised if Jones becomes a rookie who quickly makes a name for himself .
3) Stevan Ridley, Running Back, New England Patriots
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It's a loaded backfield in New England, but rookie Stevan Ridley could be the next to emerge from it.
So far, Ridley has blasted out of the gate, totaling 222 yards and three touchdowns in just his first two preseason contests.
There are plenty of good reasons for skeptics to doubt Ridley's fantasy potential, especially since we just saw the incumbent BenJarvus Green-Ellis rush for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010. Isn't it The Law Firm's backfield to lose?
Yes, but running backs have always been thrown into a revolving door under Bill Belichick. The last time a Patriots halfback finished as the team's leading rusher in consecutive seasons was Corey Dillon in 2005-06.
Ridley may not be their feature back at the moment, but fellow rookie Shane Vereen is on the bubble, and Danny Woodhead is built for more of a complementary role.
From what we've seen in the preseason and from his days at LSU, Ridley can effectively run between the tackles and have a reliable goal-line presence. He has the makeup to challenge Green-Ellis for the starting job when it's all said and done, so keep an eye out for that as the season progresses.
4) Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins
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We may have to wait until 2012 for Leonard Hankerson to take major strides, but the metrics certainly suggest that he could be a star in the NFL.
And while there is elite potential for the Redskins third-round pick, there are a few roadblocks in his way. He is buried beneath a depth chart of veteran receivers, and has plagued his stock so far in the preseason with dropped passes.
But amidst that, the flashes of brilliance are still apparent. Despite the drops, the athletic receiver has been open very often in the early-goings of preseason, warranting plenty of targets from his quarterbacks.
The tape shows that the resulting drops stem not from lacking good hands, but lacking concentration. His head often turns to the field before he looks the ball into his hands. It's a repeated but fixable mistake.
Either way, if that is fixed, look for Hankerson's statistics and his position on the depth chart to trend upward.
5) Greg Little, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
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How many more chances are the Cleveland Browns going to give Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie to be their go-to guys?
They are a talented duo of young receivers, but each had disappointing 2010 campaigns. Massaquoi was their most targeted receiver of 2010, but still never caught more than five passes in one game. Robiskie came along strong in the final six weeks of the season, but still hasn't lived up to his second-round selection in 2009.
While they can still emerge as key contributors for Pat Shurmur's offense, it was apparent that the Cleveland Browns had questions about their receiving corps. Greg Little was drafted in the second round to help answer those questions.
Little saw his draft value plummet after being forced to sit out his senior year in North Carolina for lying to investigators about travel accommodations and jewelery. Regardless, his talent level was undeniable, and the Browns drafted him in the second round in 2011.
As a result, Little could find himself in a great situation with a rising talent at quarterback in Colt McCoy. Though talented receivers remain ahead of him, Little should continue to make a valid case to overtake them in the near future.