NFL Fantasy Football 2011: 5 Rookies Sure to Make an Impact This Season

Dan BodnerCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2011

NFL Fantasy Football 2011: 5 Rookies Sure to Make an Impact This Season

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    Most experienced fantasy football general managers are hesitant to insert a rookie in their starting lineup.

    The risk is simply too high. Even the most talented or highly-drafted rookies are ultimately unknown quantities. No one can know for sure whether or not a player's college production will translate to the NFL.

    Yet, a rookie in the right situation could be an invaluable asset to any fantasy team. He could even mean the difference between winning the championship and missing the playoffs. 

    Following is a list of the top five rookies who are sure to make an impact on someone's fantasy roster this season.

Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns picked up a real steal in the second round of the 2011 draft when they selected Greg Little.

    At 6'3", 231 lbs., Little has the size and speed to make an immediate impact at the professional level.

    He also finds himself in a favorable situation in Cleveland because of the combination of youth and uncertainty in the Browns' receiving corps.

    After an impressive off-season, Little is currently situated as the team's No. 3 receiver. The two receivers in front of him, Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, are talented, but they have also only been in the league for two years.

    Quarterback Colt McCoy is only entering his sophomore season in the NFL, so it is difficult to imagine that he has established any clear-cut favorite targets at this point.

    If Little can continue his quick transition to the NFL, he could become a legitimate fantasy threat early on this season.  

Delone Carter, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    It may sound strange that a rookie fourth-round running back could be a serious fantasy player on a traditionally passing-oriented offense, but bear with me.

    Peyton Manning's neck injury will cause him to miss a considerable amount of time this year—if not the entire season.

    As a result, an over-the-hill Kerry Collins will be forced to take reigns, despite having very minimal experience in the Colts offense. This means that the Colts will be relying heavily on their running game this season—perhaps the most since Manning's initial arrival in Indianapolis.

    Rookie Delone Carter is poised to be a huge beneficiary of this fact. He has already vaulted past former first round pick, Donald Brown, and currently sits at No. 2 on the depth chart, behind veteran Jospeh Addai.

    Given Addai's injury history, it's not hard to envision Carter taking over the No. 1 role at some point this season. Yet, even if Addai manages to stay healthy, Carter should still receive a fair load of work.

    He will also likely see the majority of the Colts' goal line and short yardage carries as he is currently the team's best inside runner.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings

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    Although this year's crop of rookie tight ends may not have the same big impact as last year's, Kyle Rudolph is one rookie tight end who should more than hold his own.

    At 6'6", 265 lbs., he possesses great size, but also has soft hands. This combination makes him a terror in the red zone and should give him some immediate fantasy value.

    He is currently listed as the No. 2 tight end behind veteran Visanthe Shiancoe, but this fact shouldn't discourage fantasy owners too much. Shiancoe has recently been plagued with a hamstring injury, which caused him to miss the entire preseason.

    In Shiancoe's absence, Rudolph stole the spotlight as the team's leading receiver. The Minnesota coaches would like to get him involved with the offense during the regular season, so he will likely be on the field quite a bit in two tight end sets, as well as goal line formations.

    Rudolph's size and hands make him a valuable fantasy asset from the get-go because of the threat he presents on third down and in the red zone. This value should only increase as the season progresses and he becomes more involved in the offense.

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

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    It's not often that a rookie wide receiver puts up eye-popping numbers—but it's also not often that a rookie wide receiver finds himself as the team's No. 1 receiver from day one.

    This is the case for Bengals first-round pick A.J. Green.

    At 6'4", 211 lbs., Green is a freakish athlete. His combination of speed and leaping ability is almost second-to-none.

    Green also finds himself in a great situation in Cincinnati—at least from a fantasy perspective.

    He will be rookie quarterback Andy Dalton's security blanket from day one, so he is guaranteed to have a lot of balls thrown in his direction. This will likely come into play quite a bit in the red zone, as Green will be the team's biggest and most reliable target in the end zone, outside of maybe tight end Jermaine Gresham.

    The biggest concern is whether or not Dalton's arm strength will allow Green to become a consistent deep threat. However, this should not stop Green from seeing plenty of action in his inaugural season.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

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    Some rookies are valuable because of their overwhelming talent—others are valuable because of the situation they are thrust into.

    Julio Jones tops our list because he falls under both categories.

    Jones was one of the consensus top two receivers in the draft, along with A.J. Green, because of his unique combination of speed and strength. Yet, although Green was drafted higher, Jones ultimately ended up in a more established offense.

    He currently finds himself as the No. 2 receiver on a depth chart that is laden with talent.

    He will play opposite Roddy White, who should garner most of the attention from the secondary and allow him to makes plays on the other side of the field. Half back Michael Turner should also help Jones' cause by providing a legitimate threat in the running game.

    Add in the fact that he will have one of the top young quarterbacks in the league, Matt Ryan, throwing to him, and Jones appears poised to have a huge rookie season.