More and more rookies in the NFL are being expected to make an immediate impact.
Nowadays teams are throwing rookies into the fire right away. The first five quarterbacks taken in the 2011 NFL draft either began the season as the starter, or have become the starting quarterback. You have to remember, with the lockout, rookies missed valuable training camp practices.
Teams are showing a lot of confidence in rookie quarterbacks to come in right away and start. But, you cannot blame them. In recent history rookies have come in and completely rejuvenated a franchise.
For instance, Matt Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie in 2008. The Falcons had come into the season with very low expectations—after losing Michael Vick, and bringing in a first-year head coach in Mike Smith.
This of course means rookies can be extremely valuable for fantasy football teams. For the most part any rookie is not going to be drafted early in fantasy football drafts. This is because you do not know what to expect from rookies.
Some of the most successful rookies begin the season buried in the depth chart, but due to injury or just good play, they make their presence felt. If you can accurately foresee a successful rookie, you can grab him for a great value.
This year’s rookie class has been impressive. If you have not been lucky enough to land one of these guys on your roster this year, don’t worry too much; they’ll be back next year. Here are seven rookies you will want on your roster for years to come.
Andy Dalton is in the running for Rookie of the Year for good reason. The Red Rocket, as some fans call him due to his red hair, has led a Bengals team thought to be one of the worst in the league into playoff contention.
The second-round pick out of TCU has been rock solid for the Bengals. With over 2,500 yards passing and 16 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, Dalton has certainly played smart, sound football. He has led the Bengals to a 7-4 record in a tough AFC North division.
I would not want Dalton to be my starting fantasy football quarterback this season, but he is definitely a viable backup. With a plethora of young talent around him in Cincinnati including A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, Dalton will only find more success in the following years.
Roy Helu, a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, has finally become the Washington Redskins starting running back. Helu had been showing flashes of brilliance the whole season.
It took a season-ending injury to Tim Hightower, and repeated lousy performances from Ryan Torain, but it appears that Helu is now the featured back in Washington. Prior to the Week 12 matchup with Seattle, Helu had not been given more than 10 carries all season.
In Seattle, Helu was handed the rock 23 times and he did not disappoint. Helu eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground, and caught seven balls for 54 yards. This was clearly his breakout performance.
Helu is a shifty back, and he has also shown a pass-catching ability that few running backs possess. Helu should finish the year as the Redskins starter, and he is definitely a player to keep your eye on.
The Atlanta Falcons traded up to draft Julio Jones sixth overall to solidify a missing piece in their offense—a good No. 2 receiver. The Falcons traded up because they know the kind of player Jones is, and the kind of player he can become.
Standing 6’3” and weighing 220 pounds, Jones is one of the most physically gifted rookies out there. Couple that with his athletic ability—Jones ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and recorded a vertical jump of 38.5”—and he presents a nightmare for defenses.
Jones has not put up monster numbers like A.J. Green, but they have been respectable: 498 receiving yards and two touchdowns. This has a lot to do with the system he plays in. Matt Ryan has plenty of options including three Pro Bowlers in Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner.
With his size, Jones is a great red-zone target, but that is the bread and butter of Tony Gonzalez, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, who just happens to play on the same team. Jones has not disappointed, and I expect those monster numbers to come sooner rather than later.
Mark Ingram became the only running back selected in the first round when the New Orleans Saints selected him 28th overall. Ingram was an absolute beast at Alabama, and was clearly the best prospect at the running back position.
Ingram has emerged as the featured back in a crowded Saints backfield. Though Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles have taken carries, Ingram has managed to accumulate 420 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He is averaging a solid four yards per carry. It should be noted Ingram has missed a couple games due to injury.
Looking to the future, Ingram looks like a keeper. He is built like a running back should be in the NFL. The former Heisman winner plays in one of the most potent offenses in the league. There is no reason why Ingram can’t do great things in New Orleans.
Another young man in the Rookie of the Year conversation is A.J. Green. Simply put, the guy has been a beast in every sense of the word. Green was the first receiver taken off the board in the 2011 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals for good reason.
Standing at 6’4”, the long-armed Green is a perfect fit for the wide receiver position. He has displayed time and time again his ability to go up over the defense and pull the ball in. Green has tallied 745 receiving yards with six touchdowns.
Andy Dalton, the Bengals quarterback and fellow rookie, has definitely found a favorite target in Green. Dalton trusts Green enough to just throw the ball up and let him go make a play on the ball. This connection will only grow as these two mature.
Green is a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, and someone you will want on your fantasy football roster for the future.
DeMarco Murray embodies how a rookie can go from a backup to a starter, and a very good one at that. Murray, a third-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys, probably has many teams wishing they had selected him earlier.
Coming into the season, the Cowboys had two formidable backs in Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. When Felix Jones went down with a high-ankle sprain in Week 6, Murray made the Cowboys forget all about that Felix guy.
In Week 7 vs. the Rams, Murray racked up over 250 yards rushing, the most single-game rushing yards in Cowboys history.
Murray hasn’t looked back since that performance. In four of the five games since the record-breaking performance, Murray has totaled over 100 yards (rushing and receiving). That is the kind of consistent play every fantasy football owner desires.
Even with Felix Jones now back from injury, Murray remains the starter. He has shown great vision and explosiveness, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He is also a great pass-catcher, which adds another dimension to his game.
Murray now has 834 rushing yards on the year, but only two touchdowns. Certainly, you would like to see his touchdowns increase as a fantasy football owner. You can bet he will score more touchdowns as his career progresses. Murray will be a star in Dallas.
Cam Newton was deservedly the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Newton has absolutely torn defenses to shreds this season. From a fantasy football perspective, he has been brilliant.
Standing at 6’5” and weighing 250 pounds, Newton is suited for the defensive end position. Although it seems the new trend is big quarterbacks in the NFL, his size is rare. What is even more rare is his ability to run and escape would-be tacklers. Newton is very hard to bring down, especially when he gets in space.
Despite his team’s lack of success, Newton is thought to be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, thanks to his ridiculous stats. He has over 3,000 yards passing, with 12 touchdowns. The one negative is his 14 interceptions, but Newton throws the ball a ton.
The game-breaker is his rushing statistics. Newton has 464 rushing yards, with 10 rushing touchdowns. Add his passing and rushing statistics together, and you have yourself a fantasy football godsend, considering he is a rookie after all.
Newton is the third-highest-scoring player in all of fantasy football this season using ESPN standard scoring. What else do you need to know? He will be invaluable for fantasy football owners the rest of his career. Look for Newton at the top of draft boards next season, and many more after that.