Top Ten NFL Rookies for 2010 Fantasy Season

Evan SmithContributor IIMay 11, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  C.J. Spiller from the Clemson Tigers holds up a Buffalo Bills jersey after he was selected #9 overall by the Bills during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

1. C.J. Spiller-Buffalo Bills

Spiller has drawn comparisons to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson. The Bills, as well as future fantasy owners can only hope that the former Clemson running back can give that kind of production right off the bat.

Spiller is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, whether he is running, receiving from the slot or returning kicks.  Spiller was the clear cut number one back in the draft and you can expect him to act like it.  His explosiveness and instant play making ability will making him an instant fantasy impact.

The Bills New GM Buddy Nix has strongly expressed his desire for his team to be a run first team, which hints at why the Bills chose the best running back in the 2010 draft class.  Marshawn Lynch has been talking trade, and I think the Bills are open to that considering his off field troubles coupled with him having one game over 80 yards last season and a total of two touchdowns.

Look for Spiller to out muscle Marshawn Lynch / Fred Jackson for majority carries and win offensive rookie of the year. I see him with potential to easily crack the top ten fantasy backs for 2010.

2. Dez Bryant-Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant is a top ten talent that slid down the draft boards much like Randy Moss did 12 years earlier.  He possess everything a receiver needs to be successful in the NFL.  He is big (6’2 225 lbs), strong, quick, and explosive. Bryant much like Spiller was the clear cut number one talent at his respective position. 

There might be concerns about his off field character but I do not see this happening in Dallas. The Cowboys have had their fair share of characters and seemed to deal with them appropriately. Bryant is also joining a talented team that is focused on taking their team to the next level and competing for a championship.

Bryant is joining a receiver core of Roy Williams, Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton, and Sam Hurd.  Williams is unproven for the Cowboys and likely to be dismissed as the number one option with Miles Austin having a break out year last season.  Bryant is going to get his fair share of targets with a proven quarterback in Tony Romo.

Bryant will be a candidate for offensive rookie of the year and will finish just behind Spiller in votes for the 2010 season.  Look for him to put solid numbers and to be a lock at a number two option at receiver in fantasy with the upside of a number one fantasy receiver. 

3. Ryan Mathews-San Diego Chargers

The days of LaDainian Tomlison as a Charger are now over and it looks like Darren Sproles is going to need some help.  Mathews is the compliment to Sproles giving the Chargers a powerful downhill runner with great balance and a knack for fighting for extra yards. 

The Chargers primary need going into the draft was a running back and they filled it with Mathews.  He will get his fair share of carries splitting time with Sproles and it is very likely he becomes the primary ball carrier as well as the goal line back. 

Look for Mathews to have a huge fantasy season in 2010.  He joins a team with an established O-Line / offense and a need for a youthful and powerful back.  He will be used in goal line situations which will only help his fantasy value. 

4. Demaryius Thomas-Broncos

The Broncos were in desperate need of a receiver with Brandon Marshall’s departure to Miami. Thomas (6’3 225 lbs) fits the same mold of Marshall and looks to fill his spot.  Thomas brings a rare size / speed combination to the position and will be a deep threat for quarterback Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow.

Thomas is a little bit smaller in size and in NFL expectations than fellow Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Calvin Johnson but is very similar in skill set.  Thomas has every opportunity to become the number receiver in Denver given that outside of Eddie Royal there is not really any speed or size on the receiving core. 

Thomas may not put up the same numbers of fellow rookie Dez Bryant.  Although, Thomas does have all of the intangibles but he lacks route running ability at the NFL level.  He will be much more valuable as he progresses during the NFL season.   He will serve as a valuable late round pick and possible number 2 fantasy receiver.  Look for him to put solid fantasy numbers with the potential to break out as the best rookie WR in this draft class.

5. Jahvid Best-Detroit Lions

Best (much like Dez Bryant) slid down the draft board, but it had more to due with  his previous health issues than off field issues.  I think he has just as much quickness and explosiveness as C.J. Spiller and will get the chances to show it.

Outside of Kevin Smith, who is more of a power between the tackles runner, there is not a solid number two runner on the roster.  Best should get his share of carries as a third down back and pass catcher out of the backfield.  Best has great lateral quickness and the ability to cut up field in the blink of an eye.  He also has the ability to break it outside with home run type speed. 

If Best gets the chance he could break out and put up better fantasy numbers than Spiller.  I just do not see that happening on a Lions team that has so many holes on offense and defense.  He will put up solid numbers and will get his chances to run the rock.  Look to take him as a number 3 fantasy back with the potential to be a solid number two RB for your team.

6.  Jimmy Clausen-Carolina Panthers

NFL coaches and owners have their concerns about Clausen at the next level.  These concerns are warranted considering he threw a lot of jump balls in college and is not used to attacking with a short passing game.  He does have the arm strength and size to be a solid NFL quarterback and it looks like he is going to get his chance in Carolina.

He did play for Charlie Weis in college so I see his game translating to an NFL offense with ease.  He is also joining a team that is not going to ask him to throw the ball 35 times a game.  Carolina has a strong running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart.  He also has an established number one receiver and deep threat for those jump balls in Steve Smith.

Clausen should be the number one rookie quarterback in fantasy football for the 2010 season.  He is joining a team with only two quarterbacks on the roster.  As much as the Panthers say they are going to start Matt Moore I do not see him lasting long in the starting line up.  As soon as Moore has a bad game you will hear Clausen’s number called.  Clausen might even beat Moore out in training camp.  Look for Clausen in the late rounds, he might not be a fantasy stud but he could be used as a serviceable backup in fantasy. 

7. Jermaine Gresham-Cincinnati Bengals

Gresham was clearly the number one talent in this years draft at the tight end position.  Like his teammate Bradford he had a season ending injury that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season.  Gresham did not let that bother him and preformed very well at pro day.  He is a big target at 6’5 and is an elite pass catcher as a tight end.  He reminds me as of Antonio Gates. 

Gresham has not shown that he is a great run-blocker, but that is something that can be learned with time in the NFL.  He is obviously going to be used more in the passing game.  I am no Bengals fan but I was hoping they would make the right choice and draft Gresham.  The Bengals have needed to fill this position for some time now and Gresham has the potential to be an elite fantasy tight end in the NFL for years to come with a good quarterback in Palmer. 

The Bengals other tight ends are Daniel Coats who is not a receiving tight end at all and Chase Coffman who missed all of last season and is still a big question mark.  Gresham is going to get his chance to stretch the field right of the bat in the Bengals passing attack and will find himself open often with OchoCinco and Antonio Bryant on the outsides.  Gresham has the potential to be a top 10 fantasy tight end and a starter for your team.  You might want to take a chance on him, although if he falls in the your fantasy draft then draft him as a number two tight end and watch him progress. 

8. Brandon Lafell-Carolina Panthers

Lafell is a little raw as a receiver for NFL standards.  He needs to improve on his intangibles.  That being his route running and his consistency.  Lafell has huge upside though.  He is a big target (6’3 205 lbs) and if he can find a connection with fellow rookie Clausen he could be one of the best rookie receivers in this year’s class. 

With Steve Smith seeing consistent double teams and Dwayne Jarrett not living up to his hype, Lafell is going to get his opportunity at the next level and if he proves to be a reliable target for Clausen he could easily take the number two WR spot on the roster.  With Steve Smith drawing so much attention he could find himself open all over the field.

The Panthers are going to run the rock and that is that.  Steve Smith is going to be smothered in the passing game with no other proven receiving options on the roster.  If Lafell can step up prove that he is a big reliable possession receiver he could be a monster sleeper in this years up coming fantasy season.  He could be a red zone target with his size which ups his fantasy value.  He will be available in late rounds and should be taken there.  The only way has to go is up in fantasy value.  He has sleeper written all over him.

9. Sam Bradford-St. Louis Rams

Bradford is an elite talent that came into the draft with some questions considering he missed most of last season with a shoulder injury.  He looks to be healthy and ready to go and he showed that at the combine.  He has all the tools to be a great quarterback in the NFL.  His mental aptitude is comparable to that of Peyton Manning.

There is one major concern about Bradford for the 2010 season and has nothing to do with him.  He is joining the 1-15 Rams.  While the Rams might not want to throw a rookie into the starting lineup on a bad team it looks like they might have to.  There other options are A.J. Feeley, Keith Null, and Mike Reilly.  Bradford looks to be the long term solution and he might have to take the good with the bad this season.

The Rams are rebuilding and you can not expect Bradford to put elite fantasy numbers his rookie season.  The ball is going to be in Steven Jackson’s hands a lot.  Bradford has a weak offensive line and no elite receivers to throw to.  He is will be the second best rookie quarterback in fantasy because he and Clausen might be the only ones with a chance to start.  Watch him throughout the season, he could be a good bye week QB.

10. Aaron Hernandez-New England Patriots

In my opinion Hernandez is the best pass- catching tight end in this year’s draft class.  He is going to bring an immediate receiving threat to the Patriot’s.  He has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Tom Brady who spreads the ball around and will find him if he is open.  This will be very beneficial to Hernandez, his best asset is his ability to run after the catch. 

Hernandez is going to join Alge Crumpler who has turned into more a run-blocking tight end at his age and Gronkowski who was taken two rounds earlier than Hernandez.  I like Hernandez to become the number one pass catching tight end on this team with the departure of Benjamin Watson.  I see Crumpler and Gronkowski to be used on run downs and and tight packages, where Hernandez  can be split out as a receiver and used in red zone situations. 

Hernandez is my sleeper pick in this draft class.  Look for him to be a down field threat that Brady will find if he is open.  I think the Patriots were surprised to find Hernandez in the fourth round and could not pass up on an elite talent.  Hernandez will likely be un drafted in most fantasy drafts for 2010 but look to pick him up.  He has all the tools to put up solid fantasy numbers and the quarterback to get him the ball.   

Honorable Mentions:

Dexter McCluster-Kansas City Chiefs

He joins a backfield of newly acquired Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.  I think the Chiefs will use him as a receiver out of the back field.  He might not get his chances but if there is an injury look for him step up.  I watched him college and he does nothing too special but he has a knack for finding openings and was a stud in college.

Mardy Gilyard-St. Louis Rams

Gilyard does not have elite size or speed but was a very passionate player in college at Connecticut.  He might also be used on special teams as a returner.  Gilyard might get his chance with no elite receivers on the Rams roster.  Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery have shown flashes but nothing consistent.  That could also be because the Rams have not had a reliable O-Line and quarterback.  In any case he will get all the chances to prove himself on a miserable Rams team and could capitalize. 

Jordan Shipley-Cincinnati Bengals

I watched this guy throughout his college career which was about 6 years long.  He is older and experienced and his skill set has Wes Welker written all over it.  Despite what NFL scouts say he is deceptively fast much like Welker.  Scouts say he lacks elite explosion but they have said that about other players of his statue.  He joins OchoCinco and Antonio Bryant which will allow him to fill the slot receiver position which is where he will excel.  He is the epitome of consistency and could make a fantasy impact if he makes out like Wes Welker did at the NFL level.  


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