Fantasy Football Rookie Report Card: Mike Williams, Aaron Hernandez Receive A's

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent INovember 13, 2010

Fantasy Football Rookie Report Card: Mike Williams, Aaron Hernandez Receive A's

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    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 31:  Mike Williams #19 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a catch against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 31, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    If you liked the talent coming out of college and stocked your fantasy football roster with a lot of rookies this year, chances are your team’s playoff prospects are about as good as the Buffalo Bills’.  

    Life is hard when you are an NFL rookie.  You have to catch up during training camp if you held out.  You have to learn a new playbook and adjust to the faster speed of the pro game.  And sometimes you have to carry the shoulder pads and pick up the dinner tab for a player much less talented than you are, like Dallas’ Roy Williams.

    No wonder rookies have been having a hard time putting up points for their fantasy owners this season.  Many of the first-round picks have struggled mightily, especially at running back, which is probably the easiest of the skilled positions for a rookie to play and produce immediately.

    Here is a look at 11 of fantasy football’s most notable rookies—what they have and have not done during their opening season and what their grades are at the halfway point.  

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 31:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the game against the Tennessee Titans at Qualcomm Stadium on October 31, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Im
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    382 rushing yards, 92 receiving yards, 2 TDs.  

    Looks like Mathews graduated from the Matthew Stafford School of Fragility.  Mathews has been battling a nagging ankle injury throughout the season.  Just when it appeared he had finally overcome it and was on his way to a 100-yard game against the Houston Texans, he sprained his ankle for the 50th time.  Thank goodness Philip Rivers and the Chargers do not need a healthy Mathews (or healthy receivers for that matter) to score points.

    Mathews was drafted within the first three rounds in many, if not most fantasy leagues, but battering ram Mike Tolbert has been the better fantasy option so far.  
    Grade: C

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  CJ Spiller #21 of the Buffalo Bills runs away from Karlos Dansby #58 of the Miami Dolphins during the NFL season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Miami won 15-10. (Photo by R
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    150 rushing yards, 81 receiving yards, 0 TD

    The path to fantasy football stardom seemed to be paved perfectly for Spiller at the start of the season.  Fred Jackson had a broken hand and Marshawn Lynch was both banged up and being dangled as trade bait.  So Spiller proceeded to run for six yards on seven carries during an opening-week debacle against the Miami Dolphins, and things have not gotten much better for him since.  

    Spiller has not received more than seven carries in any game yet.  Earth to Buffalo—your team is winless and is not exactly overflowing with offensive talent.  Get the ball in this kid’s hands!

    Grade: F 

Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions

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    DETROIT - OCTOBER 10: Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions looks for running room after getting past Craig Dahl #43 of the St. Louis Rams on October 10, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 44-6. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Ima
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    345 rushing yards, 356 receiving yards, 5 TDs

    Best busted out of the blocks like Edwin Moses during his hurdling days.  Fantasy owners salivated as the multi-talented, multi-dimensional Best racked up five touchdowns over the first two weeks.  Unfortunately, he has not found the end zone since, so somebody better buy him a compass for the holidays.

    A toe injury has sapped some explosiveness from Best, hence the 3.2 yards per carry. However, fantasy owners are loving the extra points he gives them because of all the catches he makes out of the backfield.  

    Grade: B+  

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

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    ST. LOUIS - OCTOBER 31: Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams looks to pass against Eric Norwood #92 of the Carolina Panthers at the Edward Jones Dome on October 31, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Panthers 20-10.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwana
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    1,674 passing yards, 11 TD, 8 INT

    Bradford has outgrown the constant shoulder injuries that marred his final season at Oklahoma and has overcome throwing to the youngest set of receivers in the NFL to become a solid quarterback option for fantasy owners. 

    He sure does not look like another flop a la Ryan Leaf or Tim Couch.  

    Grade: B+

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07:  Mike Williams #19 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulls in this reception against Brent Grimes #20 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    36 receptions, 559 yards, 5 TDs

    Williams only slipped during the NFL draft because of his countless attitude and off-field problems during his college career. 

    This lanky wideout can turn a 5-yard slant into a 50-yard touchdown and has all the tools to be a perennial Pro Bowler.  Williams is on pace to have a 1,000-yard year and should continue hooking up on touchdown tosses with Josh Freeman.   

    Grade: A

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 24:  Aaron Hernandez #85 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Eric Weddle #32 of the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 24, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    34 receptions, 436 yards, 2 TDs

    Wes Welker might be able to kick extra points, but Hernandez has been the one cushioning the blow of losing Randy Moss. 

    Hernandez is now the one racking up the 20-yard-plus plays and has quickly become one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets.  Look for him to finish in the top 5 at tight end at season’s end.   
    Grade: A-

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a touchdown catch against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 45-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Get
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    38 receptions, 435 yards, 4 TDs

    He might refuse to carry Roy Williams’ pads, but Bryant is one of the few Cowboys refusing to give up as the team slips into the depths of despair.  His combination of speed, size, and leaping ability make him arguably the most dangerous rookie in the NFL. 

    If you own him in a keeper league, by all means pencil him in as part of your 2011 squad.  

    Grade: B

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos

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    DENVER - OCTOBER 17:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos runs for a touchdown against the New York Jets at INVESCO Field at Mile High on October 17, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    26 rushing yards, 0 passing yards, 2 TDs

    Are you excited about Tebow penning an  inspirational book?  Fantasy football owners would be more excited about Tebow turning into a Gerald Riggs-like short-yardage back who scores once a week.  But everything has gone against Tebow. 

    Kyle Orton is throwing like John Elway; the Broncos have one of the worst offensive lines in the league; and Tebow is being brought along at a turtle’s pace.  His fantasy worth is virtually nil.  

    Grade: D

Jimmy Clausen, Carolina Panthers

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 10: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers passes the ball against the Chicago Bears at Bank of America Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    501 passing yards, 1 TD, 4 INT

    Do we have another Rick Mirer on our hands here? 

    Clausen has looked lost when he has been called upon to start for the injury-riddled Matt Moore and has quarterbacked about as poorly as any signal caller in the NFL.  His 46.8 completion percentage is downright laughable.  This rook has a lot to learn.     

    Grade: F

Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on in the second half against the New England Patriots during the NFL season opener on September 12, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeate
    Elsa/Getty Images

    31 receptions, 212 yards, 2 TDs

    Gresham was supposed to be a big-play tight end, yet he is averaging a paltry 6.8 yards per catch.  The top tight end taken in this year’s draft has been working the underneath routes while Terrell Owens puts up bombastic numbers down the field. 

    Gresham’s fantasy value will improve in the coming years as he could be another Antonio Gates, but for now he should not be used in fantasy lineups.    

    Grade: C

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26:  Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos battles in the air with cornerback Kelvin Hayden #26 of the Indianapolis Colts during NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    16 receptions, 215 yards, 2 TDs

    Thomas landed on millions of fantasy radars after his scintillating 97-yard effort in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.  In that game, he caught eight passes.  In the six games since, he has caught eight passes combined. He has not been on the field or been targeted as much as Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney during that span. 

    Thomas has more talent than the cast of Glee, so let’s hope he re-emerges from hiding in the second half of the season.  

    Grade: C-