Fantasy Football Top Ten Rookies for 2012 – July 21, 2012

It is always difficult to accurately predict and project the performances of rookies within the context of fantasy football leagues.  A player’s performance in college does not always translate into the NFL.  There are also other factors to consider such as teams’ roster depth, playing time, and injuries.  But after what Cam Newton accomplished in 2011, there is more reason to believe that rookies can make major impacts in their inaugural season.

Let’s take a look at ten of this year’s rookies most likely to be a major factor in fantasy football leagues.

1. Trent Richardson (RB-CLE).  Of all the rookies who will get significant playing time, Trent Richardson has the best chance of making a major impact in terms of fantasy value.  He instantly becomes the Cleveland Browns starting running back and top offensive weapon.  Richardson has said that he intends on doing everything and staying on the field regardless of the situation.  Cleveland’s alternatives in the backfield should help keep Richardson out there for a majority of the game, including goal line situations.  He is already a top ten running back and a serious option for a first round pick.

2. Robert Griffin, III (QB-WAS).  The Redskins have already named Robert Griffin, III their starting quarterback.  He has been working extremely hard this summer getting ready and learning the offense.  It may be unfair to expect results similar to what Cam Newton did in 2011, but he certainly has the talent to make it a possibility.  With Mike Shanahan at the helm, the Redskins will rely heavily on a ground attack to help open the passing lanes for Griffin.  He should be viewed as a backup fantasy quarterback for now.  Don’t bite too early on him unless you are in a dynasty league.

3. Justin Blackmon (WR-JAX).  After getting off to a shaky start to his professional career with a DUI, Jaguars’ rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon has righted the ship by impressing his coaches and teammates during last month’s mini-camp.  Blackmon will be Jacksonville’s primary receiver and get most of the targets from Blaine Gabbert.  While opposing secondaries will likely double-team him, Blackmon has tremendous size and speed to overcome that coverage.  He should be viewed as a mid-round fantasy pick based on a learning curve and Gabbert’s anticipated struggles.

4. Doug Martin (RB-TB).  Tampa Bay’s new head coach Greg Schiano has indicated he wants to focus on the ground game and have a featured back as opposed to a committee.  Doug Martin appears to be the favorite to become that player as he has impressed his coaches during OTA practices.  The acquisition of wide receiver Vincent Jackson should also help open up the running game as opposing defenses won’t necessarily be able to stack the box with an extra safety.  Martin is a mid-round pick and can serve as your fantasy team’s RB2 if he does indeed win the starting job as he is expected to.

5. Andrew Luck (QB-IND).  The first overall pick of the 2012 draft and Peyton Manning’s successor finally signed his four year/$22M contract.  Luck will take over a Colts team that is starting over from scratch.  He will play, but do not expect much success in his first year.  Remember, Manning was 1-15 in his rookie year.  Luck has all of the skills necessary to become an elite fantasy quarterback, but it will not happen right away.  He is a low end QB2, but his draft value is much higher in dynasty leagues. 

6. David Wilson (RB-NYG).  Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese has proven he knows what he is doing when he drafts.  Since 2007, almost all of his draft picks have made a big impact on the team right away.  David Wilson is no exception as he becomes the Super Bowl champion’s back-up running back to Ahmad Bradshaw.  Bradshaw typically misses a few games each year with injuries, and the Giants will want to protect him and keep him healthy as long as they can.  This means Wilson should see a fair share of touches each game.  With a dynamic passing attack, the Giants should be able to build on their porous running game from last year.  View Wilson initially as a RB3 or RB4 in deep leagues and wait until after Round 10 to take him.

7. Michael Floyd (WR-ARZ).  The former Notre Dame standout attended teammate Larry Fitzgerald’s summer camp this week.  Fitzgerald has taken an interest in Floyd’s development which bodes well for him.  Arizona’s problem will be whether their quarterbacks can get the ball downfield.  Fitzgerald always commands a double-team which should leave single coverage on Floyd.  He isn’t in the same category as other top young receivers like Justin Blackmon, but Floyd could still be a useful WR3 in many fantasy formats. 

8. Rueben Randle (WR-NYG).  After losing Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham to free agency, the Giants once again turned to the draft to replenish the roster.  Enter Rueben Randle, a second round draft pick who should see plenty of snaps during the pre-season with Eli Manning and the first team offense.  With Hakeem Nicks recovering from surgery, Randle should get an opportunity to develop a rapport with Manning and be in line for the Giants’ third wide receiver slot.  If he does crack the starting lineup, he will unquestionably have single coverage due to opposing defenses trying to cover Nicks and Victor Cruz.  Randle is worth a late round gamble in most fantasy drafts.

9. Brandon Weedon (QB-CLE).  As part of Cleveland’s rebuilding process, they will be relying on 27-year old rookie quarterback Brandon Weedon out of Oklahoma State.  Weedon is all but assured the starting job over Colt McCoy and he should ease into that role thanks in part to his age.  However, he will be dealing with NFL defenses and a mediocre receiving core.  The Browns will dedicate a majority of their offense to establishing fellow rookie Trent Richardson, so Weedon should ideally not be throwing more than 25 times a game.  He is a low end back-up fantasy quarterback motivated by the goal of not becoming Chris Weinke.

10. Ronnie Hillman (RB-DEN).  Broncos’ rookie Ronnie Hillman is the second running back from San Diego State that Peyton Manning has had the opportunity to play with.  The other one is some guy named Marshall Faulk.  That is not to say Hillman compares to Faulk, but Denver is high on him and he should be able to make an impact sooner than later.  While the Broncos also have Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno in the backfield, Hillman is much younger and healthier.  If Hillman proves he can catch the ball, he could be very valuable in PPR leagues since Peyton Manning is there.  View Hillman is a late round pick in fantasy drafts, but much higher in dynasty leagues because he will become the primary running back going forward.

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