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- Fantasy Football: Rookies on Offense

Chris Pokorny July 7, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

Tell Chris your opinion.

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How much of an impact do rookies make in fantasy football? If you had someone like wide receiver Marques Colston last season, you may have won your league or improved your record by taking a chance on a guy that showed some potential early on. It's difficult to gauge whether or not rookies will have stellar seasons, especially due to the fact that half of them do not see starting action until mid-way through the season. Like last year's rookie rankings, players will be given a rating between 1-5, with the scale conveniently listed below. If you take a look at last year's ratings, I believe I was spot on for the most part, with the exception of two players: LenDale White and Vernon Davis. In both cases, that was due to personal problems in a way, including Davis' injuries for most of the season.

Ratings System


-: The ultimate player. They have the potential to be within the top five at their position in the entire NFL this year, as well as making the Pro Bowl, or being named the offensive rookie of the year.

-: Will definitely be a starter for their team, or see split-duty if they are a running back, and will perform between an average NFL player and an ultimate player.

-: Will be an average to above-average performer, because they either don't play on the greatest team in the world, or will need some time to develop.

-: They may take over as the starter halfway through the season. Overall, they really won't make that much of an impact.

-: They will see limited playing time, or will not perform well enough to put up anything worthy of a fantasy point.

As a disclaimer, please do not "jump the gun" and assume that each and every rookie will be a steal that should be selected within the first few rounds. When you read the important statistics for some positions, you'll understand why.

Quarterbacks



Important Statistic for QB's: Last season, 20 quarterbacks threw for more yards than Matt Leinart, the top rookie quarterback last season when you take away Vince Young's rushing statistics. 18 quarterbacks threw for more touchdowns than Leinart did. Leinart finished the season with 2547 yards passing, 11 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

-Brady Quinn, Cleveland Browns -
Although they weren't able to show it last season very much, the Browns are better across the board than the Raiders are offensively, which gives Quinn the slight edge over Russell in terms of capability this season. I did not make Quinn a three-star player for this season due to the fact that Browns head coach Romeo Crennel seems likely to try both Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson out as starters before he'd make a switch to Quinn, which would probably be past the half-way point of the season. Quinn was acclimated to Charlie Weis' NFL-like system in college, and should have some moderate success when he does receive his opportunity.

JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders -
This season, the Raiders have a new coach, new systems, and not a whole lot of new additions. The key for Oakland this year will be to become disciplined offensively, which will still take plenty of time to develop. With Andrew Walter being a long shot to start, it seems as if the Raiders will begin the season with veteran Josh McCown at quarterback, much like the Tennessee Titans did last year with Kerry Collins. The Raiders have an extremely difficult schedule and not much of an improved offensive line, meaning McCown shouldn't do a whole lot to keep his job past the half-way point of the season. Once Russell gets in, I'd expect him to take a little more time adjusting to the NFL than Vince Young did. He'll be playing on a lower quality team than Young had, without a veteran coach to guide him.

Troy Smith, Baltimore Ravens -
Although Smith was drafted after several other quarterbacks, his value, while still extremely low this season, is probably third to Quinn and Russell. The Ravens will not bench Steve McNair, but seeing as it's pretty clear that Kyle Boller is not their quarterback of the future anymore, an injury to McNair could easily force Brian Bellick to start the rookie for his mobile presence.

John Beck, Miami Dolphins -
Instead of drafting Quinn, the Dolphins chose to acquire veteran Trent Green and draft Beck. The Dolphins didn't settle for Green; they wanted him. Beck will be extremely lucky to see the field this season, especially with Cleo Lemon ahead of him on the depth chart.

Running Backs



As was seen last season, running backs have the most potential among rookie offensive players. Standouts last year included Reggie Bush, Joseph Addai, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Laurence Maroney. However, all three running backs were featured in two-back systems, with none of them actually being considered the "starter" (with the exception of Addai, who became the starter in the postseason).

Important Statistic for RB's: Bush, Addai, and Jones-Drew finished in the top 13 for fantasy running backs last season, which was tremendous. When drafting rookie running backs, certainly take their "steal" value into consideration.

-Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills -
Although there aren't "clueless" people in every league, it is still stunning to see how far Lynch is falling in some leagues, especially when you consider the statistic I mentioned above. With the Bills letting Willis McGahee go, Lynch is the guy in Buffalo now, and is a threat as both a runner and a receiver. Unlike the running backs from last season, Lynch will not be splitting time with another running back very often, and could grind out a better season than Joseph Addai had last season on the ground.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings -
Peterson may have more potential than Lynch does in the long run, but the Vikings aren't going to slap Chestor Taylor in the face and bench him for no reason. Taylor ran for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns last season, often representing the only form of offense that the team had to offer. Taylor will be the starting tailback heading into the season, and Peterson's carries could be limited early on in the season until the coaches are confident that he's officially "ok" from his injury. The Vikings won't sit on him forever though, and he should still see around the same amount of action that rookie running backs saw last season.

Brandon Jackson, Green Bay Packers -
With the departure of Ahman Green and not being able to select Marshawn Lynch, the Packers settled with Jackson at the end of the second round. The only other serious contender for the starting running back job is Vernand Morency, and even if Morency does win the job, it's highly unlikely that they'd make him the featured back. The Packers will probably rely on Morency early on in the season, though, which lowers Jackson's value slightly. Either way, the Packers' ground game isn't established enough for either man to have a monster season, meaning Jackson shouldn't crack the success of last year's wonders.

Chris Henry, Tennessee Titans -
Right now, it's too difficult to tell how to rank Henry, so I've stuck him at a two. Veteran Travis Henry overachieved big time as the team's starting running back last season, but he is no longer in the mix. The team doesn't seem to have a ton of faith in Chris Brown and LenDale White anymore, but they still have experience over Henry. If things turn out in Henry's favor though, the Titans may decide to start him at some point during the season, which would skyrocket his value to between three and four stars. On the other hand, he could just as easily end up on the bench like White a year ago.

Wide Receivers



As expected, the wide receiver class last season, with the exception of seventh-rounder Marques Colston, was quite weak. That shouldn't be the case this year, at least with one Calvin Johnson.

Important Statistic for WR's: Disregarding the unusual success of Marques Colston last season, there were 35 wide receivers ranked ahead of the next rookie, Santonio Holmes.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions -
Forget the two wide receiver busts by the Detroit Lions - they're poised to have two stars instead of them. With Roy Williams already having a tremendous season last year, Calvin Johnson is set to have an equally exciting year with quarterback Jon Kitna under center. It's not as if the depth ends there, because Mike Furrey can alleviate some pressure off of them still. Johnson has all of the tools to lead the Lions into playoff contention for the first time in a long time, and he's bound to have the biggest impact among rookie receivers this season by far.

-Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts -
One of the major problems with the Colts still lays in their defense. So, for them to select Gonzalez in the first round and not plan to use him would be completely counterproductive. Brandon Stokley was not used by Peyton Manning over the past few years, mostly due to the fact that he was constantly injured. It's not that Manning needs another weapon, because Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark suit him fine, but Gonzalez should have an above average season for your typical slot receiver, worthy of a bench spot on fantasy rosters.

Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints -
Meachem has an opportunity to succeed in New Orleans with the departure of Joe Horn, but don't get caught up over the Saints having a rookie receiver with success last season. Drew Brees needed to find some weapons, and he worked with what he was given. This season, he'll stick with what works, meaning Meachem likely won't receive the same amount of playing time that Colston did. Still, the Saints will find a way to get him into the offense towards the middle of the season.

Ted Ginn Jr, Miami Dolphins -
Speed alone cannot take a receiver to the top of the NFL, but it can still help the Dolphins. Unfortunately, that will not do a whole lot of good for a fantasy team. Until he learns the ropes of being a receiver better, Ginn's role will focus on the creative plays, including reverses, screen plays, occasional deep balls, and kick return duties.

Dwayne Jarrett, Carolina Panthers -
Keyshawn Johnson barely did anything to take pressure off of Steve Smith last year. The Panthers offense needs to execute better before Jarrett can even be inserted into the lineup, which may take awhile.

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs -
In Kansas City, it's the Larry Johnson show. And, despite Damon Huard's success last season, the quarterback position and wide receiver position are still stuck in mediocrity. The chances of Bowe making a weekly contribution are limited.

Craig Davis, San Diego Chargers -
Similar to the Chiefs' situation, it's hard for receivers on the Chargers besides Antonio Gates to score any touchdowns due to the production of LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers aren't deep at receiver, and Davis isn't exactly guaranteed to change that at this point.

Tight Ends



Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears -
With the Bears still needing additional weapons in the receiving game, Olsen should be a welcome newcomer to quarterback Rex Grossman. However, with tight end Desmond Clark on the roster, the distribution between the two will only affect one another's fantasy potential.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders -
Miller will probably win the starting tight end role for the Raiders, but his production will be limited until the offense matures.

Conclusion



Overall, it's still obvious that the only safe position to bank on is at running back. However, there are quite a few one-two star wide receivers this year, and the chances of one of those men having a sleeper season are pretty good, so one of them may be worth a shot if you have room on your bench.

What did you think of these rookie rankings? Did you agree or disagree with them? Did you feel anyone else should have been included on the list? Send us your response using the form below, and your comment will be featured in our next mailbag session!


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