Sophomore Outlook

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Sophomore Outlook

Will last year's rookies improve on their 2011 performances or fade away? Profiled players include Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Cam Newton, and Christian Ponder.

In the college game, coaches always say the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. In many cases the same thing is true in the NFL. Last year's NFL campaign seemed to be full of rookies making an impact. And that made a big difference in every fantasy football league in the nation. So which players will break out during their sophomore seasons and which will be in for the dreaded sophomore slump?

Despite not being drafted in the first round, Dalton played like a first round QB leading the Bengals to the playoffs in his first season. Dalton threw for over 3300 yards and 20 touchdowns in his rookie season, building a great rapport with fellow rookie AJ Green. As long as the 2 of them are playing together, Dalton should be able to put up solid numbers and the Bengals should be competitive. Dalton should be ranked between 12-15 for QBs.

Gabbert had a very unspectacular rookie season and despite the additions of rookie Justin Blackmon and veteran Lee Evans, I don't see Gabbert being a viable fantasy option this season. At best he can be a bye week fill in depending on the match-up, but that might even be a stretch. Better yet, he might be worth stashing in keeper leagues.

Locker has tons of upside, but at this point in the off season there are many question marks surrounding him. He is in a battle with veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job. There is uncertainty with the receiver position and we can't say for sure which Chris Johnson we will see in 2012. Locker has a promising future, but I don't see him being a fantasy option this season. His real value might be in a keeper league.

Newton had one of the most amazing fantasy seasons a rookie ever had -- passing for over 4000 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for over 700 yards and a whopping 14 rushing touchdowns. While I won't be surprised if he surpasses the 4000 yard mark and increases his touchdown passes, I would be surprised if he rushes for 14 touchdowns again this season. Look for the Panthers to try and limit their franchise QB wear and tear by taking away some of those goal line carries he ran so well to score many of his touchdowns. All that to say, Newton should still be considered a top 5 or 6 fantasy QB, right up there with the likes of Rogers, Brees and Brady to name a few.

Ponder didn't have a great rookie season like some of the other QBs, playing in only parts of 11 games, passing for 1853 yards while throwing for only 13 touchdowns as well as 13 interceptions. I would stay away from drafting Ponder, even in keeper leagues. The Vikings have a questionable OL, they are weak at WR. Plenty of other QBs to draft ahead of Ponder.

Helu had an up and down rookie season as he tried to get used to the pounding NFL running backs take. He dressed for 15 games and rushed for 640 yards, despite not being used very much in many games. He did catch 49 passes, proving his value as a receiver out of the backfield. Helu isn't a very big back so look for the Redskins to try and pair him with another back so as to not let him get beaten down by season's end. Helu's value increases in PPR leagues. Look to draft him in the mid rounds as he should have no problem gaining over 1000 total yards.

Ingram had a solid start to his rookie year before having his season shut down after 10 games. In terms of fantasy, Ingram's biggest issue is that he will be splitting his carries with at least 2 other running backs, making him tough to start on a week to week basis as long as all the running backs are healthy. Best bet is probably to let someone else draft him.