When a fantasy football player prepares for the new year, they have to figure out where to place the incoming rookies into their rankings. As with all other rookie classes, the 2012 class has potential and question marks surrounding some of the players certain to be named in the first couple rounds of the NFL draft this April. I will look at some of those players and try to help you place them in your rankings.
Rarely does a quarterback come into the league and set it on fire like the way Cam Newton did last year. More often than not they struggle a great deal in their first year learning the new systems and realizing how much faster the pro level is compared to the college level. Because the NFL has turned much more into a throwing league, every team is always trying to find the next breakout star at quarterback.
Andrew Luck – Many scouts have stated that Andrew Luck is the best pure quarterback to come out of college since Peyton Manning. Kind of funny when you think about it because he will be replacing Manning as the new starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. The Stanford Cardinal product has all the tools to be an elite player for years in the NFL, but may not have much help surrounding him. He was very accurate in college with a 67% completion rate as a 3-year starter with 82 touchdowns and only 222 interceptions. The Colts are in full rebuilding mode and do not have many offensive weapons. As it stands right now Luck should be considered a backup for Fantasy teams in a redraft format, but a top selection in keeper/dynasty formats. The first couple of years could be tough for him.
Robert Griffin III – The Heisman trophy winner set the college game on fire last year as he set or tied 54 school records for the Baylor Bears. He is 1 of 3 players ever to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 2,000 yards. His performance at the NFL combine also opened up many eyes as he tested really well in several areas. The Rams have traded this pick to the Washington Redskins for 2 first round picks. That is an awful lot to give up for one player. The Redskins have some talent for Griffin to use, especially in 2 Tight End sets with Fred Davis and Chris Cooley. If they can get some talent at Wide Receiver, he might be able to have a decent season. The current Wide Receivers are getting on in years. Griffin might be able to run a little bit, but he is not as big as Newton. As with Luck, he should be a backup player in redraft leagues but near the top in keeper/dynasty formats.
Ryan Tannehill – For someone who started out at wide receiver in college, the Texas A&M product is causing a lot of noise in the NFL community for his promise at the quarterback position. He completed 327 of 531 passes for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns last year. Because of his intangibles as a runner and receiver, many think he could get drafted by mid-point of the 1st round. The Browns, Dolphins, and Seahawks all could consider him when they draft. The situation with Peyton Manning has much to deal with who drafts Tannehill. The wildcat formation was very popular a couple years ago, could Tannehill make it reappear. He should be considered a late round flier in all formats until more can be learned.
The status of running back as the #1 position in fantasy football really took a hit last year. The outstanding years turned in by Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, & Matthew Stafford cast a big shadow over the rest of the league. In addition, the injuries to several star running backs had many second-guessing how to proceed into the future. The injuries to Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, & Darren McFadden caused many headaches for owners and more teams are now going to a committee approach when it comes to Running Back. This year's crop of rookies does have some promise. If you can find one who can be an every-down player, he is well worth having on your Fantasy squad.
Trent Richardson – The stud running back from Alabama has all the looks to be a great running back in the NFL. Many scouts think he is the best product to enter the NFL since Adrian Peterson and we all know what he can do. Last year he had 283 carries for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing and also 338 receiving yards and 3 additional scores for the National Champions. The 2 primary landing spots for him are considered Tampa Bay at #5 or the Cincinnati Bengals at #17. Cincinnati could trade up because they also have the #21 pick. I like his chances of success much more with Cincinnati than Tampa Bay. Cleveland may take a chance on him, but I don't think so. If he is picked at #5, he may have competition with LeGarrett Blount. If Tampa Bay passes, he is all systems go if the Bengals do get him. He would be the lead back on a good offense with weapons at QB, WR, and TE. In that scenario I like Richardson in the 3rd round in redraft formats. He should still go high in all Keeper/Dynasty leagues.
David Wilson – Wilson showed off his jumping skills at the NFL combine as he led all running backs in the vertical jump and broad jump. He also scored the best in the 20 yard shuttle and scored well in the 40 yard dash. That is a good indication that he could be a real playmaker in the NFL. The Virginia Tech Hokie product had 290 carries for 1,709 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. He also showed great receiving skills as a pass catcher and has the potential for much more. Several teams selecting in the second half of the 1st round could pick him up. The Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Steelers, Packers and Patriots could all come knocking on his door. Proceed with caution based upon which team drafts him.
Lamar Miller – Lamar started off last year with five straight 100-yard games on his way to 1,272 yards on 227 carries and 9 touchdowns. That is a 5.60 yard per carry average. He led all running backs at the NFL combine with a 4.40 40 yard dash. That is quick folks. The Miami Hurricane has great vision and has all the tools needed to be a featured back in the NFL. Just like Wilson above, much is based upon the team that drafts him. His speed will make him attractive and will make him a mid-round selection in most drafts.
Doug Martin – Doug Martin from Boise State tested in the top 5 in most categories at the NFL combine and led all running backs with 28 reps at the bench press. No question he has the strength to play at the next level. He had back-to-back 1,200 rushing yard seasons and finished with 617 carries for 3,431 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also had 67 catches for 715 yards and another 4 touchdowns. He also returned kickoffs at a 28.4 yard average. He is in the same league as Wilson and Miller listed above. It is all based upon which team likes whom the most. All have mid-round appeal.