With the first three rounds of the NFL Draft in the books, fantasy football fans are salivating at the prospects. Very few will be standard league material, but dynasty and keeper leagues could find long term value here.
ROUNDS 1-3 FANTASY ROOKIE PROSPECTS
ANDREW LUCK- QB, Indianapolis Colts
The top selection may have come as no surprise, but don’t be surprised if he fails to live up to the hype in year one. Standard re-draft leagues should view him as a great reserve with upside. In other keeper formats, sky will be the limit. Luck and the Colts are in the middle of the pack in terms of 2012 strength of schedule. Though he does start off against some of the weaker secondaries, several of his games will be against top ten pass defenses. Luck’s weapons also leave much to be desired. Reggie Wayne is a year older and the likes of Donnie Avery, Blair White and Austin Collie don’t invoke thoughts of a team which can stretch the field. Combined with no true #1 back and only rookie tight end Coby Fleener to serve as his safety valve, Luck could find himself lacking his namesake.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III- QB, Washington Redskins
Griffin could find himself providing the biggest contribution of all rookies in the 2012 season. Skins owner Dan Snyder sold the farm to ensureGriffin’s selection, but also ensured he would have the tools to succeed. Adding to the likes of Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, proven contributors Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan were singed during free agency. Among rookie quarterbacks,Griffinhas the most tools in place to ensure his road is not as bumpy year one.
TRENT RICHARDSON- RB, Cleveland Browns
Richardson immediately steps in as the work horse for a team in desperate need of one. His ability to catch out of the backfield will help either Brandon Weeden or Colt McCoy, while seeing plenty of carries to satisfy his hunger.Richardson only faces seven games against top ten rush defenses in 2012, while squaring off against the bottom of the barrel for the rest. His workload, talent and durability set Richardson up to be the among the top rookie fantasy scorers. The one big drawback is if he will see the red zone enough to reach his potential. Though he will have RB #1 potential, he is safer as a RB #2.
JUSTIN BLACKMON- WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars believe they have finally found the answer at wide receiver in Blackmon. His speed, range and ability to perform when the pressure is on pushed the Jags to jump up and select him 5th overall. Blackmon has all the tools to succeed personally, but the bigger issue is if Blaine Gabbert can improve on a poor freshman season. Blackmon will see plenty of single coverage as defenses choose to focus on Laurent Robinson, Marcedes Lewis and MJD. Gabbert will be the key, so as Gabbert goes, so will Blackmon’s value. Expecting anything more than Flex type scoring would be a stretch for Blackmon this year.
RYAN TANNEHILL- QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins had flirted with multiple quarterbacks leading up to the draft, a statement of their uneasiness about Matt Moore. Though Tannehill was the 8th overall pick, his status as a week one starter is far from guaranteed. The Dolphins also signed quarterback David Gerrard, making it a three man competition for the starting job come training camp. With Davone Bess and Brian Hartline as the Dolphins primary weapons, none of the quarterbacks can be expected to produce at an elite level.
MICHAEL FLOYD- WR, Arizona Cardinals
Still trying to find a replacement for Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals jumped on the second most prized WR in Floyd. Though Floyd is likely to compete for a starting job, Early Doucet finally came of age last season, scoring 5 touchdowns on 689 yards. Doucet could move to the slot position, but unless Floyd blows Roberts out of the water, his looks could be spotty. At best, Floyd overtakes all other options and becomes the check down after Fitzgerald. At worst, Floyd could be option #3 behind Fitzgerald, Doucet and Heap. None of this takes into account a quarterback position far from secure. Floyd is worth a late round selection, but could wind up wasting away on your roster until he cements himself atop the depth chart.
KENDALL WRIGHT- WR, Tennessee Titans
Wright has great upside, but will be limited in his efforts. Expect him to be buried behind Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Damian Williams. In fact, the drafting of Wright totals ten wide receivers currently on the Titans roster at this point. Wright will most likely be a project and the Titans should be expected to make a return commitment to the run game. Wright will most likely be a waiver wire pick up in times of need.
BRANDON WEEDEN- QB, Cleveland Browns
The organizations has been saying all the right things about Colt McCoy as of late, but then turned and drafted the 28 year old rookie. Ironically, his age may help him gain the starting job. McCoy has failed to deliver despite his pedigree and Weeden comes with a possible short shelf life. If he has a solid camp, the gig will all but be his. The issue at hand is will he be able to turn around one of the league’s worst scoring offenses? Trent Richardson will help his cause, but Greg Little remains as the only viable passing option. Don’t expect the scheme to change much in Cleveland, whom will be focused on running the ball and supplementing with the pass. Pass is what most fantasy owners should do on Weeden until we see him produce.
A.J. JENKINS- WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jenkins should be considered the second most valuable rookie wide receiver behind Blackmon. Unlike Floyd and Wright, Jenkins has a legitimate shot to take over as the team’s #1 WR. Michael Crabtree continues to be inconsistent and plagued by injury, forcing the team to use Vernon Davis as their primary passing threat throughout last year’s the playoffs. Mario Manningham never really broke out in New York, getting passed up by Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Jenkins has the speed to provide a deep threat the team has lacked. That said, he is still option #3 at best behind Gore and Davis. Harbaugh will have to feel extremely comfortable with Jenkins before turning Alex Smith loose. It will be best to take a wait and see approach with Jenkins until the final depth chart comes out. If he winds up as WR #3 on the list, it could be only a matter of time until he starts taking reps from Crabtree and Manningham. If that is the case, Jenkins has nice sleeper value.
DOUG MARTIN- RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin is a player who could go largely unnoticed due to the team he plays for and the shadow Trent Richardson casted over all other drafted running backs. Coach Greg Schiano and the Bucs have not been content with Legarrette Blount’s long term value since day one. Martin is considered and every down back and will be a lock to receive at minimum the lion’s share of 3rd down reps. Given Blount’s struggles at the goal line, Martin will also see plenty of red zone touches as well. Moving the ball vertically should not be an issue for the Bucs this year, so you can expect them to improve drastically in their red zone opportunities. Doug Martin will at worst be a solid flex option with RB #1 potential. He will be one of the few players with more value than where owners select him.
DAVID WILSON- RB, New York Giants
Predicting what role Wilson will play with the Giants initially is a bit of a challenge. With Brandon Jacobs gone and Ahmad Bradshaw facing ankle issues the last two seasons,Wilson falls into line with the other Giants backs. Like D.J. Ware and Andre Brown,Wilson relies on his speed and ability to catch out of the backfield. Overtaking one of the two may not present an issue, but if Bradshaw stays healthy, his touches will be severely limited. His value will be higher as a reserve in keeper and dynasty leagues if you have the roster room to wait Bradshaw out.
BRIAN QUICK- WR, St. Louis Rams
With possibly the greatest last name for a wide receiver, Quick was taken by Jeff Fisher and the Rams. Fisher has always had a run first mentality and that is likely not to change. Now that the Rams have both Steven Jackson and rookie Isaiah Pead, the pass game will be secondary. Still, Quick will be part of a under-achieving wide receivers corps. Outside of Steve Smith, there really isn’t a lock on the roster. Quick will have his chance to cement himself as a starter this year. Where Quick carries the most value is in the red zone. With defenses certain to shift focus on Jackson in the red zone, Quick provides a big target Sam Bradford can depend on. For that reason alone, Quick could develop into a nice flex player.
COBY FLEENER- TE, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener is likely to be a starter on opening day, joining Andrew Luck in what should be a lifetime friendship. The two have spent their college career together and now move on to the pro’s together. The Colts have taken a similar strategy along the lines of Peyton Manning’s arrival to the team. Like the Manning/Clark connection, there is no reason to deny a similar connection between Luck and Fleener. While neither player should be an expected lock in year one, keeper leagues will be crawling over one another to select both players. Fleener holds great value as a late round pick in standard leagues due to the Colts weak run options and the prospect of playing from behind. Fleener will get his share of looks and is a sure bet to see plenty of red zone targets. For that reason, Fleener is a good option as a starter for those of you who tend to wait on a tight end until the later rounds.
STEPHEN HILL- WR, New York Jets
The Jets thought enough of Hill to move up and draft him, filling a hole at the wide receiver position. With Santonio Holmes as the only day one guaranteed starter, Hill should be in the lineup opposite from day one. Chaz Schilens has been plagued by injury throughout his career, one which seems to be on the downside. By selecting Hill, the Jets seem to acknowledge that fact. Hill will be a big red zone target for Sanchez, who tended to look towards Plaxico during those situations. If the two can build a rapport early, Hill’s upside deserves consideration as a flex option.
ALSHON JEFFEREY- WR, Chicago Bears
Jefferey was considered quite the stretch once the Bears made the decision to select him. Bears GM Phil Emery spoke of Jefferey as if he was the surest pick in the draft, reportedly stating he had “the best hands in the draft”. While that may be the case, Brandon Marshall and Cutler pal Earl Bennett will still take the majority of the looks. Jefferey was considered by most to be a “project” at the next level, but the Bears apparently think otherwise. Jefferey should not even be on your radar unless Marshall faces discipline legally or by the league for his involvement in an alleged night club fight just before he was traded to the Bears.
ISAIAH PEAD- RB, St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher likes to run the ball. He will have plenty of opportunity to do so after selecting the speedy Pead from Cincinnati. Steven Jackson is already a capable work horse and Pead will instantly come in as a change of pace/ relief back. Pead was a largely unknown prospect until his Senior Bowl showing in which he was named MVP of the game. Due to Jackson’s hard nosed style, Pead is a must handcuff for all Jackson owners.
RYAN BROYLES- WR, Detroit Lions
The selection of Broyles was a look towards the future for the Lions. He will likely not see the field enough in year one or two to make any significant impact fantasy wise. Even in dynasty leagues, Broyles is best forgotten until he makes you remember him.
BROCK OSWEILER- QB, Denver Broncos
One name…Peyton Manning. It will be a double edged sword for Osweiler’s fantasy value in 2012 and beyond. By coming in as the heir apparent to learn under the living legend, Osweiler also faces the potential of starting quickly. All of it will depend on Manning’s health or lack thereof. If you choose to take the risk and make Peyton your starter, Osweiler should be the handcuff over Caleb Haine in dynasty leagues. Friends with John Elway’s son, Osweiler has been a willing learner from the Hall of Fame quarterback and has all the intangibles to be successful in the NFL.
LAMICHAEL JAMES- RB, San Francisco 49ers
In terms of playing time and fantasy value, James couldn’t have been selected by a worse team. Frank Gore already commands nearly all the touches and when healthy, rarely leaves the field. Kendall Hunter seems to be the first option behind Gore after showing nice flashes in relief of Gore towards the end of last season. James was already considered a specialty back, so his lack of versatility and bulk will keep him from getting reps unless Gore goes down with injury. Even then, James is a player you can do without.
RUEBEN RANDLE- WR, New York Giants
It took Victor Cruz several seasons to crack Tom Coughlin’s lineup despite stellar pre-season performances. Expect Randle to pay his dues and possibly wind up on the practice squad. Randle still has much to learn in order to compete on the next level, but is with the right team to develop his skills.
MICHAEL EGNEW- TE, Miami Dolphins
Like Coby Fleener, Egnew should see himself in the starting lineup opening day. He is far more of a threat receiving than incumbent Anthony Fasano, though Fasano is the better all around player. With questions on who will be the week one quarterback and a lack of a true #1 wideout, Egnew could possibly see himself become a Marcedes Lewis type of producer for the Dolphins. Egnew will carry great value as a TE #2/bye week fill in.
MOHAMED SANU- WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have proven they are not timid on throwing their rookies into immediate action. With Jerome Simpson now in Minnesota, Sanu will have ample opportunity to become the possession receiver across from A.J. Green. Andy Dalton should make big improvement on his surprise rookie season and will make use of Sanu’s solid route running and hands. Presuming he does win the role, Sanu is a good option for depth on your roster due to the time he will see on the field. In dynasty leagues, it would not be a surprise to see Sanu pay dividends as early as year two. He has the potential to play T. J. Houshmenzadeh to Green’s “Chad Johnson”.