Power Rankings: Top 15 Fantasy Football Rookies in 2012
Power Rankings: Top 15 Fantasy Football Rookies
When fantasy football GM's are preparing for their league drafts, there are always questions that arise regarding rookies. Not only do you have to determine when it's right for you to draft a rookie, you have to wonder if you can trust that rookie throughout a 16 game professional season. Still, there is no better way to gain an edge on your opponents than selecting rookies who can produce almost instantly.
Last year, we saw some great fantasy performances from rookies such as Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, and Dallas Cowboys RB Demarco Murray. Newton was the more obvious pick for a solid fantasy season because of his #1 overall status. Murray sort of just came along as the season progressed, and that's why it's hard to determine if a rookie will make an immediate impact, or quietly burst onto the scene, creating a frenzy on the waiver wire.
There are many rookies that have made an impact on their team and on fantasy owner's rosters this season, but there are 15 that stand out in particular. These 15 players have done just enough statistically, to be considered fantasy-worthy. Some may have been drafted early, some maybe not at all in your leagues, rather being free agents to start the season, but then quickly taken off the wire by someone in your league.
Some rookies were high draft picks, so there instant success shouldn't come as that big of a surprise, but some have come onto the fantasy scene without much notice. These type of players can make or break your fantasy season, and that's why it's so important to consider your options before taking a chance on an unproven rookie. Then again, some of us out there have benefited greatly, by taking chances on the unknown. With only a few games left in the regular season, let's take a look at the top 15 rookies who have had the greatest fantasy football impact in 2012.
15. QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill hasn't knocked anyone off their feet with his numbers in his rookie season, but he certainly has made an impact. The Miami Dolphins organization has struggled with the quarterback situation ever since a guy named Dan Marino retried. Now the young kid from Texas is making a name for himself and taking a few spot in the Dolphins record books.
Through 11 games, Tannehill has thrown for 2,373 yards, seven touchdowns, and eleven interceptions. He has a QB rating of 72.9 which isn't great, but it's not all that bad either. In fact, the 2,373 passing yards he has thrown, breaks Dan Marino's rookie record of 2,210 yards. Marino accomplished this feat in only eleven games in which he only started nine of them.
Now, I'm not saying we should start the Tannehill comparisons to a hall of fame player like Dan Marino, but Tannehill has done enough to warrant a consideration as an impact rookie. Ryan has completed roughly 58% of his passes, and racking up nearly 7 yards a pass. Many predicted Tannehill as an NFL bust who the Dolphins drafted far too early, but he's proving his critics wrong. While he might not be worth a slot in your fantasy team's starting lineup at the moment, I think that will change come 2013.
14. WR Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams
Chris Givens was selected in the 4th round, 96th overall, in the 2012 draft. He hasn't exploded onto the fantasy scene just yet, but he has shown signs of promise this season, especially as of late. Givens has three total touchdowns on the season, and he only has eclipsed the 100 yard mark once this season.
Still, Givens has shown enough potential to be considered a top 15 rookie. He has set an NFL record with four straight games where he had a reception of 50+ yards. Givens has a total of only 22 receptions on the season, and has totaled 467 receiving yards. The low reception count is a little deceiving as Givens has proved himself as the Rams only deep threat. With Danny Amendola in control of the slot duties, Givens has finally supplied the Rams with another option in the offense.
With 69 standard fantasy points, Givens ranks 48th at his position. It might not be eye-popping numbers by any means, but that's good enough to warrant him a spot on this list as he's clearly made an impact.
13. WR Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Kendall Wright was the 20th selection in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Baylor University. Wright is a speedy receiver who's stock continues to rise in the Titans offense. Kendall has 48 receptions for 438 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season.
With Kenny Britt struggling mightily in 2012, Wright has climbed up the depth chart, and is now the second most productive receiver in Tennessee right behind veteran Nate Washington. It's only a matter of time before Wright takes over the reigns in Tennessee as there really isn't much competition after Washington and Britt.
Wright has scored 60 standard fantasy points this season and ranks 57th on the WR board. These might not be eye-popping numbers, but the potential is certainly there. He could be considered a WR3 in deep leagues, but the fact remains that Wright has been involved in this offense almost every game this season, and he should only improve with time.
12. QB Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Brandon Weeden was the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He's a 29 year old rookie who has struggled, but has also flashed potential at times. In the NFL, it's all about the record, and the 3-8 record the Browns currently hold is nothing to write home about. To be fair though, the Browns have been in a handful of close games this season, and they do look much better than they have in recent years.Weeden has thrown for 2,456 yards and twelve touchdowns this season. He has also thrown thirteen interceptions which has hurt his QB rating, which currently stands at 70.9. Brandon ranks 24th at the QB position in terms of fantasy production. He has tallied 173 standard fantasy points, and he ranks higher than players like Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler and San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith.
Weeden is not starter-worthy on your fantasy team, but when the 2012 season is complete, he may end up with somewhere around 20 total touchdowns, which is impressive for a rookie no matter how you look at it. It's the turnovers that have hampered with Weeden's value, and if he can correct this heading into his sophomore season, along with his accuracy, Weeden could possibly end up a top 15 fantasy quarterback by the start of next season. Might sound a little far-fetched, but with his receiving core, you have to give Weeden a break. Once he has some actual targets he can rely on, you can't put this season's failures all on Weeden's shoulders.
11. WR Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
If you watched Oklahoma State football last year, then you certainly know who Justin Blackmon is. Drafted 5th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Blackmon looked like a major bust through the first half of the season. He failed to record a touchdown, and was only averaging 3.2 fantasy points a game.
Hate to point fingers, but the lack of production was not all Blackmon's fault. His quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, might be one of the worst QBs we have seen in years. Thanks to a season-ending shoulder injury, QB Chad Henne has gotten the nod in Jacksonville as the starting QB.
The change of quarterbacks has boosted Blackmon's value tremendously over the second half of the season. Justin has three touchdowns on the year, all of them coming in the last four weeks. He has 38 receptions for 548 yards, and has increased his fantasy output to 7 fantasy points per game.
Blackmon flashed his potential that he showed so often at Oklahoma State in week 11 against the Houston Texans. He hauled in seven balls for a massive 236 receiving yards and one touchdown. Blackmon has now recorded 58 fantasy points through the last four weeks. With no running game in Jacksonville, Blackmon should continue to be fed by Henne. Blackmon owners should look forward to the final five games of the season, as he should continue his positive output on the field.
10. RB Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Look, Vick Ballard has only reached the end zone once this year, and it wasn't even a rushing touchdown. He does have 427 rushing yards on only 118 carries and 11 receptions for 112 receiving yards. That's 539 total yards for the 170th overall pick in the 2012 draft, and most likely a free agent to start the season in most of your fantasy leagues.
Donald Brown was supposed to be the featured back in this offense, but his lingering knee injury paved the way for Ballard to prove his worth. The 539 total yards by Ballard are impressive to me because he never even received more than 8 carries through the first six weeks of the season.
Brown has scored 37 standard fantasy points the past five weeks, and while those aren't the most impressive numbers, he still holds value. Being the 170th pick in the draft, nobody expected Vick Ballard to outscore backs such as Dallas Cowboys Demarco Murray or Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams, did we?
9. WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Browns QB Brandon Weeden had already made this list, and if he did, then it's only right that Josh Gordon makes the list as well. Gordon has only caught 28 balls this season, but he has made everyone one count. His 530 receiving yards give him an average of 18.3 yards per catch. He also has four touchdowns on the season.
Gordon's 78 standard fantasy points currently has him ranked 39th at the WR position. He was a Supplemental Draft pick by the Browns in 2012. His fantasy performance surprisingly outweighs players such as Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, and New England Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd. There's no way anybody thought that Gordon would make an impact like this, and for that, he rightfully deserves to be on this list.
8. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson wasn't even expected to be named the starter when he was drafted earlier this year. After all, the Seahawks did give QB Matt Flynn somewhere around $8 million to be their quarterback this season.
Now, with nearly 75% of the regular season played, Wilson is just outside of the top 20 rankings at the quarterback position, and has been fantasy relevant from the start. He's not putting up QB1 numbers just yet, but he has thrown for 2,000+ yards and seventeen touchdowns through 12 weeks of football. Wilson also has the ability to use his feet, gaining 227 rushing yards on 57 carries.
Wilson has a completion rate of 63.6%, and he's currently boasting a QB Rating of 93.9. He has totaled 197 standard fantasy points, better than players like Mike Vick and Jay Cutler. And we all know nobody drafted Wilson ahead of either of these guys. With a stingy defense, and a solid running game with Marshawn Lynch, Wilson doesn't need to put up Drew Brees-type numbers in Seattle, but he's clearly made an impact on the team and in fantasy leagues. He will only get better moving forward.
7. K Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Putting a kicker on the list is never an exciting thing to write about, but Justin Tucker has been outstanding this season. Undrafted out of Texas, nobody really knew what to expect out of Tucker from a fantasy standpoint.
Well, twelve weeks later, Tucker currently stands as the 4th-most productive kicker in fantasy football. He has amassed 106 standard fantasy points by successfully making 22 of his 24 field goal attempts. His two misses came from 40+ yards out, and he is a perfect 29-29 kicking extra points.
Not too mention Tucker has hit some big field goals for the Ravens this year, including two last week, late in regulation and in overtime for the win against the San Diego Chargers. The funny thing about all this, Tucker is only owned in 61% of all ESPN leagues despite being the 4th ranked kicker in football. Some are showing the respect he deserves, but Tucker should get more praise for his outstanding rookie season. Keep an eye on him going into next year, he might be a solid option for years to come.
6. WR T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
I always thought the Colts drafting Hilton was a good move because I remember him flashing his potential on Tuesday nights when he played at Florida International. He's a speedy receiver with the ability to be a force on special teams as well, as he was named the AFC special teams player of the week in week 12.
Drafted 92nd overall in the 2012 draft, many didn't expect Hilton to make an immediate impact. And to be honest, he wasn't quite there yet when he first started the season. Hilton only recorded one touchdown through the first eight weeks of the season, but has really turned it on here in the second half.
Hilton now has recorded four touchdowns in the past four weeks, one of them being a 75-yard punt return last week against the Buffalo Bills. T.Y. (real name Eugene), shares the Colts' rookie record for 100-yard games (3), and is also the first player in Colts history to catch a touchdown pass and return a punt for a TD in the same game.
T.Y. is currently ranked 28th on the wide receiver boards, and is now averaging 8.2 fantasy points a game. His stock is rising, and his owners confidence in him should be rising as well. He is emerging in the young Colts offense, and should only get better with time. He rightfully deserves to be on this list.
5. RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
It's never an easy thing drafting a running back on your fantasy team that plays for the Washington Redskins. Head coach Mike Shanahan has always shuffled his backs, driving fantasy owners nuts. Many figured Roy Helu to be the starter this season, but after he went down with a season ending injury, it's been the 173rd overall pick, Alfred Morris, who has taken the reigns in Washington.
Morris currently ranks 11th at the RB position, averaging 12.1 fantasy points a game, racking up a total of 133 fantasy points through twelve weeks. After Monday nights game against the New York Giants, Morris will have eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. He has six total touchdowns on the season, and only one lone fumble.
Not only is Morris a top ten rookie in terms of fantasy impact, he's nearly a top ten back in all of the NFL, and that's certainly impressive considering the fact that he also has Robert Griffin III on his team. Morris has been a pleasant surprise for owners this season, as he's performed greater than anyone could have ever predicted.
4. RB Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson was a big question mark for fantasy owners heading into their drafts. He was questionable to start the season because of arthroscopic knee surgery over the summer. I remember in one of my leagues drafts, it was the third round, and I needed a running back. Because of Richardson's status, he was still available and I pounced on him. Everyone's responded harshly, telling me I just took a big risk, but I knew deep down, I just struck fantasy gold.
Now in Week 13, Richardson is just fine, staying healthy for the majority of the season and currently ranked as the 8th best back in fantasy football. He has gained 755 rushing yards on 209 carries, and has recorded seven touchdowns on the season. Richardson has also been quite valuable in PPR formats, as he has 41 receptions for 316 receiving yards.
Sort of wild to think that there are three Browns rookies who have made this list, but that's the reality. Richardson, of course, being the most productive out of the Cleveland trio. Trent is a workhorse-type back who will get his fantasy points no matter what the situation may be since the offense runs through him. He's a must own player in all formats.
3. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Listen, Andrew Luck could have made the top of this list very easily if we went by his teams record or by the rookie records he has broken in Indianapolis, but we are talking fantasy here. He's still amazing though, ranking as the 11th-most productive quarterback in all of fantasy football.
Drafted 1st overall by the Colts, Luck was taken to replace the void that Peyton Manning had left in Indianapolis. Many didn't expect Luck or the Colts to have much success this year, especially with so many rookies on the offensive side, but here they are sitting at 7-4.
Luck has thrown for 3,205 passing yards and has reached the end zone a total of 18 times, five of them being rushing touchdowns. He has thrown 13 interceptions and fumbled 5 times this season, so there is certainly room for improvement, but Luck is clearly one of the best fantasy rookies in the game. He's averaging 22.8 fantasy points per game, and has a total of 251 for the season.
2. RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin is the #1 fantasy football running back through twelve weeks. He has absolutely taken the league by storm, and has outperformed players such as Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson.
Martin is averaging 18.7 standard fantasy points per game, and has a total of 206 fantasy points through 11 games. The rookie from Boise State has rushed for 1,050 yards and has recorded 9 rushing touchdowns. It doesn't stop there either, as he also has 29 receptions for 332 yards and one receiving touchdown. Martin has only turned the ball over once this season, and has looked more like a seasoned veteran rather than a small, stout rookie back. Those who drafted Martin are reaping the rewards at a high rate, and are most likely hurting the confidence of their opponents because of his play on the field. And for that, Martin certainly deserves the 2nd spot on this list.
1. QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
There is no denying the fact that Robert Griffin III deserves the #1 spot as the rookie with the most impact in the fantasy world. Despite his teams losing record, Griffin has been outstanding on the field, only being outperformed by quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Griffin ranks as the 3rd most productive fantasy quarterback, averaging an impressive 29.5 points per game, and racking up a total of 325 fantasy points through twelve weeks. The young kid out of Baylor University has done it all this season, throwing for 2,497 yards, rushing for 653 yards, all while scoring a total of 22 touchdowns through eleven games. Griffin has also only turned the ball over a total of six times this season. There's not much else that needs to be said at this point, RG3 is not only the top rookie to make a fantasy impact, he's one of the top players in the league in terms of fantasy production.
Follow Michael on twitter: @windycityiggy
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