Day Two of the NFL draft brought great joy to fantasy football owners everywhere. After a disappointing Day One, where only two or three players – all of which are wide receivers – really stand out as possible impact players were drafted, Day Two generated the majority of the rookie class that fantasy owners will be drafting this season.
The second and third rounds brought Geno Smith to the Jets, Justin Hunter to the Titans, Giovani Bernard to the Bengals, Le’Veon Bell to the Steelers, Montee Ball to the Packers, Eddie Lacy to the Packers, and Keenan Allen to the Chargers. And that’s only scratching the surface.
Let’s take a look at some of the top rookies prior to training camps, where we’ll really find the role of these players in their respective systems. Keep in mind that these are only for the 2013-14 season, so the situation they’ve been drafted into plays a huge role in where they’re ranked, if you’re a dynasty owner you should disregard that fact and base your own rankings purely on skill.
1. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams - Austin should immediately take over the Rams’ slot receiver position, while Brian Quick and Chris Givens run on the outside and Jared Cook takes reps all over the field. You can expect a good amount of targets for Austin this season. If the Rams get the ball in his hands, he’ll make plays. That’s why he was the first receiver off the board last week.
2. Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay Packers - Although Lacy was drafted higher, Franklin will receiver more starts in 2013. He’s the better running back in more ways than one. While Lacy is fully expected to take goal line carries, Franklin will be used as pass-catcher out of the backfield. Also, although Franklin was drafted two round later than Lacy, who has question marks surrounding his recent big toe infusion, Packers GM Ted Thompson favored Franklin enough to not only draft another running back, but trade up for him. Franklin was a star in college without the all-star offensive line that opened up gaping holes for Lacy. I think Franklin is the better running back, and by the end of the year everyone around the league will know it.
3. Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos - Ball was one of the most productive backs we’ve ever seen at the college level. He rushed for 5,410 yards and scored 83 times at Winsconsin. Willis McGahee, coming off an MCL injury, will turn 32-years-old this coming year, and it’s obvious that the Broncos are ready to take the next step forward in their backfield. Knowshon Moreno, who has also had knee issues in his past, isn’t expected to be the guy. Ronnie Hillman, who Denver drafted last season, can’t carry a large workload, and even if he does stick, he isn’t a threat to Ball.
4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals - Bernard is coming into this season to be the complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he’s the second best running back in this class full of talent. Bernard should be expected to touch the ball 10-15 times a game early on, and up to 20 a game as the season progresses and coaches get a glimpse at just hot good Bernard really is. With a great mix of balance, speed, and incredible vision, he could very well become the best running back in this class.
5. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers - Bell was the second running back off the board after Bernard went to the Bengals earlier in the second round. With only Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were on the lookout for their running back of the future. Dwyer is now on the trade block and Redman isn’t a threat to Bell. It’s Bell’s job to lose.
6. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers - I wouldn’t be surprised if Lacy matches Franklin’s numbers, but I don’t think he’s going to be everything he was talked up to be. He will likely get goal line carries, so if you draft him, that’s something to look forward to.
7. DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans - While I still like Lestar Jean, and was hoping that 2013 would be his year, Hopkins was a great pick for the Texans. He should make an immediate impact with his new team, starting opposite of Andre Johnson. His great route-running and Andre-Johnson-like hands are what made Nuk a first-round pick.
8. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings - Same situation as Tavon Austin. If Christian Ponder gets the ball in Patterson’s hands, he is going to make plays. At this point, though, he’s a college player. He’s not pro ready. He needs to make some big jumps before he becomes a legit receiver, but he certainly could cause havoc for some defenses, just like Percy Harvin did.
9. Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams - Stacy very well could win the running back job in St. Louis. Either Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead will serve as good complements to Stacy, who is built to be a starting running back in the NFL, or at least more so than Richardson or Pead.
10. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills - Will take the starting job in Buffalo like nothing. I had him number one on my quarterback board going into the draft, over Geno Smith. He also has better job security and targets than Smith. Manuel is my guy if I’m drafting a rookie quarterback.
11. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals - It’s a toss-up in the Cardinals back field right now. Any four of Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, rookie Stepfan Taylor (seen later in this article), and Ellington could win this job. However, with the Cardinals offensive life, I don’t expect any of them to stand out. None will have substantial fantasy value and not much upside, as the putrid offensive tackles will limit the talent that this backfield has.
12. Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys - Randle will serve as a quality complement to Cowboys’ started Demarco Murray, who has had trouble staying healthy in his first two seasons in the NFL. Randle could even find himself starting a couple of games if Murray misses time. Randle is 100 percent expected to be the No. 2 running back in Dallas.
13. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers - Wheaton has some upside. I’m going to limit expectations until camp, but he could be outstanding on a team that’s lacking a true No. 1 WR talent right now. When I asked Shane Hallam, president of Draft TV, how he though Wheaton will fare in the NFL, he replied with: “I love Wheaton, I think he will be tremendous.” If Shane loves him, so should you.
14. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans - Another great pick for the Titans here. Hunter is a legit threat at any position and, in my opinion, has the best chance of any receiver in this class to become a true number one receiver. Not only does Hunter have a good chance if Britt doesn’t shape up his act, but Britt will have to stay focused on football if he wants to keep his spot. It’s a win-win for the entire Tennessee offense.
15. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers -Allen compares to Anquan Boldin well. He has solid hands, but lacks definitive speed that will separate him from the pack. He’s also coming off of a knee injury that kept him out of the combine, which was also the reason for his fall out of the first round. If he’s healthy, he’ll make an impact, especially with a weak group of wide receivers. He’s a big target that plays even bigger. He’ll be on the field a lot for the Chargers, which is all you can ask out of a rookie on your fantasy team.
16. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills – Woods and undrafted wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers should battle for the starting spot across from Stevie Johnson. Woods is extremely flashy. With his 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range, he was an All-State track start in high school. He has long arms a a wide range. He also runs clean routes, getting in and out of his breaks quickly and swiftly. I don’t see Rogers having a chance against Woods, who was my number three wide receiver in this draft.
17. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs - Yes, the Chiefs have both Antony Fasano and Tony Moeaki. However, at this point in his career, Anthony Fasano is no longer a threat as a receiver, and Moeaki doesnt get off the line like he did before he tore his ACL in 2011. Kelce should be the primary target out of the three tight ends.
18. Stedman Bailey, WR, St. Louis Rams - The Rams traded down in the first round and picked up a third-round pick in which they found Bailey. Bailey is more quick than he is fast. He’s extremely quick in breaks and shot patterns, which really stands out on tape. However, Bailey will have to fight hard for playing time. Chris Givens’ starting spot is all but locked down, so he’ll have to battle Brian Quick for the second outside spot.
19. Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots - The Patriots need outside wide receivers, and Dobson, out of Marshall, is going to be that guy. Dobson can play the “X” in two wide receiver sets and can make all of the plays you want him to. He’s going to be on the field a lot. Greg Cosell of NFL Films wrote that Dobson drew some similarities to Larry Fitzgerald in the way he can go up and get the ball and control his body. That’s not too shabby. Another rookie, Josh Boyce, another perimeter receiver, could compete with Dobson for snaps.
20. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Arizona Cardinals - We don’t know much about Taylor’s role with the Cardinals at this point. Word out of Cardinals camp when the time comes will benefit everyone, but Taylor likely won’t be a draftable running back.
21. Aaron Mellette, WR, Baltimore Ravens - Mellette is a mid-round prospect who fell all the way to the seventh for reasons beyond me. He’s everything you want in a receiver. Great size, hands, movement, athleticism. Despite his small school background, he knows the position and is smooth in and out of breaks and makes the best of every foot movement. Mellette has a chance to be a star in the NFL, especially with the opportunity he will be given right off the bat to win a starting job with the Super Bowl Champions.
22. Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets - Everyone at this point is expecting Smith to win the starting the quarterback job over Mark Sanchez for the Jets. Those two should battle it out in training camp, as if it actually matters to your fantasy team.
23. Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs - Davis should be the second back behind Jamaal Charles on the Chiefs roster. At 227 pounds, he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That’s speed right there. If he can hold on to the ball, which he had some trouble with in college, he’ll be a great complement to Charles.
24. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles - Ertz is a pass-catcher, and that’s what he’ll come in and do. This guy can get down the field and get open at a pace that almost unmatched or his size. He won’t be asked to block much, because he’s simply not very good at it. Ertz should be the No. 1 tight end over Brent Celek coming into the season.
25. Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars - It looks crazy. I know, but the Jaguars drafted him with a vision in mind. At least I hope they did. He can do it all, and could get more run while Justin Blackmon is suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season.
The skill positions are deep this season. If you’re in a dynasty, you want picks this year if you can get them. There’s not one wide receiver I particularly don’t like out of this class, and lots of running backs have landed in favorable situations. There’s lots of very good rookies to be had this season for you fantasy owners this season, so don’t be scared to pull the trigger.
I hope you enjoyed my first fantasy football blog, something that I’ll be doing daily on random topics from around the NFL, whatever it may be. Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing former Charleston running back Jordan Roberts, who will be travelling from Charleston to Kansas City to join their rookie camp in about a week.
If you have an idea for a topic I should write about, feel free to email me at [email protected] or shoot me a tweet. I’m certainly open to any recommendations that you might have for me. See you all tomorrow!