July 31, 2013

The Impact Rookies: Get To Know Them

The single most perplexing problem on Fantasy Football draft day is where to slot rookies. Yes it is essential to study the incoming players, analyze what teams they are on, and assess the needs of those teams. Getting it right might be the difference between winning and losing.

Consider Doug Martin of Tampa Bay, a rookie in 2012 and now a top five back in 2013. If you had the foresight to draft him last year, you got an impact running back on the cheap.

It is important to differentiate between the NFL and Fantasy. In the NFL draft, particularly the first round, teams tend to take players with exceptional physical attributes. Yes, they draft according to need, but trust me, no team passes up on a 350-pound lineman with 4.6 40-yard dash speed.

At the skills positions, players are ranked according to their physical skills: their times in the 40-yard dash, their leaping ability, their body measurements, etc. But some of these players are "projects" – they are getting drafted early, but the team taking them realizes they need a year or two training and seasoning. In Fantasy, we need immediate production.

Let's take a look at the class of 2013: Le'Veon Bell wasn't taken in the first round, and he wasn't the top-rated running back, but we forecast he will be the most impactful rookie player of the draft. Why? Two reasons: One, Pittsburgh reached up in the second round to take Bell, and he figured to last into the later rounds.

More important, the Steelers running game was in shambles last season, and their top back, Rashard Mendenhall, is in Arizona now. Couple that with the fact that the Steelers have always preferred a grind-down running game and it stands to reason they grabbed Bell to make him their featured back. Target him in the fifth round.

Montee Ball is in a similar spot. Denver drafted him, then surprisingly cut Willis McGahee, its starting back in 2012. Yes, Denver has other options, and in the end whoever protects Peyton Manning the best is going to be on the field, but we project Ball to get the bulk of carries.

Eddie Lacy was the top ranked college back going into the draft, and when Green Bay selected him, we all naturally figured he would take over as the starter – until they drafted Jonathan Franklin, another talented runner. You have to figure they will both play a lot.

The Cincinnati Bengals have a talented team and a boring running back – the Law Firm, Ben Ellis Green Jarvis. The Bengals didn't draft Giovani Bernard to sit around – they are going to give the kid the ball. Grab him if he's still available in the middle of your draft.

There are three wide receivers to target: the Rams took Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick, much earlier than anyone anticipated. Furthermore, the Rams traded two top picks to move up and grab him. Obviously, they consider him an impact player, and so should Fantasy players. He's worth a seven round pick in your draft.

DeAndre Hopkins landed in Houston, which hasn't had a decent "two" back in a decade. With Andre Johnson getting older, Hopkins should get plenty of action.

Aaron Dobson is in New England, and Tom Brady is missing his favorite target, Wesley Welker, as well as Brandon Lloyd. Also gone is Aaron Hernandez, whose next appearance on a football field will be in a remake of a remake, The Longest Yard. Even Danny Woodhead is gone. Hell, Tom can't throw all his passes at Giselle – if Hopkins can learn Bill Belichick's system, he'll slot into the rotation.

"Skippy Brown" recently won the Draft King Spring Fling contest, besting over 1000 other professional fantasy baseball players. For comments, tips, advice, rants, or just to annoy him you can now contact the Skipper via email: skippybrown@yahoo.com.

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