2012 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Is RG3 the New Cam Newton?
The 2012 NFL Draft is over, and we’re slowly starting to understand how some of the rookies will be used. That means we need to start integrating these first-year players in how we’re planning our 2012 fantasy draft strategy.
It’s never too early to start, even when May is barely settled in. That’s why we’re jumping into our 2012 fantasy rookie rankings like there’s no tomorrow.
Here’s my take on the top offensive rookies for this year:
1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
RG3 won’t be exactly what Cam Newton was last year, but he could surely come close. He’s an elite athlete, has a big arm, and is very accurate. Washington’s offensive line is sketchy, but he has some weapons around him and he’s a weapon, himself. He’s my front-runner for ROY and should be the top rookie in fantasy football in 2012.
2. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Peyton Hillis was a dominant force when healthy in the Browns’ offense, so just imagine what an elite athlete like Richardson can do. With an upgrade at quarterback in Brandon Weeden, as well, the Cleveland offense should begin to see solid improvements. The tough-running Richardson will be the biggest part of the change, and could be a RB1 in fantasy from day one.
3. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
I get that Luck is on a team that just went 2-14, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be as horrible on offense in 2012 as they were in 2011. The fact is, Luck is a smart, accurate passer with good arm strength and nice athleticism. He still has Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie to throw to, as well. Call me crazy, but he’ll be starting from day one and I think we’ll see quality production. Heck, if Andy Dalton can do it, why can’t Luck?
4. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LeGarrette Blount proved in 2011 that he’s way too one-dimensional to be an every down back. Enter the “Muscle Hamster”, who is a balanced, versatile back that can do it all, and do it all at a high level. I really like Martin’s potential, as he could change Tampa Bay’s offense. The addition of Vincent Jackson should take a lot of attention away from the ground game, too, which could let Martin go wild.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
I don’t nit-pick when it comes to elite wide receiver draft prospects. I know Blackmon isn’t a burner, but he’s still built to rock it at the next level, and he has the physicality and play-making ability of a superstar. The only question at all in my mind is whether or not Blaine Gabbert and/or Chad Henne will kill his debut season.
6. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
If I have Blackmon in my top-five, the dynamic Floyd has to be close behind, right? With all of the defense’s attention on stud receiver Larry Fitzgerald, you have to imagine the big-play threat Floyd will see a lot of one-on-one coverage and could wreak havoc. Consider him the Julio Jones of this draft class in a sense, as he’ll be his new team’s second option, but at times you’ll think he was the first.
7. Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
I think Luck is successful right away, and since he loves throwing to Fleener, naturally his former Stanford teammate should be pretty productive, as well. Fleener doesn’t block, but he has elite size and speed for the position, and he’s a terror in the red-zone. Most importantly, he and Luck have impeccable chemistry, so I don’t see a ton of bumps as they get their careers going together.
8. David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
Brandon Jacobs is gone and Ahmad Bradshaw is rarely healthy. Wilson has the athleticism and versatility to carve out a solid role from day one, but the minute Bradshaw goes down (and you know he will), Wilson will be a waiver wire gem.
9. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
I am a Jeffery fan, and I love that he landed in Chicago, where he should immediately line-up across from Brandon Marshall as Jay Cutler’s number two guy. He actually plays a lot like Marshall, and as long as he can keep his weight in check, I like him to have a surprisingly solid rookie season.
10. Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets
Hill has the size and speed to rule the world, but he’s raw as heck. Two other issues: Tim Tebow and/or Mark Sanchez will be throwing him passes. Oh, and he’s in a run-first attack. With all that said, he should be the number two option and he carries major big-play ability. There is serious potential here for him to be a red-zone threat in year one.
11. Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns
Weeden may be 50 years old, but he’s a very skilled passer with the size, arm strength, and tools to succeed. I don’t love his weapons in the passing game, but he’s an upgrade from Colt McCoy and if it weren’t for his age, you might be loving his potential. He’s a smart passer and quality leader, so I see him having at least Andy Dalton-ish results in his first year.
12. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
Kenny Britt is returning from a major knee injury and Nate Washington and co. aren’t receivers that strike fear into the heart of the defense. Britt has good speed and can make plays with the ball in his hands, so he has a decent chance to make an impact right away.
13. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Sanu is an exceptional possession receiver who can also make plays with the ball, and some even say he’s a better T.J. Houshmandzadah. I’m not even sure what that means these days, but I do like his potential. Jerome Simpson is gone and Jordan Shipley is coming back from a torn ACL, so there will definitely be room for this guy to make a name for himself in Cincy.
14. Isaiah Pead, RB, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson’s St. Louis career seems to be coming to a close. It may not be this year, but one thing is pretty clear: S-Jax won’t be around forever, and Pead is the likely heir to the throne. If Jackson somehow goes down due to injury, the versatile Pead will be waiting in the wings. In the meantime, he should start stealing carries and be active on third downs.
15. Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams
Danny Amendola is the Rams’ top receiver. I don’t think I really need to say more than that, but I will. I’m a fan of Quick, as he has good size and speed, and is just a natural runner with the ball. He has Brandon Lloyd written all over him, and I think he’s more balanced than anyone else currently in the Rams’ receiving corps. He may take some time to get adjusted, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the team in receiving scores in 2012.
16. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
Willis McGahee is ancient and Knowshon Moreno is coming off an injury and may not even be in the team’s plans. Hillman is a solid runner who will come in and compete for a role. If the aging McGahee goes down, he could be the top back in Denver.
17. Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Mario Manningham is gone, so someone else has to step up as the third guy behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. If I had to pick between Ramses Barden or the rookie Randle, I’ll take the Rueben Sandwich. He has great size and speed, and seems to be much more balanced. He’s still a bit raw, but he could be a terrific third option in a very solid and balanced Giants’ attack.
18. LaMichael James, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore will supposedly be getting less carries, while Anthony Dixon could be on the way out. That leaves Brandon Jacobs and Kendall Hunter ahead of James still, but Jacobs may not even make the final roster and Hunter didn’t blow anyone away in 2011. I love James’s athleticism and explosiveness, and so does Jim Harbaugh. He could be the 49ers’ own Darren Sproles if he can figure out blitz pickups and work on his hands. And if the oft-injured Gore ever goes down, he could have a huge role.
19. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Jones is actually arguably more NFL-ready than Sanu, despite being drafted after him. I like Jones’s athleticism and potential, but really like his new situation even more. As previously mentioned, he’s basically in an open competition for the number two job, with Shipley to man the slot. He could be an interesting sleeper if he somehow beats out Sanu for the number two receiver spot.
20. A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jenkins is a burner with deep ball mentality, but the problem is that Randy Moss is on this team, as well. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham should also get in the rook’s way early. However, if Moss somehow doesn’t make the team, and/or Crabtree disappoints like he has so far in his career, Jenkins could get a shot.
21. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush was pretty solid down the stretch in 2011, but he’s no lock to stay healthy, while Daniel Thomas drew mixed reviews as an NFL starter. If either falter or get hurt, the athletic home-grown Miller could be in line for a big role in South Beach.
22. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
As it stands, Matt Moore and David Garrard are way more likely to start in week one, but the Dolphins also didn’t draft Tannehill to sit forever. If he somehow out-plays the vets, his strong arm and athletic ability could get him on the field earlier than expected. And if he’s out there, he has the outside chance of putting up some good fantasy numbers – even if he looks like another Blaine Gabbert waiting to happen.
23. Devier Posey, WR, Houston Texans
Jacoby Jones was released to make room for Posey, which means he’s either lined up to be the number two or three receiver. He’s much more explosive than Kevin Walter, so he could be a surprise fantasy performer as a rookie. The only reason he’s ranked so low is because no one not named Andre Johnson or Owen Daniels ever does much in Houston’s passing attack.
24. Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice has handled the rock a ton the past three years, so there’s a chance he’ll be bit by the injury bug soon. Even if he’s not, Pierce figures to be his top backup with Ricky Williams retired.
25. Nick Toon, WR, New Orleans Saints
Out goes Robert Meachem, in comes Nick Toon. He’s not the talent Meachem is, but he certainly has the skills to be an asset in the Saints’ explosive passing attack.
26. Danny Coale, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Coale is smaller and doesn’t look like much, but he works the middle of the field fearlessly and can make the toughest of catches. He could end up establishing himself as the Cowboys’ new slot receiver, and all he has to do to do so is beat out marginal talents in Jesse Holley and Kevin Ogletree.
27. Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Ballard could be in for some solid carries early in his rookie season, as neither Donald Brown or Delone Carter have a stranglehold on the starting gig – while long-time starter Joseph Addai is gone for good.
28. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
If you draft RG3, you may want to invest in Cousins, too. If you ask me, this cerebral, tough, competitive leader has the heart and skill-set to be a very good NFL starter. And if the fairly frail RG3 goes down due to his running nature, Cousins could get a chance to shine early.
29. Chris Rainey, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall may not make it back fully from a torn ACL in 2012, which seems to be placing the average Isaac Redman is the driver’s seat to be the team’s top running back. The Steelers can’t be completely content with that – or at least they shouldn’t be. Rainey was drafted as insurance, and he could end up playing more than a lot of people expect.
30. Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver Broncos
I know Osweiler is very raw and Peyton Manning is town, but if the neck comes back to haunt the Broncos, you’d have to think they’d roll with Osweiler over Caleb Hanie. Right? The guy is a tower at nearly 6’8” and has a great arm, so he’d at least have an outside shot at putting up some good numbers.
Who did I miss? If I left anyone out who you think has a great chance at being a fantasy contributor as a rookie in 2012, comment below!