2013 NFL Draft: What Rookies Will be Fantasy Gold in 2013?
The 2013 NFL Fantasy Football season is around the corner. Every year three off-season events impact the fantasy football world. The first comes in February (NFL Combine), the second in March (Free Agency), and the last big event hits us in April (NFL Draft). In this series, I will attempt to project fantasy outcomes for the 2013 NFL rookie prospects. This is the first of many rookie spotlight articles followed by continuous updates throughout the 2013 off-season.
The most important process I used in selecting top rookie prospects involved reviewing countless hours of game tape. I watched at least 3 game films of the top 5-15 rookie prospects in each skill position category (QB, RB, WR and TE). The first thing I look for when reviewing game film is the ‘Wow Factor’. Does the player make me say ‘Wow’ while viewing the game film. Secondly, I evaluate the ‘level of competition. For example, I rank rookie players higher that performed well against top BCS football programs. Finally, players are ranked on their medical history, physical measurements, NFL Combine /Pro Day performances and football character.
Before we go further, let’s first define “football character.” Football character entails a player’s work ethic, competitive nature, threshold for pain, football IQ, overall passion for game and level of play within these characteristics.
At the college level, a gifted player can dominate with his talent alone regardless of his lack of football character. When the player gets to the next level, it tends to catch up to him. Rarely does a player have a long career in the National Football League without football character since he can no longer mask those flaws with his talent as he once did in college.
Football character is the glue that allows players to establish themselves and create the needed staying power when their talent starts to erode. It allows them to continue to play well past their prime. The exceptions are so rare that you almost can’t even categorize them as aberrations – they’re that rare. It might surprise you to find out that most busts have more to do with a player’s lack of character than talent.
-Author Jerry Angelo, former GM Chicago Bears 2001-2012
After further review, the ruling on game tapes suggested that this year’s rookie running back and wide receiver crops provided the largest talent pool. The following is a list of top fantasy rookies projected to make an immediate impact in NFL. This list will be updated after the 2013 NFL draft.
1. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M, 5’10-220, 9’ 3/8 hand.
You will get to know this name real soon. I nearly jumped out of my seat after watching just two of his running plays at Texas A&M. Michael’s running style is synonymous with the words: explosive, agile, power, balance, burst and speed. He was the Big 12 Offensive Freshmen of the Year in 2008. Michael dominated the 2013 East West Shrine Game and was lights out at 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Michael’s 43-inch vertical leap was the highest ever recorded by a running back at the NFL Combine. He also finished as a Combine “top performer among rbs” in the broad jump (10-foot-5), three-cone drill (6.69), 20-yard shuttle (4.02), and bench press (27 reps). He ran a 4.41 “unofficial” forty and 4.54 “official” forty. A significant list of injuries slowed Michael’s college career and lots of off-the-field problems caused him to spend most of 2012 in Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin’s doghouse. Fantasy Outlook: Michael could slip in the NFL draft due to his off-the-field character issues. However there is no doubt that he possesses NFL-caliber size, speed, and athleticism. He has adequate pass catching skills and is a willing blocker with potential to be an every down back in the NFL.
Realistic Landing Spots: Lions, Bengals, Cowboys, Packers, Jets, Colts
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR/PR, Tennessee, 6’2-216, 31 3/4″ arm length, 9”hand.
Patterson is a junior college transfer who “lit up” the SEC conference last year. Patterson is a versatile player that flashed excellent return skills big play ability. On film, Patterson was the most explosive yard-after-catch receiver in the country; outside of West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. Despite his small hands, Patterson uses his sturdy frame and athletic ability to win most jump balls. Patterson showed very good explosiveness at the NFL Combine. He ran 4.42 “official” forty, posted a 37”vertical jump and landed a 10’8” in the broad jump. Durability was not an issue with Patterson in college. Some NFL scouts consider him to be a one year wonder that lacks experience on the big stage. There are also concerns among NFL scouts about Patterson’s football IQ and ability to retain information. Fantasy Outlook: Dynamic playmaker that can hurt you as a receiver, runner and returner. He can make plays from different alignment and wide receiver sets. Patterson is an absolute beast!
Realistic Landing Spots: Bills, Dolphins, Panthers, Bears, Rams, Vikings, Texans
3. Tavon Austin, WR/RB/KR/PR, West Virginia, 5’8-174lbs, 30”arm length, 9’ 1/8”hand.
I watched this player all year long and saw comparisons to Percy Harvin and Darren Sproles. In spite of his slight of build, West Virginia staff gave him a significant amount of carries from the running back position. Rarely did the first defender get him on the ground. Austin was a top performer at the NFL Combine in both the 40 and short shuttle. Austin ran “unofficial” forty times of 4.25 and 4.31 at although his “official” forty was later deemed at 4.34. His short shuttle (change of direction) was lights out with a 4.01. Austin shiftiness shows up on game tape as he often leaves defenders waving in the wind. Austin has demonstrated durability throughout his college career and his football IQ is very high. Fantasy Outlook: Austin is a multi-purpose player who possesses natural ball skills and outstanding elusiveness. Austin’s versatility and return value makes him a sure-fire impact rookie.
Realistic Landing Spots: Patriots, Dolphins, Rams, Bears
Others to Monitor
The following list of players is in line for rookie “Super Star status”. The 2013 NFL Draft in April will determine their overall potential to be fantasy relevant. Kickers were not included on this list.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama; Giovanni Bernard, RB, UNC; Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah St.; Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA; Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida; Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin; Le’veon Bell, RB, Michigan State; Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson; Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt; Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers.
Keenan Allen, WR, Cal; Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers; Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech; Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State; Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee; DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson; Robert Woods, WR, USC; Ryan Swope, Texas A&M.
E.J. Manual, QB, Florida State; Matt Scott, QB, Arizona, Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame; Vance McDonald TE, BYU; Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA; Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati.