Top Rookies Provide Insurance


Jul 17, 2009

Non-running back rookies are usually a waste of time in the NFL. And even the most promising and precocious rookie runners typically end up in time shares, as most NFL coaches are loath to give rookies blitz pickup responsibility.

Here are the rookies by position in the order they are being selected, on average, in hundreds of summer drafts being conducted by our friends at

Matthew Stafford
, Lions (213th overall): He's impressed his coached to the point where Lions writers seem convinced he's got the lead in the QB battle with Daunte Culpepper. While WR Calvin Johnson is the LeBron James of the NFL, Stafford is a candidate to get benched in any game he starts. Keeper league players, however, can take a flyer at about that spot.

Mark Sanchez, Jets (200th overall): He's more polished than Stafford, more NFL-ready. But there's about a 10 percent chance that any rookie QB makes it to the extent Matt Ryan did. And Ryan was just a guy, fantasy-wise ? a decent backup QB. That's the upside if you draft Sanchez. So why bother?

Running Backs
Knowshon Moreno
, Broncos (50th overall): This is not a Mike Shanahan, RB-friendly offense. This is the Patriots system now. And New England has had one back (Corey Dillon) that's been of a fantasy championship caliber during the Bill Belichick regime. Moreno does not have game-breaking speed or great size. Like the Patriots, the Broncos seem set to use a lot of runner. Moreno is just an okay No. 3 running back to start the year.

Chris Wells, Cardinals (64th overall): He's a power-running specialist on a team with a guy (Tim Hightower) who is a good goal-line runner. So, while Wells is very likely to get his fair share of carries, it's questionable if he will get the most important ones near pay dirt. Wells was taken later in the NFL Draft than initially expected because of durability flags. But this is a very fair price to pay in early fantasy drafts.

Donald Brown, Colts (86th overall): The Colts break in their rookie RBs slowly. Joseph Addai was given just 39 more carries than Dominic Rhodes in Addai's rookie year. And Addai is a better player than Rhodes, so you have to figure that Brown comes out on the short end of this new committee. Barring an injury, he's strictly a backup to your backup ? a No. 4 back. There are guys with clearer paths to playing time being taken rounds later.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles (106th overall): He's worth owning only if Brian Westbrook gets hurt. Westbrook is always on the injury report, but has missed four games in the last three years. If Westbrook is healthy after four weeks, half of McCoy's owners will cut him. So be patient and grab him as a free agent.

Shonn Greene, Jets (161st overall): I like him in keeper leagues or if Thomas Jones gets indignant about his contract again. But short of that, there's not much for him to do in 2009. Thomas Jones isn't great on the goal line (six TDs in 33 attempts the last two years), but his 15 TDs last year probably buys him that job to start.

Wide Receivers
Michael Crabtree
, Niners (97th overall): He's just under 6-foot-2 and didn't run due to a foot injury, so no one really know how fast he is. The Niners have major questions at QB, no more Mike Martz to orchestrate the passing attack and a head coach (Mike Singletary) who wants a run-first offense. Having Crabtree as even my No. 4 fantasy WR doesn't excite me.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles (112th overall): The timed-speed isn't top-notch, but he sure looked like a game-breaker in college. The Eagles don't have a No. 1 receiver and Maclin has better size than DeSean Jackson and thus may be a bigger factor in the red zone. I always like the setup for the passing game with Andy Reid, and would be happy to land Maclin at 112. The odds are against whoever you're going to get there, anyway.

Percy Harvin, Vikings (127th overall): He's compared to the Panthers? Steve Smith, who was worth owning only after his second year ? another cautionary tale for rookie WRs. Harvin will be drafted at least a round or two higher than this when Brett Favre's signing is official. But he's not in my draft plans even at 127 given his injury history and the track record of Florida receivers.

Hakeem Nicks, Giants (137th overall): This one is a value. Why can't Nicks be the No. 1 Giant receiver by November 1? That's damning with faint praise, I guess. But no rookie receiver has a better set-up than Nicks.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (191th overall): The market has no respect for Al Davis's draft acumen. Fellow rookie Brian Robiskie (Browns) is being selected higher (186th) in drafts than Bey ? the first WR taken in the real draft in March. Note also that fourth rounder Louis Murphy has been, by far, the most impressive rookie wide receiver in Raider mini-camps.

Tight End
Brandon Pettigrew
, Lions (201st overall): His draft scouting report says he's a better blocker than receiver, which automatically gets you eliminated from fantasy consideration. His 40-yard-dash time of 4.83 at the combine makes him very borderline in being able to threaten the safety very quickly down seams. Tight ends who cannot do this are off the field on third downs or relegated to pass protection.

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