Every year, a new crop of rookies enter training camp. Some even make week 1 rosters, and unfortunately some get cut. Also, every year, everyone gets hyped up over their teams first or second or even third round draft picks. I'm not sure what if it's the allure of getting an ‘unknown' quantity or the fact that the actual NFL Draft is still relatively fresh in everyone's mind, but it seems like people get fired up when they see that once great NCAA player put on his NFL jersey.
The problem is not that rookies don't produce. They do. A quick look at last year's Vince Young, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marion Barber, and Marques Colston tells you that rookies can have a huge impact on their respective teams.
The problem is that nobody knows which rookies will produce. If you remember, Jones-Drew, Colston, and Barber werent the ones that everyone was drooling over. It was guys like Reggie Bush, Chad Jackson, and Laurence Maroney. Bush finished with some good numbers but no where near the mark that people had him at to begin the season; the other two werent even in the top 30 at their postions. Of course, nobody knew who Jones-Drew and Colston were going into the season and they ended up being arguably the top rookies.
What am I trying to say? Im trying to say that you should view rookies like someone would view a kicker in a fantasy football draft. Yes, they will be valuable when the season starts; but since it is soo hard to predict who will be good, I say that you should just calm down about the rookies.
With all that in mind, lets take a look at what rookies you can start thinking about.
JaMarcus Russell, QB Oakland Raiders
Though draft expert rate him as THE GUY to have on your team, even the dumbest of the dumb know that rookie QBs are often bad news. This year is no exception, and though Russell was the first guy off the board in April, he should not be a consideration as a rookie that has what it takes. Even if he beats out the other quarterbacks on Oakland's roster, don't expect him to do much as a rookie behind that disastrous offensive line. The Raiders are such a rebuilding project that who knows what may happen. Are you really willing to wait 2-3 years for this offense to start showing signs of life? He's a long-shot to becoming anything good this year. Remember, this is all if he even signs. He is still holding out.
Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns
As usual, avoid Quinn in ROY talks. He does have a shot to win the Browns' starting job - but this is the Browns we're talking about here, and it's highly unlikely that Quinn would post any numbers worth consideration of any awards. I suppose that this is a better situation than Russell's. The cupboard isn't as bare for Cleveland's offense as it is for Oakland's, and guys like Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow are a reasonable supporting cast. The addition of left tackle Joe Thomas doesn't hurt either. Because of that, if everything breaks right for Quinn, he could be at least a 2000 yard passer this year give or take. Personally, I'm not a fan, but of all this year's rookie quarterbacks, Quinn has the best chance of making an early impact.
Detroit's Drew Stanton is in a nice situation, as Jon Kitna is in his mid-30's and there's no other real quarterback on that roster. In 2008, Stanton could inherit a passing game that features Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, and Mike Furrey - not bad. Interesting... if you are talking 2008. John Beck will probably be Miami's primary backup this season, and could take over for Trent Green in 2008. Not a great situation for a fantasy quarterback, though. Kevin Kolb will probably be Donovan McNabb's primary backup in 2008, which means he's one hit away from inheriting an Eagles offense that made Jeff Garcia look like Tom Brady. None of these guys are considerations like the top two are, but are worth keeping an eye on for future seasons.
Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills
Long heralded as the position where rookies can make a real immediate impact, running back is also the most important position in football, meaning that if you dont got a RB you dont have ****. Due to his situation in Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch is clearly at the top of the list. He should see the bulk of the carries behind a rebuilt Bills' offensive line; and given the team's lack of threats in the passing game (beyond budding star Lee Evans), Lynch should also be a target there. I wouldn't call him a top-10 back entering the year, but I'd put him right around 15 or 20 - giving him a little more hype than the others, so far, have. Lynch, as barring injury or gross ineffectiveness, should be Buffalo's starter for the foreseeable future.
Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings
While Lynch is in the best situation, Peterson is clearly the best back in this year's crop of rookies. And his situation isn't exactly bad either. Remember, this is an offense that gave Chester Taylor over 300 carries last season, despite the obvious fact that Chester Taylor sucks (well, at least as an every-down back). With the Vikings' passing game still impossibly bad, expect them to pound the ball once again. The concern is that Peterson, whose only knock is that he appears to be pretty fragile, can't handle a full load of carries. Given that concern plus the fact that Taylor is still on the roster, and this has all the makings of a "runner A gets 175 carries, runner B gets 175 carries" situation. That said, Peterson does have considerable upside, especially if Taylor goes down with an injury. If all goes well, he'll be the clear-cut starter on the Vikings next season, and has the talent to be an elite NFL back.
Bradon Jackson, RB Green Bay Packers
As of now, Jackson appears to be the front-runner to get the bulk of the carries for Green Bay. But the fact that the Packers are sniffing around Larry Johnson, despite the fact that the Chiefs are HIGHLY unlikely to move him, tells you that they're not comfortable with their running back situation. Though there's a chance that Jackson will get all the carries, the more likely scenario is that the Packers juggle their hodgepodge of backs, making none of them good options. His situation is exactly like Peterson's except very different, if that makes sence. Jackson's value isn't as high as that of Lynch or Peterson, do to the fact that Green Bay didn't use a high first round pick on him and therefore isn't committed to starting him.
Tennessee's Chris Henry has some potential, given that he's roughly 750 times more athletic than LenDale White, and presumably less fragile than Chris Brown. He could be the starter there by mid-season. Philadelphia's Tony Hunt could very well take over goal-line duties for the team, and could see significant carries when Brian Westbrook goes down with his yearly injury. Same goes for Oakland's Michael Bush, who should see red-zone touches and may also be a factor in the passing game. None of these guys are worth a whole lot but Henry is probably the most likely to succeed guy here.
Calvin Johnson, WR Detroit Lions
Every other year or so, a rookie receiver will take the league by storm, aka Anquan Boldin and Marques Colston. The problem, of course, is that it's rarely the rookie you expect. Despite that, you've got to consider Calvin Johnson the top candidate to break out this season. Arguably the best receiving prospect to ever enter the draft, Johnson joins a pass-happy Lions team that turned Mike Furrey into the league's leading receiver last season. Yikes. Still, Johnson will likely stay at #3 on the depth chart this season, meaning his chances will probably be limited. He is a good receiver but you know Lions history with wideouts. Enough said.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins
Chris' Chambers off-season arrest puts Ginn on the radar. With Marty Booker the only other established receiver on the Fins' roster, there's a reasonable chance that Ginn will see quite a bit of playing time at receiver. We all know what the man can do in the return game, but the "very good kick returner who has potential as a receiver" rarely translates into value (see: Dante Hall), and realistically the chance of Ginn being a breakout rookie is slim. He's risky, because his potential to be the next Troy Williamson is off the charts.
Dwayne Bowe, WR Kansas City Chiefs
It took ‘em long enough, but the Chiefs finally went ahead and used a high pick on a receiver this year. No, really, Eddie Kennison and Samie Parker aren't working out? I'm shocked. Actually, Kennison has been a solid player for the last few seasons, but his skills rapidly declining. The opportunity is definitely there for Bowe, a polished player by all counts, to start for this team. The problem, of course, is that right now their quarterback depth chart apparently reads: "1a. Brodie Croyle; 1b. Damon Huard." Bad times. Bowe catches my eye.
Robert Meachem, WR New Orleans Saints
Got injured early on, causing many people to write him off - but a strong pre-season gets Meachem a lot of looks in a talented-but-inexperienced Saints' receiving corps. If you're 100% sold on Marques Colston after one season, you're crazy; and players like Devery Henderson and Terrence Copper are far from locks. Keep an eye on Meachem in the weeks leading up to the season. Given the young talent around him, you've gotta love his potential, and I'd put him as my #2 receiver from this class based on potential (behind C.J.).
The thing with receivers is that you just never know. In all honesty, I'd say there's a very good chance that the top rookie receiver in 2007 won't even come from the above group - which is why it's absolutely crucial to monitor all receivers in weeks one and two and see if you can identify breakout candidates.
Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears
Glad to see the Bears' front office finally came to the realization that when you've got a basket case at quarterback, you probably want a reliable tight end. Just a thought. Olsen is a nice fit though, and even though he never really lived up to his hype in college, he'll be a much-needed threat over the middle in the Bears' offense, and should be playing full time by some point in the year. I have him as a top-10 tight end for this year, and he's clearly the top tight end in this year's class.
Zach Miller, TE Oakland Raiders
With Courtney Anderson cut, it looks like Miller could be the Raiders' week one starter. Given the team's horrific offensive line, and inexperience at quarterback, you've got to figure the tight end will see some action. That makes Miller a "watch in week 1-3" guy.
There is no rest.
I'll tell you again. There WILL be a guy that comes in and blows guys away and when we see his name we will say. WHO? Trust me, it will happen. I just cant wait to see who it is, and which highly rated rookie bites the dust.
Disagree or you just want to put your 2 cents in? Leave a comment.