Here at NFL Spin Zone we are all about the fans and recognize there are a lot of you out there who play fantasy football. So the job has been given to me to be your Fantasy Guru and give all you fantasy buffs out a bit of insight to help you win your fantasy league. I’ve been playing fantasy myself for a few years and I love it so once a week I’ll be here to help you out.
This week, we take a look at the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft in the order in which they were drafted and peer into the looking glass to try and envision the impact of offensive rookies in 2012 and how they could help you win. For the most part I will focus on 10-12 team standard leagues and my indication for where players should be picked is based on 10 team leagues but there will also be a few tantalising hints for you deep league players out there.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Luck comes into the NFL expected to be a star. The guy has elite skills and should be a player that in later years will be drafted in the top 3 rounds by most. As for 2012, I wouldn’t draft him anywhere near the top tier. The Colts are a team that needs a lot of work and even the best college players can need time to acclimatise to the NFL. Even Peyton Manning didn’t come into the NFL ready to be an elite quarterback. If you’re in a dynasty league you should draft him with confidence but be prepared to wait for production.
Where to draft him: 14th round-undrafted
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
RG3 is a runner – pure and simple. There’s a lot of comparisons out there to the likes of Michael Vick but this comparison is faulty for one reason – Vick wasn’t that good a thrower to start with and has never become so. The better comparison for fantasy purposes is Cam Newton. Make no mistake about – Robert Griffin III can both throw and run and he should produce touchdowns both ways. I will say this however – Cam’s rookie numbers were outstanding and as such I would temper expectations on RG3 as it is unlikely he will come close to the way Newton performed. However, if you like him you’re going to have to draft him reasonably high as there will be a lot of hype surrounding the kid.
Where to draft him: 8th to 10th round due to hype
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Here is your likely Fantasy Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, he plays for Cleveland.
Why do I say that? If there is one things we can expect this year is that the Browns will still be a terrible team. They’re going to get behind early in a lot of games and there will be many instances where they abandon the run in order to try and come from behind. Look at Steven Jackson over the years in St Louis – he kept losing time because the Rams were losing a lot and it affected his numbers. With that said, Richardson is an elite playmaker and you can expect him to be a first round pick by 2013 as he learns the NFL system.
If you are in a keeper league of any description and with your early picks you don’t like the options in front of you, that’s the time to consider Richardson. Should he be a first round pick this year? Absolutely not – you have no guarantees he’ll come close to that kind of production. Should you take him in the first round if you hate the other players available? I wouldn’t hold it against you.
Where to draft him: 2nd-3rd round
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
This is the player I expect we will see a lot of varying opinions on in fantasy circles. Blackmon has a lot of good stuff about him and was taken in the top 5 of the NFL draft by the Jaguars because they believe he’ll be an elite playmaker. The problem with Blackmon is that his team is the Jacksonville Jaguars who have a myriad of issues all over the park. With that said, Blaine Gabbert will be back in 2012 a year older and having had more time to mature as a quarterback – I expect to see improvement there.
Also there is the fact that, like Cleveland, Jacksonville is a terrible team. The difference between Richardson and Blackmon in that respect is that Blackmon will get more work in that situation as the team will pass more. More opportunity likely means more production which will make Blackmon an intriguing pick. Watch his draft stock over the coming months and make sure you’re aware of his value come draft time as if you can get him low enough Blackmon could be a gold mine of fantasy value.
Where to draft him: 12th-14th round
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
For fantasy purposes, Tannehill is an afterthought. He will be drafted in a few leagues – particularly dynasty formats – but in standard leagues this is a player that you sit back and watch. There’s a chance he won’t even be the starter in Miami in 2012 as he has stiff but unspectacular competition from both Matt Moore and David Gerrard. If you’re in a dynasty league, Tannehill is worth a late pick but be prepared to drop him if something shows up on the waiver wire.
Where to draft him: Undrafted
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Before addressing Floyd’s value, one thing has to be said – the acquisition of this young man drastically alters the value of Larry Fitzgerald. The biggest knock on Fitz has always been that there’s no-one to draw coverage away from him. Floyd coming to Arizona INCREASES Fitzgerald’s value as a result despite taking catches away.
Onto Floyd him, this is a player who is fully expected to blow the top off opposing defenses. This is an elite talent who was toe to toe with Blackmon before the draft as commentators were divided on who the better player was. Unlike Blackmon, Floyd comes into a pretty good spot. He’ll play alongside Larry Fitzgerald who he can not only learn from but also who will draw attention away. The problem here is the situation at quarterback – Kevin Kolb has failed to impress since being traded from Philadelphia and John Skelton, while talented, lacks polish and needs more time to develop. Floyd is a player who will deserve more respect that he will get from fantasy owners and as such he’ll be at the top of a lot of sleeper lists this year.
Where to draft him: 9th-10th round
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
It was a surprise of sorts to see Wright go to Tennessee in the draft as many believed the likes of Cincinnati, San Francisco and Houston were more likely. However, the landing spot is a decent one for Wright. First of all, he has a talented up and coming quarterback in Jake Locker who he can grow a relationship with as he is groomed for the job and in the meantime has an experienced and very good quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck running the ship.
When you look at his competition, Kenny Britt is still the clear #1 here although his history with injuries could give Wright some opportunity later in the season. Furthermore, the incumbent #2 Nate Washington has struggled to step up to the point where the team brought in Randy Moss in 2011. With that being said, the Titans have a pair of very good receivers who will compete against both Wright and Washington in Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams and so expectations of Wright should not be high in his rookie year. There is also the injury concerns that threatened to drop Wright’s draft stock to consider also. In terms of fantasy, Wright is a player to watch but not to invest in just yet as the Titans receiving situation needs clearing up.
Where to draft him: 14th-undrafted
Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns
Weeden is a quarterback who is expected to perform right away. However, he will be playing for a bad team with little in a way of reliable receiving options. The Browns have taken a chance on Weeden but you probably shouldn’t.
Where to draft him: undrafted
A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jenkins was one the surprise picks of the first round although not entirely unanticipated. In terms of fantasy, the same goes for him as it would for many of the other options that could have been taken early by San Francisco. The 49ers have some very interesting options already at wide receiver with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and the indomitable Randy Moss. Jenkins is very much a speed player – he ran a sub 4.40 40 time at the combine – which should give him an advantage to getting playing time but ultimately until the receiving situation in San Fran clears up Jenkins is a player you shouldn’t be considering except in 16+ team leagues or deep dynasty formats.
Where to draft him: undrafted
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers jumping into the first round to draft Martin is a clear indication to fantasy owners for a start that they can no longer trust LaGarrette Blount – that is if they had any trust left after his poor 2011. Tampa Bay is notorious for using timeshare in regards to the running game and I expect this to be a job shared. Martin will likely be the full-time third down back and should share duties on the first two downs.
Where to draft him: 8th-9th round
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
The departure of Brandon Jacobs to San Francisco left a hole in the Giants running game and they chose to fill it with their first round pick by drafting David Wilson. The problem here is that Wilson likely will not play in the bruiser-type short yardage role but rather is a speedster. The likely impact Wilson will have is as a backup for Ahmad Bradshaw and providing a change of pace on third down. The danger of this is that it is well known that Wilson requires more training in both receiving and blocking and one can expect that when he is on the field defensive coordinators will be anticipating a run which could hinder Wilson. Fantasy owners of Bradshaw would be wise to consider drafting Wilson as a handcuff but otherwise this is a player to wait and see.
Where to draft him: 13th-14th round or undrafted
That’s it for this week. Next time we’ll take a look at players drafted outside the first round so be sure to check back here next and indeed every Tuesday for your fix of the Fantasy Guru.