The NFL draft reflects many things. The NFL has always been a copycat league in that everyone wants to try whatever seemed to be the winning equation the prior season. This means not only giving something a chance - say using a rookie quarterback - or following along with the trend to under-use all rookie running backs. Once upon a time the running backs were kings as rookies and you could just ignore pretty much all other positions. Now the reverse is happening with both quarterbacks and wideouts turning in impressive first season.
Last season, the rookies never had the benefit of any offseason work and most never saw their playbooks and ran with their team until training camp when the NFL and NFLPA signed their Collective Bargaining Agreement. Though it would seem the lack of work would greatly benefit the veterans, the reality was that it was a banner year for rookie quarterbacks and wide receivers. Cam Newton shattered most all rookie records and A.J. Green and Julio Jones helped many fantasy teams reach their championships. Andy Dalton - a rookie quarterback in Cincinnati with young and questionable receivers - ended up in the playoffs.
It's a brave new world and rookies matter in fantasy football. Here's the initial look at the top ten players coming out of the draft and why you need to track them in training camp.
1. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama (CLE - 1.03)
Once again we see an Alabama running back get selected at the top of his position and offer the most potential for 2012. Mark Ingram was the golden boy last year and mostly disappointed thanks to 1.) Darren Sproles, 2.) getting injured but mostly 3.) the Saints still just used a committee approach. Can that happen with Richardson? Sort of good news, bad news.
The good news is that Richardson is most often compared to Adrian Peterson in size (5-9, 228) and running style. He also goes to the Browns where he should have no problem surpassing Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya on the depth chart and it is almost inconceivable that Richardson won't be the primary, workhorse back. He is considered to be a special back and better than any other coming out of college for the last couple of seasons.
The bad news is that we said similar things about Mark Ingram last year who Richardson backed up at Alabama. And with a rookie quarterback, will the passing offense do anything to prevent defenses from loading up against Richardson? But still, Richardson has to be the #1 pick for rookies in redraft leagues because he'll get more touches than any other player. Rookie running backs have under performed for the last few years but expect Richardson to attract the optimistic drafter looking for a home run.
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