Rookies: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defensive Linemen | Linebackers | Defensive Backs
Every season, a handful of rookies make a big splash in the NFL and make for solid fantasy contributors. Both offensive and defensive rookies fall into this category, so let’s take a look at some of the candidates on the defensive side that could be solid fantasy starters (or backups) in 2009.
Connor Barwin (DE – Houston): The very versatile defender from Cincinnati will have a shot at real playing time opposite Super Mario for the Texans. If incumbent starter Antonio Smith were to go down with an injury, Barwin’s stock would jump. Still, he might be worth keeping your eye on.
Everette Brown (DE – Carolina): This season’s crop of rookie defensive linemen is actually pretty deep. Brown is another DE who will see significant time at a spot opposite an established stud, which could give the rookie plenty of opportunities. In this case, Brown will see playing time behind the veteran Tyler Brayton and now-or-never youngster Charles Johnson.
Evander Hood (DE – Pittsburgh): Hood was a solid performer for the Missouri Tigers who steps into a pretty cherry spot with the defending champs, and appears to be the starter. Aaron Smith has put up respectable numbers at the end spot for the Steelers, so there’s no reason why Hood couldn’t do the same or more. Definite sleeper candidate here.
Tyson Jackson (DE – Kansas City): Jackson’s fantasy value would have been much higher had he been drafted to a team running a 4-3 defense, but like Aaron Curry, Jackson’s talented enough to squeeze out value despite the somewhat limiting position. It’s not advisable to take Jackson as a starting DL, even in large leagues, but if you get him as a backup or keep your eye on him as a free agent early in the season, you wouldn’t be called crazy.
Michael Johnson (DE – Cincinnati): Like mentioned above with Everette Brown, Johnson has been put into a pretty sweet spot. Johnson appears to have a shot at starting (or at very least the chance at significant playing time) for the Bengals. The Bengals defense should be on the field quite a bit this season and has a lot to prove after several incredibly bad seasons. Johnson has a nose for the ball and could be a candidate to lead all rookie DLs in sacks.
Aaron Maybin (DE – Buffalo): And another guy who was drafted to a team that will give plenty of opportunities to the rookie DE. Maybin will fight for playing time with career fill-ins Ryan Denney and Chris Kelsay. Not exactly Pro Bowl level talent. Maybin is a sack master and could see some opportunities at making big plays opposite Aaron Schobel.
Brian Orakpo (DE – Washington): We’ll list Orakpo here in hopes that the Skins play him at end enough to warrant him being listed as a DE. As a LB, he’ll have limited value but as a DE he should be considered one of the top rookie fantasy prospects. Recent news points to “Rak” playing LB, so buyer beware.