Rookie Mistakes

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There is certainly no certainty when it comes to guessing which rookies will produce, however it can be done. Certain positions tend to produce more than others. Take quarterbacks, for example. Rookie quarterbacks historically didn’t start very often, although recently that trend is changing. Rookie quarterbacks often tend to struggle, and even when they perform admirably for a rookie, such as Sam Bradford’s 2010 campaign, it rarely translates to serious fantasy value.

Wide receivers are often said to take 2 to 3 seasons to develop and reach their prime. While this is often the case, it seems that almost every season there will be a few rookie wide receivers who emerge and become fantasy relevant. Here are some thoughts on some of the top rookies for the upcoming season.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

The first receiver taken in the draft, A.J. Green is considered by many to be the top wide receiver of the 2011 draft class. However, his situation in Cincinnati is worrisome. Green may  have rookie quarterback Andy Dalton throwing to him, and with no real threat of a running game and not many other threats to divert attention, save the emerging tight end Jermaine Gresham, he will be hard pressed to find fantasy success relative to how high you will likely have to draft him. If Carson Palmer were to back off his retirement threat, Green’s value would be much higher.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ coveted Julio Jones for a reason. They feel he may be the missing piece to put their offense over the top. Jones will benefit from playing across from Roddy White, and by the Falcons’ solid ground game. However, the Falcons appear set to lose guard Harvey Dahl and tackle Tyson Clabo to free agency. Matt Ryan may not be as well protected as in years past, and I don’t think Jones will be targeted enough in the Falcons’ multidimensional offense to be a fantasy starter every week.

Sleepers: Leanord Hankerson ( Washington Redskins ), Torrey Smith ( Baltimore Ravens )

Running back is a position where rookies can often succeed; it being considered by many to be one of the easiest positions to adapt to from the college game. In fact, there are several running backs poised to make a fantasy impact this season.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

The Saints traded up into the first round to land Ingram, a player they obviously coveted and therefore should look to use frequently. Reggie Bush appears likely to be out of the picture, though Ingram will still share time with Christopher Ivory and Pierre Thomas. He should still receive enough touches, especially at the goal line, to potentially warrant being drafted as a flex (WR/RB) play.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins

With both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown likely headed elsewhere in free agency, Thomas has a great opportunity to take over in a Miami offense which heavily favors the run. Consider the addition of Mike Pouncey to the offensive line, and it seems that Thomas could end up as a viable fantasy starter this season.

Mikel Leshhoure, Detroit Lions

Leshoure looks to fill in nicely as a complimentary back to Jahvid Best. Best is injury prone, which could lead to Leshoure getting a big opportunity early on. And even if Best stays healthy, Leshoure should get the ball in a good number of short yardage and goal line situations.

Sleepers: Roy Helu ( Washington Redskins ), Shane Vereen/Stevan Ridley ( New England Patriots )

Tight end is another position which is often about opportunity. While big name rookie tight ends may sometimes seem to disappoint, there is often an opportunity for a little known name to emerge.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Rudolph will have to likely share targets with Visanthe Shiancoe, along with likely having rookie Christian Ponder throwing to him. Were Shiancoe to leave the picture or the Vikings acquire a veteran signal caller, Rudolph would become a slightly more appealing option.

Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

While Sam Bradford seemed to be developing a rapport with Michael Hoomanawanui for parts of last season, Kendricks will have an equal opportunity to step up and become one Bradford’s favorite targets as they both develop.

Remember not to simply draft rookies based on name value, and to be on the look out for those with the best opportunity to succeed. Many fantasy players fail to take this advice, and it can sometimes be the key that separates them from the pack on their quest for a championship.