Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We are in a dull period in fantasy football, the gap between the end of the season and the Combine and the NFL selection draft and the start of summer training camps.
While many fantasy owners are just starting their major league baseball season, there is a large group of fantasy participants who only play during the football season and are searching for something to hold them until Draft Day.
Last year Carolina QB Cam Newton was the rookie star of the show, scoring 351 fantasy points to finish fourth among all quarterbacks and well ahead of No. 2 Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (191 pts). DeMarco Murray (140) and Roy Helu (138) led the running back position while the Falcons' Julio Jones led all rookie receivers with 197 fantasy points.
Why did Newton, Dalton and Jones lead all first-year players in 2011?
Simply because of opportunity. Each began the season as the starter. Murray and Helu would certainly have ranked much higher had they been in the starting lineup from Day 1, but Murray had to wait until Felix Jones was injured (a regular occurrence) and similarly Helu had to wait his turn behind veterans Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain.
It's very difficult, almost impossible, to be exact in predicting rookie production before we even know the uniform they'll be wearing.
For example, if Cleveland at No. 4 were to select Alabama running back Trent Richardson, he would have a great opportunity to win the starting job and earn 250 touches in his rookie season. If the same player drops to No. 7 and is picked by Jacksonville as the heir apparent to Maurice Jones-Drew, he'd likely touch the ball at most four or five times a game and have little first-year fantasy value.
But we will give it the old college try.
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (fantasyfootballextreme.com ADP 129) - Everyone expects Luck to be drafted by Indianapolis and the Colts won't disappoint. Luck should start from Week 1. He'll have a top quality veteran receiver in Reggie Wayne and competent Austin Collie, but Pierre Garcon and tight ends Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are gone. Luck won't be Cam Newton good, but should be a solid fantasy backup in his rookie season and improve from there. He's about a fifth-round pick in keeper leagues.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (ADP 123) - The Redskins mortgaged their future on RG3. The kid is an athletic, smart, of high character with a huge arm. He ran for 600-plus yards in 2010 and 2011 and has the talent to be as good or better than Newton. He'll have Garcon, Jabar Gaffney, Santana Moss, Helu and Fred Davis to throw to.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M (ADP 270) - The Browns might select Tannehill, but more likely he'll slip further in the draft to a team like Miami. He has a great arm, very good athleticism and throws an accurate ball, but just a year and a half college starting experience meaning he'll have a long learning curve. He probably won't be his team's starting quarterback in the first week, but he's a great late pick in keeper leagues.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (ADP 31) - Richardson could go as high as No. 4 to Cleveland where he'd be the feature back. He's got 4.47 40 speed (slow Combine track), a 36" vertical and can bench press 475 lbs. Montario Hardesty might see a few carries, but Richardson would get at least 250 touches. Unfortunately, with little in the way of a passing game, Richardson's best runs might be just getting back to the line of scrimmage. Cracking the top-20 fantasy running backs would be a reasonable expectation.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State (ADP 83) - The Rams have three first round picks and a glaring need to help quarterback Sam Bradford. Currently, Danario Alexander and Danny Amendola are St. Louis' starting receivers. Enough said. Blackmon has Desmond Bryant-type receiving skills, great hands and timing though he was a bit slower than expected when tested (4.46 on a fast track at his Pro Day). Blackmon could post 850 yards and 8-10 touchdowns in his first year.
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech (ADP 63) - The Giants might be searching for a running back when their pick comes up at No. 32. The best on the board would likely be Wilson, who rushed for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns at Virginia Tech last year. If that's how it plays out, Wilson would only have value as a "handcuff" for Ahmad Bradshaw.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame (ADP 84) - Floyd should be a late first round selection and would fit nicely in the Browns needs on offense at No.22. At 6'3" 220 lbs Floyd figures to be a No. 1 receiver in the Vincent Jackson mold. Injury and character concerns have dogged him, however. Cleveland's lack of a top-notch quarterback would limit Floyd's fantasy value and a seventh round pick might be too high at this point in time.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor (ADP 118) - It's frequently hard to tell how much a great quarterback like RG3, enhances his receivers' image. Wright was a big play guy at Baylor with 1,663 receiving yards and 14 TDs, but his small size and slower 4.61 40 at the Combine might limit his draft day value. Still, an end of the first round selection on a good team like Denver or Houston might allow him to thrive as a No. 2 receiver. With the Broncos he would fit right in as Peyton Manning doesn't fear throwing to rookies. In Houston he'd be playing "second banana" to fantasy stud Andre Johnson.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford (ADP 194) - In this new era of superstar tight ends who catch 90 balls for 1,000 yards, Fleener could be the next star. As with Wright, it's hard to tell how much having Luck as his quarterback at Stanford helped him. The 6'6", 247 lb tight end was timed at a stunning 4.45 at his Pro Day which should make offensive coordinators salivate. If he goes to the right team (read a team with a top quarterback), he could be a top-10 fantasy tight end in his first season.