Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
While there's no way this season's rookie class will match up with the 2012 group that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris, Week 2 proved that there are a few diamonds in the rough.
In the second week of 2013, we saw three first-year players -- Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin and Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins -- emerge as potential fantasy starters.
Bernard had 65 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on nine touches Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Austin had six receptions and two scores against the Atlanta Falcons and Hopkins was instrumental in leading the Texans to a comeback win over the Tennessee Titans with seven catches, 117 yards and the game-winning TD in overtime.
All three players could become fixtures in fantasy lineups sooner than you think.
The Bengals are going to quickly realize that Bernard is a superior player to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, even inside the five-yard line.
Green-Ellis has rushed for 100 yards on 36 carries (2.8 ypc) after gaining 3.9 ypc last season, while Bernard has averaged 5.0 yards per rush in accumulating 60 yards on 12 carries in his first two NFL games.
The Law Firm was also one of the most inefficient goal-line rushers last season, picking up five touchdowns on 14 carries. He has one touchdown on four carries inside the 10-yard line this year.
With no Steven Jackson to lean on, the Rams have gone more pass-heavy so far. Sam Bradford has put the ball in the air 93 times in two games, with 19 of his targets going to Austin.
Tight end Jared Cook still is the team's top goal-line target, but Austin proved he can get free for Bradford if Cook is contained like he was in Atlanta. Both of Austin's touchdowns came in the red zone Sunday.
Bradford has spread the ball around more than he did the past few years when Danny Amendola was his only reliable weapon -- five players have at least 11 targets through two games -- but Austin leads the pack.
With Andre Johnson around, Hopkins won't lead the Texans in targets, but he might finally get them to open up the passing playbook just a bit.
Last year, 178 of Matt Schaub's 350 completions (50.9 percent) went to tight ends or running backs. Through two games in 2013, 34 of Schaub's 60 completions have gone to receivers, including 12 to Hopkins.
Hopkins tied Johnson for the team lead with 13 targets Sunday against the Titans, and he looked like a bona fide No. 1 receiver late in the fourth quarter and overtime after Bernard Pollard concussed Johnson.
All three rookies should be regarded as high-end flex plays in 10-team leagues for Week 3.