As a huge fan of fantasy football, I love watching the draft to see where players land and if they have the potential to make an impact in the league as rookies. This year, the first round had plenty of talent and lots of players who should deliver right away. Below I highlight my eight favorite players in terms of fantasy contributions.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
The Browns loved Richardson so much that they gave up pick 118, 139, and 211 in order to move up one slot in order to assure themselves of one of the best running back prospects to get drafted in years. The move makes a lot of sense to me as the Browns were left with Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Ogbonnaya at running back and have an awful offense, scoring just 13.6ppg last season. Look for Richardson to be a three down back for Cleveland and be a top 10-15 running back in fantasy football as a rookie.
Projection: 1132 rushing yards, 285 receiving yards, 9 Total TDs
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs came into this draft with a glaring need at running back. They found their man in Martin, who they drafted with the 31st pick after trading back into the first round. He had a very impressive senior season at Boise State both running and catching the football, going for 1554 yards from scrimmage and 18 total scores. Martin should be able to make an immediate fantasy impact even with LeGarrette Blount still in the mix. I expect Martin to get a good portion of the work between the 20’s but may lose some carries around the goal line.
Projection: 926 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards, 7 Total TDs
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Floyd finds himself in a great situation in Arizona. The Cardinals traded away star receiver Anquan Boldin two years ago and have struggled to find his replacement as the team’s No. 2 receiver. Last season WRs Andre Roberts and Early Doucet showed flashes, but neither proved they could be a reliable weapon opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd should be that guy. He has the size and strength to be a reliable target for Kevin Kolb and has the ability to be a WR3 in fantasy football leagues. Floyd will see lots of single coverage as teams will focus their attention on 4 time All-Pro Fitzgerald.
Projection: 68 receptions for 945 yards, 6 TDs
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Andrew Luck may have been drafted before Griffin, but Griffin will have more fantasy value heading into the 2012 NFL season. He has more talent around him than Luck, and also can be very dangerous once he gets out of the pocket. Griffin has rare athletic ability and was able to rush for 699 and 10 touchdowns last season in college, on top of his impressive 37:6 touchdown to interception ratio. His weapons are average at best, but Griffin has the talent to be a QB2 in fantasy leagues this year with upside.
Projection: 485 rushing yards and 4 TDs, 3421 passing yards for 23 TDs and 14 INTs
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blackmon should be able to step in from day one and be the Jaguars No. 1 wide receiver. Last season the Jaguars top wide receiver was Mike Thomas, who had 44 receptions for 415yds and just one score. Jacksonville has already added breakout receiver Laurent Robinson this offseason and should take some pressure off of Blackmon. Despite quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s struggles in his rookie season, I think Blackmon could be a decent WR3 in fantasy football leagues this year.
Projection: 62 receptions for 853 yards, 5 TDs
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
After releasing Jacobs back in March, the Giants needed to add another body in the backfield. They chose to do so with the final pick of the first round in Wilson. He is a much different kind of player than Jacobs, but has the opportunity for significant playing time as the Giants like to distribute carries among two backs. When you throw in the fact that Bradshaw has had four offseason surgeries over the past three seasons, Wilson has plenty of upside, especially in a dynamic offense which already features Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz at receiver.
Projection: 772 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards, 7 Total TDs
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans
At first I was shocked to hear that the Titans drafted Kendall Wright with their first round selection. But the more I thought about it I think it makes sense. Wright is a vertical threat who excels at getting behind the defense and can create plays after the catch. He should fit in perfectly with second year quarterback Jake Locker who has a very strong arm. The only concern here is whether he will get the opportunity for significant snaps right away. Kenny Britt should be ready to go by week 1 and the Titans also have two other capable receivers in Nate Washington and Damian Williams.
Projection: 43 receptions for 674 yards, 4 TDs
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Luck has a difficult task ahead of him as he is taking over for a team that is in a major rebuilding phase. There is also added pressure of taking over for one of the all time greats in Peyton Manning. But if anybody can fill these lofty expectations it is Luck. He is said to be one of the most pro ready quarterbacks to come out of the draft in years. Luck has exceptional accuracy and is great at reading defenses, two skills that translate into becoming a quality starter in the NFL. He might become an elite fantasy option at some point in his career, but will be a QB2 at best as a rookie.
Projection: 223 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 3135 passing yards for 20 TDs and 16 INTs
There are a few first round players who I left off of this list, including Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, and A.J. Jenkins. I think Weeden will start right away but should struggle a bit as a rookie because the Browns have limited talent on the roster and they lack weapons on the outside. Tannehill was more of a developmental prospect and will probably have to wait a year or two before he gets on the field. As for Jenkins, he is a solid prospect but I see his most significant contributions coming down the road as he will have to compete with Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and Michael Crabtree for snaps this season.
There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to drafting rookies in your fantasy football draft, but if you are able to find that next great star it will be well worth it. Which player mentioned are you willing to take a chance on this year?
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