In most years the only payers who are viable Fantasy options in their rookie years are running backs. The 2008 Fantasy season broke away from that trend; three running backs were major Fantasy contributors as Matt Forte (5th), Steve Slaton (7th), and Chris Johnson (11th) all ranked in the top eleven at the position. Breaking the mold were Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan (15th) and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (17th) who both finished in the top 20 quarterbacks in Fantasy. While most wide receivers usually don’t posses any Fantasy value until their third season rookies Eddie Royal (20th) and DeSean Jackson (30th) both were solid contributors in their first year in the league. Two rookie tight ends finished the 2008 season ranked in the top 14 at their position; both John Carlson (7th) and Dustin Keller (14th) were viable Fantasy options in year one.
This year I don’t see any rookie quarterback who will be a major contributor in 2009; but there players other positions who were taken in the 2009 NFL Draft who could help out your Fantasy team this year. Three running backs and two receivers that should be on your radar come draft day.
Knowshon Moreno, Running Back, Denver
12th Pick out of Georgia
There is a common misconception by many casual football fans; they still believe Denver can plug any running back into their zone blocking system and he will run for 1,000 yards. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak is the head coach in Houston and Mike Shanahan was fired in the off season, so those days are in the past.
Denver shocked many on Saturday when they selected Moreno with the 12th pick; not because he wasn’t worthy of the pick but Denver needed to improve their defense in the worst way. Moreno was by far the most complete and talented running back in the 2009 NFL Draft and could be an immediate contributor in Fantasy.
Without Jay Cutler under center Moreno may see a lot of eight and nine man fronts but Moreno as the natural ability to make defenders miss and the patience to wait for holes to develop. Moreno should also be a decent receiving threat out of the backfield adding more value in points per reception leagues.
Moreno should be the starter in Denver from his first mini-camp and viewed as a high end No.3 Fantasy Running Back with the potential to move into your starting lineup at some point during the season.
Chris “Beanie” Wells, Running Back, Arizona
31st pick out of Ohio State
The Cardinals were ecstatic when Wells fell to them a 31; Beanie represented great value at a position of need for Arizona.
Wells is a big, bruising back at 6-1 237 pounds that punished defenders in his three years at Ohio State. While Beanie is big, his explosion and burst are both highly underrated. Beanie has great vision and patience and gets better as the game goes on as he wears down defenses with his punishing running style.
Wells should be able to come in and start on day one for the Cardinals who were the worst rushing team in the NFL last year. Edgerrin James is old and Tim Hightower sucks; so Wells will be the most talent running back on Arizona’s roster the first time he steps on the practice field.
While Moreno will struggle to find holes; with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin (we think) on the outside Wells should see more than his fair share of creases to run through.
The only concern Fantasy owners should take into consideration when it comes to drafting Wells is his durability. Beanie has been plagued by little nagging injuries thought-out his collegiate career. Wells was also never a prolific receiver during his time with the Buckeyes; he only caught fifteen passes in 36 career games.
Wells should be considered a low end No.2 or high end No.3 Fantasy running back and worthy of a mid-round Fantasy pick.
Shonn Green, Running Back, NY Jets
65th Pick out of Iowa
One of only three player drafted by the Jets in the 2009 NFL Draft, they traded up to the first pick in the third round to take Shonn Green.
Green is a big, powerful back with ideal size and bulk at 5-11 227 pounds. Shonn is a tough, downhill runner who always finishes runs by falling forward. Green’s superior vision and ability to break tackles should make him a favorite of new head coach Rex Ryan and the power running game he will try and install in New York. Green does lack the explosive burst of Wells and Moreno and will probably only be a two down back in the NFL.
With 20 touchdowns in his senior season and excellent bulk Green should be the Jets primary goal line back in his rookie season.
Thomas Jones is currently going through a contract dispute with the Jets and at 30 he isn’t getting any younger.
Green could be part a potential great backfield along with speedster Leon Washington in the future but he may struggle to find carries early in his career. Green is probably a waiver wire pickup but keep an eye on Jones and his contract situation.
Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia
19th Pick out of Missouri
Philadelphia showed last year that Donovan McNabb has the ability to turn a rookie wide receiver into a viable Fantasy option. DeSean Jackson caught 62 passes for 922 yards and 2 touchdowns as a rookie in 2007.
Maclin is a superior talent with outstanding athleticism who should step into the starting lineup in his rookie season. A 6-0 198 pound receiver, Maclin has outstanding hands and superior leaping ability. Maclin is most dangerous once he gets the ball in his hands and he is a terror in the open field that will pick up a lot of yards after the catch. Maclin was a very productive college receiver who had 182 receptions with 2,315 yards and 22 touchdowns during his two seasons in Missouri’s spread offense.
Maclin should also make an immediate impact in the return game in year one; Jeremy was arguably the top return man in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Maclin is not a polished route runner and could struggle against top defensive backs early in his career. Maclin also has some durability concerns as he missed the entire 2006 season after suffering a catastrophic right knee injury with multiple torn ligaments and a partial dislocation.
In Andy Reid’s pass happy offense Maclin should see a lot of passes come his way in his rookie season. With his versatility as a receiver and return man consider Maclin an average No. 3 Fantasy receiver who could end the season as a serviceable No.2. Maclin’s tremendous physical tools and upside make him a worthy mid-round fantasy selection.
Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver, NY Giants
29th Pick out of North Carolina
With the loss of Plaxico Burress and potential loss of Amani Toomer, the Giants receiving corps is lead by Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith in 2009. With this type of “talent” lining up for the Giants Nicks should become a starter as a rookie.
Nicks was considered the most NFL ready receiver in the 2009 Draft due to his advanced route running ability. At 6-1 212 pounds Nicks posses prototypical size for an NFL receiver. Hakeem catches the ball at its highest point and has outstanding leaping ability. During his third year as a starter at North Carolina, Nicks was extremely productive catching 68 passes for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Nicks lacks the explosion and burst of other wide receivers taken in the first round such as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Percy Harvin. Hakeem will struggle to get separation and doesn’t look to be a player who will stretch the field on Sundays.
Nicks should make his living moving the chains and making catches across the middle. Having a talent quarterback like Eli Manning getting him the ball is a luxury that many other wide receivers like Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin won’t have in their rookie season.
Nicks probably won’t be a flashy, big play receiver at any point in his career but he should be a top possession receiver for years to come. Consider Nicks a nice No.3 Fantasy Receiver who deserves to be taken in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.
Some other rookies to keep an eye on are:
Michael Crabtree, Wide Receiver, San Francisco
10th Pick out of Texas Tech
Crabtree has great height at 6-2 and was the most talented offensive player taken in the draft. Crabtree has Andre Johnson type ability and was as productive as any college receiver in NCAA history.
Fantasy owners should be wary of taking Crabtree with a high Fantasy pick as he doesn’t have a proven commodity to get him the ball on a consistent basis. Other owners will likely overvalue Crabtree on draft day and take him in the first four rounds.
Percy Harvin, Wide Receiver/ Running Back, Minnesota
22nd Pick out of Florida
Harvin is as talented as any player taken in the draft; he has elite speed and elusiveness. Harvin will lineup all over the field in a similar fashion to the Saints Reggie Bush.
Much like Crabtree I have little faith in Minnesota’s quarterbacks to get Harvin the ball on a constant basis. Harvin also has some durability concerns as he as had trouble staying healthy at the collegiate level.
Brandon Pettigrew, Tight End, Detroit
20th Pick out of Oklahoma State
Pettigrew has elite size at 6-5 and posses wonderful hands for a tight end. Pettigrew is a first-rate red zone threat with incredible leaping ability.
Much like the previous two players on this list Pettigrew’s production is completely dependant upon another player getting him the ball. If the Lions play Daunte Culpepper at quarterback this season I would rank Pettigrew a little higher on my board but no matter who is under center for Detroit they will struggle getting the ball out behind a dreadful offensive line.
Pat White, Quarterback/Wide Receiver, Miami
44th Pick out of West Virginia
Pat White was the most intriguing player in the 2009 NFL Draft; he was an excellent quarterback during his four years at Morgantown but many thought he would have to move to wide receiver to play in the NFL. This was until the combine where White excelled throwing the ball and showed value as a signal caller at the next level.
White was drafted by the team that reintroduced the wildcat offense back into the NFL and is the perfect player to run the formation. White has unparalleled athleticism and is a player tailor made for the wildcat as he has the ability to throw the ball or keep it and bust a long run.
White should see eight to ten plays a week as a quarterback in the wildcat and could potential have dual eligibility at both quarterback and wide receiver. White is player you should be more then willing to take a flyer on in late rounds of your Fantasy draft.