NFC Fantasy Rookie Roundup
We’re back with the second half of our rookie report. You can see our AFC report here.
Dallas Cowboys - The big news on draft day for Dallas was the selection of Arkansas running back Felix Jones. Every fantasy owner should have groaned with the selection, because it negatively affects Marion Barber and ensures that Jones won’t be nearly as valuable as he would have been elsewhere. The Cowboys also nabbed Georgia Tech back Tashard Choice, who could have been a deep sleeper with other teams. Here, he’s third on the depth chart.
New York Giants - The Super Bowl champion Giants waited until the third round to select an offensive player. Mario Manningham adds depth to a receiving corps that features the aging Amani Toomer, but do not expect big things. Apparently, the Giants dig quarterbacks from the SEC. Eli Manning, Jared Lorenzen and fellow Wildcat Andre Woodson all played in the conference. Manning obviously doesn’t need to worry about Woodson’s selection. Lorenzen, who was shocked at the Woodson pick, is another story. Woodson will compete for the back-up job.
Philadelphia Eagles - The only skill player Philly added through the draft was California wide out DeSean Jackson. Jackson will need time to grow as an NFL receiver, but he’ll surely show some flashes along the way this season. Actually, his biggest early impact should come on special teams, where he stands to make a few big returns. If your league awards points for return yardage, he’s a sneaky spot starter option.
Washington Redskins - Lacking significant pass catching threats, the Redskins grabbed two receivers in two of the first three rounds. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly should add playmaking ability to a rather average group. Under new head coach Jim Zorn expect the Redskins to run a lot, but these receivers help the passing game. A bad performance in the combine and a poor Sugar Bowl landed quarterback Colt Brennan in the draft’s sixth round. He will not contribute.
Chicago Bears - With the Bears’ defense in a bit of turmoil, (where are you Brian!?) Chicago rolled the dice by selecting offensive players with its first three selections. Chris Williams, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, will be expected to anchor the Bears’ line. Matt Forte, a second-round half back from Tulane, is my pick for “rookie runner in the best situation.” He should beat out Cedric Benson for the starting job by, oh, Week Two. Finally, another Vanderbilt stand out, wide receiver Early Bennett, fell to Chicago in round three. He will have some adjustment issues, especially with the physical NFL corners, so don’t expect too much this season.
Detroit Lions - Understandably, Detroit focused most of its attention on its porous defense. However, the Lions did not neglect their mediocre running game, grabbing Central Florida running back Kevin Smith in the third round. Keep an eye on him as he may compete for time with starter Tatum Bell. Not to shy away from their recent roots, the Lions picked up Wake Forest receiver Kenneth Moore. Don’t expect him to be a fantasy factor.
Green Bay Packers - Green Bay didn’t possess a first round selection, but it did spend two second round picks on offensive players. Jordy Nelson, of Kansas State, adds another wide receiver weapon for new starter Aaron Rodgers. Of course, Rodgers will have some pressure on himself with the other second round selection, Louisville’s Brian Brohm. The Packer offense could be very good for fantasy owners or very disappointing, so the two rookies have a chance to make some kind of impact. It’s just very hard to know if they’ll have a chance to.
Minnesota Vikings - Minnesota strayed from concentrating on offense in the draft, which is shocking considering how average it is offensively with one notable exception at running back. The Vikings selected USC quarterback John David Booty, who probably will not see significant time on the field unless Tavaris Jackson goes belly up. The Vikings lack strong receivers and Jaymar Jackson in the sixth round is not the answer.
Atlanta Falcons - Everybody knows the biggest selection for the Falcons was Matt Ryan. Mel Kiper and ESPN made sure of that. He will probably step in as a starter at some point, but don’t expect it to happen too soon. Even if he is named a starter early on, his fantasy impact will be minimal. Obviously, Ryan is more of a dynasty league prospect. The Falcons also spent an early pick on Louisville wide out Harry Douglas. He’s a smaller receiver, but that fits with the team. Roddy White clearly will attract attention, but Douglas should make plays out of the slot. The Falcons aren’t quite as good as the Patriots (surprise), so Douglas’ fantasy value isn’t very high. Still, he’s worth keeping an eye on in dynasty leagues.
Carolina Panthers - Carolina struggled with its offensive and defensive line play last season, so the club focused its draft there instead of on the skill positions. However, Carolina used its first round pick on running back Jonathan Stewart. He’ll join DeAngelo Williams in the backfield to form a solid one-two punch. Stewart should be one of the more productive rookie backs. Louisville tight end Gary Barnidge was productive in college, but slid to the fifth round.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints already have a potent offense so they wisely spent their higher picks on defensive players, therefore there’s not much to mention here. Since we have a down moment, I’d like to point out there’s a new kind of scary ant in Texas. I’m very afraid (even if they do taste like raspberries).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Appalachian State receiver Dexter Jackson adds speed and youth to Tampa’s offense. The Bucs don’t throw the ball around a la the ’07 Patriots, so his production will not be overwhelming. The Bucs seemingly have ten quarterbacks on their roster, hence, Josh Johnson, a fifth round selection, has his work cut out for him. Nonetheless, with Jeff Garcia heading into the twilight of his career, stocking up is not a bad idea.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals, who probably should have drafted one of the highly touted running backs, decided to go defense first and then took LSU wide out Early Doucet. In addition to having a kickass name, Doucet is my pick for best rookie receiver. He has similar size to Anquan Boldin, is active after the catch, and showed a natural instinct for going over the middle. Obviously, he will find the looks tough to come by with Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald around, but both of those guys have had injury issues. If one goes down, Doucet could be a big surprise.
San Francisco 49ers - The ‘Niners went with one skill player, which makes little sense considering how badly the offense played last season and that they brought in Mike Martz as the new offensive coordinator. Receiver Josh Morgan has speed, but will not make a major impact offensively. He may be more of a significant factor on special teams. Looking towards 2008, the combo of Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson will not get it done. The ‘Niners should have looked at receivers earlier than the sixth round.
Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawk offense under Mike Holmgren has never really utilized the tight end position, so that might explain why they used a second round selection on Notre Dame tight end John Carlson. He wasn’t a dominating performer in school, but he is adept at receiving and blocking, and was one of the few tight ends in the draft that showed competence at both of those skills. He’s not worth worrying about, however, unless he can string together some effective games.
St. Louis Rams - St. Louis addressed needs on the defensive side of the ball in the first round, then countered in the second by drafting two receivers including Donnie Avery, whom impressed head coach Scott Linehan with his speed. Keenan Burton is also a burner and will be a welcome addition to the Ram passing attack. Torry Holt cannot do it forever and bolstering the group should give it new life.