Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, just eight skill position players were selected and none seemed to be immediate, sure-fire, fantasy stars in their rookie season.
And as we progressed through the rounds, there were less and less opportunities for the guys to become a fantasy factor, at least in their first season because they are less likely to get the chance to start from Week 1 of the regular season.
The teams looked a little bit more towards the offense in Round 2 with 17 offensive players selected and 12 of those at a skill position.
Round 3 took a turn for the defense with just seven skill players and three offensive lineman versus 22 defenders.
Round 4 went almost completely offensive with 15 skill position players and the first kicker being selected.
We will begin with the kicker, an odd choice this high in the draft, by the Philadelphia Eagles. Apparently, the high-priced David Akers is headed out the door in favor of rookie Alex Henery from Nebraska. Akers has been a highly productive fantasy kicker and has posted 32-or-more field goals in each of the last three seasons. If Henery does indeed replace Akers, he'll likely be a top-five fantasy kicker considering the Eagles offense which ranked third in points (439) last season under Michael Vick's direction.
Back to the more traditional fourth-round type selections, we witnessed seven running backs drafted in the round.
The three who should interest fantasy owners the most are; Delone Carter, Taiwan Jones and Kendall Hunter.
Carter, selected by Indianapolis, is a compact running back with above average receiving skills, perfect for a Peyton Manning-led offense. Club president Bill Polian called Carter a "slam-bang kind of runner" which might indicate he'll be the runner of choice in short yardage and goal line situations. With Joseph Addai as a free agent and Donald Brown only showing flashes of his ability, it's possible that Carter will see enough playing time to have some fantasy value even in his first year with the club.
Jones, from Eastern Washington, ran a 4.25 40 on his Pro Day which obviously got the attention of speed-conscious Oakland. If Michael Bush doesn't return to the Raiders, Jones could get significant playing time. More than likely, however, Bush and Darren McFadden will get the majority of the action with Jones using his speed as a return man. Still, given Bush and McFadden's injury history, a late-round flier on Jones might yield nice value by the end of the season.
And speaking of bad injury histories, Frank Gore hasn't played in all 16 games of a season since 2006 which is a good reason to be interested in Hunter. The two-time, Big 12 first team running back could see the field in his rookie year with Gore's only backup being veteran free agent Brian Westbrook and disappointing Anthony Dixon.
Five receivers were picked in the fourth round, ranging from A.J. Green's teammate at Georgia, Kris Durham to Mount Union's Cecil Shorts.
The Seattle Seahawks, who need a receiver to play opposite Mike Williams, chose the 6'6" Durham with the 107th overall selection, but I don't believe he's ready to contribute to your fantasy roster at this time. Neither is Miami's pick of Edmond Gates at No.111. Gates has plenty of speed which the Dolphins need, but is too raw to produce as a rookie.
Greg Salas, a third-team All-American at Hawaii, could be immediate help as a possession-style receiver for Sam Bradford in St. Louis. The question here is whether he has enough speed to break away from NFL defenders. He'll be one to watch in summer camp...if there is a summer camp.
Tandon Doss from Indiana, was the second receiver picked by the Baltimore Ravens, which likely means a lot of bench time behind Derrek Mason, Anquan Boldin and second-round selection Torrey Smith. He has good hands and size, but lacks speed and strength and probably won't have much fantasy value as a rookie.
There were three tight ends selected in the fourth round, Jordan Cameron, Luke Stocker and Julius Thomas. But in 2010, tight end was a loaded position even after Jermichael Finley and Dallas Clark were felled by season-ending injuries. I don't see any of the three listed above cracking a fantasy starting lineup in 2011.
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