Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2012 NFL Draft is not yet complete, but with the first three rounds already in the books, we can start to evaluate the fantasy-worthiness among the top picks.
In most seasons, rookie running backs and wide receivers make more of a fantasy footprint than quarterbacks. That's because backs and receivers can show off their talent even with limited knowledge of a pro offense. Not so with the guy under center.
However, that wasn't the case in 2011 where Carolina's Cam Newton and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton produced quality fantasy numbers right away and might not be the case in 2012 with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III likely to get a chance to start from Game 1.
Having known for a while that Luck was going to be the first overall pick, we've already discussed Luck's fantasy value at length in a previous piece. The short version is that Luck should produce about 151 fantasy points with totals of 3,600 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. That total is certainly not worthy of fantasy starter status in 2012, but a nice beginning to what should be a long and fruitful career as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in years to come.
Washington's expensive new weapon, Griffin, heads to a team with significantly more talent than Luck will have in Indianapolis. He's very much in the Newton mold, having passed for 10,366 yards and 78 TDs and rushed for 2257 and 33 TDs in four years at Baylor. The Redskins receiving corps includes: Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon, Jabar Gaffney and Fred Davis. He's got a great receiving back in Roy Helu and a defense which keeps them in the game. Griffin will not be Newton in year one, but could be part of a two-man alternating fantasy team.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami - If you need Tannehill to produce for your fantasy team to win the league in 2012, you are going to be in trouble. He has the physical tools, but has too much to learn to produce this season.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland - Weeden will beat out incumbent Colt McCoy for the starting job in Cleveland, but he'll have the same problems McCoy had - a lack of talent in the receiving corps. Greg Little leads a sub-par group and until the team improves in this area, no Browns quarterback is going to have significant fantasy value.
None of the other quarterbacks drafted during the first two days of action (Brock Osweiler, Russell Wilson or Nick Foles) will see enough playing time to have any fantasy value.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland - Richardson has the size (230 lbs) and speed (4.45 40-yard) to be a star. Unfortunately, in the NFL, a one-dimensional offense can be stopped and until the Browns develop a passing game, Richardson will be limited in his fantasy upside. Against an eight-man front some of his best runs may be just getting back to the line of scrimmage. LaGarrette Blount's 2010 rookie season of 1,007 yards and six rushing touchdowns seems like a reasonable goal. Richardson is a much better receiver than Blount, however, and could total another 350 yards in receptions.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay - Speaking of the Bucs, Martin was added to help them in receiving situations as well as rushing the ball. The first-team All- Mountain West back should get plenty of playing time and eventually could turn this "shared situation" into one where he gets most of the work and Blount is the "big back" for goal-line and short yardage work. That evolution won't happen in one season, so Martin will have limited fantasy value in single- season leagues.
David Wilson, Isaiah Pead, LaMichael James, Ronnie Hillman, and Bernard Pierce will all see limited action barring injuries to their team's more qualified starter.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville - Blackmon will be on the field from Day 1, but he too has limitations, not his, but at quarterback. "He's a complete player, does it all, unselfish in everything he does," said new coach Mike Mularkey. It's up to the coach to figure ways to get him the ball and with Chan Henne and Blaine Gabbert it will be a challenge.
Michael Floyd, Arizona - Floyd should enjoy single coverage for the first time in years with defenses concentrating on his superstar teammate Larry Fitzgerald. That could allow Floyd to be the best of the rookie receivers in 2012. Think Julio Jones production.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee - If injured Kenny Britt (knee) comes back healthy, he and Wright could become a very nice dual threat. With either veteran Matt Hasselbeck or youngster Jake Locker, Wright will have limited first-year value, but should improve as the season progresses.
A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco - Jenkins has plenty of talent, but in San Francisco he's going to be the third receiving option at best. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree will get the first and second looks which means little value for Jenkins in 2012.
Brian Quick, St. Louis - Rookie fantasy value is often more about opportunity than just talent and in St. Louis, Quick should get plenty of playing time and targets. Quarterback Sam Bradford has been suffering from a lack of receiving talent on the Rams roster and Quick is a big upgrade. He's got size and uses it well both in going for the ball and blocking. Wide receiver coach Ray Sherman said he sees similarity between Quick and Terrell Owens. Hopefully he was talking on-field only. Quick should be a top-three fantasy rookie receiver.
Other receivers selected in the first third round, like Stephen Hill (NY Jets), Alshon Jeffrey (Chicago), Ryan Broyles (Detroit) and Reuben Randle (NY Giants) all have limiting factors, mostly playing time or playing "second fiddle" to a superstar receiver.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis - When receivers come into the NFL, they have to not only learn a new system, but a new quarterback and his tendencies. Fleener won't have the second issue as he's headed to the Colts with his Stanford quarterback Luck. Fleener has wideout speed and great hands, but will need to develop his blocking if he wants to be a three-down player. In a position loaded with quality, Fleener won't be a fantasy starter from Day 1, but could certainly become one by the end of the season.