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A look at 2009 fantasy rookies

Matt Stafford was 27-7 as a three-year starter.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With most of the free agent signings behind us and still a few weeks before the NFL Draft, there's not much going on in the fantasy world.

For me, I'm thinking about my home team Philadelphia Eagles and what they can do to improve themselves. I certainly wouldn't mind if Coach Andy Reid helped his quarterback out with the addition of an offensive lineman for protection, but I'd like to see another pass catching threat. This is a great year for wide receivers and there is a stud or two available at tight end as well.

I'm thinking that nothing would make Donovan McNabb happier than another target to go along with DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. Darrius Heyward-Bey or Hakeem Nicks would be better for next year's offense than say getting the heir apparent to Brian Westbrook.

I've listed players below who would make any team better next season from a fantasy point of view...not who would make them a better football team. The list consists of first-year "impact" players only.

Quarterbacks - It's usually very difficult for a quarterback to have a huge fantasy effect because there are only one or two per season, at most, which start in their rookie year. Last year, Matt Ryan and to a lesser extent Joe Flacco had impact although more in real life than in the fantasy world. There seem to be only two quarterbacks in 2009 which might get to play from the start.

Matt Stafford, Georgia - 6'2", 225 lbs, 4.84 combine time. Stafford compiled 3,459 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was 27-7 as a three-year starter.

Mark Sanchez, USC - 6'2", 227 lbs, 4.88 combine time. Sanchez has been a starter at USC for two years. In his final year he threw for 3,207 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs. He has only made 17 starts at Southern California (15-2) and might not be ready yet for NFL defenses.

Running Backs - This is the category which usually has the greatest effect on fantasy drafts. Once a back learns to protect his quarterback, a.k.a. pick up the blitz, he's ready to run in the NFL. Last year we saw how good rookie running backs can be in Chris Johnson, Jonathon Stewart, Matt Forte, Felix Jones and Steve Slaton.

Chris Wells, Ohio State - 6'1", 235 lbs, 4.59 combine time. Despite being 25 lbs heavier than Knowshon Moreno, his "40" time was faster. He missed three games in his final year, but still posted 1,197 yards and eight TDs. Wells' biggest strengths are his size, athletic ability, competitiveness, running instincts and intelligence. Down side - not a great pass catcher and durability.

Knowshon Moreno, Georgia - 5'11", 217 lbs, 4.60 combine time. Moreno's speed has dropped him a bit in the eyes of the scouts, but he still collected 1,400 yards and 16 TDs on the ground. Solid receiver with 33 catches for 392 yards and two scores. Outstanding blocker, gifted athlete...speed is the only thing keeping him from being a top-five pick.

Donald Brown, Connecticut - 5'10", 210 lbs, 4.51 combine time. Brown is an outstanding athlete with "big time" running skills, vision, durability, toughness and consistency. Ran for 2,083 yards and 18 TDs. Size might be the only concern at the NFL level, but could be a "Chris Johnson type" for some NFL team's one-two punch.

LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh - 5'10", 198 lbs, 4.50 Pro Day time. Leaving after his sophomore season, but accumulated 2,816 yards and 35 TDs in those two years. Considering his is the lightest of the four backs listed, his speed was a little disappointing.

Wide Receivers - This looks to be a special class at receiver with more than the six listed below who could pop onto the fantasy radar. But let's start these guys and see if there is a Randy Moss (1,313 yards in 1998), Anquan Boldin (1,377 yards in 2003) or Bill Groman (1,473 yards in 1960).

Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech - 6'1", 215 lbs. In two years at Tech, Crabtree accumulated 3,127 yards and 41 TDs. I don't care what "system" you're running, that's a lot of work. He's a special player and should go in the top-five. If he lands on a team with an established quarterback he could put up 900 yards and nine TDs in his rookie season.

Jeremy Maclin, Missouri - 6'0", 198 lbs, 4.45 combine time. Maclin is an excellent athlete and an elusive kick returner. His speed, hands and physical style gives him a chance to make an impact right away. A bigger version of DeSean Jackson.

Percy Harvin, Florida - 6'0", 193 lbs, 4.41 combine time. Harvin is fast, quick and changes direction at the drop of a hat. He can do virtually anything on the football field because of his athletic ability. Combined for 1,303 and 17 TDs, in 2008 despite missing two games. If used like Reggie Bush he could put up big numbers in his first year.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland - 6'2", 210 lbs, 4.30 combine time. Despite weak numbers last season (42 catches for 609 yards and five TDs) he is a superior wide receiver who will be one of the first five receivers picked. If he goes to a throwing team he'll put up better pro stats than at Maryland where they liked to run first.

Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina - 6'1", 212 lbs, 4.49 combine time. Sixty-eight catches for 1,222 yards and 12 TDs, including 217 yards and three scores against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl have helped him rise to a first-round option.

Kenny Britt, Rutgers - 6'3", 218 lbs, 4.48 combine time. Britt had a big final year with 87 catches for 1,371 yards and seven TDs. He's the biggest target of the top wide receivers coming out this year, but has a tendency to let his mind wander during a game.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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