For rookies, it's mostly about getting the opportunity.
Many a talented first-year player has stood on the sidelines waiting for his chance to play, only to be ignored by the coach until he has seen him enough in practice to be confident he'll run the play as designed. More often, though, injuries will force a coach to put the rookie in the lineup.
Let's see who might get a chance in 2013-14:
Geno Smith, New York Jets - The New York quarterback problems have been well documented. The drop in performance from Mark Sanchez and the failure of the Tim Tebow experiment leave a chance for a talented rookie like Smith to grab the starting job (see Russell Wilson last season). Smith's negative reviews prior to the draft left him available after the first round, but ESPN's Ron Jaworski said Smith was the only quarterback with whom he gave a first-round grade. Barring a complete turnaround from Sanchez, Smith should become the team's starter some time before the season ends.
Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay - Bucs head coach Greg Schiano inherited starter Josh Freeman, so he may not be married to him. Freeman was a fantasy stud in 2010, stumbled in 2011, then played better last season, though not to his earlier level. With both Freeman and journeyman Don Orlovsky in front of him, Glennon seems more project than immediate help.
Tyler Wilson, Oakland - Wilson showed he was a tough guy in the pocket at Arkansas, which is a valuable trait for an NFL quarterback. Matt Flynn figures to be the starter, but we said that last preseason when he was in Seattle. Wilson does a terrific job in play action and has a decent arm, though not as accurate as we would like. More likely another project guy who won't help you this season, but it's the Raiders, so anything is possible.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay - Lacy is a tough, physical back in the mold of another Crimson Tide runner - Trent Richardson. Lacy lacks great speed, but should be an excellent red zone runner. He'll need to develop as a pass blocker if he wants to stay on the field.
Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay - Franklin owns the quickness and home run ability that Eddie Lacy doesn't. He's also avoided the injury bug that Lacy has dealt with throughout his college career. Franklin's monster senior season (1,734 rushing yards, 33 receptions for 323 yards, 15 TDs) makes him a prime candidate for a RBBC role in the Packers' backfield.
Montee Ball, Denver - The Broncos' top two running backs, Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, are coming back from major injuries and Ball could win the top job. In fact, Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway likened him to Terrell Davis. Ball was very productive at Wisconsin over three seasons and has a nose for the end zone. If he wins the starting nod, he could be a top-15 back as Peyton Manning's running backs are always productive because of the defense's fear of the pass.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati - The Bengals chose Bernard over Lacy because of his speed and ability to create mismatches. Bernard fills a need for a back who can catch the ball out of the backfield. He caught 92 passes for 852 yards and six touchdowns in two seasons with North Carolina. Although he totaled 31 touchdowns, at 5-foot-8, 202 pounds, the red zone role and the first two downs will likely belong to BenJarvis Green Ellis.
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh - With Rashard Mendenhall in another town, Bell has a chance to see a lot of time in the Steelers' backfield. He can be a workhorse back, is valuable in the passing game and should be involved from Week 1. He could turn out to be Pittsburgh's version of Matt Forte, so don't forget him. He'll likely be selected around the fifth round of your draft.
Knile Davis, Kansas City - Davis was excellent in Bobby Petrino's high- scoring offense back in 2010, but missed all of 2011 with a broken ankle and didn't do much last season. He showed great speed at the NFL Combine (4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash), but will take a back seat to Jamaal Charles no matter how fast he is. However, if he can beat out the remainder of the Chiefs' mediocre backfield options, he could see 6-8 touches per game.
Keenan Allen, San Diego - Allen has first-round talent, size and speed, but questions not related to football caused him to fall into the third round. He should step right into the third receiver role and could eventually see much more playing time.
Robert Woods, Buffalo - He found the perfect situation in Buffalo, where the Bills have Stevie Johnson and little else at the wideout spot. Woods should step right into the No. 2 receiver role and produce solid numbers if rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel is the real deal.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee - Hunter has the size and speed to be a fantasy No. 1, but after suffering an ACL injury in 2011, he never regained his play-making ability. The addition of Hunter to last year's high selection of Kendall Wright likely means Nate Washington won't make the roster. The Titans are trying to give Jake Locker more weapons and a healthy Kenny Britt along with the two young guys would be a step in the right direction. But Hunter figures to be the No. 3 option and his fantasy value will be limited.
Terrance Williams, Dallas - Williams has a chance to earn the No. 3 receiver spot formerly owned by Kevin Ogletree. He is a true deep threat who averaged 18.9 yards per catch at Baylor last season. His fantasy value, however, is limited by the two excellent receivers ahead of him (Dez Bryant and Miles Austin), a great pass- catching tight end (Jason Witten) and a solid running game. Williams shouldn't have much value to fantasy owners in 2013-14.
Aaron Dobson, New England - Dobson brings size and speed to the Patriots' receiving corp and could give quarterback Tom Brady the deep threat he's been missing since Randy Moss left town. Still, he'll be no better than the fourth receiving option behind Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Amendola.
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