NFL Lockout Sets Rookies Back

by Eddie Mayrose

The story is always the same.  Whenever there is discord within a family, the children bear the burden of the animosity.  Such is the case heading into the 2011 NFL season, as the dispute between the owners and players as to how to split billions of dollars resulted in months of lost time for the rookies drafted into the league in April.

Even under the best of circumstances, most rookies are behind the eight ball as they struggle with a new playbook and the increased speed and talent while trying to carve out some measure of playing time for themselves. This year, however, that task became even more daunting for first year players as the league’s labor dispute erased all of their pre-camp preparation and forced them to acclimate themselves on the fly.

Traditionally, the freshman class is an area where Fantasy Football owners look to uncover a hidden gem or two in the late rounds. By the time they arrive at their draft tables, they have, at least, some idea about a rookie’s potential playing time and how he fits in to his team’s offensive scheme based on his pre-season performance. Not so, this season, as owners selecting a rookie must do so with their fingers crossed.

Make no mistake, there are a few diamonds in the rough available. They’ll just be harder to find. Here’s an idea of how the old professor sees things.

Boom- One thing to remember when selecting a rookie signal caller is that an opportunity for extended playing time usually comes with a bad supporting cast.  In Cincinnati, however, Andy Dalton, poised to take advantage of Carson Palmer’s retirement, we’ll at least have another stud on the field in WR A.J. Green.  Dalton has been a gunslinger throughout his college career, something that will suit him well as the Bengals should spend most of the season on the short end of the scoreboard. Grit your teeth and put up with the INT’s until Dalton and Green start to click.

Bust- The big name under center is, obviously, Cam Newton.  The draft’s top pick and reigning Heisman winner, Newton comes to the Panthers carrying the burden of savior.  While Carolina had some reservations about the selection, his athleticism and size were, ultimately, too much to resist. Fantasy Owners should resist, though, as this scouting report reminds us too much of JeMarcus Russell’s when Oakland handed him the keys to the kingdom. Newton’s college career was too short for him to be in a position to make any significant Fantasy impact this year.

Running Back
- Daniel Thomas ran for more than 2,800 yards over the last two seasons while also amssing 30 rushing TD’s as the Wildcats’ lone offensive threat.  He’s likely to share a large part of the load for the Dolphins, even with Reggie Bush coming aboard. Thomas won’t shy away from being “the man” in Miami, making him a very nice sleeper.

Bust- We’re not entirely comfortable labeling Saints’ rookie Mark Ingram a bust, especially given his Heisman pedigree.  But, he’ll be splitting time with Pierre Thomas, New Orleans is a pass-first team and he’s just not that fast.  We don’t see Ingram emerging as the starter at any point this season.

Wide Receiver
Boom- The easiest call on the board, as A.J. Green was the best player in the draft.  Combine that with the fact  that he’s already Cincinnati’s go-to guy and he’ll probably cost you a fourth or fifth round pick.

Bust- Don’t get sucked into the hype surrounding Torrey Smith in Baltimore.  He’s a tremendous talent and   should be a solid pro but we can’t ignore the fact that Joe Flacco still has a long way to go before he’s listed among the game’s elite.  Until he does, the Professor will take a dim view of any Raven wideout.



Professor Wagstaff’s Top Ten Fantasy Rookies

1. A.J. Green WR CIN
2. Daniel Thomas RB MIA
3. Julio Jones WR ATL
4. Andy Dalton QB CIN
5. Roy Helu RB WAS
6. Ryan Williams RB ARI
7. Randall Cobb WR GB
8. Jon Baldwin WR KC
9. Titus Young WR DET
10.Colin Kaepernick QB SF


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