Top 16 Fantasy Football Rookies: Zach Sudfeld, Cierre Wood impressive

by Nicholas Minnix on August 28, 2013 @ 08:15:00 PDT

 

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Quarterbacks

FANTASY FOOTBALL-RATED

  1. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills
    Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel
    The first QB drafted faces high expectations as well as concerns about his decision-making and inconsistent accuracy. The O's design should mitigate those worries, and Manuel will improve because of it. Kevin Kolb (concussion) is no longer a challenge. If everything goes as planned, then Manuel will command a mean attack, eventually.
  2. Geno Smith, New York Jets
    Smith fell to the second round because of questions about his maturity. He's competing with Mark Sanchez for the opportunity to run one of the league's worst offenses. Does that say enough? The mistake-prone Smith is more so keeper-league material. But he can make plays with his legs, so don't count him out in deep redrafters.

DEEP SLEEPERS

  • Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    In dynasty leagues, Glennon is a pretty safe pick, relatively speaking. He has all the tools, and the Bucs aren't committed to Josh Freeman beyond 2013. Greg Schiano hesitated before he declared the incumbent his starter. Don't rule out a Glennon appearance this season. He might be QB2 material from the wire, if he does.
  • NEW - Tyler Bray, Kansas City Chiefs
    The Tennessee product beat out Ricky Stanzi for KC's No. 3 QB position. The organization is high on Bray (6-foot-5, 215 pounds). The doubts about his commitment to preparation haven't been a concern thus far, reportedly. He has a lot of long-term upside in Andy Reid's offense.
  • Tyler Wilson, Oakland Raiders
    It'll likely take injuries to expected starter Terrelle Pryor and disappointing backup Matt Flynn for Wilson to play this season. The Arkansas product can make all the throws and could end up being a nice find. His short-term fantasy prospects are dim, though.
  • Matt Barkley, Philadelphia Eagles
    Chip Kelly is familiar with this mentally sharper passer from their days as foes in the Pac-12. The new coach may not want to bring Michael Vick back in 2014. Perhaps Barkley can be Kelly's long-term architect, despite the USC product's somewhat underwhelming physical tools. The job should yield fantasy production, if it happens.

QB | RB | WR | TE

Running Backs

FANTASY FOOTBALL-RATED

  1. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
    Considered the best back in the draft by many, Lacy (5-foot-9, 230 pounds) is strong from head to toe and could be the first workhorse of head coach Mike McCarthy's seven-year tenure. He slipped because of a spotty health history at Alabama, however, and Green Bay loves to throw it. Still, it's a great situation.
  2. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
    Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell
    The Bengals surprised onlookers by making this North Carolina product the first back selected, but they love his entire skill set. The 5-foot-8, 208-pound runner isn't speedy, but he is elusive. Cincy wants to put his hands to use early on. BenJarvus Green-Ellis should feel the heat, and PPR fantasy owners should consider reaching a little.
  3. Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
    This second-rounder didn't enter training camp as the No. 1 running back, but he'll get chances to be. A lot depends on whether his supposedly solid pass-blocking skills show up. The 5-foot-8, 215-pound TD machine in college is a solid pass-catcher, but Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman threaten to steal touches, at minimum, and perhaps play ahead of him.
  4. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
    Pittsburgh drafted Bell in the second round with the idea that he could be the featured back of tomorrow ... and probably today, as long as his heft and hefty college workload don't continue to result in a string of injuries that keep him in the trainer's room. The big bruiser (6-foot-1, 244 pounds) has nimble feet and can catch it.
  5. Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
    Jerry Jones believes his team drafted something close to a DeMarco Murray clone here. Randle may be a better receiver but isn't as fast. As the backup to the somewhat injury-prone Murray, Randle should get opportunities, however, and he's a playmaker. Lance Dunbar is a potential roadblock, though.
  6. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
    The Rams may unleash a three-headed monster from the backfield now that Steven Jackson is gone. Stacy (5-foot-7, 216 pounds), an accomplished back at Vanderbilt, has an opportunity to contribute. He could prove to be a late-round gem that complements second-year man Daryl Richardson. Slashing soph Isaiah Pead may also be ahead of him, though.

DEEP SLEEPERS

  • Stepfan Taylor, Arizona Cardinals
    Ryan Williams' health woes prompted the Cards' new staff to draft two backs to insure Rashard Mendenhall. Taylor, a north-south rusher, may be suited to fill in if something happens to the starter. He'd almost surely share touches in that event, though, so at best he's deep redrafter material.
  • Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
    Seattle Seahawks RB Christine Michael
    For the second straight year, Seattle has drafted a dangerous running back capable of handling a featured role to back up Marshawn Lynch. Robert Turbin showed well in limited duty last year, though, and should have dibs as long as he's healthy.
  • Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Bucs appear to be higher on this former Hurricane than draft pundits were. He should win the job as backup to Doug Martin. James is an overachieving leg-churner who should be adequate in that role. In deep leagues, which tend to encourage handcuffs, he's a target.
  • New - Cierre Wood, Houston Texans
    Wood targeted Houston after he went undrafted because his one-cut style fit. It has, so far, like a glove. It's unclear whether he'll supplant Deji Karim as the No. 3 ball carrier this year, but the Texans will surely try to keep Wood around. Ben Tate is a free agent after this season.
  • Kenjon Barner, Carolina Panthers
    This sixth-round choice, like Mike Goodson before him, faces an uphill battle for touches, but he's a big-time threat in the passing game. Barner, a burner, has impressed, and Jonathan Stewart (delayed recovery from surgery on both ankles) will begin the season on the PUP list.
  • Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
    This sixth-round speedster is the other addition to Arizona's repopulated backfield. He's a probable pass-blocking liability, but Ellington is a dangerous complementary back, at least, because of what he can do in space. The likelihood of limited touches caps his long-term upside.
  • Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay Packers
    This 5-foot-8, 205-pound UCLA graduate is a bursting cutback runner who's capable of providing a change of pace from Lacy and catching the ball out of the backfield. But Franklin's pass pro and decision-making must improve for him to gain PT now that DuJuan Harris (knee injury).
  • New - Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
    "RB" is just where the Jags list the former Michigan quarterback and wide receiver. "Handcuff to Maurice Jones-Drew" is quite a stretch of the imagination, since they define his position as "offensive weapon." There's some intrigue here, but not until ball security becomes less of an issue.
  • Mike Gillislee, Miami Dolphins
    Some doubt whether presumed starter Lamar Miller is built to remain healthy. A reportedly rejuvenated Daniel Thomas stands between the versatile Gillislee and the No. 2 spot, for now. The rookie must demonstrate decisiveness after the handoff. If Gillislee does, he may be worth monitoring in deep dynasty leagues.
  • Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs
    KC will lean heavily on Jamaal Charles, but Andy Reid needs a quality backup. Davis has the frame to be featured material. The Arkansas product would have drawn more draft interest had injuries not derailed his college career. Mistakes stand between him and pro success, although he could be a volume producer.
  • New - Marcus Lattimore, San Francisco 49ers
    His inclusion is a formality, because the South Carolina phenom has no redraft value. Lattimore (dislocated knee, three torn ligaments in college) hopes to play in 2013, but San Fran doesn't intend to let him see the field. In a year's time or more, dynasty owners may get to see why the Niners were willing to wait.
  • Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins
    Mike Shanahan loves this short, stout burner, whose rookie campaign is the backdrop for his return from a torn ACL. Thompson may need time to prove himself but would become interesting if something happened to Roy Helu this year. In dynasty leagues, he may be worth a flier.

QB | RB | WR | TE

Wide Receivers

FANTASY FOOTBALL-RATED

  1. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
    St. Louis Rams WR Tavon Austin
    The eighth overall selection has had no problems learning his offense's complex playbook. At 5-foot-8, 174 pounds, Austin is far from imposing, but DBs should be frightened when they get a taste of his speed, burst and ability to change direction. Nice hands, too. He could be a PPR steal.
  2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
    This Clemson star's concussion would have to sideline him for a while for him to fail to line up opposite Andre Johnson this season. Hopkins isn't physical, but his varied skills otherwise and 6-foot-1, 214-pound frame provide him with more than enough to complement the stud. He should be a solid WR5 in Year 1.
  3. Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
    The most impressive rookie wideout in Pats camp is the one they (or any other team) didn't draft. Thompkins' reportedly top-notch athleticism, hands and feel for the game haven't been tested yet in the regular season. But he has a huge opportunity, with a big payout if he continues to take advantage of it.
  4. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
    This Southern Cal product was perhaps the most polished wideout available. He's a good bet to be a starter early in his rookie campaign, if he doesn't open the season as one. Buffalo's QB play conspires to limit Woods' redrafter upside, but he could be useful as a fantasy depth choice.
  5. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
    The Steelers have scaled back the aerial attack a bit this year, and Wheaton projects to be in line for snaps on passing downs only, initially. Still, the 5-foot-11, 189-pounder is a burner with smarts and warrants a pick in deep redrafters. Year 2 is an excellent bet, but Wheaton may even push Emmanuel Sanders at some point in 2013.
  6. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
    Patterson, the third wideout selected this year, will likely make a mark on special teams first. He's a physical specimen and immediate deep threat, but how long will it take him to pick up the finer points of his profession? Fantasy owners shouldn't expect much early on because of a Christian Ponder-led aerial attack and that question.

DEEP SLEEPERS

  • Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
    Stills is a good athlete and fast learner, with above-average speed, but he's unpolished. The loss of Joe Morgan makes Stills a favorite for No. 3, however, although New Orleans has brought in a couple of vets and remains on the lookout for others. Nick Toon is sounder fundamentally and a threat as long as he's heatlhy.
  • Quinton Patton, San Francisco 49ers
    Patton was kind of a steal in the NFL Draft, according to many observers. The rookie will compete with multiple players for the looks available once Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin get theirs. Still, it's not inconceivable that Patton stands out from his competition and contributes, at least semi-regularly.
  • Ace Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguars
    You might expect Sanders' 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame to be a liability, but word is that his smarts and quickness have made his size moot. He's already projected to line up in the slot for the Jags -- and start in place of Justin Blackmon while Blackmon serves his four-game suspension. Sanders has sneaky deep PPR appeal.
  • Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
    Dobson has plus size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), knows how to use his physicality in all aspects of the game and possesses great intelligence. The second-rounder may never be an elite player, but the Pats believe he's underrated. Their offense is one of the most difficult to learn, but he's begun to impress. He's improving as a dynasty-league prospect.
  • Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
    San Diego Chargers WR Keenan Allen
    Speed isn't his strong suit, but Allen (6-foot-2, 206 pounds) does almost everything else well and is a probable steal for the Bolts. The new coaching staff doesn't have to be beholden to SD's vets, so if Allen shows that he's good enough, then he'll play. He's a great dynasty choice who could be ready by Year 2; injuries may allow him to ascent before then.
  • Josh Boyce, New England Patriots
    New England drafted Boyce two rounds after Dobson, but the former should out-produce the latter in Year 1, if things break right. Boyce has reportedly picked up the O quickly, especially impressive given that he missed OTAs. Redrafters may understandably be hesitant to draft one of the Pats' rookies, but they should follow their exploits.
  • Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams
    A significant camp believes that Bailey isn't much less of a prospect than his former West Virginia and current Rams teammate, Austin. The issue is the team's pecking order, which probably includes Austin and second-year man Chris Givens, at least, ahead of him. Still, Bailey is in the mix, and he may be a decent free-agent pickup in some weeks.
  • Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills
    This former Texas Longhorn is a burner. Despite his unimposing size (5-foot-9, 183 pounds), he doesn't shy away from physical play. He may be destined for return duties primarily, as a rookie. Depending on how well the Bills' new coaching staff cultivates its up-tempo offense and QB EJ Manuel, Goodwin could be a nice player for deep dynasty players, though.
  • Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
    If Miles Austin (or Dez Bryant) is injured, then Williams will play. Plausible, right? The 'Boys believe that the talented Marshall product is quite similar to Austin, in fact. But Williams probably won't be worth much until that happens, and if it does, he'd likely share the looks. Austin's contract runs through 2016, too, unfortunately.
  • Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
    This University of Tennessee product will probably require time to incubate. Patterson overshadowed him a bit, but Hunter is a top-notch prospect in his own right. The problems are Hunter's unsteady hands, lack of physicality and the capable players the Titans can play while he matures. He's strictly dynasty material for hopefuls.

QB | RB | WR | TE

Tight Ends

FANTASY FOOTBALL-RATED

  1. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
    Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert
    It's sort of unfortunate that Eifert is a tight end, a position where there are plenty of above-average fantasy options. If the Notre Dame product goes undrafted in fantasy leagues, he'll likely be a suitable free-agent pickup. He'll be on the field most of the time, and he's not known for his ability as a blocker.
  2. NEW - Zach Sudfeld, New England Patriots
    There's an obvious opportunity here, even if it's short-lived. The undrafted Sudfeld has stood out all summer in workouts and exhibition play, minus a preseason Week 3 fumble. Rob Gronkowski (back and arm surgeries) needn't worry, but Sudfeld's fantasy legend has made him a late-rounds target in redrafters.

DEEP SLEEPERS

  • Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
    Chip Kelly loves to create mismatches with tight ends -- part of the game plan whether Philly had lost Jeremy Maclin (torn ACL) for the season or not. Ertz will be involved, but he'll compete with Brent Celek and James Casey, depending on the situation. He may be tough to ride in 2013 but has long-term upside.
  • Gavin Escobar, Dallas Cowboys
    Backup James Hanna is no slouch, but Escobar, a second-rounder, will stake his claim to playing time with improvement as a blocker. Tough guy Jason Witten would have to miss some time in order for Escobar to become fantasy-relevant in 2013, however, and Hanna would probably push him in that scenario. Dallas hopes that Escobar is Witten's heir.
  • Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
    There's speculation that this second-rounder from Rice will help to make up for the loss of Michael Crabtree (torn Achilles') this season. That responsibility will almost certainly be shared widely, though. McDonald's speed-size combo makes him an interesting long-term play, at least, should Vernon Davis depart in a couple of years.
  • Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
    Reed's quickness and versatility belie would-be concerns about his size (6-foot-2, 236 pounds). The third-rounder from Florida is more of a thick wideout or tall running back. Fred Davis figures to use 2013 to prove that he's completely healthy before he hits free agency. The 'Skins, however, will bring along Reed, who could eventually fill a role like Chris Cooley's.
  • Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
    Andy Reid seems to have an affinity for tight ends from Cincinnati. His offense has a tendency to rely more on backs than tight ends in the passing game. Perhaps remedying that: Kelce, a deft pass-catcher, split out wide regularly in college. Kelce is unlikely to make a fantasy impact this year, but he could slowly develop into a player who makes one.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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