The statistical success of Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Maurice Jones-Drew and Marques Colston last season proved there are some rookies who can immediately become productive options for fantasy football owners in seasonal formats.
To find the most valuable rookies for next season, it's important to scout the personnel of all 32 teams and determine where potential on-the-field opportunities can turn into statistical success. In an effort to unearth the next Young, Jones-Drew or Colston, here's our list of the top 20 rookies who will have a chance to produce attractive numbers in 2007.
1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo: The first rookie taken in most seasonal drafts will be Lynch, a versatile runner out of California with terrific hands who will be the favorite to open the regular season as the Bills' featured tailback. With skill sets similar to those of Marshall Faulk, Lynch will be well worth a third- to fourth-round selection as a No. 2 fantasy runner in most formats.
|Adrian Peterson should have a chance to pass incumbent starter Chester Taylor on the depth chart.|
2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: Peterson has the skills and abilities to be a solid No. 1 back in the world of fantasy football in the future, but the fact that he'll share carries with incumbent starter Chester Taylor hurts his value. Still, the former Oklahoma standout should be a viable No. 3 fantasy runner and will even be taken ahead of Taylor in some drafts.
3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit: Considered the most prized athlete in this class, Johnson is a physical specimen who will become an absolute nightmare for NFL defensive backs. Most wideouts do need a season or two under before their true statistical success arrives, but Johnson should still be considered an attractive No. 3 fantasy wide receiver in most cases.
4. Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay: Jackson, who has been compared to Ahman Green, possesses the speed to break long runs and has decent skills as a receiver out of the backfield. While injuries are a small concern (he has had two shoulder surgeries in two years), Jackson will have the chance to earn a prominent role and is a nice sleeper candidate.
5. Chris Henry, RB, Tennessee: Henry didn't see too much action in his collegiate career, but his stock soared to new heights after impressive workouts at the combine. However, his chances to start for head coach Jeff Fisher fell when the team re-signed veteran runner Chris Brown. The Arizona product is still worth a middle- to late-round selection in drafts.
6. Greg Olsen, TE, Chicago: Olsen could open the regular season behind incumbent Desmond Clark, but he's a terrific underneath receiver and should join the likes of Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow as solid tight ends to come out of the University of Miami. He will be worth a late-round selection as a No. 2 fantasy tight end.
7. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City: The Chiefs haven't had a legitimate and consistent threat in the pass attack outside of Tony Gonzalez in what seems like forever, so the team hopes Bowe can make a difference. He should have a chance to compete with Samie Parker for a prominent role and could be worth a late-round flier in leagues with 12-plus teams.
8. Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis: A perfect fit for the Colts and their prolific offense, Gonzalez is expected to replace veteran Brandon Stokley as the team's new slot receiver. While he isn't an exceptional threat in the red zone, Gonzalez does possess terrific hands and could be worth a late-round selection in most seasonal drafts..
9. Lorenzo Booker, RB, Miami: Booker's quickness and elusiveness should make him a nice change-of-pace and third-down back for head coach Cam Cameron. However, the emergence of Jesse Chatman in traning camp seems to have hurt Booker's value. In fact, Chatman appears to be the better handcuff than Booker for owners who land Brown.
10. Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Carolina: Jarrett, who possesses the same sort of skills as the man he will replace (Keyshawn Johnson), will compete with Drew Carter and Keary Colbert for a chance to start with Steve Smith. An athletic wideout, Jarrett will be a nice red-zone option for Jake Delhomme and could be worth a late-round flier if he earns the role.
11. Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans: Considered the best wide receiver to come out of Tennessee since Carl Pickens, Meachem has the speed and skills to make some noise in a prolific Saints offense. However, a recent surgical procedure on his right knee will hurt his value in drafts and limit him to more of a late-round flier in leagues with 12-plus teams.
12. Tony Hunt, RB, Philadelphia: Hunt has a chance to unseat Correll Buckhalter and emerge as the No. 2 back in Philadelphia behind incumbent starter Brian Westbrook. Should he take the second spot on the depth chart, Hunt would become a nice handcuff for owners who land Westbrtook.
13. Brian Leonard, RB, St. Louis: Leonard, who is expected to see around 15 to 20 plays per game in his rookie season under head coach Scott Linehan, will be a viable short-yardage back and could be decent insurance for owners in larger leagues who land Steven Jackson. Owners should consider him in the late rounds of larger fantasy football leagues.
14. Zach Miller, TE, Oakland: Miller is a talented athlete and appears to be the favorite to start ahead of Randall Williams and Courtney Anderson, but he'll enter the regular season as no more than a No. 2 fantasy tight end in most formats.
15. Ted Ginn, WR, Miami: Ginn possesses incredible speed and pro potential, and he is back to 100 percent health from the foot sprain he sustained in the 2006 NCAA National Championship Game. While he could become one of the more explosive returners in the NFL, Ginn won't see enough time at wide receiver to be a consistent point producer.
16. Steve Smith, WR, N.Y. Giants: Smith is considered a terrific prospect and could compete for the second spot on the Giants depth chart if Amani Toomer isn't 100 percent back from an injured knee. The rookie could be worth a late-round flier in some formats.
17. Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland: Charlie Frye is considered the favorite to open the regular season as the Browns' No. 1 quarterback, but it shouldn't be long before Quinn takes over the reins of the offense.
18. Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota: Rice has terrific hands and should have a chance to be a No. 3 wideout in a Vikings offense with no legitimate threats at the position, but it appears his chances to become a starter ahead of Troy Williamson and Bobby Wade are slim to none.
19. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland: Russell might not be the No. 1 quarterback when the regular season opens -- Daunte Culpepper is the favorite for that role -- but chances are that he'll be under center sooner than later.
20. Michael Bush, RB, Oakland: Bush would have been a surefire first-round selection in the NFL Draft had it not been for an injured leg, so the Raiders might have landed a tremendous bargain. If he can return in time for the regular season, Bush would have added value.
Other notables: Dwayne Wright, RB, Buffalo; Garrett Wolfe, RB, Chicago; Craig Davis, WR, San Diego; Jason Hill, WR, San Francisco; Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston; Paul Williams, WR, Tennessee; Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay; Justin Medlock, K, Kansas City.