Fantasy football is a great way to learn about players and production in the NFL and it's important to take an educated guess on which recently drafted rookies have a chance to make an impact in year one. Get in a league with ten or more teams and the quality veteran talent runs out quickly. I have already been asked a dozen times which rookies I like and where would I select them in 2009 fantasy drafts.
At this point I would keep an eye on the three rookie quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL draft, but I would not select them in a fantasy draft. Last year, wide receivers Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson and running backs Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton were smart picks in the mid to late rounds. So which 2009 rookies would I consider when our NFL.com fantasy draft comes around later this summer? Here are my top 10 rookies and where I would consider taking them in fantasy drafts.
Rookies to watch for
1. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota: The Vikings will build a package for Harvin similar to the those used by the Saints, Panthers and Eagles for the likes of Reggie Bush, Steve Smith and Jackson, respectively. Every defense that faces the Vikings sets up to stop Adrian Peterson first and that will set up Harvin for a number of opportunities. Between receiving, returns, and rushing, coach Brad Childress should find a way to get the ball in his hands 8-10 times a game on that indoor carpet. I would consider him in rounds five or six.
2. Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Chicago:Jay Cutler doesn't have a full complement of veteran wide receivers in Chicago and did just fine feeding the ball to rookie wideout Eddie Royal in Denver last year. Iglesias is a polished route runner and should find his way into the Bears' three-wide receiver package if not the starting lineup. With defenses keying on Matt Forte and the quality tight ends on the roster, Iglesias should produce some decent numbers. I would consider him in rounds eight or nine.
3. Shawn Nelson, TE, Buffalo: We all know how much Terrell Owens' presence on the field in Dallas opened up things for the Cowboys tight ends. The same will be true in Buffalo, where the Bills will have T.O. on one side and Lee Evans on the other, which will drag the safeties off the hash marks in cover two to help the corners. That should leave the middle of the field wide open for the tight ends to split the coverage. Buffalo doesn't have any other real tight end threats making, Nelson a wise pick rounds 11 or 12.
4. Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Arizona: The Cardinals released Edgerrin James after they selected Wells in the first round and the door is wide open for him to win the first and second down running back job. Second-year back Tim Hightower will get his touches, but Wells represents the kind of rushing attack offensive line coach Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt had in Pittsburgh. I would consider him in rounds nine or 10.
5. Brian Robiskie, WR, Cleveland: As the son of an NFL wide receivers coach, Robiskie probably comes to pro football with the best idea of what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Kellen Winslow is gone, Joe Jurevicius is gone, WR Donte Stallworth has some serious off-the-field issues and Braylon Edwards still may be traded. Robiskie caught a touchdown every five receptions in college and he knows how to get open. I would consider him in rounds 10 or 11.
6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia: The Eagles have lots of weapons, and it might be tough to get Maclin the opportunities he needs in the passing game. But his return skills and a package full of smoke screens like the one Steve Smith has in Carolina will insure Maclin gets his shots. I would consider him in rounds 10 or 11.
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland: There was a ton of controversy surrounding this selection in the real draft, but when a big receiver with pure speed is on a Raiders team that features a QB with the arm strength of JaMarcus Russell, you have to consider him in a fantasy draft. Teams will line up to defend the Raiders rushing attack and the simplest passing attack is the deep play-action pass. Remember when Lee Evans first went to Buffalo and they worked that 9-route to death? I see the same thing with this kid. I would consider him in rounds 12 or 13.
8. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco: Crabtree may be a marked man in his rookie season, but his best route is the quick slant and he's way ahead of most other rookie receivers in beating press coverage. With Frank Gore establishing the first threat and Vernon Davis in a flexed alignment, Crabtree will get his shots to catch a bunch of short passes. I would consider him in rounds 10 or 11.
9. Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets: Greene is a power back on a team with a new coach and a new QB. He represents the future as incumbent RB Thomas Jones is looking for a new contract. Green will split time early but will likely see his workload grow as the season moves along. I would consider him in rounds 12 or 13.
10. Chase Coffman, TE, Cincinnati:Carson Palmer has never had a receiving tight end like Coffman who caught 247 passes and 30 touchdowns in college. Chad Ochocinco will get most of the attention, followed by Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry. Coffman needs to be 100 percent healthy, but he will beat linebacker coverage and knows how to sit down against zone coverage. I would consider him in rounds 13 or 14. If he gets the green light health-wise, take him two rounds earlier.
Finally, I think RBs Knowshon Moreno and Donald Brown, WRs Kenny Britt and Hakeem Nicks, and TE Brandon Pettigrew are all going to have fine NFL careers, but they didn't crack the top 10 for a number of reasons. I would keep my eye on them after the draft and consider them as waiver claims early in the season. If you are looking for a longshot or two that could surprise, think about Eagles TE Cornelius Ingram and Dolphins WR Patrick Turner.