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Rookies on the Decline


As our last rookie draft exercise has shown, the 2011 class is anything but deep and ultra-talented.  It’s not that there’s not sure-to-be impact players within this year’s draft, it’s that the first tier of players is relatively shallow and there lacks any good definition between the following tiers.  In fact, when looking beyond pick five, it’s safe to say that the next ten picks are completely up in the air and open to interpretation.  Making matters worse, in the past two days rookies clearly in the top twelve have taken a significant hit in terms of value.

Ryan Williams, RB ARI

Ryan Williams left the game on a cart after a nasty knee injury Friday night.  Let me first be very clear in that, as I write this, there has been no clear indication or update as to the extent of Williams’ injury.  Following the game Cardinal’s coach Ken Whisenhut suggested that Williams is likely to be diagnosed with a ruptured patellar tendon, an injury that would cost him his first year and potentially threaten his career or his effectiveness going forward.  With youth on his side Williams can recover from this injury, but as has been shown in previous cases (i.e. Cadillac Williams), it’s not often that the same runner returns following an injury of this nature.  Note that Williams had been anything but injury free in college.  If the injury is as expected, it’s a devastating blow to this year’s most dynamic running back and we wish him well on his recovery.

Fantasy wise, Williams has been picked at 1.04 or 1.05 in most rookie drafts, following Mark Ingram, A.J. Green and Julio Jones and on par with Miami’s Daniel Thomas.  Following the injury, he’ll still go at 1.05 in many drafts but could slip further based on team need.

For the Cardinals, LaRod Stephens-Howling now moves up on the depth chart and Beanie Wells gets a significant upgrade in fantasy value.  Those with an open roster spot and a gambler’s mentality may want to consider Alphonso Smith, who will likely now see touches.

Jonathan Baldwin, WR KC

Coming out of Pittsburgh, the talented Baldwin was said to be a diva and a head case, but not so much that it greatly affected his drafted value.  I specifically removed Baldwin from the top fifteen of my draft board due to my concerns of an “entitlement” aspect to his  personality.  It’s a delicate balance when valuing receivers in this way because many of the great NFL receivers do have some of these qualities.  But coming out of college, I initially downgrade the values of rookies that display this trait; the entitlement trait so early in a career rarely pays fantasy dividends.

In camp, Baldwin has been anything but spectacular or even impressive.  The big receiver has been consistently jammed at the line and thrown off his routes early and often which has called into question his physicality and toughness, obviously frustrating Baldwin.  This came to a head on Friday when it was reported that Baldwin and NFL veteran running back Thomas Jones were in engaged in a locker room altercation that left Baldwin with a wrist injury that was first considered season threatening.  The injury has since been upgraded to a fracture that would sideline Baldwin for at least the remainder of the preseason and perhaps longer.  Beyond that, one has to wonder if there has been greater injury to Baldwin’s ego such that he may never emerge as the playmaker that many hoped he would become.  It’s far too early, obviously, to foretell such things but the question lingers nonetheless.

For the Chiefs, the absence of Baldwin as a potential target across from Dwayne Bowe leaves them relying on veterans Jerheme Urban and Steve Breaston for production.  Neither are likely to draw significant attention from Bowe and neither project to anything other than a WR4 in fantasy.

Mikel Leshoure, RB DET

As we have already covered the Leshoure injury, not much more need be said about the situation.  The talented bruising runner he is, an Achilles’ tendon injury is a major blow to Leshoure, who now takes a major drop into the second round of rookie drafts.  As pointed out in our article on his injury, a recent study shows that one third of NFL players suffering this type of injury never return from it and for those that do, fifty percent don’t return with same strength or power.  Much like Williams, Leshoure has youth on his side and many years ahead of him if he can recover, but physiology would seem to be stacked against him.  We wish him luck on his recovery as well.

Shane Vereen, RB NE

What a difference a few weeks makes.  Vereen had been an oft-selected rookie in the top ten of drafts early on but has since begun to slide as news continues to emerge that he’s been unable to recover from a hamstring injury and could be on the roster bubble, a somewhat shocking development for the second round selection.  In preseason games, Stevan Ridley continues to turn heads with his production, making Vereen an afterthought.  In all likelihood, the roster consideration is just talk at this point as Vereen hasn’t yet had the opportunity to showcase his dynamic style and it would be unlike the Patriots to cut bait on a highly drafted rookie so quickly.

Until further notice, Vereen is well deserving of the valuation slide of recent weeks and Ridley is, arguably, the better addition.  As is so often the case for New England running backs, it’s a position fraught with mystery such that many fantasy coaches just prefer to ignore the situation altogether. For BenJarvus Green-Ellis, however, the lack of any real competition likely secures enough carries to again make him a respectable RB3 in fantasy.

Wrap-up

Every year, coaches drool at the possibilities and trade known fantasy production for the rights to select a coveted rookie.  And every year, a majority of rookies fail to ever emerge and develop into fantasy producers.  This year has been a particularly tough year outside of the top three and recent years have been just as suspect.  Obviously, a year or two in no way defines a career but it certainly calls into question the reality of perceived vs. actual value of rookie draft picks in fantasy.  With non-competitive fantasy teams often times relying on productive and exciting rookies to bolster weekly scores, recent years have shown just how tenuous a position that is.

For 2011, at least the big three are thus far playing up to their expectations.

….are you knocking on wood?  You should be.

 

 

Jeff Haverlack
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Dan
10 years ago

I’m really disappointed I have the 1.6 pick this year after all these injuries and was wondering if you might recommend where you might go at that pick with my current dynasty roster…

12 Team, Standard Scoring, 20 man rosters
QB – Schuab, Flacco
RB – M. Bush, Choice, Forte, F. Jones, P. Thomas
WR – A. Benn, Floyd, S. Holmes, Sims-Walker, Wallace
TE – Moeaki
D – Giants

Paradis
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

I’d say at this point, WR seems to be your best bet. G. Little or R. Cobb would be the two I’d be targeting whom you’re most likely to see a quick return on. Of course there’s Denarius Mr. August Moore, but I have my concerns about OAK’s passing game.

sensai_john_kreese
Reply to  Paradis
10 years ago

greg little wont be there at 6, at least i dont believe he will be

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

It’s a tough situation for sure. The next best RB in my mind in Kendall Hunter and I think he could be a good one in a couple of years. As far as the WRs go, Little is probably the best remaining but there is risk there. Cobb looks like a gem but who knows how long until he’s producing. Or go QB and pray.

I’d lean toward WR in your situation.

Tony
Reply to  DLF_Jeff
10 years ago

If Greg Little isn’t there at 1.6, then aim for Hankerson. He isn’t good this year but he should be good in the next few years.

Coach
10 years ago

I’ve had 4 top 10 picks in rookie drafts the last two years.

Montario Hardesty- Blown knee
Demaryius Thomas- Blown achilles
Arrelious Benn- Blown knee
Ryan Williams- Blown knee.

Fortunately I picked Mike Williams last year and picked up Arian Foster so my team is still in good hands, but this recent run makes me glad I already traded my first round pick next season for Sam Bradford.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Coach
10 years ago

Indeed … it’s been a tough few years for rookies in general. The top three this year look really solid but there’s still no guarantee.

Cyrus
Reply to  Coach
10 years ago

It is bound to happen as I am in about 5 dynasty leagues, but I actively targeted Tate (I thought Houston was the perfect opportunity, which it was, but for Foster), Thomas, Ryan Williams and Leshoure.

In one league alone, I drafted Tate at 1.06 last year, traded for Thomas before the Achilles (Vernon Davis for Thomas and a 1st), then drafted Ryan Williams this year at 1.04.

I have an elite team, even with the injuries, but it really really sucks. I need better luck.

sensai_john_kreese
10 years ago

i had 5 out the top 11, the 1, 7,8,9,11

AJ green went 1, Roy helu went 7, greg little at 8, torrey smith at 9, and mason foster at 11

I still feel pretty good, Even Torrey Smith’s recent demotion has not been a big deal for me, as i am also a savvy Lee Evans owner. I did decide to IR smith though

Mike
10 years ago

Are picks 2.3 or 2,5 in a 12 team league too early to think about taking a risk on either Leshore or Williams?

I like Hunter and Helu, but I’m pretty sure both will be gone by then. I’m pretty set at QB (and I don’t like this year’s class anyway), and at WR I expect guys like Baldwin – and maybe Hankerson available…

If I’m looking at say Vareen, D Carter, Baldwin, and Hankerson….are Leshore or Williams worth taking a flyer on over this group?

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Mike
10 years ago

No, I don’t think so … depending on who is still available, especially for Williams. Williams can return from a Patella tendon, it’s tough but can be done. If someone like Hunter or Cobb were to fall, I would go that direction but take one of those picks and take the gamble. I’d take a flyer on one of them compared to the ones you listed.

Reply to  Mike
10 years ago

Of the four guys you mentioned, the only one I’d take over Leshoure or Williams at this point is Delone Carter. He at least offers some short-term return on your investment. The other guys’ prospects aren’t that scintillating. But I’d probably be waiting until Round 3 to grab Leshoure or Williams. A 2nd-round investment is too high, IMO, for a guy who will give you nothing for at least a year. Plus, there’s no guarantee that, even when they come back, that they’ll be the same guys. Williams has an especially long injury history. And really, RB is a position that gets replenished in the draft every single year. There will players at least as good as Leshoure and Williams in next year’s draft, too. So, unless you were absolutely in love with either guy’s skills, I would wait a bit.

Jettster
10 years ago

Someone help me. I have a rookie draft in a few hours. I pick 6th overall. I have no idea where to go. Daniels, little, Cobb, Helu, I have Gore so maybe Hunter. Will he be the backup?

Dan
Reply to  Jettster
10 years ago

Do you have any idea how the picks will fall before yours? What are the needs of those other teams?

Jettster
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

Most likely, Ingram, Green, Jones, Then who knows? I know one guy like Little. I even thought about Newton for the future but I am not sold on him.

Coach
Reply to  Jettster
10 years ago

if you have gore, id go with hunter if he’s available.

Nathan
10 years ago

Hey all. Been reading all this and I have a question. At 1.5 should I go Little? I don’t have a second round pick because I traded that for M Thomas earlier. I want more depth at RB so if I pass on little to bolster my rb depth who to take now? Top thee will be gone and then d Thomas will go. My RBs are Peterson, McFadden, Bush, Hardesty. WRs are cal Johnson, s Holmes, p garçon, a Boldin, m Thomas, b Gibson.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Nathan
10 years ago

Your choices are really the first QB off the board, Hunter or Little. It’s high for both Little and Hunter … and even QB this year, so take what helps your team the most. I think Hunter is going to be good eventually but Little will be playing from day one.

Dan
10 years ago

Which RB has a better chance of returning: Leshoure or Williams?

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

That’s the $1M question right now. I’d bet they both play again, but Leshoure probably has a better chance.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

I’ll go with Williams myself

Jeremy
10 years ago

I doing a rookie/FA draft right now and i think ryan williams might be there for me at 2.04 in a 12 man ppr league. is it a terrible idea to select him there with his injury?

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Jeremy
10 years ago

It depends on what’s left on the board and what kind of team needs you have. It’s not a terrible idea if you’re just taking a stab, though.

Jeremy
Reply to  DLF_KenK
10 years ago

I need rb’s and whats left is J McKnight, Alex Green, Vereen, Ridley, D Carter, K Hunter, Leshoure, or R.Williams and I doubt Hunter will be there

Dan
10 years ago

I find myself in the really bad position of being stacked at QB and WR in a 14-team dynasty, but needing RBs…unfortunately I have the 6th overall rookie pick.

I’m hoping someone bites on Little or Newton/Gabbert and Thomas falls, but if not, who would you draft?

(Before people ask, yes, I am trying to trade either a QB or a WR for a RB, in which case I’d take the BPA)

My team:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford
RB: Jamaal Charles, Jonathan Stewart, Bernard Scott
WR: Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Mike Wallace, Mike Williams (TB), Johnny Knox

Obviously, WR is not a huge need, and neither is QB, but I’m not sure I am willing to bite on Helu or Hunter at 1.05, and there’s no trading picks allowed.

(Also, this dynasty was auction-drafted, so that’s how I was able to acquire the mass of talent I have at QB and WR)

Dan
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

Clarification – I have the 5th overall, not the 6th

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

Can you trade a player and the pick to move up or for a starting RB? You have enough WR depth to make a trade. 1.05 is early for just about everyone in this draft after Thomas.

I’d look to trade one of your QBs or WRs for RB and then just got BPS for the draft.

Reply to  Dan
10 years ago

Yeah, with the Leshoure and Williams injuries, the RB class this year is pretty weak at the top. Too weak to pick any of the remaining RBs at 1.5. But if you absolutely HAVE to — like if you can’t trade your depth for a starting RB, and since you’re not allowed to trade picks — then Daniel Thomas and Delone Carter are your best choices that high. But I’d be willing to take a sub-par deal to get better at RB.

Jeff
10 years ago

I am surprised to not see Thomas included in this list. Not too long ago, he looked like the bell cow for the Dolphins, and now Bush looks to be taking the #1 spot from him, and he’s looked so bad on short yardage that the Fins have started looking into short yardage backs.

Considering that he was being drafted very high due to his situation, more than his ability, I would say that he should be on quite the decline.

DLF_Jeff
Reply to  Jeff
10 years ago

Thought about it but when I wrote this, he was still holding his own and his drafted value hasn’t likely been affected. I’m not high on Thomas at all, never have been … but he’s still the 4th player off the board in almost every circumstance … and he still is.

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