2011 Rookies Revisited or “How I was Completely Wrong about Cam Newton”
I thought I’d take time off from analyzing the 2012 rookies for a look back to 2011. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m man enough to admit my mistakes. I rank them plus I give you what I thought during the NFL draft process and what I think now. Then the inevitable (and enjoyable) debate can begin.
1. AJ Green, WR CIN
For those who read the DLF forums, it’s no surprise I’m claiming this one in my win column. I was high on AJ Green from the start and said that he was the most talented offensive player in the draft. I also said that he was a “once every five year” NFL prospect and the best since Megatron. While some of that needs time to bear out, AJ Green was and is my number one most valuable 2011 rookie.
2. Cam Newton, QB CAR
As right as I was about AJ Green, I couldn’t have been more wrong about Cam Newton. I told everyone that would listen that he would bust. I am still mystified how a player can come from a spread offense with a limited playbook and accomplish what Newton accomplished as a rookie. I passed on him at the 2.04 in my main league and instead took Kendall Hunter. So that tells you all you need to know.
3. Julio Jones, WR ATL
My 2011 point of view was that he was an elite NFL prospect but not on the same level as AJ Green. I felt that he would be a solid WR2 for fantasy but couldn’t break into the top-10 and certainly not the top-5. I think I was wrong here. Julio Jones is better than I expected. Frankly, I think a strong argument could be made to move him to number two over Cam. His ceiling is higher than I anticipated. I’m still concerned about his durability, but the measureables have translated very well to the NFL. He’s become very hard to obtain via trade.
4. Mark Ingram, RB NOS
I’m a bit of a fantasy traditionalist and still lean toward building my teams around RBs. At a minimum, I’ll break ties in favor of RBs in almost all cases. I felt Ingram was a clear cut top-3 selection and a viable option at the 1.01 in both PPR and non-PPR. I also said that I would lean toward Ingram over Julio because of the historical success that the first RB taken in the NFL draft has had in fantasy. I think I was generally right about Ingram. However, I found it surprising that his owners were disappointed by the 2011 production. The learning for me was that recommending a player for the 1.01 inherently is setting expectations for a lot of owners of elite level production. I thought it was relatively obvious that New Orleans would be a RBBC and therefore Ingram is capped as an RB2 for the near term. People expected more. I could have been clearer in my analysis.
5. Demarco Murray, RB DAL
I didn’t have strong opinions on Murray. I felt he was an end of the first, top of the second guy and I was worried about his durability. My feeling was that he was in the mix with Delone Carter, Kendall Hunter, Daniel Thomas and that it was sort of “owner’s choice”. He flashed a bit more than I expected, but then immediately got hurt as expected. I have him ranked at five because I feel he is a player who, when healthy, could win you games. Don’t expect to ever get 16-games out of this guy but in a committee approach for your flex player, he could be a difference maker.
6. Greg Little, WR CLE
I had Little as my WR3 and right behind Ryan Williams in my post draft rankings. I felt it was reasonable to take him at 1.05 but that Leshoure was a legit choice too. I’m basically giving Little a pass on 2011 because I don’t think much can be taken from the anemic Browns offense. The raw talent is there; let’s see what happens with the QB situation and the team as a whole before we judge this one.
7. Torrey Smith, WR BAL
My contention has been that the 2011 draft class was relatively weak. At this point, we begin to get into the “crap shoot” prospects. I liked Torrey Smith in this range but had him behind Jon Baldwin. He’s got great speed (obviously) but I’m not sure he’s a complete receiver. And I’m fairly sure that Flacco couldn’t exploit his talents if he was. I think dynasty owners should expect boom/bust production. Sort of a rich man’s Robert Meachem. For the near term, the Baltimore offense will run through Ray Rice and is limited by Flacco’s ability. Smith is capped as a WR3/4, but if the route running improves his prospects are good.
8. Titus Young, WR DET
Had him as a late first but my opinion is improving. I worried that Stafford couldn’t stay healthy and was unsure how that would impact the passing game. Stafford had a tremendous year, Megatron is as advertised and Young is well positioned to emerge as a solid fantasy WR3. I don’t think he has quite the upside of Torrey Smith, but he is probably the safer pick in the short term.
9. Kendall Hunter, RB SFO
Had him at the end of the first/top of the second. I felt the demise of Gore was over stated and that Hunter would be stuck riding the pine for a while. I was also concerned about his body type and whether it really fit with a Jim Harbaugh offense. Remember this is the guy that succeeded with Toby Gerhart as his primary back. But I liked what I saw. My opinion remains the same – until Gore is done Hunter is a handcuff.
10. Randall Cobb, WR GBP
While I respected the talent, I felt he might be a gadget guy. I had him behind Baldwin, Smith, Young, Hunter, Murray, Thomas, etc. and said I didn’t want him until the mid-second. I sold him short. He’s more talented than I expected and his athleticism has translated quite well to the high-octane Packers passing game. It’s a crowed WR core but Cobb has the skills to emerge. I think we will see him worked in to the offense more and more in 2012.
11. Denarius Moore, WR OAK
Didn’t like him and still don’t. So why am I putting him at number 11? Simple answer: he’s trade bait. My issues are less with Moore as a player and more with the Oakland team and offense. When Carson Palmer joined the team, he was much ballyhooed on the forum. I kept saying that I wanted no parts of him and went so far as to say I could name twenty better QBs to own. Moreover, the WR core is crowed with guys that all sort of seem similar to me. It’s a mediocre version of New Orleans. That said there are plenty of dynasty owners who are high on Moore. To each his own, but I’m taking him at eleven and shopping him immediately.
12. Jon Baldwin, WR KCC
I was high on him after the draft. Had him lower than Little, but above Smith and Young. It meant something to me that Kansas City took him in the first round. While he flashed talent, he also demonstrated the character issues that plagued him during college and in the pre-draft process. This draft class was weak and I’ll take my chances here with the raw talent and the opportunity that will likely be afforded to Baldwin.
Ryan Williams/Mikel Leshoure – Passing on them in the first round purely because of the injuries. I had them both top-6 after the NFL draft. But until I see something positive, I’ll take all the guys listed above before them.
Daniel Thomas – Never liked him and still don’t. All he did was confirm that he was repeatedly over -drafted purely because of situation. Ironically, the situation didn’t turn out all that great anyway.
Leonard Hankerson – I don’t know what to make of him at this point. Benched for the beginning of the year, only to come in and get injured. Washington seems to be a mess, but there is probably upside in Hankerson for what he likely costs in a trade. Maybe he’s an offseason buy low.
Follow me @dynastytim to get my daily dynasty comment about this or that regarding the NFL draft. Or hit me up on the forums here at DLF. There’s nothing I like more than to talk about the draft process and dynasty in general.