Fantasy owners in re-draft leagues have it pretty good when it comes to rookies. They basically have to figure out where to draft Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, a hopefully sober Justin Blackmon, and a few other first-year players.
Dynasty league owners know the importance of not only hitting on first-round rookies but also finding guys further down the trough that will help their team two or three years in the future. When I search for a rookie with possible long-term value I look for guys I thought were talented in college and who landed in situations that could allow them to contribute relatively soon.
Below are four rookies that may not offer a lot of fantasy value in 2012, but could end up helping owners down the road.
Brock Osweiler, QB DEN
I didn’t like Osweiler when he was being talked about as a potential first round pick. However, at pick 57, I like him a lot more as a developmental guy.
Osweiler was inconsistent in college, but that could be because he hasn’t played much (15 starts). His throws tended to sail at times, but I’m guessing John Elway can help him fix that problem, considering the Hall of Famer had the same issue early on in his career. The Broncos can hopefully stick Osweiler behind Peyton Manning for two years and let him learn and improve his mechanics. Of course, that’s assuming Manning stays healthy for two years.
Sometimes young quarterbacks with big arms trust that arm a little too much and that’s what I saw out of Osweiler in college. He would try and almost throw through defenders at times. This is something that can be fixed at the NFL level. Elway, Brett Favre and Matthew Stafford are three quarterbacks who fell into the same trap of believing they could fit the ball in between multiple defenders early on their careers and they all turned out okay.
If Osweiler was a three-year starter I would be more concerned about his inconsistency, but with just 15 collegiate starts, I believe he’s just beginning to reach his potential. I still think Osweiler has a ways to go, but with the proper coaching he has more than enough physical ability to become a big-time fantasy quarterback down the road.
This is an intriguing pick for the Broncos because Denver is the absolute perfect situation for Osweiler to sit and hone his skills. He’s definitely worth a shot in dynasty leagues.
Cyrus Gray, RB KC
I really like Gray. I had him rated as one of the ten best backs in this year’s draft class. I don’t know how Gray is going to fit in with the Chiefs right away, but he’s an interesting prospect for the future. If Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis both stay healthy, we won’t hear much from Gray this season. However, if Charles or Hillis were to get hurt again, Gray would be in line to get some carries.
Gray was a major recruiting coup for Texas A&M, but he ended up splitting time over the last three years with Christine Michael, another top recruit for the Aggies. Still, Gray was able to eclipse 1,000 yards and score 12 times in each of the last two seasons. Gray flashed big-play ability at A&M and he’s also a good receiver, which will add to his value in the NFL. I really liked Gray’s versatility in college and I think if he played on another team where he was the feature back his numbers would have been even more impressive.
I had Gray ranked right there in the Ronnie Hillman/Isaiah Pead/LaMichael James group of running backs. While Gray landed in the worst spot for short-term success, I still see him being a fantasy contributor in a year or two. Hillis only signed a one-year deal, so he could be elsewhere in 2013, opening the door for Gray to take on a bigger role in his second season.
Gray has a chance to end up being one of those players who’s more productive in the NFL than he was in college. Right now, he’s just a guy to keep an eye on, but I like Gray’s potential overall. I think he’s one of the top rookie running backs to grab and stash.
Terrance Ganaway, RB NYJ
I love this pick for the Jets. I’m not a big Shonn Greene fan. I don’t believe Greene is best suited to be a feature back in the NFL. Ganaway is obviously going to be down on the depth chart to start the season, but here’s a call – Rex Ryan is going to fall in love with him during training camp.
Ganaway is a monster. He didn’t run a great 40 time at the NFL Combine, but that’s not surprising. Ganaway’s game isn’t predicated on straight-line speed – it’s running people over and bringing the pain to defensive backs later in the game. I will say though, that while Ganaway may not have long speed, he’s very quick when it comes to hitting the hole. For a 242-pound battering ram, I’m more interested in Ganaway’s initial burst than his speed 40 yards down the field.
Let’s say Ganaway runs a 4.6. Does anyone know what Natrone Means’ 40-time was? Ganaway’s running style reminds me a little of Means, a player I loved growing up. Like Means, Ganaway isn’t only physical, but he has very good balance. When he collides with a defender he does a good job of keeping his balance and gaining extra yards.
When you look at the Jets backfield, we obviously need to include Tim Tebow, who will likely see a lot of carries near the goal line. Greene is the starter, but he hasn’t been nearly as impressive as I thought he would be coming out of Iowa. I think this is Greene’s last chance to show he can get the job done as a full-time starter at the NFL level. Personally, I think he may be better suited for that Marion Barber-like closer’s role.
Joe McKnight was probably the most hyped high school recruit of my lifetime not named Mike Vick, but after a disappointing career at USC, McKnight has been nothing more than a solid special teams player in the NFL.
Then just when you think he may have an opportunity to get some carries in 2012, McKnight announces he gained 15 pounds by eating fast food this offseason. Way to take your career seriously, Joe. Instead of running up hills, McKnight spent his time throwing down Big Macs – that’s why he’s a third-string running back.
Some people like Bilal Powell. I do not. He was a guy last year some were tabbing as a sleeper. When I saw Powell in the preseason he looked like a 205-pound back that ran over people in college, but realized a guy his size can’t do the same thing at the NFL level. Personally, I don’t see Powell being anything more than a career backup.
So, if I’m correct in my assessment of the Jets running backs, Ganaway could get an opportunity to show what he can do at some point in the near future. Right now Ganaway doesn’t have a ton of fantasy value, but he’s a darkhorse running back dynasty league owners should definitely keep an eye on.
Adrien Robinson, TE NYG
I remember watching a Cincinnati game last year and seeing Robinson make a great catch. I then wondered to myself how that could only be Robinson’s seventh reception of the season. In fact, the 6-4, 265 pound Robinson only caught 29 balls in his entire college career.
The reason Robinson is a diamond in the rough is because Cincinnati runs a spread offense that doesn’t really utilize the tight end much. Robinson was often used as an in-line blocker and considering he’s above average in that area, not a lot of people were complaining that he should get the ball more in the passing game.
I’ve said for the last couple of years that I believe Jerry Reese is the best general manager in the NFL right now and his astute scouting eye saw something in Robinson to make him the 127th pick in the draft, despite his less than impressive college numbers. Now Robinson is raw, there’s no denying that, but Reese has compared to him to another player he drafted who was once put in the same category; Jason Pierre-Paul.
People who know a heck of a lot more than me have compared Robinson to Jermichael Finley because of his combination of size and speed. So, we have a tight end that was selected by one of the NFL’s most successful general managers and has been compared to both Pierre-Paul and Finley. That’s pretty high praise for a guy who caught just 12 passes as a senior.
I stated in my first article that I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan for over 30 years. Now, it pains me whenever I have to defend that joke coaching staff but some people have incorrectly stated Martellus Bennett never got a chance in Dallas. That’s a bunch of nonsense.
Jerry Jones, who used a second-round pick on Bennett, tried desperately to get him involved in the offense. Three years ago, the Cowboys were running a lot of two tight end sets to get Bennett more involved in the passing game but they found out what most of us already knew – he can’t catch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy drop more passes when he’s been wide open in my entire life.
Bennett is a strong run blocker, however. Seeing that he’s gained 30 pounds this off-season, my guess is the Giants plan on using him more as an extra tackle than a receiving tight end. That makes sense to me because again, the guy can’t catch. Teams don’t often tell tight ends to put on weight if they intend to use them as vertical threats in the offense. Although, in classic Bennett fashion, the team tells him to add some weight and he bulks up to 300 pounds. What a head-case.
Now, throw in that the Giants lost Jake Ballard to the Patriots and 2013 looks wide open for a talented young tight end to step in and earn a lot of playing time. I see Robinson being used more as a blocker in his rookie season so he can learn the offense and be brought along slowly. Then next year I think Robinson has a shot to compete for a starting job, depending on how quickly he develops.
Let’s be honest, there’s always room in the NFL for a 6-4 tight end that runs a 4.5 40. Robinson is a guy I will be targeting as a rookie to stash in my own dynasty league. I think he has a bright future with the Giants.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy