RankingsMay 3, 2009

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2009 Rookie Rankings

By R.J. White

How did your team do? The days leading up to the NFL Draft are full of an optimism that peaks when the league’s worst team from the previous year goes on the clock. In the days following the draft, each team’s draft class gets dissected and report cards are usually handed out, although no one really knows why. You won’t find any letter grades in the following article; rather, we’ll check out the fantasy outlook for each key incoming rookie, and I’ll give you my dynasty rankings for the rookie class.

Every league has a unique set of rules that will dictate how your board should look. I might rank some receivers and defensive backs lower than what might be reasonable for your league, so make sure you take into account your league set up and scoring system. My leagues are also extremely deep (480 players are rostered) and have a deep rookie draft, so I’ll do my best to find some great fliers that were taken by NFL teams on the second day of the draft.

1. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver, 1.12

When Denver made this pick in the NFL Draft, some people considered it a reach. If you have the first pick of your rookie draft and spend it on Moreno, it would be anything but. Moreno has all the tools to be an elite back in the NFL, and he’ll be the lead option behind a run-blocking group that made Peyton Hillis look good. With the Broncos likely featuring the spread, Moreno should have little difficulty finding running lanes in the middle. He’ll also add good receiving numbers, which will make him a good RB2 this year and a quality RB1 in the future.

2. Chris Wells, RB, Arizona, 1.31

Sure, the Cardinals are an elite passing team, but they’ve tried to become a successful running team. Their coach is a byproduct of the Steelers, an organization that emphasizes the run. They signed Edgerrin James to be their lead dog, but he ended up a disappointment. Enter Wells, who will finally give coach Wisenhunt the power back he needs to spearhead a successful rushing attack. Wells checks in at 235 pounds and uses every bit of it to his advantage, often adding yards after first contact. If he didn’t have an injury red flag, he’d be a better option in the top spot.

3. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco, 1.10

Some might be put off by Crabtree, thinking he’s just the next in a long line of prima donna WRs that find themselves on Sportscenter more in the off-season than during game day. Crabtree was an excellent teammate at Texas Tech and his off-the-field character concerns are being overblown. He steps into a great situation in San Francisco, playing for a team in desperate need of a #1 target in the passing game. He’ll benefit from the experience of Isaac Bruce and the intensity of Coach Mike Singletary. Crabtree looks to be the early leading contender for Rookie of the Year, and those of you in need of an immediate impact player should target Crabtree.

4. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit, 1.01

Detroit is in a rebuilding mode, and after finishing 0-16 in 2008, the Lions have nowhere to go but up. The organization decided that the first piece they needed in place was a franchise QB and shelled out over $40 million in guaranteed money to secure Stafford. Stafford might have gone to the less-talented team, but he’s actually in a good spot to succeed from a fantasy perspective. Calvin Johnson is one of the league’s premier WRs and has shown that he has the ability to make the tough catches when Stafford misfires. As with all QBs, Stafford is a long-term project, so don’t expect a Matt Ryan-level impact in his rookie year.

5. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia, 2.21

Shady McCoy’s scouting report reads almost like he’s Brian Westbrook-lite. On the field, that’s probably a great comparison. Both are elusive, quick, and exhibit great footwork. McCoy does bring with him some character concerns, and it’s very likely he’ll never measure up to Westbrook’s leadership in the locker room. He does have the skill set and talent to post Westbrook-like numbers when the Eagles’ lead back is ready to retire. His upside is the top ten of fantasy RBs in a given season. For this, he makes an excellent long-term prospect in dynasty leagues. In redraft leagues, Westbrook owners must pick up McCoy as a handcuff.

6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia, 1.19

This guy is going to be exciting in the NFL. He goes to the Eagles, a team that annually ranks as one of the most pass-dependent teams in the league. He’ll be in an offense where he doesn’t have to feel the pressure to be the only receiving threat, as the Eagles have another great young playmaking WR and the best passing-game RB in the league. Maclin is dangerous once he has the ball in his hands and could easily break a couple long TDs this season. He should be the featured vertical threat in the Philadelphia offense, and Donovan McNabb has all the arm strength to get the ball downfield to him. Maclin makes for an intriguing sleeper pick in fantasy drafts this fall.

7. Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis, 1.27

Many fantasy players are going to put Brown in the top three, by virtue of his first-round status and his position (RB). I’d be very reluctant to use a premier pick on him, however. He’s not fast. He’s not powerful. He’s not slippery. He doesn’t really have one elite skill that he does better than everyone else. For that, I believe he’ll be more of a #2 RB in the pros. For fantasy purposes, I don’t think he’ll ever be an every-week starter. He does play for a great offense in Indianapolis, and the Colts have a history of RBs with great numbers. But couple my earlier concerns with the fact that he’ll be battling Joe Addai for playing time, and I wouldn’t invest too much in Brown.

8. Mark Sanchez, QB, New York (A), 1.05

In the most ballyhooed move they’ve made in quite a while, the Jets traded their first- and second-round picks, as well as three role players, to get into the top five picks of the draft and take Sanchez. The USC QB generally makes great decisions in the pocket and is able to buy time and go through his progression until he finds an open man. His biggest knock is that he doesn’t have a whole lot of experience as a starter, although that general concern of NFL QBs has been proven less crucial in recent years. Regardless, it would behoove New York to give Sanchez a full year of practice and development before he’s handed the reins. Sadly, the chances of that happening are slim.

9. Shonn Greene, RB, New York (A), 3.01

With Thomas Jones unhappy and seemingly on the outs, and with Leon Washington not built to be a workhorse RB, the Jets traded up to get the first pick of the second day and used it to select Greene. The organization seems infatuated with him, though I see a few red flags. He only has one year of quality production. He’s older than most rookies, meaning his shelf-life for dynasty leagues is shorter than the average freshman. He’s not fast at all. That said, he runs with a great deal of power and can be a Jerome Bettis type (with Washington playing the role of Willie Parker). I would have liked to see him go back to Iowa and repeat his great stat-line.

10. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay, 1.17

Freeman has drawn comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and JaMarcus Russell. Tampa Bay obviously feels Freeman will be closer to the former, as they traded up ahead of Denver to secure the Kansas St quarterback. Freeman brings with him the benefit of a lot of experience, yet he wasn’t very accurate in college, posting a 59% completion percentage in his three years. Bottom line: it’s going to take a lot of coaching and fixing to turn Freeman into a quality NFL QB. Fantasy owners benefit from the mediocre stable of QBs that Freeman has to battle for playing time. Look for Freeman to post QB2-type numbers when he finally sees the field, though ideally that won’t be till 2010 at the earliest.

11. Brian Robiskie, WR, Cleveland, 2.04

Robiskie lands with the Browns, a team in desperate need of talented WRs. He’s good at finding soft spots in the zone and does a great job of route-running. There’s not a whole lot to not like about this kid, and he likely slips to the second round due to his low ceiling. If management follows through on their plan to trade Braylon Edwards, Robiskie could find himself as the go-to option from Day 1. Either way, he’s likely to be a featured part of the Browns offense for many years. He doesn’t have as high a ceiling as some guys, but you’ll feel comfortable starting him each week.

12. Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee, 1.30

Britt isn’t going to burn any CBs downfield, but he is a great weapon in the red zone and will be a key component to Tennessee’s ability to move the chains. Blessed with great height already, Britt can get up and get the ball as well, which is a big asset in the red zone. He goes to Tennessee, where the Titans have struggled to find playmakers in the passing game ever since Derrick Mason left. Though Britt might fit into the prima donna WR mold a little too well, he has an excellent opportunity to be productive right out of the gate.

13. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York (N), 1.29

Nicks was a prolific playmaker at North Carolina, and he absolutely dominated their bowl game in the last game of his NCAA career. He’s great at going up and getting the ball, something that will endear him to Eli Manning. Considering he’ll be the first in line to fill Plaxico Burress’ spot in the Giants passing game, Nicks has a lot of fantasy upside.

14. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota, 1.22

The biggest boom-or-bust player in the draft, Harvin brings with him character concerns, as well as massive amounts of talent. He’ll move all around the field and the coaches will find ways to get the ball in his hands. Downside: he’ll likely never be an every-week starting option; instead, starting him will be like a spin of the roulette wheel.

15. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis, 2.03

If there’s a college award that Laurinaitis didn’t win, I don’t know about it. He was the leader of the Ohio St defense and a dominating presence inside, racking up 366 tackles in his last three years. He goes to St Louis, and the Rams will slot him in at MLB from Day 1. Look for Laurinaitis to be a starting-quality IDP in his first season. He definitely has a shot at eventually joining the top 5-10 IDPs in leagues that favor tackles over big plays.

16. Aaron Curry, LB, Seattle, 1.04

While he doesn’t play one of the premier skill positions, Curry is probably the most talented football player to enter the league this year. He’s very fast, strong, and smart. Since he’s not playing in the middle, his fantasy upside is likely limited. However, he has the highest floor of anyone in this year’s draft. Curry will likely be an every-week starter in leagues that emphasize tackles.

17. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland, 1.07

Oakland reached to select Heyward-Bey, a blazer that should fit well with JaMarcus Russell’s arm strength. He played in a poor offense at Maryland, but other prospects have been able to overcome similar limitations to prove their talent. DHB just doesn’t look like a quality receiver.

18. Pat White, QB/WR, Miami, 2.12

The Dolphins front office has been adamant that White will be developed as a QB, but what he’ll really be utilized for is Miami’s explosive Wildcat formation. He was very productive in college and has shown that he could be a weapon as a rusher, passer, and receiver. If he qualifies at QB in your two-QB leagues, he becomes a real asset.

19. Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, 2.06

I had planned to rank Maualuga higher, as he’s a beast in defending the run. I can even overlook that he wouldn’t play on third downs; not being on the field in nickel situations could actually help Maualuga in his transition to the pro game. However, it looks as though he’s no lock to be a middle linebacker, as Cincinnati has been trying him at OLB. That news is enough to bump him down a few spots.

20. Andre Brown, RB, New York (N), 4.29

Ahmad Bradshaw will be the obvious replacement for Derrick Ward in the Giants rushing attack, but Brown possesses the size and talent to replace Brandon Jacobs if/when he gets injured. He’s very difficult to bring down. He played a lot of games at NC State but didn’t receive a huge chunk of carries, so he’s likely to be a little fresher than some of the workhorse college backs.

21. Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Chicago, 3.35

Iglesias might be the second-best possession WR in this draft, and that type of receiver is exactly what the Bears need. He’s got great hands and runs great routes. He’s the kind of guy that overcomes poor measurables to post very good numbers. Look for him to catch a lot of balls, grab a handful of TDs, and be a consistently useful fantasy WR.

22. Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit, 1.20

While Pettigrew isn’t in the same class as Jeremy Shockey or Kellen Winslow as a receiver, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of most tight ends as a blocker. This skill will keep him on the field for a long time and will likely make him a great red-zone weapon. He needs to get better at catching the ball, but for the TE position, Pettigrew has all the upside in the world.

23. Brian Orakpo, DE, Washington, 1.13

If you play in a league where high sack totals are emphasized, Orakpo could easily be a first-round pick in your draft. He’s got amazing raw talent and utilizes it extremely well, working hard to constantly improve his game. His numbers got consistently better year-by-year in college, and it’s very likely the same will happen in the pros. He’ll be a double-digit sack force in the league for a long time.

24. Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay, 1.26

Matthews will be slotted into the weak outside linebacker slot in the Packers’ new 3-4, and that’s a key to success for the rookie. He’ll face easier lanes to the QB and will often not have to deal with a TE on the line. Look for him to post impressive sack numbers in his first year, and if he can pick up the nuances of the pro game quickly (which is likely), he should add a solid tackle total.

25. Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco, 3.10

Coffee is probably never going to be a lead back in the NFL, but he landed in the right situation in San Francisco. The 49ers are desperate to add a bigger back to a committee with Frank Gore, in the hopes that it will limit the wear-and-tear he accumulates each season. While the carries split will be nowhere near even, Coffee should get a decent amount of playing time as a rookie and could shoulder the load in the event of another Gore injury.

26. Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland, 2.18
27. Clint Sintim, LB, New York (N), 2.13
28. Ramses Barden, WR, New York (N), 3.21
29. Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville, 4.07
30. Brian Cushing, LB, Houston, 1.15
31. Shawn Nelson, TE, Buffalo, 4.21
32. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, New Orleans, 1.14
33. James Davis, RB, Cleveland, 6.22
34. Larry English, DE/LB, San Diego, 1.16
35. Louis Delmas, S, Detroit, 2.01
36. Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, 3.23
37. Robert Ayers, DE/LB, Denver, 1.18
38. Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville, 7.41
39. Patrick Chung, S, New England, 2.02
40. Everette Brown, DE, Carolina, 2.11
41. Aaron Maybin, DE, Buffalo, 1.11
42. Connor Barwin, DE/LB, Houston, 2.15
43. Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, 4.04
44. Cedric Peerman, RB, Baltimore, 6.12
45. William Moore, S, Atlanta, 2.23
46. Derrick Williams, WR, Detroit, 3.18
47. Jasper Brinkley, LB, Minnesota, 5.14
48. Jarett Dillard, WR, Jacksonville, 5.08
49. Nate Davis, QB, San Francisco, 5.35

50. Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland, 4.24
51. Gartrell Johnson, RB, San Diego, 4.34
52. Brian Hartline, WR, Miami, 4.08
53. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh, 3.20
54. Cody Brown, DE/LB, Arizona, 2.31
55. David Veikune, DE/LB, Cleveland, 2.20
56. Brandon Tate, WR, New England, 3.19
57. Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, St Louis, 7.02
58. Fui Vakapuna, RB, Cincinnati, 7.06
59. Tom Brandstater, QB, Denver, 6.01
60. Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago, 5.04
61. Frank Summers, RB, Pittsburgh, 5.33
62. Stephen McGee, QB, Dallas, 4.01
63. Jason Phillips, LB, Baltimore, 5.01
64. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati, 3.06
65. Brooks Foster, WR, St Louis, 5.24
66. Vontae Davis, CB, Miami, 1.25
67. Chase Coffman, TE, Cincinnti, 3.34
68. Tyrone McKenzie, LB, New England, 3.33
69. Mike Goodson, RB, Carolina, 4.11
70. Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis, 4.27
71. Julian Edelman, QB, New England, 7.23
72. Manuel Johnson, WR, Dallas, 7.20
73. Javon Ringer, RB, Tennessee, 5.37
74. Rhett Bomar, QB, New York (N), 5.15
75. Marcus Freeman, LB, Chicago, 5.18
76. Cornelius Ingram, TE, Philadelphia, 5.17
77. Nic Harris, S/LB, Buffalo, 5.11
78. Keith Null, QB, St Louis, 6.23
79. Tyson Jackson, DE, Kansas City, 1.03
80. Paul Kruger, DE/LB, Baltimore, 2.25

If you think ranking 80 players is a bit excessive, then you don’t want any part of my two dynasty leagues. I hope these rankings were of some help to you in your preparation for the season.

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years. He is addicted to fantasy sports and loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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