May 22, 2012

Now that it's been a month since the NFL draft ended, I thought it would be a good time to take another look at how some of the rookies stack up for the upcoming fantasy season. After watching countless hours of college football, breaking down prospect videos provided to me by a source in the NFL and then evaluating each team position-by-position, I feel like I have a good handle on this crop of rookies.

We've also had a chance to monitor Average Draft Position (ADP) from early mocks, so we have a general idea of where these players are getting selected. These are the rookies I believe are overvalued and undervalued based on their early ADP.

Now, on with the Fire Sale ...

Ronnie Hillman, RB Broncos -- If you've visited my blog, The Pigskin Guy, you know all too well that I've been promoting Hillman since before the NFL draft. If you search his name on my site about 50 articles will come up. I'm all in on Hillman and have been for a while now.

I get that a lot of people don't have a chance to see San Diego State play very often. That's why I'm here. Anyone can tell you about the Trent Richardsons of the world, but I take pride in letting you know about guys like Eric Decker, Stevan Ridley and Hillman coming out of college. And I'm telling you Hillman landed with the perfect team. Hillman wasn't just one of the most explosive backs in the draft but he's also a tough inside runner. He has the makings of a more talented version of Joseph Addai.

Hillman's current ADP in re-draft leagues is Round 11. That's way too low. There isn't much standing in Hillman's way other than the aging Willis McGahee. Knowshon Moreno isn't even going to make the Broncos' final roster and Lance Ball is more of a backup than a starter.

The Giants David Wilson is going in Round 8 and the Rams Isaiah Pead in Round 10. Tell me why those two have more fantasy value than Hillman again? If anything, they'll have to fight with very good players for touches, where Hillman just has McGahee to deal with.

Even Doug Martin is going seven rounds ahead of Hillman, and that's nuts. Is McGahee better LeGarrette Blount? Look to take Hillman in the eighth round if you're smart. Then again, after people see him in preseason, he may have to be drafted earlier.

Hillman will begin the season as the Broncos No. 2 back, but it should only be a matter time before Hillman becomes the Broncos starter and a future star. Here's a call: Hillman will be a Top-20 pick next year in re-draft leagues. Mark it down. In dynasty leagues, Hillman should be the second rookie running back off the board after Richardson. Let other owners fall over themselves to get Martin while you sit back and swipe Hillman. It will pay off in the long run.

Hillman will have to pass protect because with Peyton Manning under center blocking is as important as running. That's something to monitor in the preseason. From a talent perspective, Denver got one of the best backs in this draft. If Hillman stays healthy and doesn't become a productive fantasy running back by the end on 2013, I'll retire from writing this column. That's how confident I am that this kid is a future superstar.

Brian Quick, WR Rams -- Quick was one of those I-AA (Yes, I'm still calling it that) players who popped off the field when you watched him. The first time I saw Quick I sent a friend who covers I-AA an e-mail: "Who is this No. 8 for Appalachian State and why isn't he playing for USC?" He wrote me back that Quick was a late bloomer and NFL scouts were already all over him.

Quick is still a little raw but to get a guy with his skill level in Round 12 isn't a bad deal for fantasy owners. In general I don't overvalue rookies. That happens far too often in fantasy football. However, I like Round 12 to take a shot on a rookie with upside, and that's Quick.

Quick has more value in dynasty leagues. But in re-draft leagues if there aren't a lot of options left on the board at receiver when you're selecting in the Round 12 area, Quick is an intriguing pick. Keep an eye on him in training camp and during the preseason. If he looks good, Quick's ADP of Round 12 won't last long. I don't think 60 catches and 7 scores are out the question in his rookie season.

Ryan Broyles, WR Lions -- If he hadn't hurt his knee Broyles may have snuck into the later portion of Round 1.

It appears the Lions are just going to try to outscore everyone with Broyles, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew and Megatron putting the fear of god into opposing defenses over the next couple of years. Broyles should be ready to start the year but because he injured his knee in November, he'll likely help Detroit more over the second half of the season and in 2013. If you play in a dynasty league, move this guy up your draft boards.

Broyles has a chance to become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. I think he's the next Wes Welker. Yes, I know Welker is white and we're only supposed to compare white stiffs to him, but I'm crazy. I prefer to compare a player with actual talent to the best slot receiver in the NFL.

Let all the other lazy writers compare Danny Coale and Devon Wylie to Welker because they have the same skin color. I like to think I put a little more thought into my comparisons. Oh, and what white basketball player is the next Larry Bird? You know, because all a player needs to be the next Larry Bird is a decent jump shot and the same skin color. Is that right, Jimmer Fredette? Is he still alive?

Make sure Broyles is on your radar. He'll be one of the most productive receivers to come out of this draft.

Greg Childs, WR Vikings

The Vikings took another Arkansas receiver earlier in Round 4, Jarius Wright, but I'm higher on Childs. Wright is more of a slot guy while Childs has the size (6-foot-3, 219 pounds) to line up on the outside and be a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Two Arkansas receivers -- Wright and Joe Adams -- went ahead of Childs in the draft, but when he was healthy, Childs was the best overall receiver for the Hogs. This is an interesting situation in terms of fantasy football. The Vikings don't have a lot of big outside receivers, so Childs has a chance to come right in and contribute if he has a strong training camp. You still aren't waiting on Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu to bust out, are you? If so, you should probably find a different hobby.

Two things I look at when trying to evaluate if a rookie will succeed right away is talent and opportunity. Childs has talent and he certainly has an opportunity with the Vikings to get on the field and produce early. You don't need to burn a draft pick on Childs in most leagues but keep an eye on him this summer and early in the season. He could end up being a nice waiver wire pickup at some point during the year.

Doug Martin, RB Bucs -- This is starting to remind me of last year's Mark Ingram/Daniel Thomas over-drafting debacle. It's one thing to draft a rookie in Round 8 but when owners start falling in love with these guys and overvalue them, that's when they get into trouble.

Martin is being tabbed as the starter, but LeGarrette Blount didn't die. He's still around to get carries, especially later on in games when backs rack up those valuable garbage fantasy points. Let me give you a few names of players Martin is currently being drafted over on average: Julio Jones, Mike Wallace, Jordy Nelson, Reggie Bush, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Percy Harvin, Mike Vick, Dez Bryant and Aaron Hernandez. You ever hear of any of them?

Martin may be the most overvalued player in fantasy football right now. Look at that list. If you draft Martin over those guys you're expecting him to not just put up decent numbers, you're expecting him to be a stud from Day 1. Personally, I think Hillman has just as good a chance to put up the same kind of production but you can get him seven rounds later.

Again, I like Martin, but even if you're down on Blount, he's still going to have a big enough role that Martin shouldn't be getting selected over a potential beast like Julio Jones. That's just insanity. It's time to come back to earth a little and realize Martin is a rookie running back that may start but isn't close to being guaranteed all the touches in the Bucs backfield. At least that's how I see it.

Martin looks like a sixth round running back going in Round 4 to me. The only rookie running back that warrants being drafted in the first few rounds is Trent Richardson.

Coby Fleener, TE Colts -- Fleener is a good prospect but he doesn't rank in the elite tight end class. Obviously, being teamed with his college quarterback Andrew Luck is a big advantage for Fleener.

People are getting a little ahead of themselves with him. He's being drafted two rounds earlier than Jermaine Gresham, Brent Celek and Jared Cook on average. That's the definition of overvalued. You can count on one hand the number of rookie tight ends who have made a big fantasy splash.

Seriously, how many times have you started a rookie tight end over the years and been happy with his production? Just for the record, guys like Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Jermichael Finley weren't close to being reliable fantasy tight ends as rookies.

I like Fleener as a No. 2 tight end this season but he's being drafted in Round 10 as a starter. I would rather have five or six players currently being selected after Fleener to be my starting tight end. Take a pass on this overvalued rookie.

LaMichael James, RB 49ers -- I love James, but as a rookie, he'll help the 49ers more as a return man and big-play guy than he will fantasy owners. If you're in a dynasty league then targeting James makes a lot more sense; in re-draft leagues, he's probably still a year away from making an impact.

James is a vastly underrated runner between the tackles, and Jim Harbaugh has already stated he could get some goal-line carries. Still, with all the backs in San Fran vying for carries, James simply won't get the number of touches to have a lot of fantasy value as a rookie. Brandon Jacobs sucks, but Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter will get most of the carries.

Still, James is a special player; just know his value is best found in dynasty leagues at this point.

Lamar Miller, RB Dolphins -- Miller reminds a lot of Felix Jones, and that isn't a positive. Both guys run in a straight line. They have no wiggle to them and can't make defenders miss.

Remember Chris Henry when he came out of Arizona a few years ago? People fell in love with him and Henry ended up going in Round 2 for reasons still hard to understand. On tape, Miller is essentially the same player. I didn't like Henry and I don't like Miller. Apparently, NFL teams saw the same things because this guy fell off the map since the beginning of the draft process.

Miller is getting drafted on average in Round 13. That's a waste of a roster spot. Miller is going to come in and help on special teams, but with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas ahead of him on the depth chart, he has no fantasy value right now as a running back. Some fantasy owners are just drafting Miller because they remember hearing his name once when they were watching college football. Trust me, you won't hear his name mentioned often in the NFL.

Even if I'm dead wrong about Miller, there's still no reason to draft him. He needs a lot to go his way to have fantasy value this year. Oh, and he also needs to get a lot better because Miller isn't that good. Personally, I don't prefer to have those kinds of players on my fantasy team.

Follow Thomas Casale at his blog, The Pigskin Guy, and on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy.

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