Analyzing the top rookie fantasy football performances in 2013

Eddie Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers.
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images Sport

The jump from 12 to 16 games a season isn't always easy for NFL rookies. Many successfully make the transition, while others flounder under pressure. In this report, we analyze the fantasy performance of first-year players, and look ahead to their 2014 season.

BELLER: Ten things we learned in fantasy football this season

Running backs

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers -- The rookie out of Alabama was probably the most successful fantasy freshman this season, which is surprising given fellow Alabama running backs Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram have disappointed at the NFL level. Despite a pass-first offense, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns to finish among the elite running backs in all fantasy formats, and a healthy Aaron Rodgers should help those numbers improve next season. Lacy should be drafted at the end of the first round in 2014 standard leagues.

Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams -- Zac-Attack was a waiver-wire treasure this year. He only received one carry through the first four weeks, but he emerged as a strong RB2 by Week 6. In Week 9, Stacy became a household name in fantasy leagues, when he had 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored touchdowns in three-straight games during the fantasy postseason.

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers -- A preseason foot injury caused Bell to slip in fantasy drafts, but he became a must-start running back shortly after his return. In only 13 games, Bell ran for 860 yards and scored eight touchdowns with terrific production during the fantasy postseason. Bell is a true workhorse who should be selected in the early rounds of 2014 fantasy drafts.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals -- Bernard established himself as a serviceable RB2 when he scored in back-to-back weeks in early September. The one thing the rookie out of UNC lacks on his resume is a 100-yard rushing performance this season, but expect that to change in 2014. He won't reach his fantasy potential until the Bengals stop relying on BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- The Buccaneers backfield was basically a revolving door once Doug Martin went on injured reserve with a torn labrum. James stepped up for fantasy owners in Week 9, rushing for 158 yards on 28 carries at Seattle. Unfortunately, a fractured ankle ended his season the following week. James' 2014 fantasy value will be determined by the depth chart, as Martin will be back and Bobby Rainey will also be around to compete for carries.

Wide receivers

Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings -- The ultra-talented playmaker from Tennessee didn't make a fantasy impact until Week 10, and he stayed on the waiver wire for the entirety of the season in many leagues. Although, Patterson's final numbers tell a different story about the future superstar -- he finished the season with three rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns and ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns. Patterson gained strength as the season went on, and he has the potential to break out next season if the Vikings improve their quarterback situation. Fantasy owners will have to reach for him in 2014, as the hype will build heading into next season.

Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers -- Allen saved many fantasy seasons in 2013, as he scored five touchdowns during the fantasy playoffs alone, finishing with 71 catches for 1046 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Consistently among the top-scoring receivers, Allen will be Philip Rivers' No. 1 target for a long time.

Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints -- Stills showed that he can make the big plays, but he only grazed his potential as a rookie. A sophomore breakout wouldn't surprise many people.

Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys -- When Williams caught four balls for 151 yards and a touchdown in Week 5, it was clear he earned Tony Romo's trust early in his rookie season. He scored touchdowns in four consecutive weeks and clearly surpassed Miles Austin as the No. 2 receiver, opposite of Dez Bryant, for the foreseeable future. Williams hit a wall and didn't do much down the stretch but he'll remain a trendy sleeper option in 2014.

Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams -- Austin didn't do much to help fantasy owners as a rookie, but he flashed glimpses of greatness. In Week 10 he caught only two passes, but they went for 138 yards and two touchdowns. A minor ankle injury cost Austin the final three games of his rookie campaign, but he has elite potential if he can avoid injury and earn more targets in 2014.

Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots -- The rookie thrived when Tom Brady called on him. In Week 9 Dobson caught five balls for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The following week, the rookie only racked up 38 yards and no scores. Finishing with 519 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Dobson has the ability to help fantasy owners in 2014 if Brady calls on him.

Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots -- Thompkins performed well in the preseason, and it paid off when Brady threw the ball his way 14 times in Week 1. However, by Week 7, Thompkins disappeared as Patriots starters returned from the injury list. Much like Dobson, Thompkins will only succeed when Brady looks his way.


Geno Smith, New York Jets -- One thing was guaranteed in 2013: A fantasy team could not succeed with Smith as the starting quarterback. The rookie threw 21 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns and isn't guaranteed a starting job next season.

Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Glennon emerged to be a consistent, yet somewhat boring, fantasy quarterback. He finished the season with 2,608 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 13 games. Glennon probably won't ever be a preferred fantasy option, but he appears to be a quality backup in the making.

E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills -- Manuel only played 10 games in his rookie season and they came with mixed results. The FSU product is still somewhat of a project at the NFL level and shouldn't be a fantasy option in standard leagues.

Tight end

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins -- Reed had a fantastic stretch from Week 6 through Week 10 that caused many fantasy owners to trade their incumbent tight end and rely on the rookie. Unfortunately, a head injury in Week 11 ended Reed's season and lingering concussion issues cloud his future.

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