5 ROOKIES WHO ARE READY TO ROLL
This is an article from the Aug. 12, 2013 issue
Giovani Bernard RB BENGALS
Some see him as the starter, and while BenJarvus Green-Ellis will have something to say about that, a leading role would mean big-time fantasy relevance for the No. 37 pick out of North Carolina.
Tavon Austin WR RAMS
The most electrifying player out of the NFL draft should be an integral part of St. Louis's O from the word go. At 5' 8" and 176 pounds, he's not an archetypal No. 1 WR, but his dazzling speed will frustrate defenses.
Montee Ball RB BRONCOS
Once Denver cut Willis McGahee, prognosticators began penciling in Ball as the starter, though he's still competing with second-year RB Ronnie Hillman and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno.
Le'Veon Bell RB STEELERS
There isn't a whole lot of competition in Pittsburgh's backfield, which could make him the de facto starter and, based on his Michigan State résumé, the next in a long line of productive 'Burgh backs.
Cordarrelle Patterson WR VIKINGS
The former Tennessee stud has been ignored since being drafted 21 picks after Austin, but he should be Minnesota's No. 2 opposite Greg Jennings. Patterson's college tape brings to mind the man he's replacing: Percy Harvin.
5 YOUNG VETS ON THE VERGE OF BREAKING OUT
Torrey Smith WR RAVENS
The speedy third-year man gathered in eight touchdowns on 110 targets last year as Joe Flacco's No. 2 WR. Both numbers could bump up dramatically with the former No. 1, Anquan Boldin, off to San Francisco.
Lamar Miller RB DOLPHINS
He's driving his own preseason hype train, aiming for 1,500 rushing yards now that Reggie Bush is gone. Even if Daniel Thomas or Mike Gillislee steals some carries, Miller's upside is too high to ignore.
Kyle Rudolph TE VIKINGS
Were his nine TDs in '12 an aberration? Or a sign of things to come? With opposing defenses focused on the Purple Jesus, we're guessing the latter.
Ryan Tannehill QB DOLPHINS
Largely ignored in talk about the '12 rookie QB class, he now has the most-improved arsenal of that group, which makes him primed for the biggest year 2 jump. He could double his 12 TDs from '12.
A.J. Jenkins WR 49ERS
A poor '12 off-season led to a dismal rookie year: He languished at the bottom of the Niners' depth chart and saw one target all season. But with Michael Crabtree out, he'll have his chance to shine.
5 MUST-HAVE RUNNING BACK HANDCUFFS
Fumbles remain a worry (one every 48.0 career carries), but he's a talented back without a ton of wear. If you're an Arian Foster owner, corral Tate with a late-round pick; if Foster gets hurt, production won't drop off precipitously.
Even with Ray Rice in his prime, Pierce, a late-season revelation, is a favorite among coaches. If you're lucky, you'll pay handcuff prices for what could be a timeshare back.
As marvelous as Marshawn Lynch has been, he played '12 through injuries, and he risks further wear with his heavy workload and bruising style. Turbin would be a fine sub if needed.
He was a wasted pick in '12, when everyone thought he'd be needed, but the fact remains: Adrian Peterson is an injury worry until proven otherwise. Get Gerhart in the final year of his rookie deal.
On a per-touch basis, there are few more dangerous players than C.J. Spiller. But his résumé—142.0 carries on average over the past seven seasons, including at Clemson, and never more than 216—raises questions about his prospects as an every-down back. Jackson's a solid pinch hitter.
5 CONTRACT-YEAR GUYS WORTH CONSIDERING
Jay Cutler QB BEARS
G.M. Phil Emery noted aloud that no one bought into off-season training more than Cutler—one more reason to believe he has a career year coming.
Maurice Jones-Drew RB JAGUARS
Downsides: his '12 foot injury, his age (28), his poor supporting cast. Upside that makes you forget that: He needs badly to cash in on one more big contract.
Darren McFadden RB RAIDERS
He was elite in '10 but invisible in '12 behind a new zone-blocking scheme. Oakland's return to man blocking comes at just the right time.
Hakeem Nicks WR GIANTS
New York took care of Victor Cruz first—six years, $46 million—allowing Nicks to enter his final year aiming for similar rewards.
Jimmy Graham TE SAINTS
Yet another reason to love Graham in '13: The NFL's top tight end (as long as Rob Gronkowski is banged up, at least) is due for a monster payday.
5 PLAYERS DESTINED TO DISAPPOINT
Robert Griffin III QB REDSKINS
His run-pass ability is undeniable, but his style of play, injury history and Washington's offensive scheme make him vulnerable to further damage. When will the other shoe drop?
Ryan Mathews RB CHARGERS
Somewhere along the line he'll put together a season befitting the No. 12 choice in the '10 NFL draft—but are you willing to spend a high pick making that bet? Snag him only if he slides.
David Wilson RB GIANTS
His blazing speed will surely result in a few long TDs and banner games, but he still carries the reputation of being a mistake-maker. He's a big-play specialist until further notice; instead, try cheaper sleeper Andre Brown.
Mike Wallace WR DOLPHINS
He ranked 34th in receiving yards in '12 but still cashed in this off-season with a five-year, $60 million free-agent deal. Wallace is expected to be the alpha dog, something the Steelers clearly didn't think he was capable of. Real-life dough ... fantasy show?
Kenny Britt WR TITANS
A year removed from the last of three knee surgeries, he should have bounce in his step, but he still has a propensity for injury and off-field trouble. Given his team's shaky passing game, Britt remains a dice roll.
Dominate your fantasy league by dissecting every NFL team. Andy Benoit takes you deep inside and breaks down each franchise at TheMMQB.com
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