NFL

2010 NFL Fantasy Football: Top 20 Rookies

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Because NFL fans everywhere have grown to enjoy the NFL Draft process almost (or in some cases, more) than the NFL Playoffs, new additions to the fantasy draft pool from the college ranks are always intriguing.

You'll always see a drafter or two select his team's 1st round rookie because he's going to have a Adrian Peterson type season. However, it's usually unlikely that a rookie will be a consistent fantasy starter, as quarterbacks and receivers have a tough time adjusting to NFL technique and speed, while running backs are usually in platoon situations.

Here's the breakdown of the top fantasy rookies, and where they should be on your team's depth chart if you select them. This is following a "1QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE" starting roster league.

1. Ryan Mathews, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
Number One Running Back
The second running back in the draft, Mathews was viewed as the most complete rookie back by most draft experts. His combination or power, quickness in the hole, acceleration, and versatility put him safely in the 1st round, and with the Chargers LT-less for the first time since 1999, they couldn't afford to wait and hope Mathews slipped.

He's already viewed as the starter, even with Darren Sproles in the mix. Sproles will likely continue his role as spell back and be a burner once Mathews wears the teams down. Because of the lack of great presence on the outside for the Chargers, look for San Diego to run their offensive through Mathews.

2. Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Number Two Receiver
If you're not drinking the Dez Bryant Cool-Aid yet, you're missing out. Forget the injury, which will be fine by the end of the pre-season, Bryant won't waste time in the NFL. As of now, Miles Austin is the starter along side Roy Williams, but that won't be for long. Austin just got a fat new contract, so he's ingrained on one side, but Roy Williams is anything but a Cowboy favorite.

He's been unproductive since he got to the team, and the drafting of Bryant only enhances their willingness to move on. Bryant was a Top 5 talent in this past talent pool, and he's got a chance to be Calvin Johnson-like productive early on. He's going to be a stud in this league for a long time, and it should start early in his rookie season with a possible 1,000 yard season and a 8+ touchdowns.

3. Jahvid Best, Running Back, Detroit Lions
Top Back-Up Running Back
Best was viewed as a lock to be a first rounder before his senior campaign, and was thought of as a probable Top 15 pick. The main reason he fell on draft day is thanks to his numerous concussions over his career, especially his most recent one after his high-flying touchdown run that ended up on his neck.

Still, Best's combination of good size and moves along with outstanding explosion and vison will likely make him the feature back in Detroit. And with their offense improving by leaps and bounds each of the past few years, Best could follow stride and be a 800-1,000 yard back.

4. Montario Hardesty, Running Back, Cleveland Browns
Top Back-Up Running Back
The Browns have lacked a legitimate running back in quite some time, and while Jerome Harrison played well last season, he's not the long-term option. They drafted the late draft riser Montario Hardesty, and so far judging by camp and overall Brown personnel buzz, he could be their guy.

He's a complete back who is willing to go up the middle and can handle a workload. He'll have Harrison there as well as James Davis to relief him to start, but by mid-season, he should be the 20-25 carry a game guy. Look for 700-800 yards from him this season.

5. Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Bucs
Top Back-Up Wide Receiver
On film, there was only one or two more talented than Mike Williams on film from this past draft, and most scouts I talked to strongly agree with me. He fell to the 4th round (thought to fall much further) because of major character concerns, and now is slated to be battling other rookie Arrelious Benn.

His size and speed combo along with his natural body control ability make him a future number one receiver if he keeps his head on straight. He could be a major surprise this year on an extreamly young Bucs offense.

6. CJ Spiller, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
Back-Up Running Back
The top running back in last year's draft based on draft slot, the 9th overall pick is already the face of his franchise. Unfortunately, that's because his team lacks a solid quarterback, offensive line, or an impact defender.

He has the talent to be an explosive player and a more complete version of Reggie Bush, which likely will mean 1,000 yard plus seasons in his future. However, with the talent crop in Buffalo this year, especially on a make-shift offensive line, don't expect much more than 800-900 rushing and receiving yards total.

7. Jermaine Gresham, Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals
Number One Tight End
The tight end position in fantasy has become more of a bonus position. There are only a few really good ones to grab, and many will get you the generic 700 yards and 6 touchdowns. So, when it comes to drafting a tight end, it's best to secure either a star tight end like Antonio Gates or Dallas Clark or Jason Witten or at least a guy who you know will be somewhat productive.

However, if you have a chance to snatch up a likely consistent tight end, such as Owen Daniels or Marcedes Lewis, don't be afraid to take a chance on Gresham. He's a match-up nightmare who has the potential of an Antonio Gates, and it's a matter of when, not if, barring injury.

8. Ben Tate, Running Back, Houston Texans
Back-Up Running Back
As of now is battling with Steve Slaton and Arian Foster for the starting gig in Houston, he should be the victor of that battle by mid-season. However, even after that happens, he won't be a consistent starter, barring injury to at least one of the other two. Once he's slated as the starter each week, he's worth having around, but may never be a consistent starter in fantasy, more of a bye-week answer or a match-up back.

9. Arrelious Benn, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Bucs
Back-Up Receiver
Battling with Mike Williams to be the top receiver in Tampa Bay along side Sammie Stroughter, he could very well flip spots with Mike Williams. However, he's not as complete as Williams and is better suited for the slot. The slot position for Benn means some huge games and deep touchdowns, but also vast inconsistencies.

10. Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
Back-Up Receiver
Though he was the top receiver taken in last year's draft, he wasn't the most pro-ready one. I was very high on Thomas coming in, but I understood, and the Broncos likely understand, that some learning curves such as catching consistency and route running will derail him from being a top notch receiver. Still worth considering after starters are set.

11. Brandon LaFell, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
Back-Up Receiver
I felt LaFell was a first round prospect coming into last year's draft, but he couldn't have landed in a better situation in round two than Carolina. With Dwyane Jarrett possibly on his way out and no other receiver to complement Steve Smith around since Mushin Muhammad's glory days, LaFell has a chance to be a starter. He could be a huge reward if you snatch him up late.

12. Sam Bradford, Quarterback, St. Louis Rams
Back-Up Quarterback
The top overall pick hasn't reached atop the Rams depth chart quite yet, but I have a feeling once he is acclimated to the NFL speed and playbook, he'll leap over AJ Feeley. I was more of a Clausen fan in the draft, but he'll be in their for sure by Week 5.

13. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End, New England Patriots
Back-Up Tight End
Going into the draft, the Patriots had a glaring need at tight end. They left the draft with two of the top 5 according to most boards, with Rob Gronkowski being the most likely to assume the starting gig.

14. Andre Roberts, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals
Late Round Flier
My favorite sleeper to consider this year, Roberts ran pro-ready routes and had pro-ready hands and speed last season while he was at the Citadel. Now, he will be in an ongoing fight to play opposite Larry Fitzgerald. I think he's more complete than Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, and if/when he wins the job over, he could be the new Santanio Holmes in coach Ken Whisenhunt's offense.

15. Jonathan Dwyer, Running Back, Pittsburgh Steelers
Late Round Flier
Not worthy of a draft pick except in very deep leagues, Dwyer could be a huge reward if you scoop him up in waiver wire at the right time. Rashard Mendenhall has yet to prove he can go through a season without injury, and with Dwyer likely working his way to the number two running back spot and likely ready to get some goal line carries, he could be a solid rotational back.

16. Toby Gerhart, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings
Late Round Flier
Gerhart better get ready to be a sidekick, because he'll obviously never pass Adrian Peterson on the depth chart. However, Peterson is known to be injury-prone, which is where Gerhart could step in. Also, Chester Taylor had value behind AP the past few years in deep leagues, and while Gerhart isn't as versatile as Taylor, he could be a similar product.

17. Golden Tate, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Late Round Flier
Not a receiver I liked coming into the draft all that much, Tate will have a chance to battle with the rest of the under-performing receivers in Seattle. He likely will be stuck in the fourth receiver spot most of the year, so he looks like he's out of the picture in fantasy barring an injury or two.

18. Jimmy Clausen, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers
Late Round Flier
While I think he can be a franchise quarterback, all reports I've heard is that Matt Moore is the guy in Carolina and he has performed very well in training camp thus far. I don't want to put too much stock into training camp, but if Moore is that much of a lock by now, then it could be a long year on the bench for Clausen.

19. Ed Dickson, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens
Late Round Flier
Raven fans are really excited about the two tight ends their team drafted in the past draft, but neither of them will pass Todd Heap this season, especially early, barring injury, and with Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin solid options outside, Flacco won't "need" three tight ends.

20. Jimmy Graham, Tight End, New Orleans Saints
Late Round Flier
Another guy that won't become the starter by the end of the season, Graham made this list for two reasons. One, he has reportedly wowed everyone in the Saints locker room with his athletic ability and size. And two, the Saints offense is one of the most creative in the league, and if Sean Payton has the second coming of Antonio Gates in his arsenal, he might figure out some ways to utilize him.