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Fantasy impact of 2013 NFL rookies
The final gun has finally sounded on the seemingly endless college football Bowl season. After breathing a quick sigh of relief and going to sleep with thoughts of booth tomfoolery and the dominance of the Alabama running game, fans awoke on Tuesday, January 8th with no football to watch. By the end of Tuesday evening, football fans who were left salty by prime time television options were clamoring for even the worst mismatch. Hopefully, they saved a few games on the DVR for the long offseason.
We’re left to a few All-Star games at the collegiate level and the glory of the run to the Super Bowl in terms of live events. However, we can fill our time and get our fill of football by looking ahead to the NFL Draft. Our quest to find the next class of would-be fantasy heroes never ends.
Let’s get started at quarterback.
Geno Smith was on the board as a Heisman candidate for a brief period this season before things went awry and West Virginia lost five consecutive games. Smith completed 71% of his pass attempts for 4,205 yards with 42 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’ll be the first quarterback off of the board, but where is he bound? Early speculation is that Andy Reid will break the longstanding tradition of drafting a quarterback and bring him to Kansas City. Would that be enough to end the contract stalemate with Dwayne Bowe and keep him in Kansas City?
There’s a ton to like about Matt Barkley’s game. He was the presumptive Heisman favorite as he returned to USC with great ceremony and eyes on a national title run. Barkley took advantage of his talented receiving corps to amass 3,273 passing yards with 36 touchdowns and a career-best 8.46 yards per attempt. The biggest knock on Barkley is his propensity to throw the ill-advised pass and try to force the action. He threw 48 interceptions during his USC career. Barkley also missed the team’s Bowl game because of a shoulder injury, so that bears watching leading into the NFL Draft. Barkley projects as a first-round pick and will likely be in a backup position for 2013.
Mike Glennon of North Carolina State has the size and arm strength to take the reins in the NFL, but he’s raw. Glennon was a two-year starter for the Wolfpack, putting up 62 touchdowns and 7,085 yards. However, Glennon will need to go to a team with a strong offensive line. He doesn’t move well in the pocket or throw well under duress. Glennon completed only 60.3% of his pass attempts with 29 interceptions while absorbing 67 sacks.
Obviously, Tyler Wilson hoped for greater things in his final season at Arkansas. He nearly matched his touchdown total from 2011 (21, down from 24), but the Razorbacks finished a disappointing 4-8, including a 52-0 shutout loss to Alabama. Wilson completed 62.1% of his pass attempts (down for the second straight year) and his interception total nearly doubled (from six to 13). Wilson has the measureables for the next level at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He has the arm strength to make big plays downfield, which also means that he attempts to force passes into tight spots and will commit bad turnovers on occasion.
Ryan Nassib was recently added to the Senior Bowl, prompting great enthusiasm in the social media realm. Nassib matched his 2011 completion percentage (62.4%) for Syracuse this season while vastly improving his yardage total (3,749) and establishing a new touchdown mark (26). He has good arm strength and demonstrated the ability to elude pressure and make plays downfield. I’m officially intrigued to see how he performs in the evaluation process. Some early draft boards wonder if a reunion with Doug Marrone in Buffalo is in the offing.
Robert Woods and Marqise Lee formed one of the most dominant tandems in the college game this season. Lee returns to USC for one more season before punching his pro ticket. Woods leaves following his second straight double-digit touchdown season. He amassed 2,100 receiving yards on 187 receptions in the past two years. Woods is a tremendous route-runner who gets open. However, he does let the ball get into his body and has been subject to issues with drops.
At 6-foot-3, Keenan Allen of the California Bears is likely the first wide receiver to come off the board. Allen has good speed and knows how to use his size. He gets to the spot and fights for the ball. The biggest concern about Allen is the knee injury that forced him to miss his final three games. If his knee clears the medical evaluation, he’ll be the first or second wide receiver off of the board.
Fans across the NFL are clamoring for their favorite team to add Cordarrelle Patterson to the receiving corps. The 6-foot-3 junior from Tennessee has great downfield speed and the strength to fend off defenders in traffic. Most importantly, Patterson has good hands and excels as a runner after the catch. He’s a first-round talent and will be an immediate contributor to fantasy lineups.
Throw it up and let him fly. DeAndre Hopkins posted a monster season for the Clemson Tigers this season, recording 1,405 yards on 82 receptions with 18 touchdowns. He’s cleaned up some of his technique issues, and there’s no denying his athleticism. Hopkins clocked under a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and has tremendous hands and range.
Tavon Austin out of West Virginia is a dangerous triple threat. He excelled as a return man and played both wide receiver and running back. Austin earned finalist slot for the Biletnikoff Award by averaging nearly 10 receptions per game. At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, there are questions of where he fits in an offense. Just get the ball in his hands and let him make plays. I suspect he’ll work out of the slot with a cache of gadget plays installed to get him the ball.
Tyler Eifert was one of the offensive heroes in Notre Dame’s breakthrough season. Eifert caught 50 passes this season for 685 yards, including four touchdowns. He also snagged six passes for 61 yards in the BCS Championship Game. Eifert produced 113 receptions in his final two seasons at Stanford, including nearly 1,500 receiving yards with nine touchdowns. With teams looking more and more to the tight end, the 6-foot-6 Eifert will hear his name called early in the NFL Draft. Eifert follows in the footsteps of red zone beast Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings.
Zach Ertz stepped into the spot vacated by Coby Fleener, producing 69 receptions for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns. Ertz logged 15 touchdown receptions in three years for the Cardinal. He stands 6-foot-6 and will immediately become part of a red zone package in the NFL.
Giovani Bernard posted back-to-back fantastic seasons as a member of the Tar Heels. Bernard topped 1,600 total yards in both seasons while amassing 92 receptions and 31 total touchdowns. Bernard runs with power and hits the hole quickly while driving through contact. His aptitude as a receiver puts him over the top, making him potentially a three-down option.
Lost in the hype surrounding the broadcast booth and talk of a dynasty in Alabama was the fact that Eddie Lacy ran roughshod over Notre Dame. Lacy ran for 140 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns in the blowout win. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry during the regular season with 17 touchdown runs. As demonstrated in the title game, Lacy exhibits great patience and keeps moving while breaking tackles (you can search for the snapshots).
Andre Ellington is a fantastic speed option out of Clemson. He earned his second straight 1,000-yard season in 2012, producing 5.1 yards per carry with eight touchdowns. Ellington has a great burst to the outside, but he struggles at the point of contact. Ellington may serve as a change-of-pace back for 2013.
Montee Ball scores touchdowns. That’s the part of the stat line that everyone will remember from Ball’s career in Madison (83 total). He excelled behind a huge offensive line while toting the ball a ton (663 in the past two seasons). Ball demonstrated the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as a junior with 24 receptions, but wasn’t called on to do so in 2012. Ball attacks the line of scrimmage and earns yardage after contact.
Joseph Randle produced another fantastic season for the Cowboys, gaining over 1,600 total yards with 14 touchdowns, a tremendous follow-up to his 2011 season. Randle has been an effective receiver out of the backfield, generating 98 receptions over three seasons. Randle has a great first step and can keep his feet after contact.
Finally, most college football fans cringe when they hear the name Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore, as you remember, sustained extensive damage to his right ACL and LCL in an October game. The South Carolina tailback announced that he would enter the 2013 NFL Draft and stated a personal goal of jogging and catching passes by the end of March. Could he possibly put together a return to action in an Adrian Peterson fashion? I’ll be curious to watch Lattimore’s progress as the NFL Draft approaches in April.