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Examining the 2011 rookie class

Senior Fantasy Writer
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News will come and go regarding the NFL labor situation, but one constant that kept on this spring was the NFL Draft. Another year, another 254 players got picked to new teams where they'll fight for playing time (well, some more than others).

Dave Richard's Top 20 Rookies
Player Pos. Team
1. Mark Ingram RB NO
2. Daniel Thomas RB MIA
3. A.J. Green WR CIN
4. Julio Jones WR ATL
5. Ryan Williams RB ARI
6. DeMarco Murray RB DAL
7. Mikel Leshoure RB DET
8. Cam Newton QB CAR
9. Jake Locker QB TEN
10. Andy Dalton QB CIN
11. Torrey Smith WR BAL
12. Leonard Hankerson WR WAS
13. Colin Kaepernick QB SF
14. Jonathan Baldwin WR KC
15. Roy Helu RB WAS
16. Blaine Gabbert QB JAC
17. Titus Young WR DET
18. Christian Ponder QB MIN
19. Delone Carter RB IND
20. Stevan Ridley RB NE

Rookies are always an important part of Fantasy play, but to some leagues they mean everything. Fantasy owners in dynasty and long-term keeper leagues don't just look at rookies as players who might help them in 2011 -- they look at them as investments for the next five to 10 years.

If you're one of those owners, we're with you. And even if you're not, you should take a look at the Top 20 rookies Jamey Eisenberg and I think will deliver the most value over the course of the next several seasons. Just remember one tip: The players who stay in the same offense from year to year almost always do better and are more consistent than the players who endure coaching changes, playbook changes and team changes.

Dave Richard At the top, Ingram and Thomas are essentially interchangeable, but the belief here is that Ingram will ultimately outperform Thomas assuming they have the same career span. Green and Jones are about as safe as it gets looking long-term, but it's Green's skill-set and role as the De facto No. 1 receiver in Cincinnati that pushes him ahead of Jones.

The top four are followed by three running backs and three quarterbacks, and the landscape of the NFL has a lot to do with that. With no "sure thing" at quarterback in this draft and plenty of "sure thing" quarterbacks long established in this league (with another entering the 2012 draft in Andrew Luck), it's easy to pass on Newton & Co. This tier of rushers is in order based on how soon they could potentially become starters; that's really the only thing that separates these guys. As for the passers, the idea here is to draft passers with upside and a long leash, and Newton has the most upside and the longest leash of anyone in this draft.

Jamey Eisenberg's Top 20 Rookies
Player Pos. Team
1. Daniel Thomas RB MIA
2. Mark Ingram RB NO
3. A.J. Green WR CIN
4. Julio Jones WR ATL
5. Roy Helu RB WAS
6. Ryan Williams RB ARI
7. DeMarco Murray RB DAL
8. Mikel Leshoure RB DET
9. Greg Little WR CLE
10. Leonard Hankerson WR WAS
11. Shane Vereen RB NE
12. Cam Newton QB CAR
13. Jacquizz Rodgers RB ATL
14. Titus Young RB DET
15. Jordan Todman RB SD
16. Kendall Hunter RB SF
17. Blaine Gabbert QB JAC
18. Jonathan Baldwin WR KC
19. Delone Carter RB IND
20. Rob Housler TE ARI

Receivers Smith and Hankerson represent excellent value choices; both should have good careers with their respective franchises. Baldwin isn't quite there because it's expected that he'll take some time to develop at the pro level. Limited upside caps Helu, Carter and Ridley. Why is Ponder toward the bottom of our Top 20? Long-term concerns about the health of his arm actually make him more appealing sooner than later.

Finally, kicker Alex Henery might have the longest, most consistent career of any 2011 rookie, but he's a kicker, and it's not worth a long-term minded Fantasy owner to sweat a kicker when there are always so many available.

Jamey Eisenberg Thomas is the No. 1 rookie to target this year in all leagues, and he has the chance to shine for Fantasy owners right away because the Dolphins should make him a workhorse. They will likely add someone for competition -- probably a scat back to catch passes -- but Thomas will start and work at the goal line.

At the running back spot, Ingram is next, but the presence of Pierre Thomas will lower his value, along with the Saints' explosive passing game. Helu has the potential to start for the Redskins right away and should be Mike Shanahan's next pet project, which gives him a slight nod over Williams, Murray and Leshoure, who are also in timeshare situations. Vereen, Rodgers, Todman and Hunter are all third-down options, so look for them in point-per-reception formats, and Carter will likely be used as a goal-line back for the Colts.

At wide receiver, Green and Jones should be stars right away, but Little and Hankerson could be surprise options based on the need for help with their respective teams in Cleveland and Washington. Young is a deep threat who should play well for the Lions, and Baldwin could be featured in Kansas City opposite Dwayne Bowe.

Housler makes the list as the No. 1 tight end ahead of Kyle Rudolph, who is also a quality long-term prospect, especially beginning in 2012 when Visanthe Shiancoe is gone in Minnesota.

And at quarterback, Cam Newton's running ability should help his Fantasy value, but this class is lacking in talent. Gabbert could develop with a year to watch behind David Garrard, but Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick have a lot to prove before they should be considered quality Fantasy options.

When we look back on this class, don't be surprised if Ryan Mallett is the best Fantasy quarterback of this group.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Matt Bryant misses only field goal, still puts up points
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:28 am ET) Falcons kicker Matt Bryant managed points despite missing his only field goal attempt.

With time running out in the second quarter, Bryant lined up for a 59 yard attempt. He missed wide left. While that was the only field goal attempt he received, Bryant actually got a ton of work. He hit all eight of his extra point attempts, finding a way to put points on the board.

Bryant will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Falcons DST wrecks havoc on Bucs Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) The Falcons DST had a big game Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Atlanta held the Bucs without a score until 8:46 was left in the game. The team was already ahead 56-0 at that point. Some of those points came as a result of strong defensive play. Atlanta managed one defensive touchdown after picking off Josh McCown. Devin Hester also returned a punt, putting Atlanta on the board for a second time. Overall, the team forced five fumbles, four of which were recovered. 

Atlanta will look for more Week 4 against the Vikings. 


Falcons backups get on the board Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) The Falcons backups made an impact Thursday against the Buccaneers.

With the team up by a ton, Atlanta started using their subs in the third quarter. Jacquizz Rodgers received five carries for 6 yards. Rodgers also caught a pass for 3 yards.

Eric Weems seemed to be the biggest beneficiary, hauling in four passes for 69 yards. Fullback Patrick DiMarco gained 35 yards on three catches. Levine Toilolo also contributed, catching two passes for 25 yards. Courtney Roby picked up 11 yards on one reception. 

They'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Harry Douglas picks up a score before leaving
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Falcons receiver Harry Douglas manages to catch a touchdown before exiting Thursday's game.

Douglas caught two balls for 14 yards. He hauled in a 3 yard score on the team's first drive of the game. He injured himself with four minutes left in the second quarter, and did not return to the game. 

If Douglas can play, he'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devin Hester makes big impact Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester made a big impact Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Hester caught just one ball for 25 yards, but found a way to make an impact in other places. He managed to score on his only carry, running in a 20 yard touchdown. Hester then managed to score on a punt return, breaking the NFL record for return touchdowns. He did so with former record holder Deion Sanders watching the game. Hester would leave the game twice due to cramping.

He'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Julio Jones dominates Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones turned in a fantastic performance Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Jones hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and two scores. The Bucs had no answer for Jones on defense, even though Jones was Atlanta's only healthy weapon. After making a ridiculous catch on a 40-yard touchdown, Jones left the game. At that point, the team was up 42-0. Jones received a team-high 11 targets. 

Jones will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devonta Freeman gets 11 carries Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Falcons running back Devonta Freeman got 11 carries Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Freeman got most of his work after Steven Jackson was taken out of the game. Freeman did little to distinguish himself, though the Bucs defense was basically selling out against the run. Freeman gained just 12 yards on his 11 carries. He caught one pass for 7 yards. 

Freeman will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Antone Smith breaks off a big run Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Falcons running back Antone Smith managed to rip off a score Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Smith received two carries when the game was still in reach, but made his big play with the game already in hand. After Steven Jackson left the game, Smith got two carries on the next drive. The first went for -2 yards, but the second was much more exciting. Smith broke a 38 yard score. He managed to beat the defense to the outside, and out-ran everyone to the end zone. Smith finished with four carries for 50 yards. 

Smith will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Steven Jackson runs one in Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:42 am ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson managed to run in a score Thursday against the Falcons.

Jackson didn't get a ton of work, as the Falcons took a commanding lead early. He ran the ball 14 times for 54 yards. He scored his only touchdown in the third quarter. With the team already up 49-0, Jackson managed to pick up a 2 yard score. The run was impressive, as Jackson broke two or three tackles on the play. The team then went to other backs, opting to keep Jackson fresh.

Jackson will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


T.J. Yates gets some time Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates saw some time Thursday against the Falcons.

Yates completed 3 of 4 passes for 64 yards. His only incompletion was a big one, as the Buccaneers managed to intercept and run back the pass for a score. 

Yates will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


 
 
 
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