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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
Saints T Terron Armstead will not require neck surgery
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Saints tackle Terron Armstead told reporters Monday he will not need surgery on his injured neck, ESPN. Armstead sat out the final two games with the injury and indicated he may be fully recovered in approximately a month.

Jaguars DL Roy Miller set for offseason surgery
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Miller is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the near future, according to the Florida Times-Union on Monday. Miller sat out the final two games of the season before opting for surgery. His season ends with 30 tackles and one sack.

Dolphins' Mike Wallace on benching: It was 'coach's decision'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Dolphins wideout Mike Wallace denied reports of him asking out of Sunday's 37-24 loss to the Jets, per the Miami Herald. Wallace did not play the second half of Week 17, citing it as a "coach's decision." He told reporters he likes the coaching staff in Miami and wants to be back in 2015.

Wallace showed some frustrations throughout the season for the lack of big plays in the aerial attack. He still managed to lead the team in yards (862), receiving touchdowns (10) and was second in receptions (67) this season. He is due to make $9.85 million next season.


Redskins OT Trent Williams (ankle) scheduled for an MRI
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams' trip to the Pro Bowl could be in jeopardy. According to ESPN, Williams, who was seen on crutches, is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday or Tuesday to make sure no ligaments are torn in his left ankle.

Williams sustained the injury in Sunday's season finale against Dallas and was unable to return.


Jaguars announce DT Sen'Derrick Marks has torn ACL
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) The Jaguars announced Monday that defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has a torn ACL that will need reconstruction, reports the Associated Press. Marks is going through the prerehab process before he goes under the knife.

Marks sustained the injury in a Week 17 loss to Houston. His season ends with 44 combined tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery.


RG3 wants to be back with Redskins in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said he wants to return to Washington in 2015. However, Griffin -- who has one year left on his rookie contract -- said he has not had any discussions with coach Jay Gruden about his status for next season.

"We haven’t had that discussion or cleared the air on any of that kind of stuff," Griffin said, per ESPN. "My focus is, I want to be here. I want to help this team win, try to turn this thing around and change the culture around here. That’s my only focus. If coach Jay and this organization wants me around, then I’ll be here I’ll be ready to go. I’ll make sure that happens."

The Redskins finished last in the NFC East in 2014 with a 4-12 record. Griffin went 2-5 in seven starts this season and missed several weeks due to an ankle injury. He is 14-21 in three seasons with Washington. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.


Eagles coach Chip Kelly: I want LeSean McCoy back next season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on WIP-FM Radio in Philadelphia on Monday morning he wants running back LeSean McCoy back next season.

Both of McCoy's best statistical seasons have come under Kelly. He rushed for 1,319 yards in 2014, the second-highest total of his career. McCoy is the only running back in Eagles history with three seasons of at least 1,300 rushing yards. He is under contract through 2017 and is set to make $9.75 million next season.

"The season just ended, and ... I'm an Eagle. I love it here," McCoy said following Sunday's win over the Giants, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. "My six years here have been excellent. I've been very, very, very productive here. I have a great relationship with my coaches, the owner.

"We'll see what happens. It's a business. Anything can happen; I know that. But I'm sure we can work something out. And hopefully, everything does work out. They know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me. So we'll see what happens. At the end of the day, it's a business."


Eagles' Nick Foles: I expect to be the QB in 2015
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles told reporters Monday he expects to be the quarterback in 2015, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

"They can bring in anybody they like. I’m going to compete," Foles said.

Foles signed a four-year, $2.769 million contract in 2012 and is due to be a free agent in 2016. He declined to comment when asked about seeking an extension. Foles is eligible for one after the season.

Foles tossed 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2013, but took a bit of a step back in 2014 before his season was cut short due to a broken collarbone. He threw for 2,163 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in nine games before getting hurt. Mark Sanchez took over for Foles and went 4-4 with a 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Eagles finished 10-6, falling just one game shy of a playoff spot.


Bills QB Kyle Orton announces his retirement
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) The Bills announced that quarterback Kyle Orton has informed the team he's retiring from professional football, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Monday.

After being released by the Cowboys in July and contemplating retirement, Orton signed with the Bills at the end of the preseason. He was named the starter over EJ Manuel in Week 5 and led the Bills to a 9-7 season. He threw for 3,018 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games.

"I just have been going at it for 10 years and it's just a family decision and I've decided to get home and be a dad and call it a day," Orton said in a statement.

Orton, 32, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Bears in 2005. He spent three seasons in Chicago before he took over as the starter for four different teams. His 10-year career ends with a 59.5 completion percentage, 18,037 yards with 101 touchdowns and 69 interceptions in 87 games.


Ravens' Harbaugh: Haloti Ngata will 'be ready to go'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) Ravens coach John Harbaugh has no concerns about defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's conditioning as he is set to return from a four-game suspension. Ngata missed the final four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

"I’m confident Haloti will be ready to go. That’s his job, to be ready to go," Harbaugh said, per ESPN. "I’m confident he’ll do it. He has done it before. He has been there, he knows what’s at stake." 

The Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in the opening round of the playoffs Saturday.


 
 
 
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