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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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