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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
Giants' Antrel Rolle says he's hitting free-agent market
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:13 pm ET) During an interview with ESPN Radio, Giants safety Antrel Rolle said he is heading toward free agency, reports the New York Daily News.

Negotiations between Rolle and the Giants have not gone well, but Rolle did not rule out re-signing with the Giants. If no deal can be worked out, Rolle will become a free agent March 10.

"This is strictly a business move," Rolle said. "If there's 32 teams interested, I'm going to listen to all 32 teams."


Panthers give TE Greg Olsen a three-year extension
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) The Panthers announced they signed tight end Greg Olsen to a three-year contract extension on Thursday that will keep him in Carolina through the 2018 season, per the team's official website. The extension is worth $22.5 million, with a $12 million signing bonus, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Olsen, 29, is fresh off a career year after setting franchise records for receptions (84) and receiving yards (1,008) by a tight end in a season. He cracked the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in eight seasons in the NFL. He has 5,188 yards and 52 touchdowns in his career, and is the only tight end to catch at least five touchdown passes every year since 2008.


Broncos re-sign long snapper Aaron Brewer
(5:27 pm ET) The Broncos have re-signed long snapper Aaron Brewer to a four-yeal deal Thursday, according to the team's official website. The deal will keep him with the team through 2018.

The former undrafted free agent has been with the Broncos for three years.  Since being signed, he's played on every punt, field goal and extra point snap.


49ers sign receiver Jerome Simpson to two-year contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The 49ers announced they've signed veteran receiver Jerome Simpson to a two-year deal on Thursday. 

Simpson, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, was a former second-round draft selection by the Bengals in 2008. He was last with the Vikings and totaled a single-season best 726 receiving yards in 2013. 

He didn't play in 2014 after the Vikings cut him following a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 


Colts extend qualifying offer to RFA Jerrell Freeman
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) The Colts gave linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a restricted free agent, a qualifying offer, the organization announced on Thursday. 

The Colts also placed tenders on exclusive-rights free agents OLB Daniel Adongo, RB Dan Herron and OLB Cam Johnson.


Raiders part ways with LaMarr Woodley after one season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) As expected, the Raiders have released defensive end LaMarr Woodley on Thursday, per the team's official website.

Woodley, 30, spent his first seven seasons in Pittsburgh before he signed a two-year contract with the Raiders last offseason. He had just five tackles last season with the Raiders, and 304 tackles (57 sacks) through eight seasons in the league. He was scheduled to make $3.85 million with a salary cap hit of $5.1875 million.  


Chiefs release linebacker Joe Mays
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:06 pm ET) The Chiefs have decided to part ways with veteran linebacker Joe Mays, the organization announced on Thursday. 

The move, according to the Kansas City Star, will save the club $2.7 million in cap space. He was slated to earn a base salary of $2.35 million, with a roster bonus of $300,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000. 

Mays appeared in eight games in 2014 and totaled 20 tackles and one fumble recovery. 


Maurice Jones-Drew calls it a career after nine seasons
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) After nine seasons in the league, Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement from professional football via Twitter on Thursday. The 29-year-old running back released the following statement:

"After much discussion with my family and business team during the offseason, I've decided to retire from the National Football League. The past nine years were absolutely amazing! I'll be forever grateful to the countless people who have assisted me throughout my NFL journey. To my fans, and NFL fans worldwide, you are the absolute greatest! But for you, our league would not exist. Football has been a central part of my life over the past 24 years. But, now I'm excited and looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

Jones-Drew was drafted 60th overall by the Jaguars in 2006, and spent his first eight seasons in Jacksonville before an injury-riddled 2014 campaign with the Raiders.

The three-time Pro Bowler and one-time first team All Pro selection won the rushing titles in 2011 with 1,606 rushing yards. Jones-Drew was never able to play a full season due to several injuries. He combined for 1,313 rushing yards the next three seasons after he was the league's top rusher.


Report: Eagles, Giants to pursue S Devin McCourty
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) The Eagles and Giants will both pursue soon-to-be free agent safety Devin McCourty when the new league year begins next week, according to a report from NBC Washington. 

McCourty was not franchised by the Patriots on Monday and will therefore hit the market. He acknowledged earlier this week that he may not be back in New England next season. 

The Eagles are reportedly very interested in McCourty and have him high on their free agent board.

After recent roster moves, which included trading running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, the Eagles are expected to have an estimated $50 million in cap space when free agency begins. 


Report: Giants giving tender to cornerback Chandler Fenner
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Cornerback Chandler Fenner will be with the Giants in 2015. 

According to the New York Daily News, the Giants are placing a tender on Fenner, who is an exclusive-rights free agent. The tender will be worth $510,000 for the 2015 season.

Fenner appeared in 11 games during the 2014 season.  


 
 
 
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