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Offseason Extra: Rookies for this year and beyond

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This year's crop of rookies is considered more appealing than those in recent years for Fantasy purposes if only because of the elite players atop their respective positions: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III overshadow the quarterbacks, Trent Richardson overshadows the running backs, Justin Blackmon overshadows the receivers and Coby Fleener overshadows the tight ends. All five have displayed outstanding collegiate careers that have been well documented. All five will get drafted in every single league. And all five have very lofty expectations.

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And they're just five of a plethora of rookies that owners in leagues of varying shapes and sizes have to evaluate. Here's a crash course on the top rookies in this year's class ...

Quarterbacks
Andrew Luck, Colts: Think Peyton Manning with better mobility and a healthy neck. Luck has great accuracy, great intelligence, a strong arm and even the football pedigree Manning has.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins: RG3 doesn't quite have the pinpoint accuracy of Luck, but he's not far off. He does have a strong arm, and anything he lacks to Luck's passing he more than makes up for with his speed.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: Good fit for a Miami offense that's installing the playbook he learned in college. Good arm and accuracy to go with good mobility, but his decision-making skills have been questioned.
Brandon Weeden, Browns: Might have been drafted in the Top 10 if he wasn't close to 30 years old. A former baseball player, Weeden has a cannon and lots of experience.

Running backs
Trent Richardson, Browns: Pretty much the best running back prospect to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Can do it all, can play every down and distance and can plow into the end zone. He'll be fun to watch.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Has the same skill set as Ray Rice without the breakaway speed. He's also considered a capable three-down back, though it's yet to be determined if he can be routinely successful at the goal line.
David Wilson, Giants: Wilson is an outside speed rusher with pretty good hands. Never was a consistent inside runner and might take some time before developing into a starter.
Isaiah Pead, Rams: A quick runner, Pead might be considered more of a change-of-pace guy than a featured back. Might make some highlight-reel plays this season but playing time might not be consistent.
LaMichael James, 49ers: An experienced running back with solid speed but not a lot of size. Could contribute as much on special teams as he will on offense.
Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: Here's all you need to know: He broke many of Marshall Faulk's records at San Diego State. He's got good speed and hands but doesn't have the size most teams look for. Ball security is a minor issue.

Wide receiver
Justin Blackmon, Jaguars: A thick, fast combination that will wreak havoc on smaller cornerbacks and safeties. Blackmon is very physical and has very good, very big hands. Should be able to adjust to errant passes from Blaine Gabbert. Considered NFL-ready.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals: Floyd is basically a taller version of Blackmon who comes with some baggage based on off-field incidents in college. Questions about his receiving consistency and deep speed kept him from passing Blackmon in the draft. Playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald doesn't exactly increase his prospects for 100-plus targets.
Kendall Wright, Titans: Benefited greatly from playing with Robert Griffin in college thanks to his deep speed. Should fit in the slot immediately.
A.J. Jenkins, 49ers: Very capable receiver with speed, but he showed up to Niners minicamp out of shape. He's lanky, which could cause problems versus press coverage.
Brian Quick, Rams: Huge size/speed combination could make him a sensation at the pro level, but experience is a huge question mark. Getting playing time might not be as big of a question mark, though.
Stephen Hill, Jets: Potential Demaryius Thomas clone given his lack of production at Georgia Tech but considerable measurables and speed.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears: A big target with good hands but not great speed.
Ryan Broyles, Lions: An accomplished receiver in college but coming off of surgery for a torn ACL. It's unknown if his size will be a detriment.
Rueben Randle, Giants: Might be a better receiver than his college stats indicate. Great size, good speed, but could get buried behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz in playing time and targets.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals: Polished receiver with good skill set including tight route running. Doesn't have bulk or deep speed.

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Tight end
Coby Fleener, Colts: Luck's best buddy from college -- and for good reason. More receiver than tight end, Fleener's size and speed makes him a mismatch nightmare for defenses to account for down the middle of the field. Should have an easy transition to the NFL with Luck passing to him.
Dwayne Allen, Colts: Capable big-bodied tight end, more of the blocking type than pure receiver style that Fleener is.
Michael Egnew, Dolphins: Pretty good receiving skills to go with a big body and pretty good speed. Should have a chance to make some plays in thin Dolphins receiving corps.

Kicker
Randy Bullock, Texans: Made 29 of 33 kicks last season. Born and raised in Texas.
Greg Zuerlein, Rams: Made 23 of 24 attempts last season including nine from 50-plus yards and two of three from 60 yards.
Blair Walsh, Vikings: Tough senior year (21 of 35 field goals made) overshadows his rank as the SEC's all-time leading scorer.

Rookies for 2012

If you are in a league that will only play the 2012 season (simply known as a seasonal league), then targeting rookies who might not play much or might eventually become great players won't help you. Typically, carry into your draft a longer list of running back rookies than players at any other position. Below is our take on the order in which these players should be drafted along with an expectation of when they'll get picked in a standard league.

Seasonal formats
Quarterback Running back Wide receiver Tight end
Robert Griffin III (Round 9) Trent Richardson (Round 2-3) Justin Blackmon (Round 7) Coby Fleener (Round 9)
Andrew Luck (Round 10) Doug Martin (Round 5) Alshon Jeffery (Round 9) Michael Egnew (Round 14)
Brandon Weeden (Round 13) Ronnie Hillman (Round 8) Michael Floyd (Round 9)  
Ryan Tannehill (Round 14) David Wilson (Round 8) Kendall Wright (Round 10)  
  Isaiah Pead (Round 11) Mohamed Sanu (Round 12)  
  LaMichael James (Round 12) Rueben Randle (Round 12)  
    Stephen Hill (Round 13)  

Rookies for 2012 and beyond

If you are in a league that is looking more long-term, then more rookies should be on your pre-draft rank list. These leagues typically consist of dynasty or keeper leagues that allow players to be kept for a number of seasons. Their drafts are either limited to rookies or are start-ups that include everyone in the NFL but feature rookies getting picked higher than usual. Below is our take on the order in which rookies at all positions should get taken in long-term formats in a standard league.

Long-term/keeper formats
1. Andrew Luck, QB, IND 13. Rueben Randle, WR, NYG 25. Lamar Miller, RB, MIA 37. T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND
2. Trent Richardson, RB, CLE 14. Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA 26. Chris Rainey, RB, PIT 38. Ladarius Green, TE, SD
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS 15. A.J. Jenkins, WR, SF 27. Nick Toon, WR, NO 39. T.J. Graham, WR, BUF
4. Justin Blackmon, WR, JAC 16. Brandon Weeden, QB, CLE 28. Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE 40. Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
5. Doug Martin, RB, TB 17. Mohamed Sanu, WR, CIN 29. Dwayne Allen, TE, IND 41. Taylor Thompson, TE, TEN
6. Michael Floyd, WR, ARI 18. Brian Quick, WR, STL 30. Robert Turbin, RB, SEA 42. Cyrus Gray, RB, KC
7. Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI 19. LaMichael James, RB, SF 31. B.J. Cunningham, WR, MIA 43. Bryce Brown, RB, PHI
8. Kendall Wright, WR, TEN 20. Isaiah Pead, RB, STL 32. Marvin Jones, WR, CIN 44. Edwin Baker, RB, SD
9. Coby Fleener, TE, IND 21. Ryan Broyles, WR, DET 33. Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL 45. Alfred Morris, RB, WAS
10. Stephen Hill, WR, NYJ 22. Michael Egnew, TE, MIA 34. Danny Coale, WR, DAL 46. Randy Bullock, K, HOU
11. Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN 23. DeVier Posey, WR, HOU 35. Terrance Ganaway, RB, NYJ 47. Greg Zuerlein, K, STL
12. David Wilson, RB, NYG 24. Juron Criner, WR, OAK 36. Devon Wylie, WR, KC 48. Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS

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Player News
Tom Brady has out-of-character performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:52 pm ET) The Patriots have played some weird games against Jets in recent years, including a 27-25 squeaker when they were at their hottest back in Week 7. So perhaps it's not surprising quarterback Tom Brady wasn't at his best Week 16 at the Jets as the Patriots eked out another victory, this time by just one point.

He completed 23 of 35 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was coming off a streak of 10 games with both 200-plus passing yards and two-plus touchdowns.

Brady was playing without his top target, wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was out with a concussion. But with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell still at his disposal and Danny Amendola filling in capably, that likely wasn't the reason for his struggles. The matchup shouldn't have been either given where the Jets rank against the pass, but in three of his last four games against the division rival, Brady has thrown for less than two scores. And in all four, he's thrown for less than 300 yards.

Maybe it's just a matter of them being too familiar with each other. In any case, you shouldn't let this performance discourage you from starting Brady Week 17 against Buffalo unless of course the Patriots have already secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by that point.


Seahawks' Cooper Helfet able to return Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:27 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet was able to return Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Helfet was carted off in the first half with a rib injury. He was initially ruled questionable to return to the contest, but was cleared to return after half time. Helfet returned at the start of the third quarter. 


Patriots' backfield remains an enigma
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:17 pm ET) LeGarrette Blount was out for Week 16 at the Jets with a shoulder injury, which meant surely the Patriots would make Jonas Gray their go-to running back. After all, he had a 200-yard, four-touchdown game earlier this season and finally got out of coach Bill Belichick's doghouse with 11 carries for 62 yards last week.

Wrong again.

Gray was the Patriots' only running back to score a touchdown in Week 16, plunging in from 1 yard out in the fourth quarter, but to say he was the go-to back would be disingenuous. He and Shane Vereen tied for the team lead in carries with six, but Brandon Bolden also had five. And Vereen and Bolden were both more productive with their carries, averaging 6.3 yards and 6.4 yards, respectively, than Gray was with his, averaging 0.8 yards.

And then there's the fact that Vereen is far and away the best pass-catcher of the three, but he was hardly involved in the passing game on a quiet day for quarterback Tom Brady.

So basically, you wouldn't have gone right with any of Blount's three replacements, and considering they were all equally involved, you have to wonder how they'll impact Blount's role if he returns Week 17 against Buffalo. Given that it's a tough matchup anyway, you might just want to avoid every Patriots running back.


Field goals down Ravens in loss to Texans
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:01 pm ET) Coming off their best performance of the season, the Ravens DST unit failed to live up to expectations in Week 16's 25-13 loss to the Texans.

The Ravens mostly held the Texans offense in check, limiting them to 313 yards of total offense. However, the Texans had the ball in the red zone seven times, and were able to rack up a solid scoring day despite being held to just one touchdown, as they kicked six field goals in the win. The Ravens forced just one turnover, and failed to sack Case Keenum in the loss.

The Ravens finished Sunday's game with just 5 Fantasy points, one week after dropping 26 against the Jaguars. They will look to bounce back in Week 17, as they face the Browns in the season finale.


Seahawks' Jermaine Kearse ruled out with hamstring injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:59 pm ET) Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has been ruled out Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Kearse is dealing with a hamstring injury. He caught one pass for 8 yards before leaving the contest. 


Seahawks' Cooper Helfet gets carted off Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet was carted off the field Week 16 against the Seahawks.

Helfet came into the game with an ankle injury, but was carted off with a rib injury. He is questionable to return to the contest. Helfet caught two passes for 9 yards before leaving. 


Texans DST keeps on rolling in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:56 pm ET) The Texans defense dominated in Week 16, in a 25-13 win over the Ravens.

The Ravens managed just 211 yards of total offense in the game, despite running 68 plays. The Texans pass rush got home for just two sacks in the game, but they forced Joe Flacco into three interceptions anyways, as they finished the game with 18 Fantasy points, their second in a row with that total.

The Texans DST unit enters the final week of the season riding a eight-game streak with at least 10 Fantasy points, and they should have no trouble keeping it going with a matchup on the way against the Jaguars. 


Greg Zuerlein drills a 51-yarder
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:54 pm ET) Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 51-yard field goal against the Giants, making him 4 of 6 from 50-plus yards this season. He also hit a 20-yard field goal and three PATS for nine points.

Zuerlein wraps up the season at Seattle.


Steelers pass rush dominates in victory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:51 pm ET) The Steelers DST unit continued its solid play in Week 16, in a 20-12 win over the Chiefs.

The Chiefs racked up 327 yards of total offense in the win, but did little to take advantage of that. They made four trips to the red zone and failed to come away with a single touchdown, settling for four field goals in the loss. The Steelers forced one turnover and sacked Alex Smith six times, en route to 14 Fantasy points.  

The Steelers have at least 9 Fantasy points in eight of their last nine games, including 9 against the Bengals in Week 14. They will look to pull that feat again in Week 17, with the Bengals on the schedule again to close the season out. 


Don't lose faith in Mark Ingram
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:50 pm ET) Though Saints running back Mark Ingram scored a touchdown Week 16 against Atlanta, plunging in from 1 yard out in the first quarter, he didn't have the most productive afternoon, rushing 13 times for 38 yards and catching three passes for 17. He's now run for less than 60 yards in three straight games, averaging 46.7 during that stretch compared to 101.3 in his previous six.

It's not like the Saints have turned to other options, though, which was Ingram's problem in previous seasons. Khiry Robinson was the only other running back to get any carries in Week 16, and he had just two. It's just that the Saints haven't been in a position to run the ball in recent weeks, losing big in both Week 14 and, of course, Week 16.

So what about Week 15? That's partly on Ingram. He got the carries, finishing with 17, and didn't do much with him.

The good news is that the Saints should be able to win handily Week 17 at Tampa Bay, which should mean plenty of garbage-time opportunities against a so-so run defense. Outside of maybe PPR leagues, you'll want to keep Ingram active in Fantasy.


 
 
 
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