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Fantasy Football 2012: Valuing Rookies

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2011 was an unprecedented year for rookies in fantasy football. There were many rookies taken in the first round of the NFL draft who became legit fantasy starters/stars for many teams. Anybody who took a shot on players like Cam Newton, AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Andy Dalton received amazing return on their investments.

Every year, there is a certain amount of excitement among fantasy football followers about that impact that rookies will have. College players taken in the first round of the NFL draft are generally highly touted with regard to their talent and ability. However, it is very hard to predict how these skills and talents will carry over into the NFL. For this reason, it is very difficult for both experts and novices to get a good handle on ranking rookies for the purposes of the fake game.

In my experience, many owners get caught up in the hype and excitement and end up overpaying and overdrafting rookies in their fantasy drafts. Instead of taking a solid player in the middle-early rounds, many owners waste high picks on these rookies.

2011 was unprecedented as far as the fantasy impact that first round rookies had. Within the context of history this is not likely to continue and fantasy managers in 2012 would be smart not to gamble and take the rookie plunge.

For the purposes of this fantasy analysis, lets take a look at how rookies performed during the previous 3 seasons. I want to be clear that we are only looking at rookie performances during their ROOKIE years, and not how they did 2 or even 3 years after being drafted. I am also only looking at players taken in the first round of the NFL draft, as these are the players that are generally overrated because of their talent and ability.

I will break down each draft class, give the final stats for the rookie year, and then determine if that player was fantasy worthy as a starter. (not looking for stars, just guys who would be serviceable fantasy starters)

2010 Draft:

Sam Bradford: 3512 passing yards, 18 TDs-15 Ints Verdict: ok fantasy backup-not a starter

CJ Spiller: 283 yards rushing, 0 rushing TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Ryan Mathews: 678 yards rushing, 7 rushing TDs Verdict: bench- not a starter

Demaryius Thomas: 283 yards receiving, 2 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Dez Bryant: 561 yards receiving, 6 TDs Verdict: bench- not a starter

Tim Tebow: 654 passing yards and 5 TDs, 227 rushing yards 6 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Jahvid Best: 555 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 487 receiving yards Verdict: bench-not a starter

Analysis: So in 2010, if you reached and spent a high pick on a highly touted rookie the best you got was a backup bench player

2009 Draft:

Matthew Stafford: 2267 passing yards, 13 passing TDs, 20 INTs Verdict: not rosterable

Mark Sanchez: 2444 passing yards, 12 passing TDs, 20 INTs Verdict: not rosterable

Darrius Heyward-Bey: 124 receiving yards, 1 TD Verdict: not rosterable

Michael Crabtree: 625 receiving yards, 2 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Knowshon Moreno: 947 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs Verdict: borderline fantasy starter

Josh Freeman: 1855 passing yards, 10 passing TDs, 18 INTs Verdict: not rosterable

Jeremy Maclin: 773 receiving yards, 4 TDs Verdict: bench- not fantasy starter

Percy Harvin: 790 receiving yards, 6 TDs Verdict: bench- not fantasy starter

Donald Brown: 281 rushing yards, 2 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Hakeem Nicks: 790 receiving yards, 6 TDs Verdict: bench- not fantasy starter

Kenny Britt: 701 receiving yards, 3 TDs Verdict: bench- not fantasy starter

Beanie Wells: 793 rushing yards, 7 TDs Verdict: bench- not fantasy starter

Analysis: Of 12 players taken in the first round, only 1 player came anywhere close to being a fantasy starter! Most of the players taken were not even rosterable, let alone solid backups

2008 draft:

Matt Ryan: 3440 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 11 INTs Verdict: bench-not a starter

Darren McFadden: 499 rushing yards, 4 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Jonathan Stewart: 836 rushing yards, 10 TDs Verdict: borderline fantasy starter

Joe Flacco: 2971 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, 11 INTs Verdict: borderline rosterable

Felix Jones: 266 rushing yards, 3 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Rashard Mendenhall: 58 yards rushing, 0 TDs Verdict: not rosterable

Chris Johnson: 1228 rushing yards 9 TDs Verdict: Fantasy starter

Analysis: so the class of 2008 was the best. It gave fantasy owners 1.5 reliable starters! Everyone else were bench players at best

Conclusion:

I really think the numbers speak for themselves. Reaching for rookies is just a mistake. The NFL game is much faster and more physical then the college game and it takes players a number of years to adjust. I know players like Cam Newton have people looking for the next big thing. But the fact is, when reaching for a rookie it is much more likely that you end up with a droppable player then with a stud.

Every year people think to themselves, "this guy is different, he is going to be a star." But as the numbers show, more often then not people are wrong.

Just keep that in mind this year when looking at players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Trent Richardson. Personally, I will be staying away and I will leave the buying of lottery tickets to my fellow league mates.