The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Hasn’t the buildup to Thursday’s 2012 NFL Draft been much more pleasant this season? Without all the ugliness that came from the lockout last summer, fans have been able to get excited about prospects, mock drafts and the like once again, knowing that they will see these players very soon on the field.
With that, of course, come questions about fantasy football. Last season at this time, I looked at the prospects that might make the biggest impacts in fantasyland come the fall. One of the biggest oversights was not predicting Cam Newton would become a Top 10 quarterback in his rookie season, without any offseason time, on a bad team.
Wait, what? That may have been an oversight, but I’m not sure there were 10 people in the entire country who could have predicted that level of success for him so quickly. Newton is a special player and should be viewed accordingly, but the question then flips to the current crop of draft-eligible quarterbacks. How do we view guys like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III next season?
Both of those players have far fewer questions about them than Newton had going into the draft. Both have longer track records of success in college ball and both have the measurables that stand out in either height or speed.
But, can either of them take the league by storm? I’d think that of the two, Griffin is probably poised to have more value than Luck, just because the Redskins (who will likely take him with the second overall pick in the draft) have a team that’s better constructed for short-term success on offense. Sure, they don’t have great receivers, even though they signed 42 of them in free agency.
What really helps Griffin is his coaching staff. Both of the Shanahans know how to work with mobile quarterbacks. Look at what John Elway did in Denver on the move and look at what Matt Schaub has done in Houston. The philosophy of throwing off that bootleg will help Griffin get some open looks and escape the pass rush a bit better than a more dropback oriented passer.
If we’re looking at Griffin’s potential, go back and look at what Jay Cutler did under Mike Shanahan in Denver his first two seasons. Cutler only started five games in his rookie season, but played in all 16 the following year. Griffin will likely be the opening day starter for Washington, so let’s split the difference on those numbers.
Cutler threw for just under 3,500 yards with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That’s an average of just over 200 yards per game. He also added 200 yards rushing with a touchdown, which is where Griffin may be poised to make more of a difference. If you go into your draft assuming Griffin will throw for somewhere around 3,000 with around 400 rushing yards and five touchdowns, you can get him with reasonable expectations.
Luck, on the other hand, is going to a team with less talent than the Redskins right now. He does have an aging Reggie Wayne back in the fold, but the Colts are a team that needs serious help on the offensive line. Luck’s mobility will help him out there, but I have a hard time seeing Indianapolis pulling off the supporting cast of Carolina, even. Luck may make a decent backup in deeper leagues, but that’s about all we can expect right away.
At receiver, there are plenty of high-profile names. Last year, we chronicled all the first-round busts at the position and how long it takes for receivers to contribute. There are a couple of guys, though, who could provide decent value.
Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State has the size and body control to be an excellent red zone threat right away for a team. Plus, his slide down draft boards means he might go to a team with a decent quarterback who can utilize him better than a team like the Browns might.
Best case scenario for Blackmon is to go to St. Louis, where they already have a young quarterback and a decent running game. He won’t put up a ton of yards, but five to eight touchdowns is a possibility.
The other guy who you have to keep tabs on is Kendall Wright. The burner from Baylor showed a knack for catching all those RGIII bombs in college. If he lands on the right team, he could also have an immediate impact in the pros.
The team is important, though. If he goes to Houston, as is widely speculated in mock drafts across the internet, he could be an outside/slot threat opposite Andre Johnson and provide a great deep target for Schaub. His speed wasn’t impressive at the combine, but if he plays faster than his actual speed, he could put up decent numbers for a No. 2 receiver.
Running back will be more interesting. What do you do with Trent Richardson? He could end up being like Ronnie Brown or he could end up like LaDainian Tomlinson. If he ends up getting picked up by Cleveland, he could have an immediate impact. The Browns have a great line and no passing game, so he’ll get plenty of carries.
However, if he gets drafted by the Rams and splits time with Steven Jackson, he’ll hurt his own value and that of Jackson. That’s a bad scenario for fantasy owners right there.
Other running backs who might provide value in the right situation are guys like Boise State’s Doug Martin and Baylor’s Terrence Ganaway. With the defending Super Bowl champ New York Giants losing their big back, they could go after either one to fill the role of bruising power back. Ganaway has shown speed, and is much bigger than Martin, though Martin had the more impressive run at the Senior Bowl.
One guy who I think may have a strong NFL career but not necessarily make a good fantasy option is Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray. He’s got third-down back written all over him and could be a much more valuable contributor on special teams than anywhere else.