It doesn't matter which type of fantasy league you are in, it's a lock that half your league believes they can win the league by depending on rookies. Damn the facts that rookies rarely match the hype. People want to be the ones who “discovered” a youngster so they can tell people for years that they just knew Player X was going to be a star when everyone else didn't even know who he was. There's also something about the human condition that makes us think that the unknown is better than the known (it's why so many dumb ass fellas cheat on their ladies... they think the hot mess at the end of the bar will be better than the good woman they have at home). This long preamble is to introduce my five year review of rookies in the NFL. On a whole they are a lot less fantasy relevant than nearly everyone believes. Let's investigate
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There are two simple qualifications to be included in this study of the last five years of NFL rookies (2009-13).
(1) The player needs to have been drafted in first three rounds of the Entry Draft if he plays RB/WR/TE. Quarterbacks are deemed relevant no matter what round they were drafted as a rookie (at best only a handful are relevant every year no matter their draft slot).
(2) To qualify as a “hit,” i.e. a competent fantasy performer, a player must reach two of the following baseline marks that are listed below (they very by position).
Quarterback: 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns
Running back: 750 rushing yards, six scores, 40 receptions
Wide Receiver: 750 receiving yards, six scores, 50 receptions
Tight End: 500 yards, four scores, 50 receptions
Before skipping down to the yearly breakdowns let's take a moment to review those numbers by placing them in perspective of the 2013 season. The following players reached at least two of the relevant marks in 2013. Remember – for the runners and receivers they need only to reach two of the three targets to be considered a “hit” or successful rookie performer.
In 2013 Alex Smith threw for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns. Anyone happy if he was their QB1 last season? The answer is obviously no and he blew past the baseline targets.
In 2013 Maurice-Jones Drew ran for 803 yards, scored five times and caught 43 passes. Remember the frustration you felt with MJD last year?
In 2013 Doug Baldwin caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five scores for the Seahawks. Was he even rostered in your fantasy league last season?
In 2013 Timothy Wright caught 54 balls for 571 yards and five scores. He was undoubtedly on your waiver-wire for the majority of the year.
The point is the baseline levels for “success” that I've set for rookies aren't exactly world beating numbers. Moreover, in nearly all cases, if a player were to barely reach the baseline marks you would NOT want that player starting for you on a weekly basis in fantasy football. The point being that even if the rookies “hit” that doesn't mean they were anything other than merely a flex/injury/bye week fill-in option on a successful fantasy squad.
Let's begin the study by breaking down each of the past five years before summarizing the results at the end.