With the 2012 NFL Draft completed, we now have plenty of so-called answers. Values went up and values went down. Unlike my earlier rankings where I started at the end of my rankings, I decided to give my rankings from the beginning. The list can and will change as the NFL gets into training camps and preseason games occur. Hopefully this can give you a jumping point in your rookie drafts. Here are my top 15 rookies:
1. RB Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns- He is the clear-cut #1 fantasy rookie this year. Richardson has little help at quarterback (rookie Brandon Weeden or Colt McCoy), a wide receiver that don't scare anyone in Greg Little, and some somewhat talented tight ends. He is a safe 1,200 combined yardage and 8 touchdown guy, but don't expect more as he plays against the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals twice.
2. QB Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins- He is the biggest playmaker in this year's draft. Griffin can beat you with his arm and legs. I like his upside, competitive spirit, and surrounding cast better than I do Andrew Luck's. Luck might overtake him in 2-3 years in terms of overall production, but I like the cannon for an arm with his ability to bootleg as only a Shanahan could love.
3. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts- The only things holding Luck back are his offensive weapons and the limits of his offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians. Reggie Wayne is a talented receiver who is declining. Austin Collie is a concussion waiting to happen. The Colts did reload with Luck's old college buddy Coby Fleener, and got more weapons in wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen who will try to do his best Heath Miller impression. If I had a team re-building I would go Luck, but if I was trying to win now (which I always am), I would go RGIII.
4. RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- He is the most talented running back on the Bucs. I like his combination of size, speed, and wiggle. Martin is very similar to a back Greg Schiano coached at Rutgers, Ray Rice. Schiano loves to run the ball and almost too much. LeGarrette Blount will still get a lot of carries and maybe more goal line work at the beginning of the season. Rookie Michael Smith is more of a scat back and a 7th round pick, but may syphon carries as well. I have my doubts if Blount will stick around for more than a year or two which will make way for Martin to shine.
5. RB David Wilson, New York Giants- As a Ahmad Bradshaw owner, I'm not sure if I like this pick or hate it. Wilson is a very slippery running back who needs a strong offensive line and/or being in space to be a playmaker. He needs to split carries with Bradshaw to keep both guys fresh, and should be productive with 12-15 touches a game. With Bradshaw's injury history, we may see more of Wilson than even Coach Coughlin expects in year one.
6. RB Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos- He is a dynamic back who now gets to play with Peyton Manning. I love his upside, but he does struggle in pass blocking so he may need some time to adjust to the pro game and gain his quarterback's confidence. McGahee isn't very dynamic in the pass game either, so he could get his chance along with other young backs in Jeremiah Johnson and Mario Fannin.
7. TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts- Here is my first double-check guy. I know what you are thinking a tight end at seven! Young quarterbacks love safety blankets and this is one Andrew Luck has used the longest. I'm not convinced that any running back on the Colts can catch the ball with great accuracy, so why not Fleener? He is great in space and can line up anywhere. Fleener will be a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties.
8. WR Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans- He will be a good complement to Kenny Britt as Wright can use his speed and quickness within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage when Britt is flying down the field. He is a more physical wide receiver than you would expect despite his size and is a good run blocker who will help spring Chris Johnson runs down the field. I would temper his numbers this year as he and Locker will grow into their jobs.
9. QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins got their man in Tannehill. He has the arm, the mobility, and the toughness to take a team on his shoulders with a year or two of seasoning (I hope he gets that). Tannehill can place the ball anywhere within the first 20 yards on the field, but isn't a great downfield passer. The Dolphins didn't do him any favors with their receiving weapons that they added, unless you think they will move Reggie Bush to the slot and Lamar Miller as their starting running back.
10. WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears- I'm excited about Jeffery's chances with the strong armed Jay Cutler with defenses focusing elsewhere. He will be a one on one nightmare for defensive backs even though they will hang all over him. As Forte struggles rushing near the end zone, Jeffery will be another big red zone target. My biggest concern is he will have the not-so good knucklehead factor of Brandon Marshall as a mentor and we already know Jeffery isn't afraid of swinging back.
11. RB Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams- Pead showed off his fantasic feet and field vision returning kicks in the post season. He is built more like a change of pace back which would be a huge departure from what Steven Jackson brings to the Rams. Sam Bradford can use quick strikes to Pead in the flat to slow down the pass rush and help the running game by using both backs on the field at the same time. I'm not convinced that Pead will ever be a 25+ touch a game back, but he will have fantasy value and even more so in return yardage leagues.
12. LB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers- He went into a very crowded linebacker group in Carolina, but Kuechly has the skills to be a phenomenal three down weak-side linebacker. He flows to the ball well and is quick/agile enough to keep up with the running backs and tight ends. It might take some time to break the lineup at the start of the season with all their talented and oft-injured vets; however, I expect Kuechly to be a very productive IDP starter for the next ten years barring injury.
13. RB Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins- He took a tumble in the NFL Draft and in my ranking as there were concerns about his shoulder perhaps needing surgery. I like the spot for Miller as he is already in the area and can contribute day one. Miller should help slow down the impending rush that Ryan Tannehill will be facing with draws and screens. This is Reggie Bush's team for now, but he cannot touch the ball more than 200+ times before he breaks down so Miller's value could rise quickly.
14. WR Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals- I was never sold on him being a true #1 wide receiver, but when you get Larry Fitzgerald on the other side taking double and triple teams, something has to give. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton don't drive fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators, but I have confidence that Floyd can take over the old Anquan Boldin role by grabbing the underneath routes. Hopefully, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will be able to keep the defenses honest.
15. WR Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars- His value has dropped a bit due to his quarterback situation with Blaine Gabbert. Blackmon is still a quick receiver with an amazing catch radius which will come in handy with Gabbert. He is another candidate to be a slow starter, but I think he will be a strong #3 wide receiver this year and will grow into a #1 wide receiver role in time if Mularkey can mold Gabbert into Matt Ryan "lite".
Andy Miley is the host of Dynasty Blitz Podcast on Blog Talk Radio, Dynasty/Keeper Football Staff Writer at Fantasy Alarm and can be found on twitter @AndrewMiley