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Athlon's Top 12 NFL rookies to make an impact in 2011
Yes, the NFL lockout has hindered their progress, but we still expect these 12 rookies to make an impact in some way, shape or form in 2011.
1. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans
Saints have a crowded backfield, but Ingram is the best all-around back on the roster and wasn’t selected in the first round to sit on the bench.
2. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
Roddy White is clearly Atlanta’s go-to option, but Jones will be viable in fantasy leagues this year.
3. Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami
With Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown struggling last year, the Dolphins needed to add a fresh face to the rushing attack. Thomas should be Miami’s new every-down back in 2011.
4. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit
Jahvid Best had a solid rookie year, but Leshoure should be the perfect complement back. Look for Leshoure to get several opportunities in the red zone.
5. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
Green should be a great long-term fantasy option, but Cincinnati’s quarterback issues could drain his value for 2011.
6. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
No. 1 overall pick has the most upside of any rookie quarterback, but will be brought along slowly. However, Newton will start at some point this year.
7. Shane Vereen, RB, New England
Lots of options to choose in New England, but Vereen looks like the complement back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
8. Alex Henery, K, Philadelphia
Kickers don’t get much love from fantasy owners, but Henery has great range and is kicking for one of the league’s best offenses.
9. Roy Helu, RB, Washington
Mike Shanahan seemingly finds production out of anyone he puts at running back and Helu could be next. A solid late-round sleeper pick.
10. Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona
Beanie Wells has disappointed and while Tim Hightower is solid, the Cardinals need a game changer. Expect Williams to earn his share of snaps this year.
11. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota
Both Rudolph and Visanthe Shiancoe are expected to be heavily involved in the Vikings' offense this season, and that is perhaps even more apparent with Percy Harvin as the only serious receiving threat still there with the departure of Sidney Rice.
12. Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota
Donovan McNabb is the veteran presence, but Ponder may be thrown into the fire this year. He does have Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin returning, but no Sidney Rice. Like Locker, Ponder is a better pick in keeper drafts.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams