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Athlon looks at the top fantasy football rookies for the 2013 season following the NFL Draft.
Doug Martin (1,454) and Trent Richardson (950) were No. 2 and 3 among all rookie NFL running backs last year in rushing yards. They were both first-round picks and played as such in their first season.
Alfred Morris (1,613) led all rookies after being drafted in the sixth round. Vick Ballard (814) was a fifth-round pick and was No. 4 among all rookies. Bryce Brown (564) was fifth among all rookie runners and he was a seventh-round selection.
Justin Blackmon (865 yds, 5 TD), Kendall Wright (626 yds, 4 TD) and Michael Floyd (562 yds, 2 TD) were No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 in receiving yards among rookies and all were first-round picks. But T.Y. Hilton (861 yds, 7 TD) and Chris Givens (698 yds, 3 TD) were No. 2 and 3 respectively as third- and fourth-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The point of this exercise is to prove that fantasy production doesn’t always come from first-round picks.
So who are the top 15 fantasy rookies from the 2013 NFL Draft?
1. Montee Ball, RB, Denver
The Wisconsin running back was the most productive college fantasy running back ever. No player in the history of the sport scored more touchdowns — 77 rushing and 83 total — than the Badgers back. And now Peyton Manning is his quarterback and he will be running behind, much like in college, one of the best O-lines in the game. Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and/or Willis McGahee are not concerns as none have the workhorse skill set of Ball — and his 983 career NCAA touches.
2. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis
The most dynamic weapon in the draft this year was easily the speedster from West Virginia. Is workload and durability a concern for the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder? Certainly, but his speed, big-play ability and chance to play right away are fantasy gold. He will run the ball and return kicks as well as catch passes, so his chances of starting right away are all but assured.
3. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
Bernard might be the most talented running back in the draft not named Marcus Lattimore. In just two college seasons — which means there is plenty of tread left on the tires — Bernard proved he could do it all. He rarely takes a big hit, is an excellent receiver, has elite open field speed and quickness, can return kicks and picks up the blitz. It means he should get upwards of 200 touches as the Bengals phase out the aging BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
The Clemson product has a big frame and is in a perfect situation. Is he overly explosive with game-changing speed? No, but he is productive and will be learning from one of the game’s greatest in Andre Johnson. The “situation” is perfect as the running game and other receivers (namely, Johnson) will take most of the focus from the defense. Hopkins should be in the starting lineup in Week 1 and that should provide adequate low WR2, high WR3 numbers.
5. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego
Few pure outside wide receivers are as polished and talented as the junior from Cal. An elite five-star prospect from North Carolina, Allen was an instant star as a freshman. He posted big numbers despite getting little support from quarterback and half brother Zach Maynard (58.2 percent completion rate, 37 career INT). He has elite ball skills, a natural understanding of the position, prototypical size and Philip Rivers throwing him passes instead of his sibling. Vincent Brown, Robert Meachem, Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd are nice players but Allen is the most gifted wideout on the roster the second he shows up to camp.
6. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay
The Alabama running back steps into a great situation because he won’t be asked to carry the load. That is a good thing in that defenses will focus on No. 12 in Green Bay but it limits his fantasy upside because he is more likely to be in the 200-touch range as opposed to the 270-touch range. That said, he should get the first and second down carries as well as goal line looks. Had Johnathan Franklin not been added later in the draft, Lacy might have been No. 1 on this list.
7. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
From a situational standpoint, few rookies step into a bigger workload than Bell. He appears to be the starter right away in Pittsburgh and will be playing behind a solid offensive line and quality quarterback. Yet, the issue that will keep Bell’s fantasy value down might be his overall lack of talent. He isn’t overly explosive or quick and will have to work for every yard he gets. A sub-4.0 yards per carry and 6-8 touchdowns feels about right. A quality RB3.
8. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati
A shot was certainly fired across Jermaine Gresham's and Orson Charles' bow with this first-round pick. The clear-cut most talented and productive tight end in the draft lands in a great situation as Andy Dalton and his deep and talented supporting cast of receivers will take away focus. Look for plenty of two-tight end packages in Cincinnati making Eifert a fringe weekly starter in deeper leagues.
9. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Arizona
Taylor was wildly underrated on “draft day” and could be a sneaky good fantasy play in 2013. He has workhorse talents inside and out of the tackles, can catch passes, pick up the blitz and rarely makes mistakes. He won’t get the start right away but he will force his way onto the field with his overall dependability.
10. Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay
Few “third down” backs have first and second down capabilities but that is what Franklin can do. The Mayor of L.A. has speed, toughness, hands, leadership, productivity and overall play-making skill. He will be a change-of-pace back for Lacy at first but could force Mike McCarthy to split the carries more evenly. UCLA’s all-time leading rusher should be a late-round target for everyone.
11. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo
Heady, hard-working dual-threat is the only QB with fantasy upside in 2013.
12. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo
Undersized but elite talent with huge numbers in college and should play right away.
13. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas
Polished player should finish the year as clear-cut No. 2 to Dez Bryant. Great situation.
14. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh
Dynamic do-everything type who will be used all over the field right out of the gate.
15. Josh Boyce, WR, New England
Big-play threat can play inside or out. Is much more talented/dynamic than Aaron Dobson.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Lattimore, RB, San Francisco
For you keeper GMs, there will be no such thing as too early for Lattimore. He likely won’t play much in 2013 but could be activated to contribute late in the season. When healthy, he is easily the most talented runner in this class and the Niners were the perfect landing spot for him to rehab and, eventually, explode in 2014.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota
Geno Smith, QB, NY Jets
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas
Matt Barkley, QB, Philadelphia