It may be very tempting to select a rookie in your fantasy football draft, but there are a few first-year players that you should nix from your big board.
It’s understandable to have a couple of rookies on your roster. Maybe a guy was on your favorite college squad or maybe he impressed you in a bowl game. But you need to keep in mind that he might not be fantasy football material.
There are a lot of factors to consider during your draft and even more when it comes to rookies. You have to know how they did in college, how their game is expected to translate to the next level, if they’re going to get any playing time and how if they’ll make the most of their opportunities.
Here are three big-name rookies that you should be very hesitant to draft for those reasons—whether it’s in an early or late round.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
While E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft, you shouldn’t even think about drafting him to your team. For one, there’s no guarantee that Manuel is going to open the year as the starter for the Bills. Buffalo signed Kevin Kolb in April and he looks like to be the go-to guy under center.
That is, unless Manuel can impress new head coach Doug Marrone enough during training camp and the preseason. Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett told Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports that the rookie quarterback has a lot to work on in the coming months.
Manuel told Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk that he’s been studying the Bills’ playbook a lot. No matter how well he knows the playbook, he still has to perform on the field and outplay Kolb. Even if Manuel looks better, Buffalo could decide to start Kolb any way to give the rookie some time to adjust to the pros.
Unless Manuel is unbelievable throughout the summer, it doesn’t seem likely that Buffalo will rush him. That being said, it’s unnecessary to draft a quarterback who will be on the bench for most of the year. Buffalo has a few receivers that can help him out if he plays, but overall, he’s just not worth a spot on your roster.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a lot of decisions to make this summer, including who the primary tight end is going to be. Philadelphia has Brent Celek, who had the third-most receptions on the team last year. But the Eagles also now have Zach Ertz, the rookie from Stanford, who new head coach Chip Kelly is familiar with.
Kelly will have a lot of options in 2013-14 and one of them could include starting Ertz at tight end. That would mean taking time away from Celek though. A solution would be to implement a Patriots-like strategy where both tight ends play a bunch and get a ton of receptions.
For a first-year coach, it will be tough for Kelly to just strip Celek of the starting role and hand it to the rookie, Ertz. There is a chance that it happens, but not a very likely one. Even if Ertz does start, he won’t be the quarterback’s first option. The Eagles have an abundance of talented wide outs who are sure to get the most targets.
So, Ertz might not start and even if he does, he won’t be getting many touches. Celek has only had 53.6 receptions per season the last three years as the starter. At the most, Ertz might have 40 receptions in his rookie season. If that’s the type of production you’re looking for then go ahead, but it isn’t recommended.
Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
And now, the question everyone is asking: who will start at quarterback on Week 1 for the Jets, Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith? For now, it’s still unclear. Head coach Rex Ryan told Zach Schonbrun of The New York Times that the race is still wide open and that the best player will be the starter.
We’ll have to wait and see who emerges as the starter, but it shouldn’t be a surprise either way. Sanchez could get the nod if Smith isn’t ready to go right away. Smith could get the nod if Sanchez is horrible in camp and if the rookie develops quickly enough to run the offense. While Sanchez hasn’t been good in the past, he’s the safer choice.
Smith still has a lot to learn and could be used in some different scenarios, according to Ryan. The Jets’ coach said that using Smith like Tim Tebow is a “possibility.” Ryan seems to like Smith’s speed and doesn’t feel restricted to using him just as a pocket passer. Schonbrun notes that the Jets may ease Smith into the mix, like San Francisco did with Colin Kaepernick.
Taking Smith may seem like a smart decision, but even if he does start over Sanchez, are there really that high of expectations for him? Jets quarterbacks haven’t had the most success in recent memory. Sure, Smith could be the guy that breaks the trend, but the receiver core is lacking and his options down the field will be limited.
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