Rookie hype is consistently one of the most difficult things for fantasy football players everywhere to decipher when looking at draft boards.
Look to last year for a few perfect examples. Justin Blackmon was considered a smart pick, and why not? He was easily the No. 1 target in Jacksonville and the fifth overall pick. The problem is he only recorded 865 yards and five scores.
Or how about Michael Floyd in Arizona, a top-15 pick set to see plenty of balls thrown his way with defenses focused on Larry Fitzgerald? If you bought into the hype, Floyd accounted for just 562 yards and two scores for your fantasy squad.
This season is no different. There are a plethora of rookies being hyped to the moon, but only a select few will actually come out and produce meaningful numbers right away.
Let's take a look at a few guys you should grab as soon as possible—the hype is real. We'll also glance at a few honorable mentions for good measure.
There are a few rookies receiving an inordinate amount of hype who simply cannot reach that level in their rookie season.
Look at Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams. He'll produce for sure, but it's far-fetched to think he'll post top-15 numbers like some suggest.
Austin is going to receive plenty of targets and maybe even return kicks, but will his 5'9", 175-pound frame hold up? Will quarterback Sam Bradford stay consistent? What about the other weapons on the roster stealing attention, like the committee approach at running back and new tight end Jared Cook?
Running back Montee Ball of the Denver Broncos is another name being hyped to unrealistic levels. Will the Broncos with Peyton Manning even focus on the run that much? There's a chance Ball won't be able to hold off Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno.
There are plenty of questions surrounding all rookies, but the hype surrounding both Austin and Ball is beginning to exit the realm of possibility. For that reason, you should consider avoiding them both.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
There is not a safer pick in the fake football realm this year than running back Giovani Bernard, whom the Cincinnati Bengals made the first running back selected in this year's draft.
While many are concerned about the presence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his 1,000 yards on the ground last year, Bernard is going to have plenty of opportunities to post over 1,000 total yards himself.
Bernard was specifically brought to Cincinnati to act as a change of pace. Geoff Hobson of the team's website has already reported the Bengals will use Bernard at wide receiver. He'll also have an opportunity to return kicks.
Bengals running back coach Hue Jackson let slip in the media recently that he views Bernard as an every-down back. Cincinnati has not had a back of Bernard's caliber in quite some time, rather having to deal with the plodding styles of Cedric Benson and Green-Ellis in recent years.
Once the Bengals coaching staff gets a taste of what Bernard is capable of on every down, it's hard to imagine he won't be on the field in some capacity at all times. He'll also see a large number of targets from Andy Dalton, who has been seriously missing a checkdown target for years.
It's happening at a methodical pace, but Bernard may be the best fantasy option out there once he gets going.
Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots
Speaking of happening at a slow pace, Aaron Dobson of the New England Patriots is quietly emerging as one of Tom Brady's favorite targets this offseason.
That should translate into the regular season.
Dobson, who joined the team via the No. 59 overall pick, was not expected to necessarily contribute much in his rookie season.
That's changing in a hurry as Dobson flashes his skills this offseason. Derek Havens of PatsFans.com has said Dobson looks like the best player on the offense at times during camp:
Of course, any rookie is not without his struggles. NFL Network's Albert Breer says Dobson has had his issues at times but is making amazing plays as well:
The good news for fantasy owners is that Dobson has worked his way up to the first team, primarily seeing time as the "X" receiver.
With the sudden lack of production from the tight end position and an injury question mark in Danny Amendola, Dobson could be seeing the majority of the work from Brady.
That's nothing but a good thing for Dobson. His hype is starting to reach a fever pitch, and you'd be wise to buy into it.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy may seem like an easy back to push to the side because of the presence of another rookie back in Johnathan Franklin on the roster for the Green Bay Packers, but that would be a mistake no matter what kind of league you fancy.
Lacy is emerging as the lead back in Green Bay and is even garnering public praise from his head coach, as noted by the team's official Twitter account:
Not only that, much of the speculation around Franklin being the better back notes his superior ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. However, Lacy can hold his own as a receiver, as relayed by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Early reports from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicate that Lacy was also the star of a recent scrimmage the Packers held.
In other words, why haven't you drafted this guy yet? It's silly to buy into hype this early in most cases, but you should be able to tell Lacy is going to be a fantasy stud from the get-go. If healthy, he'll tote most of the carries and could be what the team wanted from Cedric Benson a year ago with added prowess in the passing game.
It's easy to pass over Lacy, even with his hype skyrocketing at this point, but the Alabama product is about to have a massive season in Green Bay with defenses focused on the passing game.
Grab Lacy while you can.
Follow me on Twitter for more NFL news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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