2010 NFL Rookie Report

Junkyard JakeCorrespondent IJune 14, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  C.J. Spiller from the Clemson Tigers poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as they hold up a Buffalo Bills jersey after he was selected #9 overall by the Bills during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Ranking the 2010 NFL Rookie Class
Ranking the 2010 rookie class in terms of expected fantasy football significance...

June 14th 2010 JunkyardJake.Com

#1) Ryan Mathews,RB 

  1st Round (#12)  (6'0" ,218)  40 Time=4.45
During his final year at Fresno State, Mathews led the nation with 1,808 yards and scored an amazing 19 times in eleven starts, demonstrating the type of tough and determined running style you look for in a primary ball-carrier. Although he does have the speed to threaten the perimeter, Mathews is most effective running between the tackles. As an inside runner, Mathews recognizes the opening, hits it with urgency and does a nice job breaking tackles and accelerating to daylight.

The virtual consensus opinion is that Ryan Mathews will be the rookie with the most palpable fantasy impact this season, and it's hard to argue with that estimation. Of course it helps when you land in an especially advantageous situation, like the post-Tomlinson San Diego backfield, but with Mathews size/speed combination, as well as blocking and receiving skills, he was probably going to make an impact in 2010 wherever he ended up. While Darren Sproles is still very much in San Diego's gameplan, he isn't expected to constitute much more than an occasional change of pace replacement.

Fantasy Significance=

#2) C.J. Spiller,RB 

  1st Round (#9)  (5'11" ,196)  40 Time=4.37
It's curious that the Bills opted for C.J. Spiller with seemingly more glaring needs, but you can't blame the team for jumping at the chance to draft the former Clemson Tiger speed fiend. Most impressive about Spiller is his versatility, where he uses his rare change of direction ability, lightning quickness, and blazing speed to contribute as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Spiller is at his best bouncing outside in the running game, or receiving the ball in open space, where he becomes an instant matchup calamity. Moreover, despite his relatively small stature, Spiller is surprisingly effective running inside, showing good vision and the requisite toughness to gain yards between the tackles when his number is called.
Fantasy Significance=

#3) Jahvid Best,RB 

  1st Round (#30)  (5'10" ,199)  40 Time=4.35
Jahvid Best is very similar to C.J. Spiller in terms of speed and explosion, but packed in just a slightly smaller parcel. Like Spiller, Best becomes acutely dangerous once he gets into open space and he is able to elude or simply run past defenders in the secondary. Unlike Spiller however, it is not expected that Best will be able to consistently gain positive yards as an inside runner, as he lacks the power and bulk to withstand the abuse of negotiating with the nastiness between the tackles. Best does land in a fairly fantasy friendly situation, where the Detroit Lions have assembled a potentially potent offense, and he will likely see the field often while Kevin Smith recovers from last year's knee injury. When Smith returns, he and Best seemingly should complement each other well, where Smith assumes short-yard duties, and Best becomes the dynamic speed back on passing downs.
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#4) Dez Bryant,WR 

  1st Round (#24)  (6'2" ,225)  40 Time=4.51
Bryant is widely considered the top talent among this year’s class of wide outs and his college numbers support this estimation (87 catches, 1,480 yards and 19 TDs in 2008). He’s big and powerful, and although his 40 time doesn’t suggest consistent deep speed, he’s a highly effective route-runner with deceptive quickness and good cutting ability. Perhaps the most impressive aspects of Bryant’s game are his sticky hands in traffic, his rare leaping ability, and his knack for gaining yards after the catch by either slipping around or trying to barrel over defenders.

Bryant does come with some baggage. Most notably, his 2009 season was summarily ended when he was issued a suspension for lying to NCAA officials about his association with former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders. Bryant is also suspected to have some time management issues, as some sources describe a player who has been frequently late to meetings and practices while at Oklahoma State. Despite all this, after personally meeting with Bryant, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones traded up to snag him with the 24th pick in this year’s draft anyway. In other words, it’s safe to say that the Cowboys find Bryant’s character questions less compelling than his upside potential. Bryant’s 2010 fantasy value might be moderated by his own immaturity, and he still needs to dispose of incumbent receiver Roy Williams, but he should be a good bet to make an impression this season.

Fantasy Significance=

#5) Montario Hardesty ,RB 

  2nd Round (#59)  (6'0" ,224)  40 Time=4.49
Hardesty is a potential workhorse back who wastes no time taking what his blockers give him as he attacks the middle of the defense. He demonstrates adequate speed and shiftiness, but he's not the type of runner who can be expected to challenge the outside consistently. Hardesty is clearly at his best gaining the tough yards inside, where he shows a good initial burst, and the ability to run through tackles. On the downside, he's had his share of injury problems in college, and he was only a one-year starter at Tennessee. However, to the extent we can rely on his performance after earning the starting assignment in 2009, he showed his mettle by rushing for 108 yards per game with 12 touchdowns. Hardesty makes for a nice complement to Jerome Harrison in Cleveland, and he could very possibly end up as the more valuable Browns runner, providing he can get the job done on 1st and 2nd down and at the goalline.
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#6) Golden Tate ,WR 

  2nd Round (#60)  (5'10" ,200)  40 Time=4.41
The Seahawks may have found themselves a legitimate steal when Golden Tate fell all the way to the 60th spot in this year's draft. Granted, at 5-11, and 200 pounds, Tate lacks the size of the quintessentially ideal NFL receiver, and he could struggle initially against the bigger cornerbacks of the NFL. However, when you observe his willingness to make tough catches in traffic, his instinctive route-running, and his open field elusiveness and balance, he tends to evoke comparisons to a marginally bigger Steve Smith from the Carolina Panthers. Playing in Charlie Weis's pro-style offense at Notre Dame, Tate should be more prepared than most rookie receivers out of the gate and could earn a starting spot out of training camp. Increasing his odds for fantasy significance in 2010 is that Seattle should need little incentive to send perennial disappointment Deion Branch to the bench for good.
Fantasy Significance=

#7) Toby Gerhart,RB 

  2nd Round (#51)  (6'0" ,231)  40 Time=4.50
Toby Gerhart is tired of being called a fullback, and he's also fairly disinterested with the frequent comparisons to former Bucs battering ram Mike Alstott. While there is certainly nothing wrong with being compared to Alstott, who clobbered his way to over 5,000 yards and 58 TDs over his eleven year career, the comparison does seem a bit myopically inaccurate. While, Gerhart does run with the same urgency, plays to contact and has the soft receiving hands of Alstott, the former Buc ran a 4.66 at his combine in 1996, while Gerhart ran a 4.50 at this year's combine. In Toby Gerhart's own words, he suggests that ‘I see myself more like Deuce McAllister or Michael Turner.' We'll see about that, but there is no doubt that Gerhart does have very respectable speed for a power back, and is surprisingly nimble for his size. As far as this year's fantasy significance, Gerhart should have no trouble earning the number two job behind Adrian Peterson now that Chester Taylor is with the Bears. If Taylor's playing time over the past couple year is any indication, Gerhart should be in line for 7-10 carries, and maybe 3-4 receptions per game.
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#8) Arrelious Benn,WR 

  2nd Round (#39)  (6'2" ,220)  40 Time=4.55
Especially after the departure of Antonio Bryant, the Buccaneers absolutely needed to fill their glaring void at wide receiver, so 3rd round pick Arrelious Benn couldn't have landed in a much better situation. Benn is big, with good speed, and really shows a second gear once he sees open field after the catch. He wasn't used extensively on deep routes at Illinois, and he can be sloppy with his routes, but he should be able to develop into a more complete receiver in due time. One other concern is his drop in production from 67 catches, 1,055 yards in 2008 down to 38 catches, 490 yards last year, but Benn insists that the decline had less to do with him, and more to do with instability at quarterback, and a generally dysfunctional Illinois offense. The Bucs agree, and their 3rd round selection of Benn could end up as quite a bargain. He's no sure thing to put up good numbers right away, but considering he will now have the opportunity to be a featured receiver while working with a strong-armed young quarterback in Josh Freeman, he's a solid fantasy prospect in 2010.
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#9) Jimmy Clausen,QB 

  2nd Round (#48)  (6'3" ,225)  40 Time=4.76
It's no secret that the Panthers passing game has evolved into somewhat of an embarrassment over the past couple seasons, but the team took an important step in trying to reverse the trend by drafting Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, who fell into their laps midway into the 2nd round. By virtue of his experience in a pro-style offense, his quick release, good accuracy, impressive arm strength, awareness in the pocket and ability to throw on the run, Clausen projected as a 1st rounder on many draft boards. Unfortunately, his draft stock was slightly sabotaged by a lower than expected Wonderlic score, his recent toe surgery, and allegations of an antagonistic temperament. Of course, none of this stuff will matter if he demonstrates an amenable attitude and plays to his capabilities in Carolina. While the Panthers currently plan to use Matt Moore as their opening-day QB, this could be a very temporary arrangement if Clausen proves to be a quick study in training camp.
Fantasy Significance=

#10) Ben Tate,RB 

  2nd Round (#58)  (5'11" ,220)  40 Time=4.35
Ben Tate really boosted his draft stock when he ran a blistering 4.34 40 yard dash at the combine this year. Tate also tied for the best bench press numbers among running backs with an impressive 26 reps, underscoring his unique combination of speed and power. In fact, Tate does do a lot of things well, he's been fairly durable, he's a willing blocker, a solid inside runner, and has good hands out of the backfield. On the downside, despite Tate's good straight-line speed, he doesn't seem to have the sharp change of direction and cutting ability you would look for in a prolific outside threat. Nonetheless, his skills do translate well for Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, as long as he doesn't show any propensity to fumble. In terms of his fantasy value this year, Tate will need to compete for playing time with Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and maybe even Ryan Moats, so he will need to come through with a strong performance this summer.
Fantasy Significance=

#11) Sam Bradford,QB 

  1st Round (#1)  (6'4" ,235)  40 Time=4.79
There is no disputing that Sam Bradford was a fine college quarterback, but somehow, you just can't avoid the nagging suspicion that the Sooners QB might go down as one the more underwhelming number one picks in recent memory. On the upside, Bradford shows rare accuracy, a nice release on his throws and anticipates receiver routes very well. In terms of intangibles, he's smart and has a great work ethic. That said, also consider that Bradford operated in a spread offense at Oklahoma, where he typically set up out of the shotgun, and was very effective in hitting his primary options quickly within the safe confines of the pocket. As such, he may need at least a year to transition to the NFL where he needs to prove he has the arm strength and improvisational ability to hit his secondary receivers downfield when the pocket breaks down. In terms of his fantasy prospects in the immediate term with the Rams, Bradford ends up in a challenging situation playing behind a below average offensive line, and working with mediocre receivers, so it's hard to expect much from him this year.
Fantasy Significance=

#12) Demaryius Thomas ,WR 

  1st Round (#22)  (6'3" ,224)  40 Time=4.64
Thomas really elevated his game in his final college season, as he boosted his total yardage to 1,154 after only generating 627 receiving yards as a sophomore in 2008. Most impressive was the big-play ability that he demonstrated in 2009, finishing with 25.1 yards per catch. Sounds good enough, but his numbers should also be with a bit of extra scrutiny, since he benefited from the relatively unsophisticated triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, where he was asked to run a fairly limited assortment of routes. Still, if he can grasp the more complex route responsibilities in short order, Thomas's fantasy potential is unmistakable. He's big, strong, and deceptively fast in the open field. Although he has had issues with drops, when focused, he also adds to a QB's throwing range with his ability to time his jumps and pluck the ball over shorter cornerbacks.
Fantasy Significance=

#13) Jonathan Dwyer,RB 

  6th Round (#188)  (5'11" ,230)  40 Time=4.64
Once considered a 1st or 2nd round prospect, perhaps no player saw his value decline as precipitously after the NFL combine as Jonathan Dwyer. Indeed, Dwyer had a very disappointing performance in late February, managing to run just a 4.59 forty and producing poor broad jump numbers. Scouts also raised doubts about Dwyer's transferability to the NFL given the fact that he accomplished his gaudy numbers (back to back 1,395 yard seasons in 2008 and 2009) as a member of the unconventional triple-option Georgia Tech offense. Nonetheless, it's difficult to overlook the positive view of Dwyer that suggests his potential as a workhorse running back. He's a big, bruising, tackling-breaking back with good vision, and unexpected lateral dexterity. Futhermore, in addressing his poor combine numbers, it should be noted that Dwyer claims to have suffered a toe injury in the Orange Bowl before his February audition, and he did manage to run a 4.52 forty in front of scouts in mid-March. All in all, it appears that the Steelers could have ended up with a very solid 6th round value here, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Dwyer promptly earn the number two spot behind Rashard Mendenhall.
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#14) Joe McKnight,RB 

  4th Round (#112)  (6'0" ,198)  40 Time=4.40
When McKnight hit the field for USC in 2007, he was touted as the type of smallish, mercurial running back who could torment defenders in the same way that Reggie Bush did for the program a few years earlier. While he didn't quite live up to all the hype, there is no disputing that McKnight has the type of speed, instincts, agility and lightening quick elusiveness that could make him a useful multi-faceted threat in the NFL. The Jets thought highly enough about USC's Joe McKnight, that they traded up 12 spots in the 4th round to draft him. Since Leon Washington was hastily sent over to the Seahawks that same afternoon, McKnight could assume significant 3rd down responsibilities almost immediately. Of course, for this to happen, he will need to show more than he did at the May minicamp, where he was plagued by cramps and some dropped passes. Odds are that the Jets scored a nice 4th round value with McKnight, in the same way they did when they drafted Leon Washington in the 4th round of the 2006 draft, and he should make at least a modest fantasy mark this season.
Fantasy Significance=

#15) Taylor Price,WR 

  3rd Round (#90)  (6'0" ,205)  40 Time=4.41
Taylor Price was generally limited by a run heavy offense at Ohio, but he was able to improve on his numbers in each successive year of his collegiate career, ultimately finishing up with a respectable 1,970 yards and 14 TDs. The key attribute that sticks out about Price is his elite speed, but even so, some scouts project him as a one-dimensional deep threat who might struggle initially with his route running and have a tough time escaping the jam against experienced cornerbacks. Judging by his strong performance in the Senior Bowl where he ran crisp routes and showed very dependable hands, he could defy his critics. For what it's worth, Price compares himself to another under-rated receiver, Greg Jennings, who faced similar criticism when he came out of college. As far as this season, Price will most likely battle Brandon Tate for playing time, and while Tate has the slight edge in NFL experience, Price appears to have the better upside based on his speed and hands.
Fantasy Significance=

#16) Marcus Easley,WR 

  4th Round (#107)  (6'3" ,210)  40 Time=4.39
Easley didn’t make an impression until his senior year, but when he did finally break out, he did so to the tune of 48 catches for 893 yards. He’s still very inexperienced, and will need to develop his route running abilities, but Easley is a real intriguing player to watch given the shallowness of Buffalos receiver lineup, and the type of size/speed ratio he brings to the anemic Bills offense.
Fantasy Significance=

#17) Dexter McCluster,RB 

  2nd Round (#36)  (5'9" ,175)  40 Time=4.53
Diminutive, but surprisingly tough and ultra quick, McCluster has a chance of contributing as a runningback, wide receiver and a return specialist as soon as this year. He didn’t become a fulltime starter at Mississippi until his senior year, but his 1,169 rushing yards, 44 catches for 520 yards, and 11 touchdown statline underscore his versatility and potential.
Fantasy Significance=

#18) Jermaine Gresham,TE 

  1st Round (#21)  (6'5" ,261)  40 Time=4.66
It’s been over thirty years since the Bengals have drafted a tight end in the 1st round (Mike Cobb in 1977), and Cincinnati finally ended the dryspell with Gresham, who has the work ethic, size and athleticism to add a new dimension to their offense. Gresham is not known for his consistent deep speed, but he does run crisp short routes and effectively finds soft spots in zone coverage.
Fantasy Significance=

#19) Jimmy Graham,TE 

  3rd Round (#95)  (6'6" ,260)  40 Time=4.53
Played basketball for three years before turning to football his senior year to catch only 17 passes, so needless to say, Graham is an extremely raw prospect. That said, with the rare agility and speed Graham possesses for a player his height, he has as much upside as any tightend in this years draft class. Could make an impression in the redzone right away (5 of his 17 catches in 2009 were TDs), and has the skills and measurables to develop into an elite player.
Fantasy Significance=

#20) Andre Roberts,WR 

  3rd Round (#88)  (5'11" ,195)  40 Time=4.40
Underrated because of his size, and the fact that he primarily played for a small school against inferior competition, but Roberts shows the speed, acceleration and run instincts that should allow him to become an immediate contributor as a return specialist and a possible option at slot receiver.
Fantasy Significance=

Other Rookies to Watch:

#21) Carlton Mitchell,WR 

  6th Round (#177)  (6'3" ,215)  40 Time=4.46
The knock on Mitchell before the draft was his inconsistent hands, and his tendency to rely on body catching the ball more frequently than scouts would prefer. Fair enough, but when you consider Mitchell’s open field speed and surprising shiftiness for his size, it seems like the Browns could have found a 6th round steal.

#22) Brandon LaFell,WR 

  3rd Round (#78)  (6'2" ,211)  40 Time=4.58
Lacks pure speed, but LaFell is big, physical and runs clean routes. Has struggled with drops, but this seems to be a focus problem, and not an issue with his hands. Has a great opportunity to lineup as Carolinas number two receiver given that disappointing Dwayne Jarrett does not appear to represent much of an obstacle.

#23) Aaron Hernandez,TE 

  4th Round (#113)  (6'2" ,245)  40 Time=4.64
Plays more like a hybrid wide receiver/tight end than a prototypical tight-end. Lacks ideal size for the position, but runs smooth routes with the speed and acceleration to represent a real coverage nightmare for many linebackers. Shows soft hands, is very effective after the catch and his great leaping ability compensates for his relative lack of height.

#24) Mardy Gilyard,WR 

  4th Round (#99)  (6'0" ,190)  40 Time=4.61
Despite his slight build and only average timed speed, Gilyard shows the qualities of a playmaker with his deceptive quickness, vision and shifty moves. Will need work on his route assignments, but could surprise this season on the receiver thin Rams. At the very least, Gilyard’s burst and elusiveness should get him on the field as a kick return specialist early on.

#25) Rob Gronkowski,TE 

  2nd Round (#42)  (6'6" ,264)  40 Time=4.68
Gronkowski has terrific hands, is an effective, tenacious blocker, and plays with the physicality you love to see at the tight end position. Certainly his skills translate well in terms of football field effectiveness, but given the Patriots inclination to use multiple tight ends, and the fact that he missed all of 2009 with a back injury, Gronkowski’s potential fantasy value in 2010 is difficult to assess.

#26) Ed Dickson,TE 

  3rd Round (#70)  (6'4" ,249)  40 Time=4.59
Consistent, durable and reliable player for Oregon over the past three years, who is best utilized in the passing game. Great hands, with the ability to make the tough catch, and possesses the speed, quickness and lateral movement to cause damage after the catch. Lands in a good situation with the Ravens, and has a chance to see significant time behind an aging Todd Heap if he can adapt to the pro game quickly.

#27) Anthony Dixon,RB 

  6th Round (#173)  (6'1" ,233)  40 Time=4.65
Durable, workhorse back at Mississippi St., ending his college career as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,994 yards. Doesn’t represent a legitimate outside running threat, but has the vision to exploit inside running lanes, and shows surprising wiggle and nimbleness for his size. Dixon could easily supplant underwhelming Glen Coffee as Frank Gore’s backup with a strong preseason.

#28) Tim Tebow,QB 

  1st Round (#25)  (6'3" ,236)  40 Time=4.71
The Broncos paid a surprisingly steep price for Tim Tebow, trading their second, third and fourth-round picks to Baltimore for the right to select him with the 25th pick of the 1st round. No doubt Tebow excelled as the QB of Floridas limited-read, quick strike offense, but some argue that his statistics were inflated by the system, and that his mechanics will need work. Obviously the team considers him to be the longer-term solution at quarterback, but it’s possible he spends this season observing from the sideline.

#29) James Starks,RB 

  6th Round (#193)  (6'2" ,218)  40 Time=4.50
Former cornerback and quarterback who showed good potential at runningback before missing part of his junior season with a knee injury, and his entire senior season with a shoulder injury. Well worth a 6th round gamble by the Packers given his pure straight-line speed and excellent receiving skills.

#30) Mike Williams,WR 

  4th Round (#101)  (6'1" ,221)  40 Time=4.53
Williams draft stock decreased as a result of various personal indiscretions, but once you get past the potential character issues, he’s a big, strong receiver with soft hands and sneaky speed. Difficult to jam off the line, good leaping ability and potentially effective redzone weapon.


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