Fantasy football drafting is in full swing and likely you are studying up on at least one if not more of this years’ newly drafted rookies to see if one of them might fill the shoes of Andrew Luck or Doug Martin, who turned out to be amazing roster additions last year.
Last years’ class of breakout rookies was without a doubt, one of the most elite any year could offer as far as incredible rookie talent. Many fantasy drafters are looking for a repeat of last years’ rookie quality and quantity to surface this season, which is a tall order to fill, so rookie expectations should be tempered a bit starting the season.
Despite the fact that it would be hard to repeat last year’s rookie history, fantasy drafters still have hopes of securing the next best breakout rookie, as some of the “big names” are already being heavily targeted in the 2013 fantasy drafts.
For whatever the reasoning may be, including their college performance, NFL draft pick status, training camp productivity, preseason game play or their current team competition, some rookies are being “over-drafted” at the current time.
The five players listed below may fall into one or more of these categories which is prompting fantasy drafters to jump the gun and draft them earlier than warranted.
Le'Veon Bell, Running Back, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell was selected by the Steelers in the second round draft pick, and has been the favored starter all summer long. Mock drafts showed him being chosen as early as the fourth and fifth rounds. Now that the preseason is almost over, the only glimpse we saw Bell playing was at the beginning of the second preseason game where he went down with an injured ankle.
Bell is fortunate that his ankle didn’t require surgery, however the injury is serious enough to keep him out until Week 6 or 7 of the regular season. Even with his early injury status and lack of preseason play, people are still drafting him now for their real drafts in rounds seven and eight. If you have the roster room to bench an injured rookie for this many weeks, that is brave. Hopefully when Bell returns, he will still have the starting job as Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer will be filling in and competing for the starting role.
Montee Ball, Running Back, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos selected Ball, as their second round NFL draft pick. While it appears Ball will get to start Week 1 of the regular season, he still will compete for touches against Ronnie Hillman, and even Knowshon Moreno, who is still in the Denver running back’s picture.
The Broncos are a pass-first team and known for relying heavily on their air game. Ball has value as a legitimate fantasy running back, however his current mid-fifth round draft pick is a bit ambitious for a timesharing, rookie running back. You can pick up Hillman much later in fantasy drafts and if he continues to split the carries that will decrease Ball’s earlier round pick value. The early round pick you spent on Ball will only warrant the value if he ends up with the majority of the running work, and the Broncos decide to increase their ground game this year.
Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals
Bernard, another second round draft pick chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals, has been all the hype over the past few months. He emerged as more of a “sleeper” to be picked up later in draft rounds, however his current average draft pick for regular fantasy drafts shows him being selected by the middle of the fourth round.
This is quite glorified for a rookie who will be sharing time with Bengals’ fellow running back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is still the Bengals’ starting back; and who can easily be drafted as late as round nine. Bernard has shown exceptional talent during the preseason, and may be worth owning because of his potential breakout ability and possibility to become the starter. However, if you feel inclined to draft him early, beware of other valuable players you may be passing up to secure Bernard to your roster.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams
Austin, who was selected eighth overall in the NFL draft, is a popular rookie everyone has been talking about this summer. However over the past few preseason weeks, we haven’t seen much production from Austin. He has only had a handful of receptions and has returned a couple punts.
With the plans on how the Rams intend to use Austin still not quite clear, I cannot imagine why he is currently being drafted for fantasy teams during round seven, ahead of many other higher ranked, veteran wide receivers. We know there is some talent lying within Austin, so if you can pick him in later draft rounds, he may eventually be worthy of a flex spot on your fantasy roster.
Zach Sudfeld, Tight End, New England Patriots
As of very recent, Sudfeld has been the buzzword among tight ends. With the Patriots’ current situation regarding the health and return of Rob Gronkowski, Sudfeld, who has been referred to as “baby Gronk”, has suddenly emerged, and has been standing out in practices and preseason games. This, in turn has been warranting him a higher draft pick among fellow tight ends in recent fantasy drafts.
While I don’t find Sudfeld to be as overrated as the players mentioned above, especially for his position, Sudfeld’s increased draft popularity should be something to hold in check. Remember Gronkowski is on schedule to return likely in mid-September, and Jake Ballard is still a Patriots’ tight end last time I checked.
Sudfeld is worthy of being a fantasy tight end for now with potential upside, but don’t jump and draft him as early as you would draft other leading tight ends. If you can sneak him onto your team somewhere near draft round 10 or 11 he should serve your tight end position well.
Definitely keep these rookies in mind when drafting, but just beware of the team circumstances and fellow competition each one faces and what other seasoned players you might be bye-passing to draft one of these guys. Happy drafting!