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Von Dumbass
07-11-2009, 10:40 AM
The 2009 NFL Draft class consisted of 256 prospects looking to make careers as professional football player. While most of them will be focusing on just trying to make NFL rosters come September, our goal here is to tell you which of these players will make an impact in the world of fantasy football this season. Because letís face it, you donít want to miss out on an excellent value pick like Chris Johnson or Steve Slaton last year, right?

Here are the National Football Postís top-20 rookie rankings. Keep in mind: These rankings are going to change over the coming weeks, so be sure to check back with us to be certain you have the most up-to-date information heading into your fantasy draft.

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Moreno looks to be the safest bet in this year's rookie pool.
1. Knowshon Moreno Running Back Denver Broncos
Moreno tops our rookie list for two reasons. Heís most likely going to be the starter heading into Week 1, and that means heís most likely going to produce reliable fantasy points on a weekly basis. The key to Morenoís success this season will be his ability to pass block. Youíre probably wondering how his blocking skills translate to fantasy points, right? Simple. If Moreno demonstrates in training camp that he can be a successful blocker when the Broncos are in pass protection, head coach Josh McDaniels will be able to play him on third downs. If Moreno can play all three downs, it increases his amount of touches, meaning more fantasy points. We currently have him ranked right on the bubble of being a top-20 running back.

2. Donald Brown Running Back Indianapolis Colts

Pay attention. Brown is one of our top sleepers heading into the 2009 season. Heís a dual-threat running back who has excellent burst and can make plays when he finds open space. The Colts are again going to throw the football all over the lot, opening up the defense for Brown to slide in underneath and make plays. Yes, heís going to split time with running back Joseph Addai, but heís still a relatively unknown fantasy commodity, meaning his value will be tremendous. All owners are advised to target Brown and make sure you get him on your roster before the season starts. As of now, heís valued as a mid-round selection.

3. Chris ďBeanieĒ Wells Running Back Arizona Cardinals

Wells is a physical, bruising, between-the-tackles running back who will be used primarily in goal-line and short-yardage situations. He might not rack up a ton of yards, but he should be good for 7-10 touchdowns this season -- if he can win the starting job. Power running back Tim Hightower is still on the roster and is currently battling Wells for the starting gig. Be advised: The Cardinals are going to take to the skies once again in 2009, so Wells may not be the most reliable fantasy starter on a week-to-week basis. If he wins the job however, his goal-line carries alone should make him a top-30 running back.

4. Percy Harvin Wide Receiver Minnesota Vikings

We generally are not very high on rookie wide receivers (with the exception of DeSean Jackson last year), but Harvin is going to make an impact whether we like it or not. Heís a dynamic, explosive receiver who can hit the home run if he finds open space. The Vikings are going to create special plays and offensive sets (just like the Eagles did with Jackson last season) to maximize Harvinís production. With speedy vertical threat Bernard Berrian stretching defenses on the outside and Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson preventing the opposition from sitting in nickel and dime coverages all day, Harvin will be free to exploit the soft spots underneath. Heís another NFP 2009 sleeper, so donít miss out.

5. LeSean McCoy Running Back Philadelphia Eagles

Just like Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook, McCoy is a dual-threat back who can make plays in both phases of the offense. Heís got good speed, reliable hands and fits the Eaglesí offensive system perfectly. Keep in mind, Westbrook has never made it through a full 16-game season, so McCoy is likely to see some reps as the starter in addition to spelling B-West when heís healthy. The good news is that with Westbrook out for most of the summer due to ankle surgery, McCoy gets to work with the first team offense and quarterback Donovan McNabb. Target him in the later rounds and be sure to draft McCoy as a handcuff if you select Westbrook. This kid could put up some numbers if he gets to take over the starting gig.

6. Michael Crabtree Wide Receiver San Francisco 49ers

Letís be clear about something. Crabtree is on the list because heís going to be a starter and therefore will see a decent amount of targets. However, fantasy owners should taper their expectations. Yes, he was a stud in college -- in a defensively challenged Big 12 Conference that gave him 6-8-yard cushions on every down. Life in the NFL is going to be a little different. Opposing cornerbacks are going to jam Crabtree at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to throw him off his routes. This is the main reason rookie receivers have difficulty succeeding in their first professional seasons. In addition, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary is going to turn the offense into more of a run-heavy unit, so they wonít be throwing the rock around like they did when Mike Martz was the offensive coordinator. We would advise owners draft a more experienced receiver.

7. Shonn Greene Running Back New York Jets

Greenís ability to be a productive fantasy running back will be determined by how the Jets handle the contract situations of incumbent RBs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. If both guys end up on the team at the start of the season, Greene will only be used as a situational back with a chance to score a few touchdowns. If either running back is traded (most likely Jones), Greeneís value will instantly increase. He was the only ball carrier in the country to rush for 100 yards in every game last season, and heís a load to bring down in the open field. If he gets an opportunity to play early in the year, owners need to be cautious. Rookie Mark Sanchez will be leading the Jets, and it will take some time for him to get comfortable in the pocket and find some consistency throwing the ball down the field. Look for Greene in the later rounds.

8. Jeremy Maclin Wide Receiver Philadelphia Eagles

A shifty receiver with reliable hands and good speed, Maclin has an opportunity to put up some decent numbers if he can crack the starting lineup by beating out Reggie Brown and Jason Avant in training camp. Heís a good fit for the Eaglesí offensive system and could take advantage of the fact that opposing defenses will be more concerned with trying to slow down Westbrook and Jackson. The Philly offense will once again be a pass-first, pass-second unit (editorís note: I meant to say pass first AND pass second), so if Maclin can find his way onto the field, heís going to see some targets. Be advised: If he doesnít beat out at least two receivers on the Eaglesí depth chart, Maclinís touches will be limited.

9. Hakeem Nicks Wide Receiver New York Giants

Big Blue drafted Nicks in the hope he can eventually step up and replace departed red zone wideout Plaxico Burress. While it could definitely happen, donít count on it taking place in 2009. Much like Crabtree, Nicks is going to face press coverage all season long when he lines up on the outside, making it difficult for him to get open down the field. The Giants also have a platoon of wideouts on their depth chart, so playing time in year one might be a little scarce. Nicks does have good deep speed and great balance, meaning he can go up and get the jump ball if needed. We donít expect an overly productive season, so if youíre interested in drafting Nicks, look for him in the later rounds.

10. Brian Robiskie Wide Receiver Cleveland Browns

Be advised: If Robiskie doesnít beat out Josh Cribbs and David Patten for the No. 2 wide receiver spot, his value will be limited, so owners should let him fall to waivers on draft day. If Robiskie does win the No. 2 job, look for him to produce some respectable numbers this season. With Pro Bowl wide receiver Braylon Edwards commanding most of the opposing defenseís attention, Robiskie will likely be faced with single coverage when heís on the field, giving him a decent opportunity to get open and make plays. The downside is that new head coach Eric Mangini is going to turn Cleveland into more of a run-oriented offense, meaning fewer targets to go around. In addition, Robiskieís value will be higher if Derek Anderson is under center in 2009 instead of Brady Quinn. Quinn is somewhat inaccurate and could need some time to develop.

11. Mark Sanchez Quarterback New York Jets

Yes, we understand that Sanchez is likely going to be the starter in Week 1 for the Jets and that heíll probably produce more fantasy points than some of the rookies ranked ahead of him, but owners will be much better served drafting an experienced quarterback with more weapons. Just because Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco found some success last season doesnít mean that lightning will strike twice. Making the transition from college quarterback to NFL quarterback is arguably the hardest thing to do in sports, so Sanchez is going to need some time to develop his skill set. Look for the Jets to stick with short to intermediate throws with a heavy dose of the run early in the season.

12. Glen Coffee Running Back San Francisco 49ers

Coffee is worthy of a late-round draft pick if you already selected Frank Gore at some point during the first two rounds. Heís not much of a pass-catching running back (only 42 receptions in three seasons at Alabama), but he can pound it between the tackles and pick up some yards (he averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season). Keep in mind: Gore tends to get banged up shouldering the load in San Francisco, so thereís a chance Coffee could get some starting reps in the event of another injury. Heís likely to see time in an effort to keep Gore fresh, meaning the consistent production wonít be there.

13. Brandon Pettigrew Tight End Detroit Lions

Weíll be the first to admit that there are some other rookie tight ends we like more than Pettigrew, but they are currently sitting at the Nos. 2 and 3 spots on the depth charts of their respective teams, while Pettigrew is a starter. Pettigrew has a very large frame and could see some success this season as the Lions will likely be throwing the ball late in games, meaning garbage time stats will be in effect. Heís got good speed, decent hands and is currently building a rapport with rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Be advised: We have Pettigrew ranked right around the No. 20 spot among tight ends in our draft guide, so heís a TE2 at best. Keep in mind, he didnít score a single touchdown last season for Oklahoma State in the pass-happy Big 12.

14. Johnny Knox Wide Receiver Chicago Bears

Never heard of him? Thatís OK, neither have most fantasy football players. The good news is that thatís why you come to the National Football Post. Knox is an extremely explosive wideout capable of hitting the home run if he finds himself in open space. Heís got dangerous speed, and with Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler looking for a deep-threat receiver, Knox could be the guy. The Bearsí depth chart at the wide receiver position is currently a mess, and while thereís a good chance Knox wonít see the field in Week 1, weíve been hearing some very positive reviews of his ability coming from some good sources in Chicago. We wanted you to hear it from us so you can start thinking about adding him to your roster. Be advised: Knox is a very deep sleeper, meaning he could see little action this year, so keep that in mind. The upside is that if he does make it onto the field, thereís a good chance heíll find some success.

15. Matthew Stafford Quarterback Detroit Lions

Stafford may be slotted a little low on our rookie rankings, but we did this in an effort to drive home the point that heís not a viable option in fantasy leagues this season. While the kid has talent, thereís a good chance heíll start off 2009 as the second-string quarterback in Detroit, meaning heíll bring no value to the table. When he eventually does see the field, Stafford will be playing behind a below-average offensive line on a team thatís currently a work in progress. There are plenty of other experienced quarterbacks on the market, so donít waste your time hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a rookie playing on a team that finished 0-16 last season. Fantasy owners need to look for more consistency.
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16. Darrius Heyward-Bey Wide Receiver Oakland Raiders
Do not Ė repeat, DO NOT -- fall into this trap. Yes, DHB was drafted in the top-10. No, he is not a top-10 talent. The Raiders love speed, and Heyward-Bey happens to be very fast. Thatís where it ends. Heís shown some inconsistencies trying to catch the football and has already injured and reinjured his hamstring during summer workouts. In addition, the Raiders were the worst passing offense in the NFL last season, averaging fewer than 150 yards a game through the air. DHB is on this list because no matter how much trouble he has catching the ball, the Raiders are going to put him on the field this season. Owners need to be fully aware of this heading into their drafts. Heyward-Bey is NOT a sleeper.

17. James Casey Tight End Houston Texans

Now hereís a player to keep an eye on. Casey is a very versatile and athletic tight end who caught an impressive 111 passes for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns last season for the Rice Owls. Heís currently sitting behind fantasy stud Owen Daniels in Houston, but owners need to keep Casey in mind despite his current situation. Houston is a pass-happy offense and is going to find a way to get him on the field this season. While heíll bring little fantasy value operating in that capacity, if something were to happen to Daniels, expect Casey to step in and make plays. Thereís no reason to use a draft pick on him, just keep his name in the back of your mind in case Daniels gets hurt. Then immediately turn on your computer and pick up Casey.

18. Josh Freeman Quarterback Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Weíre really hoping the Bucs donít decide to start Freeman from day one because that would kill the value of all the other players on their offense (and there are several guys we REALLY like in Tampa this year). Freeman is an athletic quarterback but is a work in progress to say the least. The big red flag in this scouting report is that Freeman failed to complete 60 percent of his passes last season in the defensively challenged Big 12. Thatís a big no-no. While there are several marquee weapons on the Tampa offense, Freeman is going to struggle to pick up the system and get the ball down the field. Owners should not consider drafting him or picking him up off waivers this year. He wonít get the job done.

19. Kenny Britt Wide Receiver Tennessee Titans

Britt is a big, physical target who, over time, could develop into a nice red zone receiver for quarterback Kerry Collins. Owners, however, shouldnít expect it to happen this season. The Titansí style of football is very similar to that of the Ravens and Steelers: They play good defense and conservative, mistake-free offense. Translation: They like to run the football. Wide receivers Justin Gage and Nate Washington are already locked into the top two spots, so Brittís targets will be limited. He has a chance to develop into a good receiver over time, but 2009 will be a year for learning.

20. Louis Murphy Wide Receiver Oakland Raiders

Scroll up to No. 16 and read about the Raidersí offense and youíll know where weíre heading with this. The only difference between Murphy and DHB is that Murphy may surprise some people this season. Word out of the Bay Area is that Murphy has been looking impressive in mini-camp and has been working very hard at becoming a refined route-runner. The receiver situation in Oakland is cloudy at the moment, with DHB, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Javon Walker and Chaz Schilens all fighting it out for two starting spots. Murphy isnít worthy of a draft pick come August, but keep your eye on him this season. He may turn some heads.
Rookie analysis | National Football Post (http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Rookie-analysis.html)
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