Top rookie fantasy picks, sleepers

Alshon Jeffery, Kendall Wright among rookies who could put up big numbers

Originally Published: August 15, 2012
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin IIIUS Presswire/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck and Robert Griffin III should have success as rookies. But who are some sleepers?

Generally speaking, when it comes to NFL rookies, fantasy stardom isn't in the cards.

Cam Newton may have had one of the greatest statistical seasons for a rookie in NFL history in terms of raw fantasy stats in 2011, but if you owned him after a Week 4 loss to the Bears where he threw for 374 yards and ran for two touchdowns, you may have been a little disappointed. Not once after that game did Newton crack the 300-yard mark as a passer, and in seven of the remaining games, he threw one or zero touchdowns. But Newton had tremendous value as a runner, rushing for 10 touchdowns over the final 12 games.

Point being, rookies -- even the best ones -- are where you find value, not the linchpin in a great fantasy team. This season, Newton's average draft position is 17.4. The highest rookie? You can't find one until average pick No. 37, when Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns is coming off the board.

For this exercise, I'll mix obvious choices, guys I suspect may create some value and sleepers. I'll also point out some why-not cases, in which I'd advise you to stay away and not buy into the hype.

The obvious

QB Andrew Luck: In ESPN leagues, Luck is, on average, the No. 16 quarterback off the board, just behind Jay Cutler and just ahead of Alex Smith. This might sound optimistic, but I can see Luck putting up pretty significant totals (3,600-4,000 yards). He is going to look remarkably comfortable and familiar in Bruce Arians' offense right out of the gate -- the Colts did great work in the draft to find some weapons for Luck -- and the Colts will be playing from behind a lot this season. I don't think it's merely hype that has him being drafted higher than plenty of more established starters.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst