It’s appropriate we’re about to review the Fantasy Football rookies for 2012 in early January of 2013. It’s kind of like when you look back at whatever gifts you got last month, and you assess which ones were winners (authentic NFL helmet signed by Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson) and the which ones were losers (Throwback Todd Marinovich Raiders jersey). We look back at the rookies and we remember not knowing what we’re going to get in this package, but being hopeful of something great.
This column will take a look back from a Fantasy perspective, and we’ll decide what the rankings for Fantasy Football Rookies for 2012 should have been. And we’ll help you look ahead to see what we can expect from that rookie in 2013 – and beyond.
Fantasy Football Rookies For 2012: The Best
Players ranked by 2012 Fantasy points scored.
1. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay
Without question, the “Muscle Hamster” was the most valuable rookie in fantasy, as he finished behind just Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson in total yards from scrimmage. His rookie season was comparable to Peterson’s, as well as Clinton Portis’ and Fred Taylor’s. After Peterson and Arian Foster, I have Martin as the third overall pick in my early 2013 Fantasy Football Mock Draft. (Oh, and he gets two Pro Bowl guards back from injury on his offensive line next season.) Grade: A+
2. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington
Despite having little to do with the passing game, Morris finished as the second-best Fantasy rookie in a HUGE year for Fantasy rookies. Granted, his Week 17 output (200 rushing yards, three touchdowns) affected very few of his Fantasy owners. Morris rarely loses ground, and he broke the Redskins’ single-season rushing record with 1,613 yards, topping Portis, and Morris had the third-best rookie rushing season in NFL history! Alf outscored all but three players in the final three weeks of the season. He’s a borderline first-round/second-round pick next season. Eric Mack places Morris at the 1.12 spot in his early mock draft. Grade: A+
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland
An ankle injury kept Richardson out of the season finale, but his final numbers aren’t what we should concentrate on. This guy played 15 games, despite breaking a couple ribs in Week 6, and he proved to be a threat on the ground and in the air, with seven games with four or more receptions. He also has a great nose for the end zone, scoring in nine of his 15 games. I expect him to be a top 10 Fantasy draft pick next August, and if not for Martin and Morris, we’d think of Richardson as one of the best Fantasy rookie running backs in the past decade. Grade: A-
4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
A concussion and a knee injury hampered the Heisman winner’s ability in a few games, and kept him out of one altogether. Even so, there’s no questioning his talent and his impact on Fantasy teams. The problem comes from his vulnerability to big hits downfield when he runs. This might be the last season he misses just ONE game. Only Cam Newton had a better Fantasy rookie season as a quarterback in NFL history. And RGIII will likely get snatched up in Round 2 next season, even if 11 other owners think it’s a bit too high. Grade: A+
5. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
I wasn’t a big believer in Luck in his first season – and I was wrong. I figured the departure of a lot of the veteran talent in Indianapolis would hamstring the Stanford product – and I was wrong. He finished as the third-best Fantasy rookie QB in NFL history, and owners had to be happy with his consistency. He had six 300-yard passing games, with 10 games in which he scored at least two touchdowns, and he passed Peyton Manning for the rookie record in passing yards for the season. He’ll be drafted as a top 10 quarterback again next season, and he has the upside of an eventual top-three Fantasy QB in coming years, supplanting Manning again at some point. Grade: B+
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
Wilson tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes (26) thrown by a rookie quarterback, but he also added four rushing touchdowns and almost 500 rushing yards. Wilson’s Draft Day value was quite low last summer, considering we all expected Matt Flynn to be the starter under center. Since 1990, only three rookies have finished the season among the top 12 quarterbacks in Fantasy. This year, Griffin (7), Luck (9) and Wilson (11) all finished in the top 12. Interestingly, the 2013 crop of Fantasy rookies does not look like it will have similar talent among quarterbacks and running backs. Grade: B+
7. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis
As much as Morris and Wilson came out of nowhere to make noise among running backs and quarterbacks, Hilton finishing as the top scoring rookie wide receiver was nearly as impressive. He’s smallish at 5-foot-9, and works perfectly in the find-the-open-spot role that guys like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola have excelled at. He’ll still be the Colts’ second receiving option behind Reggie Wayne for at least one more year, and he’ll be someone you draft near Round 9 or 10 in 2013. Grade: B
8. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville
Blackmon barely missed out on being the No. 1 rookie Fantasy wide receiver, after being the No. 1 wide receiver taken in the draft. He finished in the top 30 among all receivers, and that’s after a very slow start to his career in Jacksonville. In his first seven games, he had 18 catches for 193 yards and zero touchdowns. But in his final nine games, he caught five touchdowns, and he averaged five catches for 75 yards per game. The Jaguars might receive a Tim Tebow-injection next season, which means Blackmon and Cecil Shorts would try to turn into an Eric Decker/Demaryius Thomas-type duo. Taking a chance on Blackmon in the middle rounds as a WR2/WR3 makes sense next year. Grade: B-
9. RB27 Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis
The rookie out of Mississippi State took over at starter relatively early in the season, after Donald Brown got injured. While he only has one 100-yard game and three touchdowns, he still came close to 1,000 rushing yards in his debut season. One would think he’d be at the front of the depth chart next September, but his meager 3.9 yards per carry and his inability to punch it in regularly makes him more of a middle-round prospect in his sophomore year. Grade: C+
10. WR37 Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland
While Gordon was supposed to be a rookie next season, the supplemental draft pick finished the year as the third-highest scoring rookie Fantasy wide receiver. He even outscored his former teammate, Kendall Wright, by a little less than 30 percent. He tailed off in the Fantasy playoffs and got injured in Week 17, but he should be the top Browns receiver in Fantasy again next year. Even so, the playmaker is someone to look at as a WR3 next season as the Browns offense works under a new offense in 2013. Grade: C+
Fantasy Football Rookies For 2012: The Rest
11. Chris Givens, WR, St. Louis – Led the Rams in receiving yards, and should be a starter next season, with both Amendola and Brandon Gibson free agents. Grade: C+
12. Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia – If Darth Vader played Fantasy Football, he would have picked up Brown off of waivers when LeSean McCoy got injured, and then started him the next week against McCoy’s owners. Just pure evil. McCoy’s owners have to lock up Brown as a handcuff in 2013. Grade: C
13. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee — The biggest problem for wide receivers like Blackmon and Wright is that they are compared to recent rookie receivers dating back to 2009, like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Torrey Smith, Mike Williams, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace and Hakeem Nicks. Wright co-led all rookies with 64 receptions, but he didn’t score much or get a ton of yardage. He’s a name to remember late in your draft with high upside. Grade C
14. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami – He broke Dan Marino’s rookie passing yardage mark for Miami, and he proved to be a gamer. He needs more weapons before anyone says his name on Fantasy Draft Day, however. Grade: C-
15. Rod Streater, WR, Oakland – Very impressive season for an undrafted rookie, but he’ll still be third behind two young starters in Oakland. He had 351 yards in his final five games, too. Grade: C-
16. David Wilson, RB, N.Y. Giants – Many, including myself, expected this explosive back to take away a lot of carries from Ahmad Bradshaw, but a first-touch fumble derailed him before he got going. We could be looking at a C.J. Spiller-type early career for Wilson, making him a great middle-round gamble in 2013. Grade: C-
17. Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis – The wrong Colts rookie tight end ended up among the top 25 tight ends in fantasy! Here’s something that will blow your mind: Allen will be 23 years old next season. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will be 23/24 next season. Allen has a long way to go to be mentioned in the same sentence as those guys again, but it just shows you how amazing those two Patriots are. Grade: C-
18. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona – Most will remember Floyd as a huge disappointment out of Notre Dame, but he started to put it together late in the season. If the new Cardinals offense can figure it out, he’ll be a nice in-season pickup next year. Grade: D
19. Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland – Five games with multiple touchdown passes and six games with multiple interceptions, but not a whole lot in between. Fantasy owners can steer clear. Grade: D
20. Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore – Will serve as a solid handcuff to Ray Rice once again next season. Grade: D
21. Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis – Overtook Isaiah Pead as the rookie Rams running back on Steven Jackson’s heels. With Jackson likely gone in free agency, Richardson and Pead will battle it out next summer, along with another running back, possibly.
22. Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle – Possibly my favorite handcuff of 2013.
23. Shaun Draughn, RB, Kansas City – Could serve as Jamaal Charles’ backup next season, with Peyton Hillis expected to leave via free agency.
24. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia – Likely going to start at quarterback for Philadelphia in 2013, and he has plenty of weapons around him. Unfortunately, he might also have that offensive line in front of him.
25. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver – Plenty of opportunities for Hillman to shine and grab the ring as the starter, but it never happened. A lot has to happen between now and next summer before you decide to grab him on Draft Day.
26. Brandon Bolden, RB, New England – Worked well as Stevan Ridley’s backup, which is a role he’ll likely serve in again in 2013.
27. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami – The South Florida media loves Miller, but he never seemed to get a chance. But Reggie Bush is an unrestricted free agent, and Daniel Thomas is likely first in line for Bush’s carries if they don’t bring in a different back. But Miller’s speed and elusiveness could make some noise in fantasy.
28. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago – The playmaker out of South Carolina showed some flashes of brilliance, but he was hurt too often. He could be a solid pick as your WR4 or WR5 next season, if he can stay healthy in the offseason.
29. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati – From Weeks 7 to 12, Sanu had 16 catches for 154 yards and four touchdowns, but a foot injury ended his season early. He’s another great sleeper pick next season.
30. Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis – Mild disappointment, if only because everyone that expected Luck to have a decent season would have thought Fleener would have been a bigger part of it. He won’t get drafted in Fantasy leagues next season – and rightfully so.
The Fantasy Football rookies for 2012 will go down as one of the all-time greatest classes in NFL history, despite the lackluster play from wide receivers and tight ends. Three rookie quarterbacks ended up in the top 12 in scoring at their position, and three Class of 2012 running backs will be selected in the top 15 overall picks in leagues next season. The Class of 2013 has a hard act to follow.
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.