Adam Levitan

Offseason Low Down

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Draft 2013: Impact Rookies

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

11. Mike Gillislee, RB, Dolphins
Gillislee is a bit of a project after spending just one season as a featured runner at Florida. He did run a 4.55 forty and projects to hold his own in NFL pass protection right away. That alone could be enough to unseat current backup Daniel Thomas, whom the current coaching staff is really down on. Thomas has averaged 3.53 YPC in his two-year career and fumbled five times. Lamar Miller is the clear-cut feature back, but has just 51 career NFL carries. There’s room for another back to have a role.  

12. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
Here’s a deep sleeper. Kelce, the younger brother of Eagles C Jason Kelce, slipped to the third round of the draft because of character concerns. A 6’5/255 monster with better athletic measurables than Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz, Kelce has a legit shot to beat out Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano for the starting gig in Kansas City. Note that Brent Celek racked up 5.98 targets per game over the last four years while playing for Andy Reid – and those Eagles’ offenses had far more talent.

13. Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
When Stanford’s Ertz torched Oregon for an 11/106/1 line last season, Chip Kelly was watching. The Eagles used the No. 35 overall pick to snatch the fluid pass-catcher, who is too big for corners at 6’5/249 and too fast for linebackers at 4.76. Ertz is more athletic than first-round tight end Tyler Eifert and has a clearer path to playing time. Brent Celek could be released and Clay Harbor is backup-caliber at best. The fact that Ertz is inept as a blocker is actually a good thing for fantasy owners – Kelly knows the kid’s role.

14. Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars
As a quarterback at Michigan, Robinson rushed 723 times for 4,495 yards (6.21 YPC) with 42 touchdowns. At 5’10/199 with 4.43 wheels and video-game jukes, he’s reminded some of Chris Johnson. The Jags certainly see it that way, as they drafted him to be a running back and have been lining him up with the first-teamers during rookie minicamps. Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off a Lisfranc fracture and Justin Forsett is a journeyman backup type. Robinson is one to watch closely during training camp as the Jags define his exact role.

15. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers
Only two-thirds of the “Young Money” crew are left, meaning Wheaton will be counting his cash behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. But there’s a hole at that No. 3 spot, where Jerricho Cotchery is a release candidate, Plaxico Burress is 35 years old and tight Heath Miller is coming off a complete knee reconstruction. Wheaton is capable of both playing the slot and burning up corners on vertical routes. He’s one to watch as an in-season waiver add.

16. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
On paper, the Chargers’ top-three wideouts are Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. We can poke holes in each. Alexander has long been one of the league’s most fragile players thanks to five left knee surgeries, Floyd will be 32 years old come Week 1 and Brown has just 19 career catches under his belt. So Allen figures to get a chance at some point in 2013, but his ability to capitalize is in doubt. He ran a 4.71 forty – the same time as 306-pound Saints third-round LT Terron Armstead.

17. Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys
DeMarco Murray’s injuries are really piling up. He’s missed nine games in his first two NFL seasons after slogging through nicks for 916 touches at Oklahoma. The Cowboys haven’t been shy about saying they wanted to upgrade on their backup mess, so Felix Jones is gone and Phillip Tanner/Lance Dunbar will battle for a roster spot in camp. Randle will be the No. 2 guy, but he was a fifth-round pick for a reason. He runs upright and shies away in blitz pickup. Even if Murray goes down, Randle is no lock to produce RB2 numbers. 

18. E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills
It seems we’ve vastly underrated rookie quarterbacks that can run lately. Cam Newton was a borderline QB2 when fantasy drafts commenced in 2011 and Robert Griffin III was the 12th quarterback selected in 2012 ADP. Well, it’s time to do it again.

Manuel is just frighteningly raw for a first-round pick and he still has to beat out Kevin Kolb. His accuracy issues have been compared to Jake Locker’s. Also, over Manuel’s final two seasons at Florida State, he rushed just 213 times for 461 yards (2.13 YPC) with eight touchdowns. That counts sacks as negative rushing yards, but note that Newton ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final year at Auburn. RG3 rumbled for 1,334 yards and 18 touchdowns over his final two college seasons.

19. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Bills
When there’s a cluster at a position, it’s often best to simply grab the best talent and let things shake out. That’s the play with Rogers, who shockingly went undrafted out of Tennessee Tech solely because of character issues. As a 20-year-old sophomore at Tennessee, he ripped up the SEC to the tune of 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. Multiple substance-abuse (marijuana) violations led him to Tech. If Rogers can keep his nose clean, he has a shot to beat out likes of T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin for the No. 2 job opposite Stevie Johnson. GM Buddy Nix said he had a first- to second-round grade on Rogers.

20. Justin Hunter, WR, Titans
When the Titans traded up for Hunter at No. 34 overall, it was an admission that Nate Washington can’t get it done and Kenny Britt can’t be relied upon in the long-term. The local product is expected to slide right in as the starting “Z” receiver, the spot where Washington averaged 5.6 targets per game last year. NFL Films’ Greg Cosell did call Hunter the “most physically talented wide receiver” in the draft, but it’s hard to get too excited about the No. 3 option in a passing game led by the erratic arm of Jake Locker.

Honorable mention
A) Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks: Michael is talented enough to beat out Robert Turbin for the No. 2 gig. And that would mean a lot of Marshawn Lynch’s impending DUI case results in a suspension.
B) Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys: Would it surprise anyone if Miles Austin popped a hammy? Williams will battle Dwayne Harris for the No. 3 gig.
C) Robert Woods, WR, Bills: He’s set to do battle for the No. 2 gig, but it’s crowded. See the Da’Rick Rogers entry above for more.
D) Josh Boyce, WR, Patriots: I don’t think it will happen, but there is a chance Aaron Dobson (see above) faceplants.
E) Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Stepfan Taylor went 47 picks earlier, but Ellington has more burst and wiggle. Don’t be surprised if he earns carries early on as a change-of-pace option.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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