When looking at the rookies from a fantasy perspective, there is no silver bullet. With any scouting, whether it’s fantasy or real life, there is a lot of subjectivity. You would think with the amount of advanced statistics available you could mitigate the risk by using metrics. Though useful, they are only part of the equation. Maybe there is a magic algorithm somewhere in the ether that will eventually reduce this to a numbers game. Until the string theory of scouting is discovered, I use this.
Tape- What does he look like on tape? TV, youtube etc… Did he dominate? Was he running people over, making people miss and running by them? Do these skills translate in to the NFL?
Situation- How many players at his position are in front of him? What are their skill levels? Age? Years remaining on their contracts? Salary cap concerns?
Talent- How did he measure up in the combine and pro day? Did he dominate on the field? Does he have a unique characteristic that can make him successful? Is he too small to be anything more than a 3rd down back or are his hands so bad he is only a 2 down back?
Scheme- What scheme is he playing in? This is not always an absolute, but you should have idea of what type of offense he is in. Does he fit what the team wants in a RB? How does this scheme impact the player?
Run/Pass Ratio- How much do they pass? How much do they run? Be careful with this one. EX. Drafting a WR4 on Seattle is not going to help you much unless you feel he can become more than a WR4 down the road.
Preseason Games – This is where you can tell a lot about what the team thinks of the player, how they will use him and how he stacks up against NFL competition. Be careful watching a player going against 2nd and 3rd string players…
These rankings are slanted towards Dynasty Leagues
1 Sankey, Bishop Titans
He has it all. College Production, combine metrics, good tape and he’s in a situation where his only competition (Shonn Greene) is coming off knee surgery.
2 Williams, Andre Giants
The Giants running back situation is muddled. Hillis is an aging RB. Jennings parlayed a good 5 game stretch into a nice FA contract, but is only a part time back.. David Wilson is coming off an injury and he has ball security issues. Dynasty wise, he is a good bet. Great college production and tough running style.
3 Hill, Jeremy Bengals
With BJE, aging and slowing, which now makes him really, really slow, Hill is the heir apparent for the power back role here. He has the pedigree but there are character concerns. Could be the thunder to Gio Bernard’s lightening.
4 Freeman, Devonta Falcons
I like, but don’t love Freeman from a talent perspective. I really like his situation. Jackson is on his last legs, Rodgers is just an average back. Antone Smith might have been their best back last year. This situation is wide open and he should have a great shot of getting significant playing time.
5 West, Terrance Browns
He is firmly behind Ben Tate who signed a FA deal this offseason. I can firmly say that Tate gets hurt every year. He should be the unquestioned #2 here next year. He played at a small school, I hope he can handle the speed of the NFL game. If he can, he could eventually overtake Tate
6 Hyde, Carlos 49ers
This situation is different. He is currently buried on the 49ers depth chart. However, each guy he is behind has their warts. Gore is aging, Lattimore is still recovering from that terrible knee injury, Hunter seems to be regarded as a change of pace (even though I think he can be more) and James seems to not have a role. Where does that leave Hyde? Beats me, but he has great talent and a great scheme fit in SF. I wouldn’t expect immediate returns, but he has the talent to be an impact NFL player when he gets his shot.
7 Johnson, Storm Jaguars
Perfect scheme fit. One cut and go for the zone scheme. He is only really behind Gerhart. Jordan Todman and Dennard Robinson seems to have undefined roles. This bodes well for Johnson. He could end up the #2 behind a guy that never has had to carry the load.
8 Mason, Tre Rams
Mason has average measureables, great production, good scheme fit and he is buried behind two capable RB’s in Stacy and Cunningham. Pead and Richardson are wildcards, but candidates to be cut after a disappointing 2013. Mason seems to be a long term investment at this point.
9 Gaffney, Tyler Panthers
Don’t expect to get an immediate return unless the panthers release Stewart or Williams. Both are aging, injury prone and have cripplingly high salary cap numbers. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Gaffney getting significant carries later in 2014. He could be the future if he can adjust to the NFL.
10 White, James Patriots
I like White. Why did the Patriots select another RB when they have 3 capable on the roster? Ridley and Vareen’s contracts are up after this offseason. I would imagine only one would be back. Vareen gets hurt a lot and Ridley has butterfingers so take your pick. Brandon Bolden could also not be back. White could conceivably be the starter in 2015.
11 Carey, Ka’Deem Bears
It’s open season for the Bears back up running back position. Carey can get the carries if he proves himself. His value could really get an uptick if he plays well in the offseason.
12 McKinnon, Jerick Vikings
A.P. is the man. He is one of best running backs of his generation. He is also getting older. He is coming off groin surgery. He has no back up RB. Matt Asiatta is not enough. Take a flyer late on this guy.
13 Blue, Alfred Texans
Can do everything. Can’t stay healthy. Intriguing RB behind Foster. Fosters’ age and health are becoming a factors.
14 Taliaferro, Lorenzo Ravens
Ray Rice is having…legal issues. Pierce is having shoulder issues. Taliaferro could get some carries early. Uncertain situation for sure.
15 Andrews, Antonio Titans
You never know when that UDFA beats out the higher ranked player. A weak depth chart in front of him makes him draftable in dynasty leagues providing you have the roster depth.
15 Mairon Grice Chargers
Buried in a deep Chargers backfield.
16 Jerome Smith Falcons
Could be the Yin to Freeman’s Yang moving forward. A player to watch.
17 Williams, Damien Dolphins
Crowded backfield situation. Seems suited to the spread offense. Wait and see here.
18 Archer, Dri Steelers
Gadget back for the Steelers at this point. Could he develop into Darrren Sproles? History says the odds are against that, but his speed is elite.
19 Seastrunk, Lache Redskins
See Damien Williams above. Possible replacement for Roy Helu who is in his contract year.