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AFC Fantasy Rookie Roundup

May 13, 2008 | By Andy Goldstein | comment on this post

Don’t worry…we haven’t forgetton about the team capsules. We’re going to get back to them after we take a look at the offensive rookies. But for now, let’s check in on the NFL Draft and review some names you need to know heading into the 2008 season.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills – The Bills only spent two of their top five picks on offense, and the only one of those who has potential to make a fantasy impact is second round wide out James Hardy. Hardy played college ball at that noted football powerhouse Indiana and comes into the league with a number of question marks. The most significant issue is whether he is big enough. He is 6’ 5” but was under 200 pounds in school. Hardy is obviously bulking up, but a certain amount of weight room work remains. Another matter is his off the field issues, which include domestic abuse charges. Expect Hardy to show some flashes this season, but unless you’re in a dynasty league, he’s not worth drafting.

Miami Dolphins – Miami’s biggest offensive addition came with the arrival of tackle Jake Long, who will help an underwhelming offensive line. Chad Henne will compete for the starting quarterback job with vets John Beck and Josh McCown. Sixth round pick, running back Jalen Parmele, may be utilized as a fullback, while Lex Hilliard is another big body that has promise but is not likely to be a contributing factor to the Miami running game.

New England Patriots – The Patriots did absolutely nothing to help their offense, but after scoring 55 points a game (or whatever absurd total they put up), I suppose they get a pass. Oh, they did draft San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell in the third round. But that makes sense, because Tom Brady probably only has another five or six years in the starting role. Yeah.

New York Jets – The Jets added some spice to their quarterback situation by drafting Erik Ainge, however, he will not be an immediate answer at quarterback. Tight end Dustin Keller may be a nice pass catching tight end, while receiver Marcus Henry has a chance to press for a roster spot.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – The big news was, of course, the Ravens’ selection of Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco in round one. Flacco will take over for Kyle Boller, and the smart money would be on that happening at some point this season. Flacco isn’t exactly the most mobile of quarterbacks, so offensive line play is very important. Unfortunately, the Ravens have an over-the-hill offensive line and they only picked up fourth rounder David Hale from Weber State to boost that group. Unfortunately, Flacco could find himself in a tough spot when he does take over.

The Ravens also took Rutgers running back Ray Rice, although he’d be lucky to get more than five carries a game this year. Willis McGahee remains the workhorse there. Finally, Baltimore spent a fourth round pick on New Mexico wide out Marcus Smith. Smith is a prospect that dynasty leaguers should watch carefully. The Ravens aren’t exactly loaded at that position and if he shows flashes, Smith could be starting sooner than expected.

Cincinnati Bengals – What happens when a team’s star receiver becomes disgruntled? The employer goes out and drafts three more pass catchers. Jerome Simpson has the best chance to make an immediate impact as the Bengals try to fill Chris Henry’s spot. Andre Caldwell and Mario Urritia will compete at receiver as well. Caldwell is more NFL ready than Urritia. Villanova tight end Matt Sherry performed well in workouts, but the Bengals do not focus on his position with their offense.

Cleveland Browns – The only selection that you or I care about is Martin Rucker, a tight end from Missouri. Rucker won’t really, you know, block, but most of the top receiving tight ends don’t. Unfortunately, the Browns already have one receiving tight end in Kellen Winslow, so the ceiling is relatively low for Rucker. Still, Winslow has had health issues, so keep Rucker in mind if Winslow finds time to get on his motorcycle again.

Pittsburgh SteelersRashard Mendenhall adds a potential threat in the backfield and will at worst serve as a backup to Willie Parker at running back. If Parker is slow to return from a broken leg, Mendenhall could be one of the best fantasy rookies. Receiver Limas Sweed is another receiving option for Ben Roethlisberger and will offer up big plays in the Steel City. Quarterback Dennis Dixon is a project that should not be considered a fantasy option.

AFC South

Houston Texans – The Texans made a couple of offensive selections early in their draft. The first was Virginia Tech offensive tackle Duane Brown. The second was West Virginia running back Steve Slaton. Both should get plenty of playing time as early as Week One, assuming the two can get over their intense school rivalry. WVU and VT are rivals, right? Anyway, Slaton doesn’t have a ton of competition for carries, so if he shows any success at all, the job should be his to lose.

Indianapolis Colts – Indy loves its tight ends. Jacob Tamme may be a potential backup for Dallas Clark, who seemingly always gets injured. Tom Santi is another pass catching option who will try to replace Ben Utecht. Michigan’s Mike Hart will have a chance to compete for a job with the Indy’s lack of running back depth. Keep an eye on Mount Union product Pierre Garcon. Garcon dominated at Division III with game-breaking speed and may just latch on as a fourth or fifth receiver.

Jacksonville Jaguars – There’s nothing to see here. The only pick the Jaguars made for the offense was a seventh round running back. Jacksonville has plenty of offensive talent, so this isn’t too surprising. It still would have been nice to bolster the offensive line, but the Jags didn’t consult fantasy owners.

Tennessee Titans – First round pick Chris Johnson is a change of pace running back who offers tremendous speed. He’ll be used in a Reggie Bush role, running and receiving. Johnson, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine with a 4.2, could be a fantasy threat down the road. Receiver Lavelle Hawkins is not the game-breaking threat that the Titans need, while tight end Craig Stevens is best known for his blocking.

AFC West

Denver Broncos – Interestingly, the Broncos’ top draft pick, offensive tackle Ryan Clady, was a Bronco in college as well. I am pretty sure that factored into the decision for the Denver brass. Clady, who is comfortable being a horse, is a nice addition to a group that was trying to get by on reputation, not talent, last season. This helps the Broncos’ starting back, whoever the hell that might be.

Also, with Brandon Marshall’s 2008 status iffy, the Broncos used their second round pick to grab wide receiver Eddie Royal from Virginia Tech. Now, I don’t like Royal at all. He never had a ton of success in school and seemed to be more of a “combine” guy, but he does have talent. It’s a matter of whether that will come out in the NFL. Don’t draft him unless Marshall is definitely sidelined.

Kansas City ChiefsJamaal Charles is likely to replace Kolby Smith as Larry Johnson’s replacement. Johnson is coming off an injury and due to his well-documented heavy workload, he may be hard pressed to stay healthy. Charles could be the beneficiary of Johnson’s overuse. Tight end Brad Cottam is poised to be Tony Gonzalez’s backup, while receiver Will Franklin possesses good speed and size that might help a mediocre receiving corps.

Oakland Raiders – Well, there was the whole Darren McFadden selection. There’s really not much more that can be said about that. Every expert has chimed in, but essentially, he’ll get the chance to succeed in the league. If McFadden makes the most of his carries, he’ll get more of them. If not, there are plenty of interesting guys who will steal some. Other than McFadden, the Raiders took wide out Arman Shields. The Richmond product is in a good situation with a young quarterback and terrible competition for playing time. If he develops a rapport with JaMarcus Russell, there’s no reason he can’t develop into a spot starter at some point in his career.

San Diego Chargers – Remember the name Marcus Thomas. Drafted out of the fifth round from Texas-El Paso, he could be used to spell LaDainian Tomlinson with Michael Turner out of the picture. He has to fend off a competitive backfield siuation behind Tomlinson, though. Fullback Jacob Lester was the only other skill player selected, but he’ll be asked to fill the void left by Lorenzo Neal’s retirement.

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