Fantasy Football Prospects
Finding Fantasy Football Prospect Ideas
Finding fantasy football prospects is a process of finding those sleeper picks who have a chance of having a breakout year in the coming fantasy football season. Finding rookie fantasy football prospects is a matter of going through last year's NFL Draft and making a list of the top running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks drafted. If you play in an IDP League, the process of finding rookie defensive players is much the same, though you're likelier to only be drafting people who will start relatively early in the season.
Fantasy Football Prospect Wide Receivers
Wide receiver prospects are one of the hardest to predict, because there are more working parts in an NFL passing offense than there are in the running game. That is, throwing the ball is more complicated, because WR's have to read defenses and run precise, sometimes complicated routes against defenders who are scheming against them. Timing with the quarterback has to be near-perfect, while that same quarterback has to develop trust that the receiver will be in the right spot and make a full effort to fight off defenders. For these reasons, it usually takes a while for a receiver new to the NFL to become a productive player. Most fantasy football GM's don't draft a rookie wide receiver for these reasons.
For the same reasons, there's a theory that 3rd-year wide receivers break out and that's when you'll see many WR's become NFL stars. That's not always the case - some WR stars breakout in their 2nd year and some in their 4th - but enough do that the theory continues to proliferate in fantasy football magazines and draft guides. Our site has a list of the 3rd year receivers in 2009, as well as the 3rd year receivers who have broken out in NFL history.
Fantasy Football Prospect Running Backs
Because running the football in the NFL requires less skill and timing and more speed, power and athleticism, rookie running backs in the NFL are often highly-touted fantasy football prospects. In fact, rookie running backs drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft often are drafted as high as the 3rd or 4th round of fantasy drafts, depending on whether they are the starter or have looked good in preseason. Most rookie running backs are not among the elite fantasy runners, but they can be solid fantasy starters and often difference makers if the don't get the start for their teams until the second half of the NFL regular season. In their second year, NFL runners can project as high as the 1st round of fantasy football drafts.
Fantasy Football Prospect Quarterbacks
Most rookie quarterbacks are not going to be highly coveted as fantasy football prospects, unless you play in a keeper league. This is for the same reason that wide receivers aren't touted highly in their first NFL season. NFL defenses are hard to read, most QBs need to catch up to the speed of the game and rookie quarterbacks need to get their timing down with receivers. That's what makes it so impressive to see what Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Marc Sanchez have done the last two years in the NFL and, even at stretches, in fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Prospect Individual Defensive Players
With IDP fantasy football prospects, you can find some gems among the rookies. Don't imagine you'll be able to find a rookie defensive lineman who will produce, because even stud IDP players like Mario Williams took until his second year to make a contribution. Most of the highest-drafted defensive ends, like Derrick Harvey last year and Aaron Maybin and Everette Brown this year, take at least a year to become every down players. Gaines Adams, three years into his NFL career, still hasn't proven he was worth his high selection.
IDP linebackers are a whole different story. Patrick Willis was a stud IDP player from Week 1 of his rookie year. Demeco Ryans led the league in tackles his rookie season. James Laurenaitis looks to be having an up-and-down rookie season, but he came out with a big game his first week of fantasy football.
Most of the time when you're projecting fantasy football IDP prospects, though, you're looking for young veteran middle linebackers. These are the most active players on the field and the most consistent, because they make the most tackles. Look for MLB prospects on bad teams, because those defenses will be on the field more, trying to stop the run as the offense is running out the clock against them. That gives linebackers more chances to score tackles.
When you're rating IDP defensive backs, look for safeties on bad teams, for the same reason you look for LB's on bad teams: lots of tackles. Take a different route when drafting fantasy football prospect cornerbacks. Rookie cornerbacks are good to draft, but only if they are the definite starter. If so, the opposing offense is likely to throw at them a lot. The more teams throw at the corner, the more chances that d-back is going to have to post stats. In this way, rookie cornerbacks and cornerbacks playing opposite of the best corners in the NFL are better fantasy football prospects than the shutdown corner you've heard of.
In that way, individual defensive player prospects work exactly the opposite of the way you would expect them to.