by Jeff West
July 13, 2003
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the last pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Ryan
Hoag, a WR from tiny Division III Gustavus-Adolphus College.
The last pick is unceremoniously labeled "Mr. Irrelevant" and
is treated to a week of appearances and fun in Newport Beach, California,
before facing the reality of an NFL training camp.
the most clueless owner knows better than to select Ryan Hoag in a fantasy
draft. Ryan Hoag will be
hard-pressed to even make the Raiders' practice squad come September.
But which rookies should be considered come fantasy draft time?
With all of the young talent flooding the NFL, surely some rookies
will have to step up and take you to your league's Super Bowl, right?
when it comes to fantasy football, nearly every new player drafted by an
NFL team can write "Mr. Irrelevant" on his nametag.
who was Mr. Relevant among the rookies in 2002?
On offense, only three were legitimate fantasy first-stringers
(based on a full 16-game schedule). Clinton
Portis was a stud at RB, ranking fourth in total fantasy points at the
position (second overall if you discount the first two games).
Jeremy Shockey was the third-best point-scorer at TE.
And, Randy McMichael sneaks in as the tenth-best point-scorer at
the same position. Of the
three, only Shockey was an NFL first-round draft pick.
Portis lasted until the middle of the second round and McMichael
fell to the fourth round. (First
round pick William Green emerged as a solid second RB over the last half
of the season for Cleveland.)**
that begs the question: "Who is Mr. Relevant among the rookie class of
2003?" Letís look at some
of the choices position-by-position.
Clearly, QBs have a
very difficult time making an immediate jump to the pros.
Even when a team has enough faith to throw a rookie on the field
right away, they rarely produce. Last
year David Carr and Joey Harrington were the two good examples.
Both experienced some serious growing pains, although they did show
glimpses of solid futures.
The Jaguars rookie will eventually become the best QB of the
class of '03. In his
first season he will be relegated to the bench behind lame-duck Mark
Brunell. Despite this, he will probably log three or four starts
before the season is complete. He
is definitely a top five pick in a keeper league, but not worth a look
in a redraft league.
The first overall pick has the cards stacked against him.
He has to overcome two curses: the Heisman curse and the Bengal
QB curse. Palmer has the
skills to do both, but not this year.
Head coach Marvin Lewis plans to use John Kitna while grooming
Palmer for the future. With
a solid offensive line, some quality offensive weapons (Dillon and
Johnson), Palmer is another QB to grab in a keeper league.
The QB with the best chance of starting the season as the #1,
ironically, probably has the least upside in the pros.
He was the king of the combine and duped the Ravens into
believing he could be a top QB. Don't
bother wasting a roster spot on Boller.
Rex Grossman, selected to eventually lead the Bears, will succeed
in the league. Kordell
Stewart will wear out his welcome in Chicago as early as next season, so
take a flier on Grossman in a keeper draft... Chris Simms was a
perennial disappointment in college.
Despite his shortcomings, the Buccaneers feel they got a steal
selecting him at the end of the third round.
Gruden will bring him along slowly and Simms will succeed when he
finally takes the snaps in three years.
Rookie running backs
tend to have the best opportunity to make an immediate impact on offense.
Admittedly, the 2003 crop of rookie running backs was one of the
weaker in recent memory.
The first RB taken, and arguably the best RB to come out of
college in recent years, McGahee may not even see the field this year
with Travis Henry, Olandis Gary, and Sammy Morris ahead of him.
He has no value in a redraft league, but will acquire some
interest in a keeper league. My
advice? Grab him if he's
available. He is recovering
quickly from injury and has far too much talent to ride a bench once he
He should definitely be a handcuff pick if you grab Priest
Holmes, but if the Priest stays healthy, LJ has no value this year.
And if the Chiefs re-sign Priest, Johnson may not have much value
down the road. Even if
Priest does not go in 2003, there are questions about Larry Johnson
fitting into the Vermeil system.
The man can flat-out run the ball.
His mix of speed and elusiveness makes him very difficult to
track down. Now that
Michael Bennett will miss at least half of the season, this fourth-round
pick warrants some serious attention.
Minnesota loves to run the ball and led the entire NFL in rushing
yards in 2002. The only
questions that need to be answered are whether he will actually win the
starting job and if, at his small size, he can withstand the pounding of
LaBrandon Toefield could
be a great option at RB, especially if you handcuff him with Fred
Taylor. Even with a healthy
Taylor, Toefield could grab some of the TDs Stacey Mack left behind when
he fled Jacksonville... Artose Pinner has a bad attitude,
a lingering injury, and a hefty girth, but I love him anyway.
Donít expect much from him with the Lions this year, but if you
are in a keeper league, consider this guy a sleeper with some serious
upside... Musa Smith was drafted by the Ravens and should see a
good deal of action, including some goal-line work, this season.
Don't forget that Jamal Lewis is running on two surgically
repaired knees... Chris Brown will back up the workhorse Eddie
George in Tennessee. Eddie
keeps going and going, but for how long?
If he wears out, look for Brown, a bit of a George clone, to step
in and contribute.
Unless your name is
Randy Moss, rookie wide-outs almost never put up good numbers in their
first year. 2002 was no
exception. None of the rookie
WRs scored enough to be a #2 on your fantasy team.
Only Antonio Bryant, and Donté Stallworth showed any sort of
consistency at the position last year.
There were some big names taken at WR in 2003, with two of the
first three picks going to the position.
The first WR taken, and second player overall, Rogers reminds
many of Plaxico Burris with his size, speed, and leaping ability.
He is instantly the best WR on the Lions and with a QB who likes
to throw deep, Rogers could sneak behind some defenders for some long
TDs this year. He will be
chosen first in some keeper drafts, but if you are in a redraft league,
look for him to be a weak #2 or solid #3 WR on your team.
The Terrell Owens clone is a future stud at the position, but don't
pin your hopes on him this season.
The Texans offense needs to prove that it can block for the QB
and there are two other quality receivers (Bradford and Gaffney) on the
field too. Johnson is a
top-five keeper-league pick, but nothing more than backup depth on your
He will be the number one option in Arizona by default and could
have the best season of all rookie WRs if Blake is able to perform even
Johnson will be a solid, if unexciting WR, so keeper league interest
should be luke-warm.
Calico is pushing for the #2 slot on the Titans, though he has to
beat out a couple capable veterans to get there.
He has all the tools to make it big in the league.
Grab him for the long-haul...
A sleeper to keep an eye on is Nate Burleson in Minnesota.
If DíWayne Bates and Derrick Alexander canít get the job done
opposite Randy Moss, the rookie may be able to garner substantial
playing time as soon as this season... Kevin Curtis should
attract some attention in St. Louis and could be the #3 behind Holt and
Bruce this season. He has
decent speed, great hands, and plenty of moxie... Taylor Jacobs
will work himself into the Redskins receiving rotation, but with Coles
and Gardner grabbing most of the balls, Jacobs will have to make his
bones over time. He is well worth a spot in a deep keeper league... Billy
McMullen is already impressing the Eagles coaching staff with his
size and soft hands. He
will be the Eagles #3 receiver before the season is done.
The rookie tight end
class of 2002 was an impressive one with names like Shockey, McMichael,
Stevens, Graham, and Jolley. The
2003 class was also a solid one. However,
it will be difficult for any to earn their stripes this year.
He will eventually be the best of the bunch, but will share time
and stats with Marcus Pollard this year.
Indianapolis loves to run a two-TE set and Clark is the perfect
complement opposite Pollard. He
will be a decent #2 TE on your team this year and a #1 in years to come.
The former Rutgers Scarlet Knight will split time with Pro-Bowler
Chad Lewis but should get more opportunities as the season progresses
and Lewis regresses. A
natural athlete with great hands, Smith is a great handcuff pick for 2
TE leagues and will be a top 10 TE in the 2004 season.
He may be the starter by default in Dallas with a big lack of
talent ahead of him. Initially
he may be used more as a blocker, but the Tuna has a good history with
TEs (Bavaro and Coates to name a couple) and Witten should become more
and more involved in the offense as time progresses.
He is probably not worth a look in a redraft league unless you
need to grab him off the waiver wire mid-season.
Bennie Joppru had a solid collegiate career and is one of the
more talented TEs in the 2003 rookie class, but he is backing up the
capable Billy Miller in Houston... Mike Seidman is the likely #2
behind Kris Mangum in Carolina and will be used primarily as a blocker
in 2003. But he will be on
the field a great deal and should get some looks in the endzone.
Relevant? I don't see one
for 2003. If youíre in a
redraft league you'd be best served by paying little attention to the
rookies when preparing for the draft, except in the case of handcuff picks
or depth in larger leagues. If
you're playing for keeps, then consider grabbing some of the players
listed above because there is a great deal of talent that will emerge in
stats assume a standard performance scoring system: 6 pts for any TD, 1 pt
per 10 rushing/receiving yards, 1 pt per 20 passing yards).
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