The 2013 NFL Draft came and went without a whole lot of pizazz, thanks in large part to the lack of high-profile impact players that were selected early in the 1st Round. With that being said, a good fantasy football owner should recognize the fact that there is some legitimate offensive value in this draft, with a little bit of flash thrown in the mix. On the downside, there really aren’t any quarterbacks that blow you away here. While Geno Smith will get a legitimate chance to start, chances are he will be available to be claimed off waivers in the early weeks of the season, which gives you time to feel him out. E.J. Manuel may get his chance sooner rather than later, but do you really want an untested rookie who would be better off sitting behind someone for a few years? Tyler Wilson could turn out to have the best year of the three out in Oakland, but this of course depends on what Matt Flynn decides to do. Avoiding this quarterback class would be wise for the time being; however there are some impact rookies that may just be too good to pass up.
Tavon Austin (WR, St. Louis Rams): Austin may be the flashiest offensive pick in this rookie class. With his blazing speed and reliable hands, Tavon Austin figures to quickly become a favorite target of QB Sam Bradford as his check-down, slot receiver who can make things happen after the catch. The key issue for Austin will be whether or not he can take the beating required of a slot receiver. While at West Virginia University, Austin seemed to never really take a massive hit, but that will undoubtedly change in the NFL and the question will become if he can continuously get up and remain in the lineup. There is certainly some risk in this pick due to the injury concern and less than stellar offense Austin in joining, however his big play potential and the possibility of being the Ram’s return man are hard to pass up.
Prediction: 71 catches, 830 yards, 6 TDs
Montee Ball (RB, Denver Broncos): Probably the safest and most reliable pick out of this rookie draft class, Ball is slated to enter Week 1 as the Broncos starting running back. During his time at Wisconsin, Montee Ball was never the flashy back that made the highlight reels. He was the quiet one who went about his business for 4 years at Wisconsin and walked away with the all-time NCAA touchdown record at 83. This situation lines up perfectly for Ball, as he will benefit from Peyton Manning’s prowess and coach John Fox’s never-ending love affair with the pounding of the rock. VP of Football Operations John Elway has already described Ball as a “three-down guy for us”, which means not only will he be getting touches in the red zone, but he will also benefit from being Manning’s check-down receiver in many instances. If he remains healthy all season, Ball could turn into a top 10 fantasy running back before you know it.
Prediction: 230 carries, 970 yards, 9 TDs 48 catches, 415 yards, 2 TDs
Zach Ertz (TE, Philadelphia Eagles): Nothing will blow you away with Ertz, but there isn’t a single part of his game you can truly criticize. Combine his excellent size (6’5”, 250 lbs.), sneaky speed and athleticism, with new head coach Chip Kelly’s spread offense and you have yourself a potential top-7 TE right off the bat. Zach Ertz provides exactly what coach Kelly was looking for as an option down the middle of the field that has the ability to stretch the defense out. With electric weapons like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, Ertz will find himself in many one-on-one situations with linebackers who simply cannot match up to his physical abilities.
Prediction: 62 catches, 750 yards, 4 TDs
Zac Stacy (RB, St. Louis Rams): Who? Yeah I figured you would say that. Two words: Alfred Morris. Stacy was one of the most underrated running backs in the 2013 NFL Draft, and will undoubtedly compete for the starting job in St. Louis. With the departure of Steven Jackson and neither Isaiah Pead nor Daryl Richardson taking the position by the horns, Stacy could easily provide legitimate fantasy value for a late-round pick in a 12 team league. Nothing in Stacy’s game will blow you away, but every aspect of it is fundamentally sound. With the abuse QB Sam Bradford has taken over the years, coach Jeff Fisher loves this kids ability to block and make plays out of the backfield.
Prediction: 198 carries, 770 yards, 5 TDs 29 catches, 249 yards, 3 TDs
Joseph Randle (RB, Dallas Cowboys): This one may be a bit of a stretch as the number one RB job is undoubtedly in the hands of DeMarco Murray; however his inability to stay healthy makes Randle a viable candidate to see a decent amount of touches this season. Recent years have seen head coach Jason Garrett receiving criticism for getting away from the running game. With that being said, the number of carries this season for Cowboys’ runners is likely to increase, and Randle’s all-around abilities mean he will likely get the opportunity to be a three down back.
Prediction: 112 carries, 520 yards, 3 TDs 23 catches, 215 yards, 2 TDs