RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta
Might as well get the homerism out of the way. Drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons, Jacquizz Rodgers is a poor man’s Maurice Jones-Drew. The kid only stands 5-foot-6 but he runs very low to the ground and most of his power is present in his legs. Atlanta has been dying to find a running back to spell Michael Turner that can consistently catch the ball out of the backfield and provide big play potential. This is their guy! As of right now, Jason Snelling has not been resigned by the Falcons, and even if he is, Atlanta is going to find a way to get Rodgers on the field. You have to remember Michael Turner at some point is going to start to feel the wear and tear of his heavy workload over the last few years. If they want to keep their power back healthy they must find a way to get Rodgers on the field. He’ll go unnoticed on draft day unless the Turner owner scoops him up late, but if you can nab Rodgers he can turn into a decent piece of trade bait if Turner breaks down at any point during the season. Bump him up even more in points per reception leagues.
RB Montario Hardesty, Cleveland
Remember this guy? He was a very popular sleeper pick last season before tearing his ACL. With the emergence of Peyton Hillis I’m sure a lot of you have forgotten about him. Don’t! Hardesty has been “all systems go” since training camp opened and everything I’ve read said he looks good. Also don’t forget who will be gracing this year’s Madden cover, Peyton Hillis himself. If you don’t respect the curse by now then you haven’t been following football very long. If you don’t believe in curses then believe this – Hillis had 331 touches last year and there is a very slim chance that he will reach that mark again. Factor in the “one-hit wonder” label and Hardesty is poster boy for “coma” pick of the year. He’ll get chances to shine, and if Hillis starts to show signs his one season may have been a fluke he could steal away even more touches. The former Tennessee Volunteer has been plagued with injury issues since college, but remember we’re drafting these guys at the tail end of drafts so the low risk is worth the possible reward.
RB Delone Carter, Indianapolis
Another rookie finds his way on the list for the simple fact that I don’t like any of the Colts running backs. Joseph Addai hasn’t played a full 16-game season in three years and Donald Brown isn’t going to cut it anytime soon averaging less than 4 yards per carry in his first two seasons. Out of all the rookie running backs drafted, Carter finds himself in the best situation to succeed at some point in 2011. The Colts are the swiss army knife of the NFL. If a wide receiver goes down they plug someone in like nothing happened. If a tight end goes down, they do the same exact thing. Obviously Peyton Manning deserves some of the credit for that, but my point is the Colts seem to harbor guys on their depth chart that step up when their number is called no matter who they are. Carter doesn’t do anything great and won’t blow you away in any shape or form, but he’s a solid all-around football player. Don’t be the owner who drafts Donald Brown in the second half of the draft. Instead wait until the grave yard shift of the draft and scoop up this guy.
WR Eric Decker, Denver
I have had my eye on this guy since Day 1. I think he has the potential to turn into points per reception gold given the circumstances in Denver. Brandon Lloyd screams one-year wonder, and with Tim Tebow predicted to be the signal caller for Denver you have to wonder if his production will suffer. Royal is going to do Royal and get his – that’s a given. Jabar Gaffney is gone and Demaryius Thomas is coming off a torn Achilles which he is still recovering from. The fact that no one from Denver’s receiving corps is all that dominating provides a perfect opportunity for a guy like Decker to come in and steal some playing time with a solid camp and preseason. Look at the value as well. Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are going to be long gone before you even find Eric Decker’s name on your cheat sheet. Hell, you might have to pencil it in. But once you do, you’ll be glad you did.
WR Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati is nothing more than a big bowl of craziness these days. Carson Palmer is going to retire, Chad Ochocinco is now a New England Patriot, and the quarterback competition is between Bruce Gradkowski and Andy Dalton. Lost in the shuffle of all that and forgotten is the statline Simpson put up in Weeks 15-17 of last season: 20 receptions, 277 yards, three touchdowns. I think we would all take that from our No. 1 wide receiver in a three-week span, no? A.J. Green is bringing his ball to Cincinnati, and even though he is a rookie, his freakish skill set is going to draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses. He’s good but there will still be those rookie growing pains we all love. That leaves Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and Jerome Simpson to carry the rest of the load. It’s anyone’s guess who is going to emerge from those three, and all of them should contribute in some shape or form. If you’re asking me, I’m taking the guy who closed like a champion at the end of the season and put the ball in the damn endzone!
WR Devin Aromashodu, Minnesota Vikings
Maybe it’s because I want to say his name on draft day. Maybe it’s because I can’t name or remember one receiver outside of Percy Harvin that is worth a damn on the Vikings roster. Maybe it’s because I think Donovan McNabb has a little gas left in the tank. Either way, Aromashodu has been nothing short of a disappointment thus far in his career. Chicago thought he might break out last year but that turned out to be a pipe dream of epic proportions. Aromashodu now finds himself in Minnesota where the competition against him is so weak he’ll easily be the No. 3 option at worst! The go-to guy Harvin still has the migraine issues that can pop up at any given moment and he isn’t a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver. McNabb is still a decent enough quarterback to complete passes to whoever Minnesota marches out there. I have a sneaky feeling that Aromashodu is going to be that guy. With the opportunity given, Aromashodu could easily turn into a No. 3 wide receiver by years end for your fantasy squad.