In a redraft league, there is a different perspective on rookie talent. You are looking for upside certainly, but your focus is an instant impact. During the early rounds, it can be quite risky to draft any rookie. Take, for example, the past few potential rookie bellcows - Daniel Thomas and Mark Ingram in 2011 and Ryan Mathews in 2010. The allure of a rookie's upside is many times too much to ignore. As you get into the middle and later rounds, it can make a great deal of sense to stash a few high upside rookies.
1. Trent Richardson, RB Cleveland Browns
Even with his most recent knee scope, Trent Richardson is going to be the first rookie off the board without hesitation. He is likely to drop out of the first round, but remains solid value in the 2nd or 3rd round as a potential RB1. Richardson is going to be a workhorse, even if he's eased into action in September. He's the current favorite for most valuable fantasy rookie.
Projection: 1,150 rushing yards, 35 catches, 300 receiving, 10 total TD's
2. Doug Martin, RB , Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin lands in a great spot for fantasy production in 2012. He'll have to deal with LeGarrette Blount, who should steal some carries and a few TD's, but he has low-end RB1 upside. He'll more than likely fall into the RB2 range when all is said and done, putting him anywhere from the 3rd to 4th round range.
Projection: 800 rushing yards, 45 catches 400 receiving, 7 total TD's
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
RGIII might not be as safe of a long term bet as Andrew Luck, but he has more weapons around him for immediate success. If you are rolling the dice on a rookie QB as your QB1, you are asking for trouble, but RGIII might just find his way into the Top 10 this year in terms of production. He's an ideal high-upside QB2 behind an established starter. He's going off the board as early as the 6th round, but anytime after the 10th, he's a solid risk.
Projection: 3,400 yards passing, 19 TD's, 16 INT's, 450 yards rushing, 4 TD's
4. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The DUI was a boneheaded move by the rookie, but should not affect his ability to make plays for the Jaguars. Blaine Gabbert looks good so far this preseason and if the improvement is real, Blackmon could border on WR2 production. He's a solid choice as a WR3 or 4 because of his upside, but expect some inconsistencies.
Projection: 70 catches, 950 yards, 6 TD's
5. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The number one overall pick is our top Dynasty rookie, but he finds himself hovering around the Top 12 for redraft purposes. Obviously, in 2QB and deeper leagues, you'll want to bump him up in these rankings. For 2012 in standard redraft leagues, consider Luck a solid QB2 with upside. If everything clicks right away, he's a great value and potential trade chip. If not, you still have a legit QB1 on your roster, so you only need him for bye weeks or in case of injury.
Projection: 3,500 yards passing, 19 TD's, 12 INT's, 200 yards rushing, 2 TD's
6. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
The Bears have been desperate for receiver help since Marty Booker started to decline. Now they have two potential Beasts in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The rookie has the ability to be a major contributor, especially in the redzone. Expect some game to game inconsistencies, but there is no doubting his intriguing potential. He's a WR4 with upside and he has a good bet to lead rookies in receiving and TD's.
Projection: 50 catches, 700 yards, 7 TD's
7. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennesseee Titans
On the surface, the Titans don't need WR help. They have an emerging Kenny Britt, a solid Nate Washington and developing Damian Williams. Considering, though, that Washington is almost 30, Britt is coming off of an ACL tear (and possible suspension) and Williams might cap out at slightly above average, the drafting of Kendall Wright makes plenty of sense. He's a WR4/5 right now, but there is plenty of room for more.
Projection: 50 catches, 750 yards, 6 TD's
8. Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
The first tight end off the board could find himself making an instant impact. He's being drafted as a TE2, but could realistically put up low-end TE1 numbers. He's face stiff competition from Dwayne Allen, who has more of a complete TE skillset. Fleener brings playmaking ability and a rapport with rookie QB Andrew Luck.
Projection: 50 catches, 650 yards, 5 TD's
9. Isaiah Pead, RB, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson is still the workhorse in St. Louis, but he is going to wear down at some point. That is where Isaiah Pead comes in. The electric playmaker out of Cincinnati, Pead is a legitimate high upside handcuff. He finds himself with plenty of re-draft value and it's not just for those who draft S-Jax. He has an outside chance to approach Flex value, but more than likely going to need an injury to make a significant impact.
Projection: 450 rushing yards, 25 catches, 200 yards, 5 TD's
10. David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
The Giants have shifted to a passing team with Eli Manning's maturity, but there is still plenty of opportunity. The incumbent, Ahmad Bradshaw, is constantly nagged by foot injuries and durability question marks. He should still see the lion's share of carries, but without Brandon Jacobs, the door is wide open for Wilson in year 1. He has some things to work on, but is ultra-explosive with the ball in his hands and he could add a new dynamic to the Giants already potent offense.
Projection: 500 rushing yards, 15 catches, 100 yards, 6 total TD's
11. Brian Quick, WR, St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford needs weapons. Not like Greg Salas and Austin Pettis, both solid complimentary types, but a true go-to threat. Enter Brian Quick. While he may not be that guy this year, he will show flashes of his long term potential and should get plenty of targets in the meantime. He'll have to fight for time initially, but watch out if he breaks through the clutter.
Projection: 45 catches, 600 yards, 5 TD's
12. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
He's getting a lot of offseason hype right now and for good reason. Hillman is a shifty back who could find himself in the same backfield with Peyton Manning a good amount as a rookie. He still has to contend with an aging Willis McGahee and rehabbing Knowshon Moreno, as well as the unspectacular Lance Ball.
Projection: 300 rushing yards, 35 catches, 300 yards, 4 total TD's
13. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
The Robin to Larry Fitzgerald's Batman, Floyd has the skills to be a major threat in the desert. While it's not likely that he completely breaks through this year, Floyd represents a late round flier with upside for a larger role later in the season. The QB situation is also dicey at best. Expect some bumps in the road, but monitor his weekly progress closely.
Projection: 40 catches, 500 yards, 4 TD's
14. Chris Rainey, RB, Steelers
Rainey is not a prototypical running back and will never hold up with a full workload. Good thing is he doesn't have to for him to be a fantasy asset. The Steelers run game is full of solid inside runners, but not many gifted pass catchers out of the backfield. Rainey fills that void as the potential 3rd down back and could even play some receiver. He may only get a handful of touches a gain, but he may just have Flex appeal because of his playmaking ability.
Projection: 150 rushing yards, 40 catches, 350 yards, 3 TD's
15. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Gordon projects as a potential go-to receiver, but he's a raw prospect and it has showed this summer. He didn't play football last season and will need development time before he can even come close to maximizing his potential. That being said, the Browns need receivers and Gordon should get enough chances to make an impact in 2012. There is upside for a big rookie season if he can pull it together, definitely worth a late round flier.
Projection: 35 catches, 500 yards, 5 TD's
Just outside: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins; Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns; QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Vick Ballard, RB, Colts; Robert Turbin, RB, Seahawks; TJ Graham, WR, Bills; Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals; Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions; Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts
A little deeper: Nick Foles, QB, Eagles; Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins; Lamichael James, RB, 49ers; Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens; Lavon Brazill, WR, Colts; Nick Toon, WR, Saints; Rod Streater, WR, Raiders; Rueben Randle, WR, Giants; Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers