When hunting for a rookie set to make a fantasy splash, fit is almost as important as talent.
For example, we may think Sammy Watkins is the best prospect in this year’s receiver class, but he’s in a run-first scheme with E.J. Manuel as his quarterback. He’s just not in the right spot to produce even at a WR3 level for us. Some of this is starting to come to light as we head into training camp’s third week. Here are three rookies who are gaining steam quickly.
Cooking up a monster
The unquestioned star of Saints camp has been first-round receiver Brandin Cooks. The undersized, yet lightning fast, Oregon State product has hit the ground running in one of the game’s premier passing offenses. As a versatile chess piece for mastermind Sean Payton and pinpoint thrower Drew Brees, Cooks is in an ideal spot to rack up 70-plus catches. He’s the main man charged with replacing the production left behind by Darren Sproles and Lance Moore.
Forgot about Dre
Overreacting to one preseason game is usually a bad idea, but we got a window into Andre Williams during the Hall of Fame Game. The reigning Doak Walker Award winner mixed in with the first-stringers, showed more burst and power than 29-year-old Rashad Jennings and got the goal-line work. Williams is a complete zero in the passing game, but the Giants clearly see an early down timeshare here. Coming from Boston College can’t hurt when Tom Coughlin is your coach.
James is the new white
The path to playing time in New England’s backfield isn’t as clogged as it seems. Shane Vereen hasn’t been able to stay healthy, Stevan Ridley is on a zero-tolerance policy with fumbles and Brandon Bolden is a borderline NFL player. Fourth-round rookie James White may have been slapped with a “passing back” tag during the pre-draft process, but he’s running as a three-down player so far. Pencil White in as the direct backup to both Vereen and Ridley.
Other rookies ...
» Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts — Hakeem Nicks’ downfall is music to the ears of T.Y. Hilton and Moncrief.
» Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers — He is the only one on the Panthers capable of making plays deep down the field
» Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons — The grim reaper is not chasing Steven Jackson. He’s already caught the ex-Ram.
NFL busts ...
Stay away from these players when drafting your team:
1. Doug Martin, RB, Bucs – Don’t expect a bounce-back with the offensive line in shambles and pass-game adept rookie Charles Sims in town.
2. Reggie Bush, RB, Lions – Joique Bell projects to lead the way in carries. Bush will have to fight new additions Golden Tate and Eric Ebron for targets.
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Jets — A 29-year-old back who’s averse to contact and doesn’t break tackles won’t fit with Rex Ryan.
NFL camp losers ...
These players are trending down early in camp:
1. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts – He is not in shape, and fighting lower-leg injuries once again. He’s behind both Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.
2. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Dolphins – He is just starting to practice now as he comes off knee scope. Meanwhile, Lamar Miller is showing well in the Shady McCoy role.
3. Robert Woods, WR, Bills – He has lost his spot in two-wide sets to Mike Williams already. His upside is as a quick-footed inside receiver.
Follow Metro fantasy writer Adam Levitan on Twitter @adamlevitan.