Here are some very preliminary redraft fantasy rankings for the offensive players selected in last week's draft.
1. Jake Locker, Tennessee (8th overall)
It's rarely ideal for a rookie quarterback to start from Day One, but Rusty Smith is unlikely to hold Locker off the field for long. And even if he's raw as a passer, there's no doubt that Locker is a threat to put up numbers as a rusher. One point per 10 yards rushing means Locker could be worth a spot start or two with the right matchup.
2. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (35th overall)
Dalton is way behind his competition in terms of athletic ability, but NFL front offices still valued him due to his experience and smarts. Dalton is almost guaranteed to beat out Jordan Palmer for the starting spot, and if that happens, he'll have the privilege of throwing to one of the most talented group of receivers in the league. A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley might be the best four-deep in the NFL.
3. Christian Ponder, Minnesota (12th overall)
Ponder was probably the most heavily criticized pick in the draft, but it's not difficult to see why Minnesota liked him. Ponder is a natural as far as mechanics go, he's a very good athlete and he can make most of the throws necessary in the NFL. Minnesota seems interested in getting a veteran starter for 2011, but until that happens, Ponder might be the default starter for Minnesota. If Sidney Rice stays in town, he'll have two very good wideouts to throw to, not to mention what might be the league's best runner keeping defenses honest.
4. Cam Newton, Carolina (1st overall)
Newton has all the talent in the world, but it'd be best if he stayed on the bench for a year, particularly on an offense lacking talent as badly as Carolina's does. Coming from a one-read option offense, Newton has basically zero exposure to NFL passing concepts, and forcing him onto the field early could damage his development. If he does get on the field, though, he'd warrant some spot start consideration for his rushing ability alone.
5. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (36th overall)
The plan is to make Alex Smith the starter for 2011, so it seems unlikely for Kaepernick to see the field much as a rookie. Just like Locker and Newton, however, Kaepernick can do enough damage as a runner to warrant fantasy consideration if he does get on the field. Kaepernick and his 4.5 wheels can really burn defenses if they don't keep up their contain responsibilities.
1. Daniel Thomas, Miami (62nd overall)
If Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown both leave, and someone like DeAngelo Williams is not brought in, then Thomas is probably the top fantasy target among all rookies. He's a big back with pass-catching ability and feature-back potential. As a former quarterback, he'll be able to orchestrate the wildcat formation, too.
2. Mark Ingram, New Orleans (28th overall)
Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory are injury prone, and Reggie Bush just doesn't matter all that much. The Saints' tradition of spreading the ball around at all positions is a bit worrisome, but Ingram's clearly superior talent to his competition could force an exception. Moreover, the Saints wouldn't have traded up using their 2012 first-round pick if they didn't have big plans for Ingram. It wouldn't be difficult to argue that Ingram should be ranked among the top 20 fantasy runners at the moment.
3. Mikel Leshoure, Detroit (57th overall)
The Lions insist Jahvid Best will remain their feature back, but it's a statement that's either naive or dishonest. And really, it's not up to them. Best will get hurt if they try to make him a workhorse again. Best will remain the starter in Detroit, but expect Leshoure to be getting more carries by the end of the year, either by outplaying Best or by Best getting injured.
4. Ryan Williams, Arizona (38th overall)
There's a lot to like about Williams' situation. He's perhaps the most naturally talented runner in the draft, Chris Wells is always hurt and Tim Hightower just can't keep up. However, Arizona's offensive line is still bad and the team still has no quarterback. That's not to mention that Williams has durability worries of his own.
5. Delone Carter, Indianapolis (119th overall)
If Joseph Addai doesn't get re-signed, go ahead and move Carter up to two or three. Donald Brown just isn't much of an NFL runner, and I'm betting that Carter would outplay him from Day One. And in Indianapolis' offense, whoever gets the most carries is going to get the opportunity to put up nice stats. Carter has the balance and agility to be a nuisance for defenses.
6. Roy Helu, Washington (105th overall)
Helu has the size and speed to put up truly huge numbers from game to game, but his lack of durability means his long-term reliability doesn't rate too highly. But if Ryan Torain should miss any time, this is a guy who could pay off in a big way as a spot starter.
1. Julio Jones, Atlanta (6th overall)
The Falcons haven't been a pass-first team, but the cost they paid to select Jones (Two first-rounders, one second-rounder and two fourth-rounders) dictates that they make an effort to get him the ball right away. If he's not a Day One starter, then the Atlanta front office will look silly. Roddy White is the king in Atlanta, but it'd probably be a disappointment if Jones didn't hover in (at least) the 800-yard range.
2. Greg Little, Cleveland (59th overall)
He's a better athlete than both Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, and while he's no guarantee to start, it'd nonetheless be a disappointment if Little isn't one of the team's two most productive receivers this year. Little can even double as a running back if Cleveland wants him too, and such an arrangement would greatly raise his floor.
3. Leonard Hankerson, Washington (79th overall)
Hankerson doesn't look especially smooth running routes and isn't a great athlete, but all he did at Miami was constantly make huge plays. He's an acrobatic player and a natural playmaker despite his lack of great physical tools. If Santana Moss doesn't return, he should be a starter for Washington.
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati (4th overall)
If Cincinnati didn't seem likely to start a rookie at quarterback, and if the team didn't already have Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley catching passes, then Green would definitely be higher than this. He's the most talented receiver in the draft and the best prospect at the position since Calvin Johnson.
5. Jonathan Baldwin, Kansas City (26th overall)
Baldwin's upside is limited by the run-heavy nature of Kansas City's offense, but he should be a Day One starter for the team. He's not quick off the line, but Baldwin has a huge catch radius and can really stretch defenses once he does get moving. He'll be Kansas City's top deep threat and has an outside chance of being a fantasy factor, particularly as a spot starter.
1. Lance Kendricks, St. Louis (47th overall)
Even though he's a bit undersized, Kendricks is one of the draft's best blocking tight ends, which means he has a good shot at being a three-down player. He didn't burn up the track at the Combine, but Kendricks nonetheless looks more like a receiver than a tight end when he runs routes, and he's more athletic than the stopwatch might suggest. If Josh McDaniels utilizes him, Kendricks could be a factor in St. Louis.
2. Rob Housler, Arizona (69th overall)
Housler is a superb athlete for a tight end, but he's probably quite raw. Still, Arizona has basically nothing at tight end, so Housler will get a good shot to earn the starting spot. But with no quarterback and no recent examples of the offense utilizing a tight end, he's a long shot to do much.
3. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota (43rd overall)
Visanthe Shiancoe is the only problem here. If the team cuts the veteran before the season starts, you can go ahead and move Rudolph to the top spot among rookie tight ends. If he's a backup in 2011, however, Rudolph doesn't have much of a shot to post more than 300 or so yards.