Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 NFL Draft's best fantasy prospects

Now that the dust has settled from ESPN'S three-day NFL Draft extravaganza (is that Alicia Keys/Jay-Z song stuck in anybody else's head?), there's a rush to grade every team's picks. While it's way too early to truly assess a draft class - generally it takes three years to really see how one pans out - there's no need to wait for some fantasy analysis.

So which skill players taken over the weekend in NYC are ready to contribute to your fantasy team in 2010?

QBs get all the headlines, but they rarely become fantasy factors in their first year. I'm not too interested in having Sam Bradford or Jimmy Cluasen on my squad as rookies. Colt McCoy probably won't even suit up in 2010. And we've already dissected Tim Tebow's fantasy prospects in this space. I'll pass.

I'd already tabbed C.J. Spiller as the most NFL-ready fantasy contributor heading into the draft, but unfortunately he landed in Buffalo, where there isn't much of an offensive line to speak of, the QB situation is unsettled to say the least, and Spiller will have to compete with Fred Jackson and Marhsawn Lynch for touches (assuming both stick around). Spiller's one to watch, but being a Bill is a bit of a bummer.

Jahvid Best has it a little better in Detroit, where his main backfield competition will come from Kevin Smith, who's still recovering from major knee surgery. The speedy Best can make an instant impact, provided the Lions can figure out how to block for him.

Ryan Matthews is the first-round RB who may have the easiest path to fantasy relevance, as he was drafted by San Diego to be LaDainian Tomlinson's successor and where Darren Sproles is still just a change-of-pace back. The Fresno State product will get first crack at carrying the rock in a powerful Chargers offense.

Also, don't forget about Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart, who becomes a potential handcuff for Vikings starter Adrian Peterson as he tries to fill the departed Chester Taylor's shoes.

Among wideouts, the two most intriguing, fantasy-wise, are Dez Bryant in Dallas and Golden Tate in Seattle. The Cowboys' selection of Bryant is pretty much an admission that the Roy Williams experiment has been a failure, and if the rookie can earn enough playing time and find some chemistry with Tony Romo, good things could be in store. Same goes for Tate, who could become an important piece of Pete Carroll's offense with the Seahawks.

I'm also interested to see Arrelious Benn in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform. The kid's probably been NFL-ready since his freshman year at Illinois, and he'll have every opportunity to step in and be the go-to receiver young Bucs QB Josh Freeman sorely needs.

Demaryius Thomas also has a shot at immediate playing time for Josh McDaniels in Denver, but the Broncos' QB situation isn't quite ideal.

One more 2010 draftee to keep an eye on: Taylor Price in New England. Price flew under the radar at Ohio University, but the Patriots have a way of making unheralded players into stars.

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