It's not easy to instantly locate fantasy stars in Rounds 4 through 7. It's not that there isn't good talent available later in the NFL draft, though obviously the physical freaks are all gone. Maybe in small part it's because teams don't have to commit high dollars to these later picks, and thus are under less pressure to use them immediately. Regardless, a perusal of the 2011 Day 3 draftees finds Roy Helu, Kendall Hunter, Delone Carter, Denarius Moore and Evan Royster, all of whom found their ways onto fantasy rosters last year. So it's certainly worthwhile to keep our eye on Saturday's draftees.
Before I scan Day 3's skill-position draftees for hidden fantasy gems, I figured I'd also give a first glimpse at my Top 10 fantasy rookies for 2012. I reserve the right to change my mind, but here's my first take:
1. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns: He's a no-brainer selection, though I doubt I'll own him on many of my own fantasy teams. He has the clearest path to dominate his new team's backfield touches, and scads of all-around ability. I'm just worried the hype will be overboiled, and people are going to start telling you to take him in the first round.
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins: I'll put RG3 a distant second to Richardson because he should do damage with his legs. Mike Shanahan will encourage Griffin to play outside the pocket, and that will lead to scrambles and maybe rushing TDs. However, it may also lead to injuries.
3. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I'd take the Muscle Hamster ahead of LeGarrette Blount. Without playing a single NFL down, Martin is already a better blocker and pass-catcher than Blount; he'll play exclusively on third downs, and share early-down work.
4. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags represent an awful landing spot for Blackmon, who'll play the flanker role while Laurent Robinson will play the split end. The real problem, of course, is Blaine Gabbert (and possibly Chad Henne), but Jacksonville will target him a bunch.
5. Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants: I think Randle instantly becomes the No. 3 wideout in New York ahead of Jerrel Jernigan, and he can play outside while Victor Cruz resumes his slot domination. Randle bears more than a passing style resemblance to Hakeem Nicks.
6. David Wilson, RB, New York Giants: I worry that Wilson can't play much on third down to begin his career. He's not an accomplished pass-catcher or a good blocker. But he's a nice combo of track star and punisher. He should be Ahmad Bradshaw's understudy right away, and play a good deal.
7. Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals: I'd have rated Floyd higher if: (A) he didn't have Larry Fitzgerald and his roughly 150 targets per season around, (B) Kevin Kolb was a better player with pressure in his face, and (C) the Cards had a better O-line. But Floyd has the physical tools to be a No. 1 wideout someday.
8. Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans: The question is whether Wright gets utilized out of the slot enough as a third receiver to be week-to-week consistent for fantasy. Kenny Britt and Nate Washington are on hand, after all. But Wright is scary with the ball.
9. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins:
Miller fell to the fourth round because of concerns over his knee, so any assessment of his fantasy value comes with the requisite durability warnings. But in my opinion, this dude is the closest thing to Jamaal Charles the '12 draft can offer; while he might not be quite as fast as Charles, he did run a 4.4 40 at 212 pounds (Charles is 199 pounds). Unfortunately, Miller lands in an awful situation, with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas already in the Dolphins' backfield. I'm as skeptical as anyone of Bush's late-season breakout in the dying days of the Tony Sparano administration, but you have to believe Miami will ride him hard to begin the year, and try making Thomas into a bruising complement. What does that leave for Miller? Not much in '12, maybe. Then again, has Bush really recast himself as a durable workhorse this late in his career? If the inevitable injury does come, Miller gets a crack, and he could make something great out of it. He's absolutely draftable as a late-game sleeper in all fantasy leagues.
10. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: His career upside is limitless, and the Colts did spend a borderline ludicrous number of picks on skill-position players in this draft. But the O-line looks shaky, and none of the rookies figures to jump in as an elite ball handler. Luck's best attribute this year may simply be volume.
And now, here are some skill guys drafted on Saturday to keep in mind for the upcoming fantasy season:
96. Chris Givens, WR, St. Louis Rams: The Rams have a credibility problem when it comes to wideouts. Why? Mardy Gilyard, Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Brooks Foster. Most of those guys aren't on the St. Louis roster any longer, but milquetoast options like Danario Alexander, Steve Smith, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola are, as is second-round draftee Brian Quick. In other words: Even if you think Sam Bradford is about to bust wide open, it's mighty difficult to tell which wideout(s) might benefit. Givens has deep speed with his 4.41 40, but he's not quick and at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, he's not powerful. To me, he's just another guy. I don't think you can draft any Rams WR this year in a redraft league.
97. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins: See above.
100. Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns: Let's not judge the Browns' 2012 draft too harshly. You can't fix everything that's wrong with a roster in one draft. That said, the fact that they'll likely enter the 2012 season with Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi still as their top two receivers boggles the mind. Brandon Weeden had better get used to some long-striding, loping pass-catchers. Benjamin certainly is an alternative: He ran the fastest 40 time (4.36) of any WR at February's combine, so he can surely scoot. Unfortunately, he's 5-foot-10, 172 pounds. He'll never get off the line playing against press coverage. The best he can be is a slot receiver, and even that could be a stretch; his likely role right away is in the return game.
102. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins: Maybe Mike Shanahan looked at Robert Griffin III and realized running quarterbacks tend to get hurt, and decided to take a backup right away. But does that make sense? Would the slow-footed, middling-armed Cousins really be a good fit if RG3 goes down? Certainly, he couldn't run the same plays RG3 can. This is just weird, frankly, and it's not as though the Skins didn't need help at other positions. It should go without saying that Cousins should be drafted in absolutely no fantasy leagues.
104. Joe Adams, WR, Carolina Panthers: Here's another mighty-mite pass catcher who'll likely play out of the slot, simply because he's not big enough to escape tight coverage from a cornerback. Adams is quick as lightning but not a long-speed burner, and he sometimes has hands problems. It's fair to say that the Panthers have lacked explosiveness around Steve Smith for years and years, and while Adams probably won't be a fantasy star in his NFL career, he can help loosen things up for Smith. But if he's putting up big numbers, it means something bad happened to the guys above him in Cam Newton's receiving corps.
106. Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle Seahawks: I've been critical of some of Pete Carroll's draft choices (Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson?), but this is one I like a lot. First, the negatives: Turbin suffered a major knee injury early in 2010 and despite being productive at Utah State last year, he doesn't look quick laterally at all anymore. But his positives are intriguing. He's a ridiculous physical specimen, bench-pressing 28 reps and running a 4.5 40 at 222 pounds. You just look at him, and feel as though you need to make a trip to the gym. He runs strong. And he's a wonderful fit for Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme in Seattle, the one that resurrected Marshawn Lynch last season. Lynch is entering his age-27 season, so it's not like he's at the end of the road, but let's just say that he's been mercurial in his NFL career. Turbin gives the Seahawks a very nice alternative, and makes a must-handcuff for anyone willing to reach high into the second round of fantasy drafts this summer to select Lynch.
107. Devon Wylie, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: It's the attack of the tiny receivers! Between Benjamin, Adams and Wylie, maybe there's one guy who can overcome his lack of physical stature and become a DeSean Jackson type. Maybe. But more likely than not, especially to begin their careers, they're all slot receivers at best, and special teams contributors at worst. Wylie will get some Wes Welker comparisons because Scott Pioli just drafted him, and longer term that might be fair. But it takes an elite QB, a la Tom Brady or Drew Brees, to make an interior receiver into a fabulous fantasy weapon, and suffice it to say Matt Cassel isn't quite on that level.
110. Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers: Green fits the "basketball mode" of tight ends, an athletic guy who's 6-foot-6 but currently weighs only 238 pounds. He'll never be an NFL-level blocker, and he needs to hit the weight room hard even to be viable as a starter someday. For now, he'll sit behind Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael. He's strictly a developmental pick, much like Julius Thomas of the Broncos last year.
111. Evan Rodriguez, TE, Chicago Bears: New Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice will bring the tight end position out of mothballs, where it's been for two years since Mike Martz was calling plays. Kellen Davis should be the starter, but the guess here is that the Bears view Rodriguez as a potential contributor right away in two-TE sets. At Temple, Rodriguez played fullback, H-back and tight end, but he's a smooth pass-catcher and a good blocker. He probably won't be fantasy-relevant in '12, but he could help Jay Cutler evolve into a more varied and diverse thrower.
116. Orson Charles, TE, Cincinnati Bengals: Charles fell a long way after a DUI this spring, and he landed on an NFL team with a clear top tight end, former first-rounder Jermaine Gresham. But it's a copycat league, and everyone now wants two potential pass-catchers at the TE position. Charles is definitely a pass-catcher. At Georgia, he was a strong seam weapon whom linebackers couldn't cover. Cincy will devise some formations that put both Gresham and Charles in play as receivers, but that won't be enough to deliver fantasy value.
118. Jarius Wright, WR, and 134. Greg Childs, WRs, Minnesota Vikings: I pair these guys because they were teammates both in high school and at the University of Arkansas, but they come to the NFL with opposite reputations. Wright is a smart, try-hard player with sub-elite size (5-foot-10, 180 pounds). Childs is a 6-foot-3, 219-pounder who tore a patellar tendon in 2010 and hasn't been the same since. Wright's ceiling is maxed out by his stature limitations and by Percy Harvin's presence in Minnesota. Childs has the pro body, but simply may never again have the speed to be more than a limited possession receiver. Neither guy should be on fantasy radar screens in 2012.
121. Keshawn Martin, WR, Houston Texans: Another accomplished-but-undersized player, Martin probably doesn't have a role in Houston's top-three WR rotation unless DeVier Posey busts hard (not an impossibility). But he's probably merely a slot guy in 2012 and beyond, anyway. The larger reason to mention Martin is that he's a return ace, which could put the nail in the coffin of Jacoby Jones' Texans career.
122. Nick Toon, WR, New Orleans Saints: Toon is polished and professional already, and he lands on an elite offense that lost Robert Meachem this winter. If he can stay healthy, it's possible he could duplicate some of Marques Colston's routes as a big-bodied possession receiver, and make a dent in the fantasy landscape. Alas, health really is an issue for Toon. He needed foot surgery before the '11 season, and then reportedly reinjured the foot training for the draft. Toon was able to work out for scouts after the second injury, but he carries a severe medical red flag with him. Realize, though, that if health and polish meet a Saints-level opportunity, we could be hearing Toon's name a lot during his rookie year.
127. Adrien Robinson, TE, New York Giants: Robinson was unproductive in college at Cincinnati (just 29 grabs in his entire career, and only 12 last season), but he fits the mold of a freak athlete who might eventually be able to learn the position. Redrafters won't need to pay him any mind, but deeper dynasty leaguers can take a look. A guy who's 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds and runs a 4.5 40 will get chances later in his NFL career if he can prove he's learned how to run routes. However, the fact that the Giants passed on a polished player like Coby Fleener and instead took a project like Robinson means positive things for offseason acquisition Martellus Bennett, who could finally justify years of being considered a fantasy sleeper.
145. Taylor Thompson, TE, Tennessee Titans: Everything I just said about Robinson applies to Thompson, as well. Except Thompson was actually a terrific defensive end at SMU, after being a receiver in high school. Apparently his heart lies with the offense, but he's understandably raw despite some ludicrous measurables (6-foot-6, 260 pounds, 4.56 40). Like Robinson, Thompson will take a year or two to even sniff the field, so Jared Cook is safe, but dynasty leaguers can remember the name.
159. Chris Rainey, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: A shocker of the 2012 draft is that the Steelers decided not to take an early-round running back. Since Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL very late in the year, there's a gaping hole at the top of the depth chart, and there are lots of doubts whether Isaac Redman and/or Jonathan Dwyer are ready to fill it. Rainey won't be that guy. He's only 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, but he did run a 4.45 and was silky smooth in every receiving drill they had him run at the combine this winter. If you're looking for a new Darren Sproles, maybe this is it, but obviously he's a complementary back. Maybe the Steelers will sign a veteran to see if he can stick near the top of the depth chart (Cedric Benson? Ryan Grant? Joseph Addai?), but perhaps Redman and Dwyer will be worth flier investments in fantasy leagues this summer. If not, the Steelers might have no ground game whatsoever.
161. Randy Bullock, K, Houston Texans: Kicker alert! The Texans allowed Neil Rackers to walk this spring (he's favored to win a Redskins camp competition with Graham Gano), presumably because they decided they want to start over, and cheap, at the kicker position. As a fifth-round pick, Bullock will almost certainly get first crack at booting for a high-scoring offense. With the Eagles' Alex Henery last year, we saw that can sometimes lead to early jitters, so I doubt I'll consider Bullock a top-10 fantasy option this year. But eventually his will probably be a name we'll be saying toward the end of fantasy drafts for a decade.
166. Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: I'm not sure what made Jones fall until late in the fifth round, but watching the Senior Bowl this winter, I was struck by how much better he was than the other WRs. Jones is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and ran a 4.47 at the combine, making him a definite outside-receiver candidate. Between him and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals have done extraordinarily well in reshaping their receiving corps around A.J. Green. Obviously, Green comes first, and neither rookie should do much to change that. Green is a clear fantasy starter in all leagues, but by midseason, would I be surprised to see Jones playing some split end while Sanu roams the middle of the field? I wouldn't. Jones doesn't have the burner speed you might typically want from your split end, but he's a better prospect than several of the WRs drafted above him.
170. Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts: The only upsets came with the 136th and the 214th picks of the draft, when the Colts actually had the temerity to select defensive players (DT Josh Chapman and LB Tim Fugger, respectively). Other than those two guys, Indy drafted all offense, and seven of those eight guys play skill positions. Ballard is a thick rusher who goes about 220 pounds, presenting a bit of overlap with last year's fourth-rounder, Delone Carter. Donald Brown figures to have earned first crack at the starting gig with his (relatively) strong finish to 2011, but those looking to Carter as a sleeper need to worry that Ballard could eat into his (potentially goal-line) touches.
171. Greg Zuerlein, K, St. Louis Rams: The Rams selected Zuerlein and then hours later released Josh Brown, who was entering the final year of a very large contract. Zuerlein figures to win the team's kicking job for 2012 unless he really spits the bit in training camp, but going all-in on the Rams' kicker for fantasy probably isn't a winning strategy.
175. Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings: Kicker run! Unlike Brown, Ryan Longwell has three years left on his deal, but he's 37 years old and is coming off a shaky season from outside 40 yards (8-of-13). Again, the Vikes don't present a tasty fantasy-kicker scenario anyway, but don't draft Longwell until you know Walsh hasn't beaten him out.
198. Tommy Streeter, WR, Baltimore Ravens: I like the fact that the Ravens try hitting homers when they grab receivers. For instance, Torrey Smith looks like a good pick last year, and Tandon Doss has potential. But they also shoot for guys like Demetrius Williams, a freak athlete who couldn't put it together. We'll see if Streeter is the former or the latter. He produced highlights at the combine, with a 4.4 40 at 6-foot-5 and 219 pounds. He was a classic college underachiever, but what's that they say? You can't teach size and speed, right? Streeter is a developmental guy with unlimited upside, but of course, those guys often don't pan out.
243. B.J. Coleman, QB, Green Bay Packers: And the Pack get their developmental QB. It's not like the team particularly ever wants to see him on the field, but Coleman is a 6-foot-3, 233-pound, small-school (Chattanooga) kid who started at the University of Tennessee. He'll have tons to learn, but he'll be learning it from Aaron Rodgers. That worked out pretty well for Matt Flynn, another former Green Bay seventh-rounder just four scant years ago.