2010 IDP Rookies to Watch

When it comes to drafting rookies, IDP drafters are always looking to find the next Patrick Willis or James Lauriniatis. From my experience, with careful research, experience, and some luck, one can get pretty good at judging the performance of rookie IDPs.

The outstanding production of guys like Willis, Laurinaitis, or Jon Beason wasn't really a surprise to the owners who did their research and truly understood the dynamics of IDP fantasy football.

The rookie draft is one of the areas that an experienced IDP owner can really separate themselves from other, less-savvy owners.

With this being said, I'm going to do the research for you. I will continually update this list as the off-season progresses depending on what changes concerning playing times, position changes, defensive scheme changes, etc.

Defensive Lineman

Derrick Morgan 1. RDE Derrick Morgan (TEN) - I had Morgan as the #1 defensive end prospect in this year's draft. In my opinion, he was the most polished, all-around NFL-ready defensive end prospect in the draft and he's going to a team with a clear opening at right defensive end. Morgan should be solid against the run and, while he isn't a pure edge rusher, he has the first step explosion, array of pass rush moves and motor to get to the quarterback often. Talent and opportunity match perfectly here for box score purposes. He's the #1 rookie fantasy defensive lineman for the 2010 season.

Brandon Graham 2. LDE Brandon Graham (PHI) - The Eagles gave up a lot to get this guy, they must see him as a long-term bookend with Trent Cole. Graham has good all-around potential as he'll hold up just as well at the point of attack as coming off the edge. And with Graham in the fold at this cost, Darryl Tapp is again stuck in a rotational role. Graham could put up some decent numbers playing across from Pro-Bowler Trent Cole, however, rookie defensive ends hardly ever make a serious fantasy impact in their rookie year.

Jason Pierre-Paul 3. LDE Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG) - Athletic and raw, and needing a lot of work in run support, Pierre-Paul is yet another dangerous pass rushing option added to the New York front line. There's no immediate potential for Pierre-Paul as an every-down DE prospect and he's likely not a major threat to Mathias Kiwanuka or Osi Umenyiora in the short run. It'll be interesting to see if Perry Fewell sticks with his Tampa-2 roots, which would minimize Pierre-Paul's run defense deficiencies. It'll also be interesting to see what the Giants decide to do with Osi Umenyiora, who has been very vocal about wanting a significant percentage of snaps this year. JPP is definately worth a look in dynasty drafts, but I'm staying away from him in redraft leagues this season.

Gerald McCoy 4. DT Gerald McCoy (TB) - A Tampa-2 defense is the perfect scheme fit for a penetrating force against the run with a decent array of pass rush moves. McCoy isn't necessarily the second coming of Warren Sapp here, but he is one of the better 3-technique players to come out of college in recent years. Between Suh and McCoy, McCoy is more likely to put up big stats and more likely to hold starting value in combined DE/DT leagues. However, the fact remains that McCoy is a DT and is therefore a DL3 at best in my book.

Jerry Hughes 5. RDE Jerry Hughes (IND) - Hughes will see ample playing time sooner than most think. Dwight Freeney is often injured and on the wrong side of 30 and Robert Mathis is so spring chicken himself. Hughes is a nice fit for the Colts defensive scheme and I think he could eventually put up similar numbers to Freeney and Mathis (i.e. good sack totals, but not much to write home about as far as tackles go).

Ndamukong Suh 6. DT Ndamukong Suh (DET) - Suh is probably going to be one of the more overrated IDP rookies in fantasy football next season. Jim Schwartz has had great success with guys like Albert Haynesworth and Tony Brown (among others) and Suh fits that mold well. However, don't expect Suh to rack up sacks in the NFL as he did in college since his main role in this system will often times be to take on double teams.


Rolando McClain 1. MLB Rolando McClain (OAK) - McClain landed with a team in the Raiders that will maximize his fantasy potential. The MLB position in Oakland has been a fantasy goldmine for years. McClain is better suited in a 3-4 defensive scheme, however many of Oakland's off-season additions have signaled that they may start using more 3-4 fronts. No matter which of the two defensive schemes is used, McClain is going to be a LB1 and probably a top 10 linebacker. I expect the Raiders to use him as a three-down linebacker and for him to put up similar numbers to James Laurinaitis' rookie campaign last season.

Daryl Washington 2. ILB Daryl Washington (ARI) - Washington finds himself in a great fantasy position as the heir apparent to Karlos Dansby in Arizona. Washington is better suited as a 4-3 WLB than a 3-4 WILB. However, he has shown signs that he can play the inside. The ILB position in a 3-4 defensive scheme is a lot like a 4-3 WLB anyway and Washington has the instincts to pull it off. Ken Whisenhunt has already confirmed that the Cardinals think Washinton is an every-down linebacker. I would temper some of your expectations for Washington this season however as it looks like the Cardinals are going to bring Washington along slowly and have him come in on passing situations only to start the season.

Sean Weatherspoon 3. OLB Sean Weatherspoon (ATL) - The Falcons have said that Weatherspoon will compete for both the WLB and SLB jobs. However, Weatherspoon is a more natural fit for WLB and I expect him to win the starting weakside linebacker spot sometime during the middle of the season. He probably won't be a three-down backer in 2010 though and this hurts his overall value. He's a guy I will be keeping my eye on the waiver wire for, but he's not worth a roster spot in most redraft leagues.

Sean Lee 4. LILB Sean Lee (DAL) – The Cowboys had Lee ranked #14 overall on their draft board and were escatic to get him in the 2nd round. He won't play a ton in his 1st year (unless someone gets injured), but I expect him to become a starting ILB in 2011 and put up Keith Brooking-type numbers. This makes him an average LB2.

Donald Butler 5. OLB Donald Butler (SD) - The Chargers dealt a future pick to move up and select Butler, so there's room to assume that Butler may be seen as a long term answer at the WILB spot. There's certainly been plenty of shuffling there over the past three seasons since Donnie Edwards rode into the sunset. I don't see him making much of an impact in 2010, but he could be a nice dynasty sleeper for 2011 and beyond.

Phillip Dillard 6. MLB Phillip Dillard (NYG) - I'm not overally impressed with Dillard's talent level. However, IDP fantasy performance is more closely tied to opportunity and role moreso than scheme. With this being said, Dillard is the next in line after Jonathan Goff to become the starting MLB in New York. Goff isn't a standout player by any means and could very well lose the starting MLB job. If he does, Dillard becomes a nice pickup. I'm just not sure if he's a long-term solution for the Giants.

Defensive Backs

Eric Berry 1. SS Eric Berry (KC) - Look for Berry to immediately jump into the starting lineup for the Chiefs. He will start at FS for the Chiefs, but I expect them to utilize him is similar ways to that of a SS. Mike Brown put up nice fantasy numbers as the starting SS in KC last season and I expect Berry to have a very solid rookie season. It's always hard to predict safety performance, but I'm expecting high DB2 and even low DB1 upside out of Berry this season.

Taylor Mays 2. S Taylor Mays (SF) - Taylor ended up in a pretty good situation in San Francisco. He should be able to beat out current SS Michael Lewis for his job after a few regular season games. I expect the 49ers to use Mays in a Roy Williams-type role with him playing close to the line and racking up a nice amount of tackles in the process. It may take him a few weeks though to do so.

Mike Mitchell 3. SS Morgan Burnett (GB) - Burnett is one of my top rookie fantasy sleepers this season. With incumbent starter Atari Bigby holding out, Burnett looks like he will enter as the starter at the SS spot in cheese city. Burnett is talented enough to put up solid numbers right out of the gate and him registering 70 solo tackles with 15 assists isn't out of the question. He's worth a middle round rookie pick for his DB2 potential.

Earl Thomas 4. FS Earl Thomas (SEA) - There's no doubting Thomas' talent. This kid can play. The problem is he finds himself in a less than ideal situation in Seattle. Free safeties that play in Cover-2 schemes behind two solid OLBs often times have trouble racking up enough tackles to become every week starters. Seattle has two solid outside linebackers in Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne, so Thomas may struggle to put up good tackle numbers. He may sprinkle in a few big plays here and there but not enough to make him anything more than a high DB4.

Darrell Stuckey 5. SS Darrell Stuckey (SD) - The release of incumbent starting strong safety Kevin Ellison improves Stuckey's value in redraft leagues quite dramatically. He will now fight with Stephen Gregory for the starting job. I look for Stuckey to win the starting job and to produce much better than expected numbers in San Diego. He finds himself in a place where tackle opportunities are above average; combine that with his talent and you have potential for DB2-type numbers. Stuckey is a sleeper fo sho.

Nate Allen 6. FS Nate Allen (PHI) - Allen's measurables may not be quite as good as Earl Thomas', but he is a similar type player and he fits well in this scheme as a FS alongside Quintin Mikell. With the season-ending injury to Marlin Jackson, Allen will become the starter from week 1 and therefore automatically leaps frogs some of the other rookies.

T.J. Ward 7. FS T.J. Ward (CLE) - Ward has a shot at nabbing the starting free safety position this season. He is an above average tackler and could put up better than expected tackle numbers even from the free safety position. It should also help that Cleveland's defense will be on the field a ton in 2010 and that their front seven is very weak. I would preferably like to see Ward at the SS position, however, he should be able to put up good enough numbers from the FS position to justisfy a late-round rookie pick.

Joe Haden 8. CB Joe Haden (CLE) - Haden has landed in a good spot for fantasy production. I think Haden could provide nice value for fantasy owners since it will take him a majority of the 2010 season to learn the position and consequently opposing quarterbacks will throw at him quite often and this could result in a good amount of tackles for Haden ("rookie corner rule") especially since the Browns have a fairly decent corner in Eric Wright opposite him. In addition, he's very solid on the ball and should play well in press and zone coverage. He'll be aggressive in run support and if he remains consistent in that regard, the Browns are weak enough at OLB that long term solid tackle numbers and big play coverage stats are possible.

Last Updated: July 13, 2010

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