Draft Dose: How top picks fared in fantasy football

Posted March 09, 2011 @ 9:46 a.m.
Posted By Andrew Struckmeyer

In theory, the top overall pick in the NFL draft is the most talented player in that draft class. It would make sense then for that player to be the top-scoring rookie in fantasy football, assuming he is a skill-position player, and not a left tackle. Not only is he supposedly the most talented, but, by virtue of being the top pick, he is on a bad team with more opportunities to play immediately. However, that hasn't always been the case, for a variety of reasons. In the 13th installment of the Draft Dose series, we take a look back at the past five rookie classes, and look at how the top skill-position player picked fared for fantasy football purposes as a first-year pro.

2010 — No. 1 overall pick: QB Sam Bradford

Bradford is the only player on this list to accomplish the feat of being the top overall pick and the top fantasy rookie. After seizing the starting quarterback job in training camp, Bradford started every game of his rookie season, bringing the Rams to within one game of the playoffs. In the process, Bradford threw for more than 3,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, ranking him 41st in overall scoring according to Pro Football Weekly's stats. If Bradford can cut down on his 15 interceptions and boost his TD passes, he'll be a fantasy star for years to come.

2009 — No. 1 overall pick: QB Matthew Stafford

Like Bradford, Stafford was the starter from Day One in Detroit. However, he battled injuries his rookie season and started only 10 games in '09. That cleared the way for Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, selected 12th overall, to lead the rookie class in fantasy points. Moreno finished with 947 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns, ranking him 48th in overall scoring. Stafford has continued to be plagued by injuries, and Moreno regressed in '10. Wide receivers from this draft class like Hakeem Nicks, Austin Collie and Percy Harvin have made their impact felt in the fantasy football world and look like more solid producers going forward than either Stafford or Moreno.

2008 — Top skill player selected: QB Matt Ryan

Taken third overall by the Falcons behind OLT Jake Long and DE Chris Long, Ryan has been a driving force behind the Falcons' rise to the top seed in the NFC in 2010. Ryan delivered from the start, throwing for 3,440 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie. However, Ryan, who finished 34th in overall fantasy scoring in '08, was bested by Bears RB Matt Forté, who burst on to the scene to finish ninth overall in scoring. Forté, a second-round pick, rushed for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns and was a force out of the backfield, making him the complete package in PPR leagues. Since that time, Forté has been inconsistent, and a gamble for fantasy owners. Meanwhile, Ryan had a huge 2010 season, finishing 10th in overall scoring.

2007 — No. 1 overall pick: QB JaMarcus Russell

One of the all-time draft busts, Russell held out the first part of '07, and then only started one game that season for the Raiders. His fantasy production ranked 349th in overall scoring, behind such fantasy dynamos as WR John Broussard, TE George Wrighster and RB B.J. Askew. Russell was out of football entirely in 2010, after being released by the Raiders in May. He was then arrested for drug possession in early July. The rookie scoring leader for that year was RB Adrian Peterson, who finished in 11th. Peterson, selected seventh overall by the Vikings, ran for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 14 games, immediately establishing himself as one of the best backs in all of fantasy football. Peterson has continued his dominance, rushing for more than 1,000 yards every season of his career. Peterson is routinely one of the top players picked in fantasy drafts. Russell, well, is not.

2006 — Top skill player selected: RB Reggie Bush

Selected second overall by the Saints behind DE Mario Williams, Bush made an immediate impact in the fantasy world, especially in PPR leagues. As a rookie, Bush rushed for 565 yards and six touchdowns, and added 742 receiving yards and two TDs. That production slotted Bush in at 38th in overall scoring his rookie season. However, Bush was bested by Jaguars rookie RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who finished 12th in overall scoring. Jones-Drew, a second-round pick, scored 15 touchdowns as a rookie despite splitting carries with Fred Taylor. Since that time, MJD has established himself as a top fantasy back. Bush, on the other hand, continues to be a feast-or-famine pick, who could lead you to victory one week, only to lay an egg the next.