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Fantasy Football 2011: Rookie Quarterbacks

08.15.11 at 12:04 pm ET
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The 2011 rookie class has some very solid prospects. We think five or six of them make it as starters, and three or four of them could be top-flight players. There’€™s not a ton of immediate fantasy impact here, but we do think a few can end up having some 2011 value … Carolina’€™s Cam Newton in particular. Here’€™s a close look at the nine rookies we think have a legit chance to make it as professionals.

Cam Newton, Panthers

A great dynasty pick for the risk-takers. We love this guy, and in time, we think he’€™s going to be a fantasy monster. He could be a fantasy option as soon as this season, but once he is settled in and gets a relationship with the offense and his receivers, look out! Like we said, there is risk when you look at some of his decisions off the field, but we think his competitive nature wins the day. The bottom line is that he has otherworldly physical ability. He has exceptional feet, he has an exceptional arm, and he is very physically strong for a QB. Upside personified.

Ricky Stanzi, Chiefs

This kid is the future in KC. We like him a lot more then we do Matt Cassel. This kid reminds us of a young Tom Brady. He is a great buy in dynasty leagues and keeper leagues. If we ran the Chiefs, this kid would start in 2011, though admittedly, he could benefit from some clipboard time and NFL coaching. At some point, they will give Stanzi the keys to a very nice offensive team. Rotobahn thinks he will be a QB1 in fantasy leagues at some point in the next few years. Kansas City is building a very good football team. Now they have a guy who can be their long term quarterback. Stanzi can process the game and make quick decisions. He gets rid of the ball efficiently and makes well-timed accurate passes. From what we have seen on film, he’€™s got NFL written all over him.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars

He has a huge fantasy ceiling, and we like some of their young receivers, but they still need a number one guy. Gabbert is a viable fantasy reserve as soon as he starts and should quickly round into a fantasy starter. He makes a nice pick in long term formats.  This guy is going to make the transition as long as things click from the neck up. His physical skills are simply outstanding.  It’€™s just a question of him being able to ‘€œprocess’€ at the speed of the NFL game. What makes Gabbert special is that he’€™s good enough physically to beat you by himself. Like we said, if they get him some weapons–look out.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers

We love this kid for the long term, and we think you will see him at some point this year unless Alex Smith finds his game–which we very much doubt. Kaepernick has it all and we aren’€™t as concerned with his release as some scouts seem to be. The kid is a player and he is a sweet addition in dynasty and keeper leagues.  He could be the next Josh Freeman in time, though we don’€™t think he’€™s quite as game-ready as Freeman proved to be. Jim Harbaugh could change that, but the lack of a traditional offseason hurts the rookie quarterbacks particularly hard. Kaepernick is a good kid who works hard and plays hard. He likes the big spot and likes to have the ball in his hands. We just don’€™t know how Smith can hold him off for very long–even though he needs some development. He should improve the lives of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree as he has the arm to open-up the field and put all the routes back in play.

Andy Dalton, Bengals

Dalton is a gamer and we think he’€™s a little underrated. He’€™s got good mobility to go with a medium arm. The guy was a winner in college, and plays with a lot of poise. We like him in long-term formats, and it wouldn’€™t shock us if he played some decent ball as a rookie. The big issue, as far as making the jump goes, is getting comfortable under center as he operated out of the spread at TCU. Perhaps most importantly, Dalton should be good enough to not ruin his young receivers. We think he has enough field presence to play in the NFL. He’€™ll have the typical rookie ups and downs, but he can play, and by all indications, he will play. That gives him an edge in redraft value over some of his fellow rookies.

Christian Ponder, Vikings

A nice player with good field awareness, but he should be holding a clipboard for much of 2011. We see no reason to rush this kid. He has a real chance to excel, but this team needs a vet with all their issues on offense–especially with the line. Once Ponder gets in there, we think he’€™ll handle the job and keep it for as long as he stays healthy. He’€™s a bit limited in terms of deep zip. We have doubts about his throwing outside the hash marks. He’€™ll need a good team around him to be a fantasy force, but he’€™s an NFL player for sure.

Ryan Mallett, Patriots

Talk about finding the right team. Mallett might make a lot of us think ‘€œMullett’€, but the guy can play ball, and now he will be in an organization with solid role models. He’€™s now measuring himself against Tom Brady and his preparation, and that is the gold standard. For a kid with Mallett’€™s off-field history, this is a blessing.  He’€™s not much of a target in any fantasy format as Brady has some years left, and #2 Hoyer looks NFL-ready, but he will have a real chance of making it someday. Typical savvy pick by New England.  Mallet needs to work on his body and his footwork, but make no mistake, the kid can throw the football.

Greg McElroy, Jets

Widely regarded as a backup candidate, we like this kid too much to put that ceiling on him. He’€™s got some Chad Pennington in him, but he’€™s got a better arm and better wheels. McElroy is a bit undersized, but he is a straight-up winner.  Mark Sanchez does not want to get hurt and give this guy a chance with the starting unit. He’€™s a born leader and if he gets in there, Rex Ryan might have a tough time taking him out. Nice pick for the Jets. This kid will be a high quality reserve and could start somewhere at some point.

Jake Locker, Titans

He’€™s not a bad long-term guy, but he’€™ll sit and learn in 2011 as newly acquired Matt Hasselbeck is going to start. This is a good thing. Locker needs to make some improvements, especially with his accuracy, so the time on the sidelines could prove to be beneficial. Locker’€™s a very athletic quarterback who can create some points with his feet. He’€™s a solid bench guy for dynasty leaguers, but we see no value in 2011 or 2012 for that matter. This kid is a project to us, but a project that could work out at some point. Locker has a ton of heart and he’€™ll work hard. He certainly has a chance, but the accuracy must improve and he must get better acclimated to staying in the pocket and not using his plus mobility too much.

For our take on all the rookies, look for our complete rookie coverage at Rotobahn.com coming later this week.

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