With 2013 Training Camp set to get started in about a month’s time, I think it’s about the right time to put out my Rookie of the Year power ranking list. This list will consist of five players that I feel like have the best chance to make a big impact on their team this year, but that doesn’t mean that one won’t finish higher up than another, or that someone will come out of nowhere and be that darkhorse like Alfred Morris was for the Redskins in 2012. Here are my initial 2013 rankings.
1. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
Big shocker here. I was very high on Austin going into the draft. He’s a small receiver, but he’s tough, smart, and can make plays after the catch. Austin can hurt you in so many different ways as an offensive or special teams weapon, and I think he’s going to add an element to the Rams offense that has been missing over the last few years. Sam Bradford is going to love throwing to this youngster, and I feel like he has a chance to be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as a Pro Bowl candidate, even in the loaded NFC.
Even with his size, Austin hasn’t shown durability issues and he has a swagger to his game that I absolutely love. This speedster reminds me so much of Percy Harvin on the field, in that he can give your team so much. If he can prove that he has consistent hands, especially in making tough catches over the middle of the field, Austin is going to be a superstar.
2. Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos
Ball wasn’t selected until the later portion of the second round, but you seem to be able to get good running backs everywhere nowadays. Ball had an insanely productive career with the Wisconsin Badgers, and the Broncos thought highly enough of his performance in college and through offseason activities that they decided to cut Willis McGahee, who is just a year and a half removed from a Pro Bowl appearance.
This guy has the chance to be a real special player, especially early on in his career having the likes of Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos’ offensive weapons around him. Ball isn’t going to have a ton of pressure on his shoulders, and I think that will make him even more effective for Denver. He is not a burner by any means, but he knows how to get the ball into the end zone and I think he’ll be able to do that on a consistent basis for the Broncos this year. I wouldn’t rule out 1,000 yards for Ball, nor would I rule out the possibility of 10 or more TD runs.
3. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy is stepping into a nearly identical situation as the one Montee Ball is. He’s coming off a very productive year as a National Champion at Alabama, and despite some injury concerns, the Packers cashed in on his slide in the draft to take him with their second round pick. Lacy isn’t overly speedy, but he can make plays after contact and get you tough yardage. Like Ball, Lacy knows how to get the ball in the end zone, and he offers the Packers an element to their offense that they’ve really been missing.
Due to some concerns I have personally about the Green Bay offensive line, I’m taking a bit of a wait and see approach with Lacy, but he’s a guy I really like for fantasy football as well as helping the Packers win some more games in the NFC North.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
If any wide receiver in this year’s class has a chance to unseat Tavon Austin as potentially the most productive, it’s got to be DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans. There are some talented wideouts in this year’s class, but I love what Hopkins brings to the table. He is a big kid with great hands who had a breakout season in 2012 for the Clemson Tigers. Sammy Watkins stole the spotlight in 2011, but Hopkins stole it back in 2012 and proved that he is an elite talent at the position.
Playing alongside Andre Johnson with a smart quarterback like Matt Schaub, Hopkins could break 1,000 yards or at least hit 8-10 touchdowns. The Texans have been waiting for someone to step into that #2 role next to Johnson, and finally they have someone who is capable of doing so. Not only that, but Hopkins has #1 potential for when Johnson begins to wear down. I think this was a great pick by Houston.
5. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
I liked Bell coming out of Michigan State, and with Rashard Mendenhall off to Arizona, Bell has probably the likeliest chance to see a full-time workload of anyone on this list. He is a big, powerful back with agility and deceptive quickness, and he fits what the Steelers like to do offensively really well. I think he could put up big numbers for Pittsburgh and help lead them back into the postseason. A consistent ground game was really the biggest thing I thought the Steelers were lacking offensively last year, save for all the injuries they suffered.
Le’Veon Bell has a good shot at rookie of the year simply because he might see the most action of any rookie in the league.