Cam Newton tore the NFL up as a rookie, with over 4,000 yards through the air and 35 total touchdowns.
Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Demarco Murray weren't too bad themselves. In fact, all of these 2011 rookies were solid fantasy starters at one point last year, and made anyone who drafted them look awfully smart.
So, as we slowly march into next season, the new rookie class forces us to wonder who the next gem or solid starter will be. Let's take a look in our 2012 Fantasy Rookie Rankings:
RG3 is a savior for Washington and should have a major impact right away. I don't think it will be quite on Cam Newton's level from last season, but it'll be a lot closer than some may think. Griffin isn't the strong runner Newton is, but he's plenty athletic and he's still a threat with his legs. He should lead all rookies in fantasy production in 2012.
Peyton Hillis put up 1,100+ rushing yards and 11 scores with Cleveland two years ago, so just imagine what an elite talent like Richardson can do. He'll be in for 300+ carries as a rookie and has the versatility to help out as a receiver on third downs, as well. He should far and away be the top rookie running back of this class.
Few people would put Luck here at number three, but I'm a rare breed. That, and I'm not buying that Luck's rookie year is going to be horrible just because the Colts were terrible last year. They've changed a lot of things for the better, and getting Luck a familiar target in Stanford teammate Coby Fleener should help ease his transition even more.
Peyton Manning approached 4,000 yards as a rookie, along with 26 touchdowns. Luck is a smart, talented quarterback with better than average weapons out of the gates. Expect similar results.
Martin is expected to come in and take over LeGarrette Blount's starting role from day one, and I like for him to excel in that role. The "Muscle Hamster" is explosive, versatile, and a smart player. He'll contribute in a number of ways, unlike the one-dimensional Blount.
I liken Floyd's situation to Julio Jones in Atlanta last year. Jones got paired with Roddy White and was generally free to do as he pleased. Just imagine what the rangy Floyd will be able to do with defenses focusing their attention on stopping Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona's passing attack could turn deadly in 2012, and I think a big part of that is going to be Floyd.
Wilson is a few notches below Richardson and Martin, but don't sleep on him completely. With Brandon Jacobs gone to San Francisco and Ahmad Bradshaw's injury history, Wilson has to be a strong candidate to bust out around mid-season. Even if Bradshaw doesn't go down, though, Wilson should still be very active, as the Giants generally like to incorporate two backs on a regular basis.
I had Blackmon ranked ahead of the top rookie receiver (Floyd) for the longest time, but I think I need to see more out of Blaine Gabbert before I'm all-in. Still, Blackmon is very physical and he can make enough plays on his own that I like him in the top-10.
I liken Weeden to a slightly more impressive Andy Dalton, and think he'll post similar numbers in his first year with the Browns. Weeden is more developed than most rookie passers and he's ready to start right away. At the very worst he's a mild upgrade over the ineffective Colt McCoy, and at his best he could be a rookie gem.
I'm not saying Fleener is going to be an absolute stud as a rookie, but he doesn't really have to be. He just needs to show up where he's best, and that's in the red-zone. Fleener hauled in 17 touchdowns over his final two college seasons, and clearly has a fantastic rapport with Andrew Luck. He'll start from day one and could flirt with 10 touchdowns as a rook.
Brandon Marshall is the beast in Chicago's receiving corps now, but I still think Jeffery could have a major impact. He actually looks and plays a lot like Marshall, as he is very physical and has outstanding ball skills. As long as he keeps his weight in check, I think he'll finish as the third best rookie receiver.
Quick is a poor man's Terrell Owens, and that's a compliment. I love his size and play-making ability, and when he hits the open field, he's more than just a handful. In addition, he's walking into a Rams offense that desperately needs a legit target to step up for Sam Bradford. Considering Danny Amendola was their number one guy before he went down in 2011, I think Quick could have an immediate impact.
If the Jets don't add another receiver, I don't see how Hill doesn't at least make a solid impact as a deep threat and red-zone option. With Plaxico Burress gone, the Jets definitely need someone to step into that role, and Hill possesses excellent size, speed and ball skills. He's pretty raw, but if Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow get the ball in the air in his direction, very good things could end up happening.
Kenny Britt is returning from a serious knee injury, so the play-making Wright could have a solid role early. There is other talent at receiver in Tennessee, but none so pure and athletic as Wright. Jake Locker or Matt Hasselbeck could use another weapon, and Wright could really help the Titans balance their offense even further by getting a little more explosive through the air.
Sanu is basically a more athletic, play-making version of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. I love his upside, and the fact that he'll compete for a role right away with Jerome Simpson gone to Minnesota. I don't think he lights it up early, but once he gets comfortable he could develop into a very reliable and productive target for Andy Dalton.
Pead's talent would have him much higher, but he's stuck behind Steven Jackson, and really could be all year long. The good thing is, however, is his versatility will allow him to get on the field, and if S-Jax does ever goes down, Pead would have an excellent role.
Miller looks to be stuck behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas for now, but he's so athletic and explosive that Miami is talking about using him some at receiver. Whether that comes to fruition or not remains to be seen, but with Bush's injury history, Miller could end up seeing extended action as a rookie, regardless.
Someone has to fill the void third receiver Mario Manningham is leaving behind (signed with 49ers). Randle has the size and speed to do so, but he is raw and could face a bit of a tough transition. Still, he's a near-lock to get the first crack at the third spot, so he has potential value in the early going.
Hillman is a speedy back that could end up seeing some action as a rookie on third downs. And if Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno continue to get nicked up as they have in the past, Hillman could see some starts, as well.
James is extremely explosive and versatile. However, he's not really a feature back and he's going to be initially stuck behind Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon. I think he can force the 49ers to cut at least Dixon, but he faces an uphill battle to have a huge role - despite his immense talent. However, if he sees the field as a rookie, he could turn into a dangerous weapon quickly.
I'm currently giving Mohamed Sanu the leg-up between him and Jones, as Sanu is more polished and NFL-ready. However, slot demon Jordan Shipley is recovering from a torn ACL, which could put both Sanu and Jones on the field early. If that happens, the athletic Jones will certainly be someone to keep an eye on.
21. A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
I'm already losing love for Jenkins due to him showing up to camp out of shape. Combine that with his raw ability, and I'm not sold on him carving out a huge role as a rookie. He has great potential, but he's one-dimensional at this point and would have to beat out Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. I just don't see that happening.
Tannehill rejoins former Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman in Miami, and will operate out of a very similar offense as he did in college. In fact, he arguably has the early edge on veterans Matt Moore and David Garrard. He's still very raw and inexperienced, but he's also a great athlete with a big arm. If he ends up starting as a rookie, he'd have a decent shot at putting up quality numbers.
23. Devier Posey, WR, Houston Texans
Posey's presence has already forced Jacoby Jones out of Houston (released), and likely means he's headed for a decent role as a rookie. I'm not entirely sold on him, however, and I also don't buy the notion that anyone besides Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Arian Foster will see enough targets in Houston's attack.
For the moment, Wilson is nothing but a third string quarterback. However, according to head coach Pete Carroll, fantasy owners can count him as a member of the three-headed quarterback race, also involving Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson. I don't see him winning, but he's athletic and accurate, so he's a guy to monitor.
Pierce is a solid, balanced running back who will take over for the retired Ricky Williams and backup Ray Rice from day one. He won't hold a ton of value initially, but if Rice were to ever go down, he's going to benefit immensely. If you own Rice, he's a must-have handcuff.
Toon doesn't jump out at you, but he's a talented receiver with good size and reliable hands. He's also a solid route-runner, which should give him a chance at making an impact in a Saints offense that loves to spread the rock around. With Robert Meachem now a Charger, Toon has a chance to do some damage as a rookie.
Coale is an underrated prospect with elite hands and route-running, while also being an over-looked athlete. He's NFL-ready and much more balanced than Jesse Holley or Kevin Ogletree, which could have him taking over Laurent Robinson's old third receiver spot. He won't blow you away, but he'll be a very reliable possession guy in the slot.
I'm not so much high on Ballard, as I am down on Delone Carter and Donald Brown being able to carry the load. I see that back-field being something of a musical chairs in 2012, so Ballard has a chance to see some solid playing time eventually.
Cousins may not see the field at all in 2012, but if he weren't playing behind a stud in RG3, you might say he should be under center. Still, RG3 will take off running several times a game and he has a small frame, which could lead to injury and eventual playing time for the fiery Cousins.
Osweiler's job in 2012 is to sit and learn. However, Peyton Manning has been away from football for a year now and has had three neck surgeries (or was it 40?) in the past two years. If he goes down, Denver may opt to start the future now, rather than hand the keys to the offense to the inept Caleb Hanie.
Think we missed someone? Who is the first rookie you'd take in your fantasy pool? Let us know in the comments below!