As fantasy week rolls along here on the NFC East blog, we have a couple of video roundtable clips from our ESPN fantasy experts that deal with rookies. Specifically, they are about rookie wide receivers and rookie running backs, and as you might expect there are New York Giants players featured prominently in both of them.
In the first, which is on wide receivers, Christopher Harris brings up Giants second-round pick Rueben Randle and calls him "a Hakeem Nicks clone," which I consider extremely high praise. Christopher thinks there's potential there for Randle to impress, given the loss of Mario Manningham and the Giants' preference for three-receiver sets. And K.C. Joyner makes the point about how bad the quarterback play and offensive play calling were for wide receivers at LSU, and suggests that Randle could therefore outperform his college tape now that he's in the hands of a quarterback as good as Eli Manning.
In the second, which is on running backs, Christopher mentions Giants first-round pick David Wilson. What Wilson has going for him, Christopher says, is that he's very fast, that starter Ahmad Bradshaw has health concerns and that there is "no more Brandon Jacobs or any other running back of note in New York" outside of Bradshaw. So he forecasts a split in which Bradshaw gets two-thirds of the carries and Wilson gets one-third of them, which I think is optimistic for a 2012 Wilson projection. Christopher also points out that Wilson isn't likely at this point to be an asset in the passing game as either a blocker or a receiver, and that leads me to my central point here.
The Giants' roster is a meritocracy. Whoever earns the playing time will get it. And just because Da'Rel Scott, D.J. Ware and Andre Brown haven't been "running backs of note" to this point doesn't mean Wilson's ahead of any or all of them on the depth chart. If one or more from that incumbent group shows enough in blitz pickup or as a pass-catcher, it's likely that he would get the playing time while Wilson continues to learn in practice.
Randle's in a similar situation. He could be outplayed by Ramses Barden or Jerrel Jernigan or Domenik Hixon in camp and open the season as the Giants' No. 4 or 5 receiver instead of the No. 3. And if Wilson is the No. 3 or 4 running back and Randle's the No. 4 or 5 receiver, neither will have much fantasy value at the start of the season.
I personally see Wilson as a guy who will need to do some learning this year, and is unlikely to accrue enough carries to make a major fantasy impact in 2012. If he does, it's more likely due to failure by one or two or all of those three incumbent backups I mentioned earlier. I think Wilson's an exciting down-the-road player, but I'm not sure he's a real fantasy asset in 2012. Randle, I believe, can be, and to further the Nicks comparison I'd go back to Nicks' rookie season, when he became more and more a part of the offense as the season went along. I'm still betting on Hixon opening the season as the nominal No. 3 receiver if he's healthy. But I think Randle has the talent to put himself in a position to take over that job at some point during the season.