For my first article as an official "Knucklehead," I thought I would dig a bit deeper into the fantasy rookie pool and bypass the hot names like Falcons WR Julio Jones and Saints RB Mark Ingram. It's easy to say one of these guys, or even both are going to make some sort of impact in their first year simply because they are first round picks. That's like saying you'll find a fist pumper at a night club in New Jersey (Catch the Jersey Shore reference?).
Being the risk taker that I am, I'm going to slide all the way to the bottom of the second round of this year's draft and talk about a guy who I think is going to pay huge dividends as soon as 2011.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Dolphins rookie RB Daniel Thomas.
Thomas had two very solid seasons at Kansas State from 2009-2010, having averaged 1425 rushing yards, 5.2 yards a carry and racking up 20 total touchdowns. Thomas didn't exactly get off to a superb start to the offseason after having to pull out of the Senior Bowl because of a hamstring injury, which also knocked him out of the NFL Combine and K. State's Pro Day.
But, lo and behold, the Dolphins not only drafted Thomas in the second round, but they traded up with the Redskins and gave up a couple in the process (Nos. 79, 146, and 217).
There a couple things I love about Thomas; he's big. I mean 230 pounds big. And is much quicker than his size would dictate. And even though he didn't have very many receptions (27 in 2010), he is one of the more underrated pass-catching backs that came out this year.
But the biggest reason I absolutely love Thomas' fantasy value is this: There is no one in Miami's backfield, as of right now, to challenge him for the starting job. Both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are expected to dip their toes in free agency. Plus, Thomas has the ability to run the Wildcat, which has been a staple in the offense while Tony Sparano has been head coach.
The drawback to drafting Thomas in fantasy leagues that can't wait until free agency begins is we have no clue what the team plans on doing once the lockout is lifted. They could either bring in a guy as a pure backup, or they could break the bank and land someone like DeAngelo Williams, which I strongly doubt. They are better off bringing either Brown or Williams back at a cheaper rate. A speedster does appear to be in the team's plans, but he won't challenge Thomas for the starting job.
One other thing holding Thomas back, and I apologize to all Michigan fans, is the development of QB Chad Henne. If Henne looks anything like last year, the running game is going to be facing a ton of defenders in the box. But if Henne, or another free agent, can manage to keep defenses honest, Thomas should find some running room when his name is called in the play.
By the time free agency roles around (seems like forever right?) and the Dolphins stay status quo and sign only a scat back like Darren Sproles, there is no reason why Thomas can't be drafted as an RB3, with major upside, in PPR and non-PPR redraft leagues this year. If you manage to land him in your Dynasty leagues, this guy should be money for years to come.