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Julio Jones, A.J. Green Will Transition From NFL Draft Picks To Fantasy Football Contributors

The professionals are done with their draft. When it's time to put together your fantasy football team, keep these names in mind.

By now you've poured over report cards of your favorite NFL team's draft picks, checked out all of the NFL Draft grades and gotten to know your new rookies. You might have even scouted out a new team jersey. 

Up next for most fans: Getting to know the NFL's newest batch of rookies from a fantasy football perspective. 

While the 2011 NFL Draft class was deemed deep by most pundits to be very deep, there were not a lot of offensive skill position players getting selected in the first few rounds. Real football owners need lineman on both sides of the ball, good defensive backs and linebackers. In fantasy football all you need are passers, pass catchers, runners and kickers; if you use individual defensive players, you're probably not in a league with me.

So here's a look at the 2011 rookies who should make an instant impact, making them viable fantasy football players, and a few sleepers that could be worth a late-round flier.

Instant Contributors

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, WR

Did the Falcons pay too much for the right to draft Jones in the first round? That's yet to be determined. But it looks like Atlanta scored a playmaker that will start from Day 1 across from Roddy White, one of the league's most productive receivers over the last four years. And you don't have to worry about drafting Jones too high -- though someone else might, of course, and you shouldn't let him slip too far. He had an amazing final season in 2010 for Alabama, catching 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. With White and Tony Gonzalez drawing most of the attention he should be able to get loose and give Matt Ryan another reliable target, replacing the unspectacular Michael Jenkins.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, WR

I like Jones a little more than Green because of the quarterback situation and the rest of the supporting cast. At this point, Green will be catching passes from another rookie with a questionable pedigree in Andy Dalton, the team's second-round pick out of TCU. And while Chad Ochocinco remains productive at age 33, he's said he wants out of Cincinnati, despite the year left on his contract; he'll likely be gone, regardless. So Green could be saddled with being the team's top target in an uncertain offensive attack. 

Lance Kendricks, Rams, TE

wide receiver-turned-tight end at Wisconsin, Kendricks was the most athletic player at his position coming into the NFL Draft. He's a big target at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, and he was the Badgers' top receiver last season (and an under-rated blocker, too. But more importantly for his rookie season with the Rams, he'll be joining a new offense that features two tight ends, and he'll no doubt be the most talented of the bunch. St. Louis also needs more pass-catchers for second-year starter Sam Bradford, so Kendricks should see playing time -- and a lot of balls thrown his way -- early in his career.


Andy Dalton, Bengals, QB

As we mentioned when talking about his new favorite target, Dalton will be thrust into a starting role unless the Bengals make a move to bring in a veteran quarterback (Carson Palmer has said he won't be back in Cincinnati). But he'll be the most reliable, productive and mistake-free of the rookie signal callers, and the most likely -- along with Jake Locker -- to be under center on Day 1. Don't draft him too high, but Dalton could make for a decent backup and bye-week option.

Mark Ingram, Saints, RB

The first running back selection -- and the only one chosen in the first round -- will likely be splitting time with Pierre Thomas, who signed a four-year deal before the lockout, and Chris Ivory ... and who knows what becomes of Reggie Bush? Ingram will certainly get carries, but he won't be worth a high fantasy football draft pick. Though if you own Thomas, you'll want to land Ingram as a handcuff.

Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs, WR

Kansas City's second-leading receiver last season was a tight end, and their third was a running back. If Baldwin can overcome whatever questions people have about his character, he could contribute as a rookie. The Chiefs had a need for a second wide receiver to pair with Dwayne Bowe and took Baldwin to fill that spot. Baldwin's a big target at 6-4, 228 pounds.

Ryan Williams, Cardinals, RB

Like Ingram, Williams will be splitting time as a rookie with Beanie Wells, a recent high draft pick, and Tim Hightower, the primary ball-carrier on the team that went to Super Bowl XLIII. Arizona took the "best player available" approach by selecting the talented Hokies star, which doesn't necessarily mean they've soured on the incumbent running backs. But he's worth a mid- to late-round pick as the Cardinals are a team that is looking to do things differently after a five-win season.

Leonard Hankerson, Redskins, WR

Hankerson is a borderline sleeper; the Redskins have so many question marks on offense, including quarterback and primary receiver (there's no guarantee that Santana Moss returns). Washington will make free agent moves to shore up the passing game but Hankerson should factor into the attack, and he has size (6-2, 209 pounds) to go with the skill that helped him grab 72 receptions for 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He had one of the best receiving years in Miami Hurricanes history -- and that's saying something, considering some of the alumni that have come through the U.

Rookie Sleepers

Austin Pettis, Rams, WR

Pettis, from Boise State, played in a high-octane offense and comes with size, at 6-3, and he'll get an opportunity to play early on a Rams team that's looking for more pass-catchers for Bradford. Most project him to be a possession receiver but his size could help him in the red zone.

Roy Helu, Redskins, RB

Another value selection by the Redskins who could be thrust into duty by a lack of competition. Helu led Nebraska in rushing for the last three seasons and he possesses breakaway speed. With Clinton Portis gone from Washington, Helu will have only injury-prone Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams starting ahead of him on the depth chart.

Other Rookies Worth Watching

Lions wide receiver Titus Young. Nate Burleson has a tendency to get injured, and there are worse places to be for a receiver than opposite Megatron.

Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick. Three rookie quarterbacks who could play right away, but won't initially be someone you'd want to count on leading your fantasy football team.

Shane Vereen, Patriots, RB. Seems if Bill Belichick takes a running back that high, he has plans to use him.