Several Rookies Could Make A Good First Impression

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 7, 2006

When Reggie Bush ran left into a cluster of defenders, cut back, stopped and then started again for a 44-yard gain during a preseason game against the Titans on Aug. 12, his fantasy stock soared. Rarely does one play elevate a rookie from second-round consideration to a late first-rounder, but Bush is no ordinary tailback. That run dangled visions of Barry Sanders and Marshall Faulk before smitten fantasy owners, who consistently chose Bush ahead of Saints teammate Deuce McAllister in their drafts.

"I expect great things out of myself," Bush told reporters this preseason. "I expect to make great plays, great moves, stuff like that. In my mind, I can never be good enough."

Bush is part of a rookie class that may have the most lasting fantasy impact in recent memory. The running back list begins with Bush, but Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney and DeAngelo Williams each has significant fantasy potential. A fellow owner thought so highly of Addai that he chose him in the second round. That's a bit early, but if Addai separates himself from Dominic Rhodes early this season, the pick could pay off for the stretch fantasy run. The Colts made Addai a first-rounder because of versatility that suits the team's attacking offense, and he has the makings of the every-down back Bush isn't thanks largely to his blocking prowess.

Maroney and Williams will get their chances this season. At 31, Corey Dillon remains a functional No. 1 fantasy running back because of his touchdown production, but Maroney is the clear heir in the Patriots' backfield. Williams has wowed coaches in Carolina and may displace DeShaun Foster as the starter this season. Foster has a long history of injury, which is why the Panthers made sure they had a younger, more spry runner ready to step in.

The rookie quarterback class is intriguing as well in that two of the top three selected could make a big fantasy splash this season. That would be a coup for rookie quarterbacks, who so seldom excel immediately. Billy Volek and Kerry Collins are vying for playing time with Vince Young on the Titans' depth chart. But Tennessee parted ways with Steve McNair to make room for Young, so it would be foolish to think he won't get plenty of opportunities if the Titans are out of the playoff hunt in the second half of the season.

Matt Leinart may get his chance to shine thanks to the fragile body of Kurt Warner, who turned 35 in June. Warner has not played more than 10 games since 2001, and the Cardinals' shaky offensive line probably isn't going to do him any favors. Leinart looked sharp in the preseason, and he has plenty of talent around him to post numbers worthy of a front-line fantasy starter. Throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin may take him back to his time at Southern Cal, where he threw to some of the best wideouts in college and won the Heisman Trophy two years ago.

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