San Diego Chargers – Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame
Fantasy Breakdown: Te’o lasted longer then some thought, but it was not the unbelievable free-fall the media made it out to be. He was considered a later first-round prospect by most NFL people even before the catfishing story broke. The former Notre Dame star excels in coverage. Te’o’s instincts allow him to diagnose plays quickly and help make up for his lack of top end speed. Te’o can get swallowed up in the run game from time-to-time, as we saw in the National Championship Game against Alabama. Still, Te’o will be given every chance to start and make a big impact as a 3-4 inside linebacker for the Chargers during his rookie season. San Diego’s defense is going through a major transition, so there are better Fantasy options out there to choose from.
San Francisco 49ers – Tank Carradine, DE Florida State
Fantasy Breakdown: The 49ers already have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL and the addition of Carradine just makes them deeper and more talented. Carradine has the versatility that allows him to play anywhere on the 49ers’ defensive front. As a rookie , San Francisco can rotate Carradine in as an edge rusher with Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald. The 49ers are projected to be one of the top Fantasy defenses again in 2013 and for good reason. This unit will eat up bad offenses all year long.
Baltimore Ravens – Arthur Brown, LB Kansas State
Fantasy Breakdown: Last year Tampa Bay got one of the steals of the draft when they selected linebacker Lavonte David in Round 2. Brown is a similar player, and like Davis was a tackling machine in college. The Ravens lost both inside linebackers from last season, so there is a good chance Brown will come right in and start as a rookie. Baltimore’s defense may take a step back this year, both in Fantasy and the real world, but Brown’s coverage skills and ability to effectively get sideline-to-sideline make him an intriguing prospect in IDP leagues.
Arizona Cardinals – Tyrann Mathieu, CB LSU
Fantasy Breakdown: Mathieu was the most controversial prospect in this year’s draft, but Arizona took a shot on him in Round 3. On the football field, Mathieu made a lot of big plays, but keep in mind he was nowhere near the pro prospect his former teammates Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne were coming out of college. To take it a step further, two years ago in the National Championship Game against Alabama, Nick Saban opted to stay away from Claiborne and picked on the Honey Badger. Saban is known for attacking players who he believes are the weak link of a defense, and Alabama went after Mathieu all night long, beating him like a drum. So while Mathieu is a great returner and has a knack for creating big plays, he is not the cover corner Peterson and Claiborne were in college and he obviously brings a lot of baggage with him. For Fantasy purposes he will likely help Arizona the most on special teams as a return man and as a slot corner early in his career.
New York Giants – Damontre Moore, DE Texas A&M
Fantasy Breakdown: Moore was once considered a first-round prospect and he was highly productive for Texas A&M last season, registering 12.5 sacks. However, his stock started to drop when he lifted only 12 reps at the NFL Combine and questions started about his work ethic. Still, this is a classic Giants selection. They love taking productive players from big schools who slip in the draft. New York is already pretty deep at defensive end, but Moore gives them another edge rusher they can use in passing situations to get after the quarterback. The Giants usually have a strong Fantasy defense, but they were dismal over the second half of last season. Look for them to bounce back in 2013.
St. Louis Rams – Barrett Jones, C Alabama
Fantasy Breakdown: The Cowboys took a center in Round 1. The Rams took a guy some teams rated higher in Round 4. Now you know why a lot of Dallas fans want to pull their hair out. St. Louis had a great draft in terms of giving Sam Bradford some help. Nine different players started on the Rams’ offensive line last year and Jones has the versatility to play any position along the front. This is an excellent pick for the Rams. The addition of Jones will help both protect Bradford and open holes for St. Louis’ running game. The Rams are a Fantasy offense on the rise heading into 2013.
Chicago Bears – Khaseem Greene, LB Rutgers
Fantasy Breakdown: Greene does not have great speed but he was all over the field for Rutgers. The former safety has good instincts in coverage and he is an excellent blitzer as well. Greene slipped in the draft because he ran a miserable 4.71 40, but he really plays a lot faster when you watch him. Linebacker used to be a position of strength for Chicago, but with Brian Urlacher gone and Lance Briggs getting older, this could end up being an excellent pick for the Bears. It is hard to ignore Greene’s production in college, so if he gets on the field as a rookie, he could provide a boost to the Bears’ defense. Chicago’s defense put up some eye-popping Fantasy point totals last year, helping owners to wins almost single-handedly. While it may not be that good again in 2013, the Bears’ defense will still be one of the better units in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks – Jesse Williams, DT Alabama
Fantasy Breakdown: In my opinion this was one of the steals of the draft. Williams does have durability issues, but when he is on the field the guy dominates. Williams was arguably the strongest player in college football. At times he was impossible to move. Just ask Georgia, as they could not move Williams on a key fourth-and-short even though he was playing injured on one leg. The Seahawks have a very good defense, but the one area where they could be exploited last year was inside against power running teams. Williams should come right in and help solve that problem. Williams will not provide much pass rush help, but if he can stay healthy he will really help improve Seattle’s rush defense. The Seahawks’ defense emerged as one of Fantasy’s best units in 2012. They should be even better this season.
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