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Which first-year players are going ot make a splash in 2009? Here are 20 rookies who could make it big this season...
1. Knowshon Moreno, running back,
He can do it all: run inside, run outside, catch passes, and block. Once he's fully recovered from a minor preseason knee injury, expect him to carry a big workload for the Broncos.
2. Donald Brown, running back, Indianapolis Colts
Brown isn't the biggest or the fastest back, but he's a very smart player with great vision. He's also a very good receiver out of the backfield, a big plus when you're playing with Peyton Manning. Brown will likely split time with Joseph Addai early on, but the first-rounder could be getting the bigger workload by midseason.
3. Chris Wells, running back, Arizona Cardinals
There's no doubting Beanie's talent: he's big and very fast for his size. But toughness and injuries are a big concern, as is the fact that he's not a great receiver (and the Cardinals throw a lot). Still, look for Wells to overtake Tim Hightower as the Cards starter early in 2009.
4. Percy Harvin, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will frequently use the super-speedy Harvin in their version of the Wildcat formation. It's yet to be seen how often he'll be on the field, but expect a handful of big plays from Percy this season.
5. Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions
Stafford will have some growing pains as a rookie, but he'll also have superstar receiver Calvin Johnson catching his passes. That's enough to make him a middle-of-the-pack fantasy quarterback.
6. Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver, New York Giants
Nicks has a chance to earn a big role in the Giants weak receiving corps. By the end of 2009, he could very well be Eli Manning's favorite target.
7. Mark Sanchez, quarterback, New York Jets
Sanchez is more polished than Detroit's Matthew Stafford, but he doesn't have the weapons that Stafford has. Expect Sanchez to be a solid game manager, but not a great fantasy option as a rookie.
8. James Davis, running back, Cleveland Browns
A big back, Davis might push his way past Jamal Lewis and into the starting lineup for the Browns. Of course, the Cleveland offense doesn't figure to score a lot of points, keeping his fantasy potential low.
9. Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
I'm a fan of Maclin's big-play ability, but I'm not sure how much he'll get to play as a rookie. The Eagles have a deep stable of wide receivers.
10. Bernard Scott, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
The troubled-but-talented Scott might actually be the best running back in Cincinnati. If journeyman Cedric Benson struggles, Scott could step into a big role. He's a better receiver than Benson, a good quality in Cincy's pass-first offense, but must learn how to block incoming blitzers.
11. Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders
Heyward-Bey is a ridiculous athlete. There are going to be a couple of times this season where he simply outruns defenders downfield and strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell just throws it as far as he can. I don't see a lot of catches coming for Heyward-Bey as a rookie, but he will make some big plays.
12. Shonn Greene, running back, New York Jets
The Jets are going with a run-heavy attack, and the bruising Greene should force his way into the lineup as the year goes on. He's like a bigger, younger version of Jets starter Thomas Jones.
13. LeSean McCoy, running back, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy is stuck behind Pro Bowler Brian Westbrook, but considering Westbrook's injury history, the rookie could end up starting some games. Like Westbrook, he's a speedy back with great hands.
14. Brandon Pettigrew, tight end, Detroit Lions
Pettigrew's strength is blocking, which won't help fantasy teams. But he could serve as a "safety valve" receiver underneath for rookie Matthew Stafford.
15. Deon Butler, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Butler is a speedy receiver with very good hands who's made some noise in the preseason. Don't be surprised if he starts some games late in the year.
16. Kenny Britt, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
Britt has the most raw talent among Tennessee's receivers, but he'll start the season coming off the bench. Even if he moves into the starting lineup later this year, the run-first Titans don't haev a good enough passing game for Britt to make a major impact.
17. Pat White, quarterback/wide receiver, Miami Dolphins
White will play a lot in Miami's Wildcat formation, lining up at quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. But I don't think he'll be on the field often enough to make a fantasy impact as a rookie.
18. Josh Freeman, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Bucs struggle this season, Freeman should overtake Byron Leftwich as the starter late this season. He's raw, but has a strong arm and moves very well.
19. Austin Collie, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts
Collie could end up being Indy's No. 3 receiver this season. The Colts go "three-wide" often, meaning he could catch three or four passes per game late in the season.
20. Brian Robiskie, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns
Robiskie is a smart, reliable receiver with good hands, but he has his work cut out for him in Cleveland. The Browns might not start him at the beginning of the year, and their passing game isn't good enough for Robiskie to put up big numbers.
What big name is missing from this list? 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Because he is still foolishly holding out for a bigger contract, Crabtree is unlikely to make an impact this season. There's too much to learn as a rookie wide receiver, and Crabtree is too far behind to catch up in 2009.