Rookies who will make the biggest 2013 fantasy impact
Tavon Austin (WR, St. Louis Rams): It's generally a safe bet that the first offensive skill position player taken in the draft will be one of the top rookies in fantasy leagues. Austin is an immediate candidate to lead the Rams in receptions this season, with last year's two leaders (Danny Amendola - 63, and Brandon Gibson - 51) both signing with different teams. Austin can be a security blanket due to his rare quickness in short space, but also has explosive playmaking ability, making him a threat to rack up both receptions and yards. He will likely become a favorite of quarterback Sam Bradford early on.
Eddie Lacy (RB, Green Bay Packers): Lacy is a spectacular talent who just fell into a dream situation. Despite their drafting Jonathan Franklin, I think Lacy is the heavy frontrunner to earn an every-down role. He's a much better receiver out of the backfield than most people realize, and is a viable pass protector. We all know what he can do when handed the ball on a running play. If Lacy wins the starting job, he could end up with double-digit touchdowns.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Houston Texans): It looks like the Texans have finally found the No. 2 receiver they have been missing. The Texans have never really had a truly threatening presence to compliment the sensational Andre Johnson, but Hopkins is a special talent who should put a big smile on both Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub's faces. He'll likely be the Week 1 starter and should have plenty of opportunities to put up good numbers.
Giovani Bernard (RB, Cincinnati Bengals): Bernard is a true all-purpose back, who lacks elite traits in any single facet of the game, but can do it all. As a result, he'll likely see the field quite a bit as a rookie. He's already clearly the Bengals' best pass catching back, and if BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to run at less than four yards a clip, Bernard could start eating into the team's rushing attempts as well.
Robert Woods (WR, Buffalo Bills): The Bills are moving Stevie Johnson to the slot, which essentially means that Woods won't even need to compete for a starting job on the outside. Woods was one of my favorite prospects in the draft due to his all-around ability. I believe he would be poised for a potentially huge season if the Bills had a reliable quarterback throwing him the football, but they don't. Quarterback play will limit Woods' fantasy value, but I still believe he has a chance to provide value as a rookie.
Le'Veon Bell (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers): The Steelers are not a team that hands starting jobs to rookies without a competition, but Bell has a real shot to earn the majority of the touches. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he expects Bell to "get into the mix and be a factor" as a rookie, largely in part due to his experience in a pro-style offense. The Steelers expressed discontent with their running backs in 2012, so Bell is competing with some backs who are on short leashes. His size and power make him a threat to rack up some touchdowns if the Steelers' offense can get the ball moving.
Aaron Dobson (WR, New England Patriots): Any time you have a receiver with the potential to start on Tom Brady's offense, it's a situation worth monitoring for fantasy purposes. If Dobson can beat out Mike Jenkins and Josh Boyce, he'll start in the same position where Brandon Lloyd racked up 130 targets in 2012. I don't think he'll have too difficult of a time earning that starting role. Dobson has an excellent size/speed combination, and could immediately add a new dimension to the Patriots' offense as a burner who towers over cornerbacks. Also a nice red zone target, Dobson could rack up quite a few fantasy points as a rookie.
Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee Titans): The Titans now have a nice little trio of receivers, with Kenny Britt and Hunter looking like they'll start on the outside, and Kendall Wright moving around the formation and occupying the slot. I'm not a huge fan of Hunter - he reminds me a little of Darrius Heyward-Bey, with great size and explosive athleticism but poor hands and sloppy route running. However, the Titans are counting on him to be an impact player, and it looks like he could be in for a good amount of looks as a rookie.
Zach Ertz (TE, Philadelphia Eagles): If the Eagles like what they see from Ertz early on in offseason workouts, they could end up dumping Brent Celek, who is set to make over $3 million in 2013. If Ertz were to secure the starting tight end role, he could end up racking up a lot of catches. We still don't know how the Eagles' offensive line will hold up this year, and if the quarterback doesn't have much time to throw, that could mean a lot of receptions for a tight end running short routes. Ertz also has the ability to move around the formation and create mismatches, adding to his fantasy potential.
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Minnesota Vikings): Had he been drafted by most other teams, I wouldn't expect this raw prospect to get many chances to contribute as a rookie. However, the Vikings currently have Jerome Simpson penciled in as the starter opposite Greg Jennings. Simpson caught only 26 passes in 12 games last season, and if he continues to disappoint, it may take one spectacular play for Patterson to jump Simpson on the depth chart.
Travis Kelce (TE, Kansas City Chiefs): Kelce is already the most talented tight end on the Chiefs' roster, and his blocking prowess is likely to earn him playing time right out of the gate. Head coach Andy Reid spoke highly of Kelce, saying he is a "legitimate receiver" when split out wide. Kelce's primary competition is Tony Moeaki, who has been battling knee issues. The last time quarterback Alex Smith started a full season, his tight ends combined for 86 catches and ten touchdowns.
Tyler Eifert (TE, Cincinnati Bengals): The second pass catcher taken, Eifert went to a Bengals team that has been desperate for a receiver to play opposite AJ Green. While Eifert is not listed as a receiver, he can line up like one and has a chance to eventually put up receiver-like numbers. Jermaine Gresham will continue to start at tight end and hurt Eifert's fantasy potential, but with such little production from their 2012 receivers, the Bengals could use Eifert frequently in the slot and in two-tight packages.
Those are just some of the rookies who I'm thinking will make an impact in 2013. As offseason programs progress, there are sure to be other rookies who emerge as potential starters.