Bloom Top 100 Part 1
By Sigmund Bloom
April 25th, 2011

Draft season means rookie draft season, which some of us look forward to as much playing out the regular season in our dynasty leagues. This year's draft is going to be kind to folks looking for running backs or a "future of the franchise" QB. It's thin on blue chip linebacker prospects and high ceiling receiving TEs. The Bloom 100 is back for another year to try to sort out ranking the entire for deep PPR IDP leagues and provide some food for thought for anyone evaluating the next wave of talent to enter the league.

  1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia - Dez Bryant without the devil on his shoulder. Green was born to be a true #1 wideout in the NFL, and lucky us to get to watch it happen, especially if he's on your fantasy team. Green is blessed with a long frame, basketball ups, with ball tracking and body control that can't be taught. It's all tied together with a flair for the dramatic, creativity and inspiration to use his gifts as trump cards, and a tenacious competitiveness punctuated with a my ball mentality. Green can dominate the air show to make the tough grab and the road race after the catch to frustrate and defeat would-be tacklers. I don't care where Green lands, he'll be in everyone's dynasty top 10 wide receivers very soon. Make offers for the 1.1 with that value in mind.

  2. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama - Even if his career is only three years long, they will be three damned good years. Ingram has the classic NFL compact frame, conviction in every movement, and an advanced all-around game to get him atop his team's depth chart from day one. He has no physical attribute to set him apart from the pack in the NFL, but the whole of his game greatly surpasses the sum of the his tools a la Ray Rice or, yes, Emmitt Smith. In some years, he would be the slam dunk #1 pick.

  3. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama - Consider yourself pretty lucky if you get Jones sitting at #3 - players that seem as certain to hit as he does aren't always available at #3. Anyone who gets Jones at #4 or #5 because their draft is RB-obsessed should thank their lucky stars. Jones is a big, rugged wideout who makes defensive backs look like feeble little brothers trying to cover and tackle their big brother. He's a natural hands catcher who turns into a running back in mentality and ability after the catch (with deceptive speed to boot). In St. Louis, he could put up Brandon Marshall-esque numbers very quickly and perhaps even have a credible argument for post draft #1 on this list.

  4. Mikel LeShoure, RB, Illinois - Now we get to the first player with an appreciable bust risk. LeShoure has flourished in a way that has not asked him to demonstrate as much of the skills necessary to run with success in the NFL's small spaces against NFL quality defenders as Ingram and many backs rated lower than him on this list. Still, a back with his size, strength, speed, and inspired open-field game makes you drool when you think of how good things could be if last year was just a sign of things to come. He already has an NFL-ready 6'0' 230 frame and he can both run away from defenders and make them miss. He only started really taking his nutrition and conditioning seriously last year and I have no doubt that LeShoure has top uberelite top five running back upside right there with Jonathan Stewart. Plus, you have to root for a guy who was born in prison. He's not the layup that the top three picks are, but he's certainly the caliber of player you feel good about taking in the top five.

  5. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech - This is where the elite tier ends. If you don't have a pick in the top five, do what you must to consummate a trade up or pray someone takes a QB or other ill-advised target at #5 when you're sitting at #6. Williams, like Ingram, runs compactly with superior footwork and little wasted motion. Dare I say he has a better second gear than Ingram, and closer to sports car handling. Williams is fifth mainly because his ceiling isn't as high as LeShoure's and floor isn't as high as Ingram's. His potential reward times his high hit rate is not at all far off of the top four even though his number five ranking makes Williams seem like a consolation prize. He's not.

  6. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky - Big ups to our own Matt Waldman for turning me on to Cobb's game before anyone else was singing his praises quite as loudly. Cobb is one tough, slippery, fast, quick, dependable receiver. He hasn't done much in the way of mastering the pro route tree, but his skills are going to translate and his team is going to want to get the ball in his sticky hands a lot. Cobb doesn't have the physical gifts or all-around #1 wide receiver game to merit a spot in the elite tier, but he should be your target in PPR leagues if you are picking after the elite tier has dried up.

  7. Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State - Hunter might not be drafted to be his team's future feature back, but eventually, he could be, and they will have trouble not including him in their backfield in short time. Even though Hunter's size isn't ideal, his strong, suddenness, fight and long speed more than make up for it. Hunter has the determination, burst, and instincts to excel in the NFL. Don't let his likely place outside of the top two rounds of the NFL draft scare you off of taking him in the first round of your rookie draft.

  8. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State - Rodgers turns a negative into a positive by using his diminutive stature to consistently get lower than his opponent. He runs with the same sort chip on his shoulder and leverage as Maurice Jones-Drew, generating a ton of power in his lower body. Rodgers comes with the ridiculous lateral agility you would expect from a little back, but with a bigger back's skills and mentality running inside. His size could scare teams off and the depth of this year's RB class makes it even more likely that Rodgers doesn't even go in the first 100 picks, or maybe even the first 150. I'm trying to figure out exactly when the optimal moment to trade up for Rodgers will be, because he should last a lot longer than this in most drafts.

  9. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn - Newton's bust risk is big between shadowy character concerns, one-year wonder status, and the remote connection between the style of offense he played at Auburn and the brand offensive football played in the NFL. Still, he single-handedly propelled his team to a national championship with less than Vince Young had to work with in a supporting cast, and he is the player outside of the top five with the highest fantasy ceiling by far with his dual threat profile. Whether you take a player like Newton is mostly based on your approach to risk aversion, but if you want upside at quarterback in this year's draft, you can't beat Newton.

  10. Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State - Thomas is a big, strong back with good feet and more than good enough burst for his size. He does have to run a little lower and lacks the polished multi-faceted skillset of a do-everything back, giving him more of a LeGarrette Blount career path in a best case scenario, but that's plenty good enough to merit a late-first round pick in your rookie drafts.

  11. Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (Fl) - Hankerson doesn't look like the kind of player with the top-end physical talent or flawless execution of a future top 20 wide receiver. He's tough and his game in the air is behind only to AJ Green and maybe Jon Baldwin in this class, but he is also prone to bouts of inconsistency. You get the feeling that he is best suited to be a #2, but a #2 on some team is worth more for fantasy than some #1s, so he could end up as high as #6 in the right spot post-draft.

  12. Greg Little, WR, North Carolina - Little is very raw as a receiver, having only converted from running back to a full-time wideout in 2009 (and not playing in 2010 because of an NCAA violation for an inappropriate relationship with an agent), but he displays a basketball mindset ( he was on the UNC basketball team for a short stint) when the ball is in the air, and a mean aggressiveness and beast mode after the catch that is reminiscent of Boston, Marshall, and Boldin. The payoff could be huge, but he needs to mature as a person and a player to get there.

  13. Demarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma - Murray will definitely make himself useful in the NFL. He has redefined his game to be more efficient running inside with a downhill style that is built on good balance and leg drive. His running style and all-around game remind me of Matt Forte, and with better durability in college, you could make a case that his ceiling is that high. Murray is outside of my top 10 because he suffered a few doozies in the injury department (dislocated kneecap, ruptured hamstring), so you wonder if he'll ever be the physical specimen it looked like he could turn into after a dynamic start to his career in Norman.

  14. Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State - Brown is a technician who should at worst earn his way to a highly-targeted third on the depth chart with his precise game (think Austin Collie). He can work the middle of the field and make a living moving the chains even though he is not a big wide receiver. Brown isn't going to make highlight reel catches or run away from defenders, but he can become a bread and butter part of a passing offense. Like Hankerson, he could move into mid-first consideration in the right offense.

  15. Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh - Baldwin is similar to Little because he could vastly outproduce a draft stock that is deflated despite top-end ability because it comes with the need to refine a lot on and off the field. Then again, he could also never pan out because of the rawness of his game and personality. He's a big wide receiver with good enough speed and suddenness to go along with the leaping ability, timing, and body control to win most every jumpball - in other words, his game is tailor made for big plays.

  16. Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland - Smith is at his best competing for the ball in flight, and he attacks defenders after the catch with speed and quickness. While top-end speed is there in deep routes, Smith is not explosive off the snap, and he is not a polished route runner or particularly physical receiver. If his game rounds out, Smith could become a solid #2/#3 fantasy receiver, but he could also be limited to a Devery Henderson type role if it doesn't.

  17. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame - I'm not really that down on Rudolph, it's just that the second tier in rookie drafts this year is very deep. Rudolph will go earlier than this in a lot of drafts because he stands out from the rest of the TE class. Still, he doesn't have the potential to break into the growing group of elite fantasy TEs, so I would aim higher at other positions unless you are hard up at TE and snag a development pass-catching TE with just as much fantasy upside later. Rudolph is a quality two-way TE and he has great ball skills in addition to toughness and good hands. He's one of the safest picks in the top 20, if an unexciting one.

  18. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri - I haven't seen what others have in Gabbert. Yes, the size, arm strength, aggressiveness, and athleticism are all there, but where are the results? That adds up to a guy who will get many shots, but not necessarily one that will make good on them. Gabbert's lack of downfield accuracy scares me, and his system hasn't asked that much more of him than Newton's has of him. I don't know that his hit rate or upside is that much higher than the next three or four QBs in this draft, so I would let someone else reach for him in the late first/early second.

  19. Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian - Gates is ridiculously fast and sometimes he reminds me of Mike Wallace. I won't be surprised if his game translates in the same way, but it's hard to tell when you can only compare him to other small school players on film. His hands and ball tracking are more than good enough for him to follow a similar path as college teammate and fellow speedster Johnny Knox.

  20. Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse - Carter is a lot like Tashard Choice in that he'll produce results when he gets a lot of touches, but you wonder if he'll ever be the most talented back on his team. He's a tough, efficient, instinctive runner, and I won't be surprised one bit if he kills it when he gets a chance to carry the load, but he just as easily could toil as a second fiddle for most or all of his career. RBBC back is probably his future, but RBBC backs still carry a decent amount of value in deep leagues.

  21. Shane Vereen, RB, California - Vereen is impressive enough on film that I can see many drafts having an owner or two that is just smitten in the same way I am with Jacquizz Rodgers and Kendall Hunter. He is a back who seems to run hot at will, with an explosive initial burst and a lot of energy built up by a short stride. Vereen has great hands, toughness, and home run speed. His team will likely use him in the same way Dallas uses Felix Jones, even though he'll likely go at least two rounds after Jones did in the draft. It's that kind of RB class. Even though he's outside of the top 20, Vereen is still part of a very deep second tier of skill position talent in this draft. He's probably a committee back in the NFL, but one that could still be very productive.

  22. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh - If you only watched Lewis in his freshman year, you would be thrilled to get him in the late second round. He was a force of nature that year, but slowed down a bit in his sophomore year and might have left school a year or two too early. Lewis isn't that different from Rodgers. The naturally low pad level, strength that belies his size, and determination are all there. My holdup in ranking him at first-round value is that his game lacks the power or speed to get him a good look as a feature back. In this deep class of RBs, he might fall to the sixth or seventh round, so I expect to have a lot of chances to take him in the late second - although his sensational freshman year was one a lot of people will remember, making it tougher to get him under the radar.

  23. Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois - Having the first IDP on this list appear much lower than in a typical year has as much to do with Wilson being a lesser talent than the typical #1 LB as it does the second tier of offensive players being bigger than a typical class. Some of the those second tier players on offense will fall farther than we expect or end up in a bad spot, but neither of those fates is likely to befall Wilson, who will go in the top 50 and likely to a great opportunity. Expect him to move up 5-10 spots on the post-draft list, although I can't really tell you which of the players of him he'll pass up. Wilson is a good enough athlete to play every down inside or outside and he also has a mean streak as a finisher, but his instincts and reads aren't top notch and he's not a thumper.

  24. Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville - Powell isn't a flashy runner, but he runs with terrific leg drive and seems to lose little momentum in his efficient cuts. Powell's long speed is deceptive and he's a physical, tough runner. He will be good enough to impress and carve out a decent-sized role when he gets a shot, but I'm afraid he could spend a lot of his career as the second or third best on his roster when it comes to physical gifts.

  25. Chad Spann, RB, Northern Illinois - Spann isn't going to make many highlight reel moves in open space or otherwise make you ooh and ahh, but he has the low-to-the-ground build and aggressive approach to contact to go with solid footwork and balance to surprise when he gets his shot. He might not even get drafted, but neither did Arian Foster or LeGarrette Blount. Don't be afraid to take a chance on Spann in the third if he lands in a halfway decent situation.

  26. Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington - The Al Davis in your league is going to take Jones in the first round. He has a Chris Johnson-esque fifth gear and the instincts in the open field to make use it with lethal results. Durability and fumbles are big issues and there's little evidence that Jones can run inside. I don't blame you if you take the plunge on Jones, but he'll be gone before I would consider him in most drafts.

  27. Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State - When I target linebackers in the second phase of my rookie drafts, I like to target backers with great instincts that allow them to constantly play downhill with the range and versatility to play all three downs. Jones lacks the physical attributes to get into the top reaches of the draft, but I think the rest of he'll start for most of his career and be as productive as any LB in this class.

  28. D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas - Williams will be close to the top of a lot fantasy draft boards at TE, and he might have the highest floor of anyone at his position. I can't get too excited about him because he looks like a very average athlete in this class, even though he is a natural hands catcher with a big frame that he knows how to use for blocking out. He is a strong runner after the catch even if he isn't a threat to break a big play. Williams reminds me a bit of Alge Crumpler, but I think Crumpler would have leveled off as a more mediocre fantasy TE in the current NFL with so many dynamic pass-catching talents at TE.

  29. Greg Salas, WR, Hawaii - I'll be pushing Salas even further up my board if he lands in a top-end passing game like Indianapolis, New England, or New Orleans. He has the hands, route-running precision, and all-around heady game before and after the catch to put up Austin Collie or Wes Welker kind of numbers. On the other hand, he is just an average athlete who could languish in the slot of a limited passing attack and he didn't put up mind-boggling numbers in a pass happy offense.

  30. Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland - Scott is part of a large crop of backs with legitimate breakaway NFL speed and the vision and lateral agility to get it in play in space, but without the size or rugged game between the tackles to project as more than a change of pace back. Scott does run hard and get yards after contact and there isn't honestly that much separating him from the five or six backs ahead of him on this list with regards to upside.

  31. Titus Young, WR, Boise State - Young can burn down the field and get behind a cornerback, but those qualities alone do not make an NFL wide receiver. He is rail thin and can be pushed around by corners in press coverage. Young's hands are inconsistent and his game needs a lot of polish in general. I'm not sure that he'll ever be a complete or strong enough wide receiver to start, but he has the potential to if he's dedicated to his craft. I doubt Young ends up on any of my teams.

  32. Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU - Distill the best of Toliver into one player and you end up with a wide receiver who has the strength of Julio Jones game with Jon Baldwin's bravado in the air to go along with a big frame that can be undefensible for a smaller defensive back. The problem is that Toliver is inconsistent in just about every aspect of his game. If Toliver lands in a team with a good passing game that can get him engaged, I'll be more inclined to add him in the third round because I value upside/ceiling more and more the deeper we get into the rookie draft.

  33. Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson - Harper is a massive, dynamic back with great receiving skills. Like LeShoure, his game doesn't quite live up to the power expectation his size (5'11" 233) suggest, but he also shares LeShoure's ability to make tackles completely miss in the open field. Physically, he can definitely hang at the next level, and that alone makes him worth a third in PPR leagues, even though he has to run with conviction inside and demonstrate better vision to really unlock his potential at the next level.

  34. Denarius Moore, WR, Tennessee - Moore's hands, big play ability downfield, and precise route running can hang with a lot of wideouts listed ahead of him, but he can be pushed around and shut down by good press coverage. I like him almost as much as more heralded speed WRs like Titus Young and Jerrel Jernigan and look forward to scooping him up outside of the top 30 in my rookie drafts.

  35. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada - There's something about Kaepernick's game that is just not convincing as a pocket passer, but his high character, pretty passes, and top-notch athleticism will make some team deem him their QB of the future. He's worth an early third if you need a developmental QB, but I'm not particularly sold him or any other second tier QB as being destined for NFL success.

  36. Quan Sturdivant, LB, UNC - You have to love the idea of a linebacker who used to play quarterback. Sturdivant has the range and understanding of the passing game to stay on the field for all three downs. He'll never be an elite fantasy LB, but I expect him to have quality LB3 value and feel he is one of the safest LB picks in an underwhelming class.

  37. Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State - The long-framed, fluid basketball convert-to-football is back in vogue after the breakout of Jimmy Graham in the second half of the season, and this year's best candidate to be the next in line is Thomas. He will be a tight end who is featured in the passing game and lines up wide a lot if he makes it, and I think he has the highest fantasy ceiling of any TE in this year's class.

  38. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State - A lot of Ponder's game is NFL quality - he's a smart, tough, athletic competitor with a quick release and a good arm. He's probably the most ready of this entire QB class to pilot an NFL offense. He also had a string of late-game unfortunate decisions that would make an Seminole fan cry, and he won't last long as a starter in the pros if he can't shake that habit. I would be on the hunt for Ponder a little earlier if I needed a QB simply because he'll definitely get a shot early and he can put up numbers if it works out, but I'm not confident that he isn't another Chad Henne.

  39. Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic - This year's fantasy TE class can be broken into two groups - the high floor/low ceiling (Rudolph, Williams, Kendrick) and low floor/high ceiling (Thomas, Cameron). Housler definitely falls in the latter group, with great hands, speed, and WR-like routes, in addition to a good game in the air. He's probably the best big play TE in this class, and with a glut of talent at the position in the NFL right now, I am more inclined to take the upside risks like Housler if I am targeting a TE in my rookie draft.

  40. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC - Similar to Julius Thomas with less football experience, Cameron can still emerge as one of the top two or three pass-catching TEs in this draft, which is what we care about in fantasy. Like Jimmy Graham, Cameron has negligible value as a blocker and a tiny sample size as a college football player, but his basketball background and natural athleticism, speed, and ball skills makes him a perfect candidate to be drafted by a team looking for more in the passing game from their TE. A terrific late target for drafters who put a premium on upside and will tolerate a high bust risk to get it.

  41. Kelvin Sheppard, LB, LSU - I see a linebacker with the intensity and innate athleticism to play every down in the NFL when I watch Sheppard. His range and ability to recover when he has misdiagnosed the play will serve him well at the next level. Sheppard is not the most physical linebacker, but his overall speed and high motor can overcome that. Like Irving, he might fit best as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3.

  42. Nate Irving, LB, NC State - There was a time that Irving was destined to be a top LB in this class, but he missed an entire season after a car accident that dealt him a collapsed lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg. I saw enough of the closing speed and killer instinct that was there before the accident to like the idea of taking a chance on Irving as early as the third round. He might not stay inside, but Irving will make a lot of game-changing plays no matter where he lines up.

  43. Jake Locker, QB, Washington - You have to love most everything about Locker's game right up until he releases the ball from his hand. His accuracy issues are baffling, and if he can somehow get them figured out, he has top 10 fantasy QB upside. How many times has a quarterback had massive accuracy issues in college and corrected them in the pros? Few enough that I'll let someone else gamble on him.

  44. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas - He has the size and arm that every NFL team is looking for, but he can be defeated by defenses and his best work seems to come of the shotgun on quick release throws that won't likely be a big part of his pro offense except in the two-minute drill. I'm not sure about Mallett's mental toughness and that has ruined quarterbacks with better raw tools and track records than Mallett's. I don't love what I see from Mallett under pressure, and he will face a lot of it in the NFL.

  45. Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati - The wide receiver class isn't that deep this year, but you can probably still snag a guy like Binns after the third round because he isn't a sudden or explosive athlete. I like Binns combination of size, ups, strong hands, and willingness to compete hard for the ball in flight, and think he'll end up being a #3 wide receiver at worst with starter upside. His route running and run after catch ability are also very good for such a big wideout.

  46. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia - Devine lacks the size to be a primary back in the NFL, but his speed and shiftiness are unquestioned. He runs stronger than his small frame and has the hands and underrated blocking ability to be more than a novelty player. Two or three years ago, everyone would have had Devine at or near the top this RB class, and like teammate Steve Slaton, he might end up being one of the steals of his rookie class in fantasy drafts. Natural playmakers like Devine are rarely available outside of the top 25 of rookie drafts - that should show you just how deep this RB class is.

  47. Tandon Doss, WR, Indiana - There's little doubt that Doss's hands and straight-line speed will be useful in the NFL, but he's got a slight build and I can see him stuck as a #3 wide receiver because I'm not sure he can physically mix it up with NFL corners (think Nate Washington). He'll probably be gone before I have a chance to take him in most of my drafts.

  48. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC - Quinn is one of the premium IDP prospects in sack-heavy leagues. His athleticism and range should give him good enough tackle numbers to be an LB3/LB4, although I reckon that his IDP value would be best-served by staying at his college position of 4-3 DE in the pros. He plays with explosion in all aspects of his game and I expect Quinn to rack up a lot of IDP jackpot sack/strip/recovery plays during his career.

  49. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M - There's no denying that Miller is the best raw pass rusher in this draft and he'll make an instant impact on third down. First and second down is another story. I see Miller becoming the Dwight Freeney of 3-4 OLBs, notching big sack games, but having little impact in other aspects of the game. He'll be long gone before I would consider him because of his likely top 5 status in the draft.

  50. Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy - I just don't see "it" on film when I watch Jernigan. His speed doesn't seem to be elite even against the lower level of competition in the Sun Belt and he's not precise in his cuts and open field moves. I am open to moving him up this list with a bullet if he lands somewhere like Atlanta, but no other player ranked so highly at his position failed to impress me as much as Jernigan.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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