The 2014 NFL Draft isn't that far in our rearview mirror and already we're wondering what to expect from players like Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins and plenty more. Some of them could be instant impact guys. Most of them won't be. Generally speaking, it takes a few seasons before you can get a good idea of how good a particular draft class is going to be.
So now that we've gotten several seasons clear of 2011, it seems like a good time to take a look back at what that draft class has brought from a fantasy perspective.
Overview: Twelve quarterbacks had their name called in 2011 -- including Cam Newton as the first overall pick. Not a bad way to start the draft. Newton was an immediate impact player, throwing 21 touchdown passes, rushing for 14 more and ending the season behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees among all fantasy scorers. Since then, the former Auburn star has cemented himself as one of the top quarterback options in the game and is currently the third-leading rusher from the 2011 draft class. However, Newton could be tested in 2014 with a dearth of receiving options in Carolina.
The top of the second round saw Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick go with back-to-back selections. Dalton would see the field right away and although the Red Rocket was up-and-down in his first campaign, he finished 15th at the position. Fast forward to last season, when Dalton propelled himself to becoming a top five fantasy quarterback. This season could prove whether that status was a fluke or the start of a trend.
Kaepernick waited a season behind Alex Smith before seeing the field in 2012. But from the moment he took over the starting job for the 49ers, he's been fantasy gold. The fleet-footed, strong-armed quarterback averaged 18.7 fantasy points over his final eight games. As a full-time starter in 2013, Kaepernick finished as the ninth-best fantasy quarterback, despite a slow start and not having two of his primary targets (Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree) for long stretches of the season.
Overview: While three running backs were selected in the first round of the previous year's draft, just one -- Mark Ingram -- had his name called in the first round of 2011. After three seasons, the decision to wait on rushers has seemed prophetic. Ingram has never come close to 1,000 yards in his first three NFL campaigns.
Overall, we're still waiting for a bona fide featured runner to come from this class. The closest so far has been DeMarco Murray (No. 71 overall), whose potential has been stymied by injuries. Stevan Ridley appeared on a path to stardom after a big second season, but his encore in 2013 left fantasy enthusiasts underwhelmed and eventually put Ridley in direct competition with 2011 draftee Shane Vereen for snaps. The rest of the class is littered with busts and role players.
Overview: The receiver position has borne more fantasy fruit than its running back counterpart. A.J. Green (No. 4 overall) and Julio Jones (No. 6 overall) were the first two pass-catchers off the board and ended 2011 ranked 14th and 17th among receivers, respectively. The next season, both wideouts were top 10 fantasy options -- something that likely would have repeated in 2013 had Jones not missed 11 games with a foot injury.
But it wasn't just a top-heavy group. Second-round picks Torrey Smith and Randall Cobb have proven to be big-play guys in short order. Smith has become the top option in Baltimore's passing game while Cobb is vying to do the same in the Packers' high-flying aerial attack. Scroll down to the fourth round and you come across Cecil Shorts, whose super sophomore season made him a sleeper in 2013. Denarius Moore was selected in the fifth round and will enter the 2014 season as the fourth-leading receiver from the 2011 draft class.
Overview: It usually takes a few years before tight ends make a notable fantasy impact. The 2011 class was no different. We're just starting to scratch the surface with this group.
Julius Thomas is the breakout star from this class after his big 2013 season, followed closely by Jordan Cameron and Charles Clay. Kyle Rudolph has given fantasy owners a glimpse of his potential -- something we hope to see more of now that Norv Turner is calling the shots in the Vikings offense. For three seasons, we've waited for Lance Kendricks to break out ... and we're still waiting.