2014 Fantasy Football: 10 Rookies Primed for Big Fantasy Production
You can all exhale now!
After months of discussion and debate, the NFL draft is finally complete. We can now start talking about the impact incoming rookies will have on the field, and, of course, how that will relate to fantasy production.
There will be some adjustments for these players to make and this is not a decisive list of the top 10 rookies based on talent. The players mentioned in this slideshow have the best opportunity (key word being opportunity) for immediate success. Running backs like Jeremy Hill, Tre Mason and Ka'Deem Carey are blocked, or will share time, with other reliable backs, so their impact could be minimal this year. Some receivers, like Brandin Cooks for example, may also need some time to adapt to the intricacies of the NFL.
Also, quarterbacks (especially Johnny Manziel) are a bit of a question mark, so they will be absent from this post.
In this slideshow, are the 10 best prospects (ranked in order of fantasy relevance) with the greatest chance for instant fantasy success.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Jace Amaro, New York Jets
Troy Niklas, Arizona Cardinals
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans
Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints
Ka'Deem Carey, Chicago Bears
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
Lorenzo Taliaferra. Baltimore Ravens
Lache Seastrunk, Washington Redskins
10. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
The Giants had a few glaring needs (o-line, tight end?) but they zeroed in on the speedy Odell Beckham Jr. from the start.
Beckham Jr., a DeSean Jackson clone, will be a perfect fit in the Giants offense, and with New York losing Hakeem Nicks, he might step in and claim the No. 2 spot on the wide receiver depth chart opposite Victor Cruz.
While not big (5'11" and 193 pounds), Beckham Jr. has incredible speed in the open field and Eli Manning and the Giants will put that to good use right away. Beckham could be good for 40-50 catches, 5-8 touchdowns and be a solid No. 3/high-end No. 4 wide receiver for your squad.
9. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Sometimes fantasy football is all about opportunity and opportunity could be knocking on the door for new Falcons' running back Devonta Freeman.
Drafted in the fourth round, Freeman could be the steal of the draft, at least when it comes to fantasy. Freeman will learn behind one of the game's best in Steven Jackson, but at 30 years old, Jackson's best days are behind him. With Jacquizz Rodgers having done nothing to separate himself in his three years in Atlanta, Freeman has every chance to become the No. 2 back on the Falcons' depth chart. If so, it may only become a matter of time before Freeman is the man in Atlanta.
Expect some ups and downs initially, but Freeman could have a similar season that Montee Ball had last year. As you recall, Ball sat and watched for most of the season but impressed down the stretch and got the job as lead back in the offseason. That could be the path Freeman may take.
He's an excellent back to draft in all leagues and he is someone to target as a No. 4 back.
8. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Talk about a match made in heaven.
The draft's best tight end prospect, Eric Ebron, is about to head to a dynamic offense (Detroit) and has a good chance to become a reliable starting option in 12-team leagues. Catching passes from Matt Stafford should do wonders for Ebron's fantasy value.
With Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate at wide receiver and getting most of the attention, Ebron can fly under the radar and become an instant success. At 6'4” and 245 pounds, Ebron has the size and athletic ability to become a force in the red zone. While playing with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, etc., the catches and yards won't be ideal at first, but Ebron should make them count near the end zone.
You should expect something in the line of 50-60 catches, 600 receiving yards or so and 5-9 touchdowns from Ebron.
7. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
Again, while receivers like Cooks and Marqise Lee may have more skill, Kelvin Benjamin has perhaps the best chance for immediate success.
After the Panthers lost Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr., it was obvious they needed a playmaker at wide receiver and they got themselves a good one in Benjamin. At 6'5" and 235 pounds, Benjamin can just go get the ball and will instantly become Cam Newton's No. 1 target.
The only drawback is Benjamin will be keyed in on, but he could be up to the task. He makes for a decent low-end No. 3/high-end No. 4 wide receiver for fantasy purposes.
6. Andre Williams, New York Giants
After the Giants lost Andre Brown in the offseason, there was a need in the Giants' backfield for a bruising, power back and New York solidified that need with the selection of Andre Williams.
Williams is a menacing back and he should be granted every opportunity to receive a good dose of carries for the Giants. While free-agent signee Rashad Jennings will likely be the No. 1 back, Williams is the back to own in New York, based on his youth and upside. Williams will likely become the Giants' preferred choice at the goal line.
In fact, he can be what Brandon Jacobs was for the Giants. While short on big-play ability, Williams will probably be a goal-line vulture who's good for 8-10 touchdowns yearly. Draft him as a No. 3 or No. 4 back on draft day.
5. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
Although backs like Jeremy Hill, Ka'Deem Carey, etc. have the more ballyhooed, big-school pedigree, Terrance West has just as much ability as any back entering the NFL.
West is powerfully built at at 5’9” and 225 pounds, and he has great athleticism to boot. While the Browns did sign Ben Tate in the offseason, West will assuredly challenge him for carries in Cleveland. Besides, Tate has missed 10 games in the last three years and never showed much consistency in Houston.
While Tate will be No. 1 on the depth chart, West will be nipping at his heels all year long. Not to mention, with Josh Gordon potentially facing a year-long suspension, per T.J. Quinn and Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.com, Manziel (if he's the QB) and the Browns will need to rely on the run game, and both Tate and West should get a lot of carries this year.
West is a low-end No. 3/high-end No. 4 running back to pursue this summer in fantasy drafts.
4. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This year's crop of rookie receivers is one of the most talented and deep in some time, and one of the best, if not the best, is Tampa Bay's new wideout Mike Evans.
At 6'5” and 225 pounds, Evans is a beast of a man and he will line up next to a person who he is favorably compared to in Vincent Jackson. The comparison is valid, as they both have great size and athletic ability to catch the ball.
Suddenly, the Bucs' offense looks legitimate with the addition of new quarterback Josh McCown. With Jackson on the other side of him, Evans should feel less pressure to succeed and he could get a lot of single-coverage looks.
Evans could be viewed as a marginal No. 2 wide receiver, but he is best suited being a No. 3 wide receiver initially. He should be a fantasy stalwart for years to come, though.
3. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
While going to San Francisco is not ideal for his fantasy prospects (at least initially), you can't ignore the overwhelming talent Carlos Hyde possesses. Although he has to be a complementary back to veteran back Frank Gore at first, while also fending of the rehabilitating Marcus Lattimore, Hyde will no doubt make his presence felt.
This bulldozing back will be a monster in between the tackles and has a good chance to be the 49ers' goal-line back. He has enough upside, though, to eventually become the bell-cow back in San Francisco 49ers.
While Hyde has more value in keeper/dynasty leagues, he will be value pick in all leagues and could be in line for 650-750 yards rushing and close to double-digit touchdowns. He makes for a fringe No. 2 running back.
2. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
While heading to Buffalo and the cold-weather elements isn't exactly a dream destination, Sammy Watkins has transcendent talent that should lead to immediate success no matter where he plays.
Did going to Cincinnati with a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) slow down A.J. Green in his rookie year? Well, Watkins has been compared to Green, and Watkins may have a similar-type season that Green had his rookie year. That year, Green he had 65 catches for 1,057 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Watkins could come close to those numbers next year.
EJ Manuel will love throwing to Watkins and with new acquisition Mike Williams opposite of him (not to mention the underrated Robert Woods also around), Watkins will have less pressure to succeed. Watkins has enough raw ability to make for a low-end No. 2 wide receiver in 12-team leagues.
1. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
It's practically common knowledge that running backs are the lifeblood of fantasy teams and rookie running backs who are afforded a chance at being the featured back (see Eddie Lacy, Le'Veon Bell and Zac Stacy last year) are always a high commodity come draft day. That's where Bishop Sankey will hold a ton of value.
With only Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster to stave off, Sankey has an excellent chance at being the Titans' primary running back, while replacing Chris Johnson. With great vision and ability to hit holes hard, it's only a matter of time before the Titans are feeding Sankey the ball 20-30 times a game.
In that sense, Sankey can have a similar type of rookie year that Stacy and Bell had last year. So, expect somewhere between 750-900 rushing yards and 7-9 touchdowns. Sankey will make for an appealing No. 2 running back.
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