Fantasy Football 2014: Who Is This Year's Keenan Allen?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 20, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles' Jordan Matthews speaks with members of the media after an NFL football organized team activity Monday, June 9, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Last year, Keenan Allen took everyone by surprise as a rookie and became a bona fide fantasy football All-Star.

The third-round pick emerged from a seemingly crowded group of receivers over in San Diego and turned into one of the more productive players in the entire league.

Anyone who had Allen on their team was celebrating, but now he's going to be a high pick. It's our job to figure out who is going to be the next Allen.

When taking into consideration skill set, draft placement and team situation, Jordan Matthews immediately jumps out as the strongest candidate.

Allen was the eighth receiver taken in the 2013 draft, at No. 76. Matthews was the seventh receiver taken in the 2014 draft, at No. 42.

They were both extremely productive college players but were passed over by NFL teams on draft day because other receivers seemed to have more natural ability and upside.

Their frames are almost identical. Allen was officially listed at 6'2", 206 pounds before the draft, while Matthews checked in at 6'3", 212 pounds.

Even some of their scouting analysis from the profiles closely resemble each other's.

For Allen: "he sinks low into his routes and bursts out of the break." For Matthews: "sinks his hips and pops out of breaks." Allen also has "good height to win jump balls downfield," while Matthews "has leaping ability to compete in the air."

There are some striking similarities in watching the two play. Neither have that outstanding breakaway speed or elite agility but are certainly not "slow" by any measure.

But their great route running, solid hands, strong frames and overall athleticism mean that they can attack defenses in multiple ways.

Allen stretched the defense when he needed to, but he could also maneuver the seams over the middle and make tough catches as well.

Matthews is a similar type of receiver who is tough in the middle of the field but also has the athleticism to make some acrobatic catches like this one.

And while he racks up the receptions and can move the chains like your "typical" possession receiver, he also has the ability to do damage after the catch as well.

Coming into the 2013 season, Allen had quite a bit of competition ahead of him on the depth chart, although every player had his share of question marks.

Vincent Brown was no match for Allen, and he finished with a mediocre 41 receptions. Eddie Royal has never been a very consistent player, and after starting off the season hot he cooled off very quickly and gave way to Allen.

Two unfortunate injuries gave Allen more opportunities as well. In Week 2, Malcolm Floyd suffered a neck injury and was put on IR for the remainder of the year. Danario Alexander, considered by many to be a sleeper breakout candidate, tore his ACL in practice before the season even began.

So while things were crowded early on, Allen was consistent throughout the preseason and regular season and broke through when the opportunity arose. That same thing could easily happen for Matthews.

The departure of DeSean Jackson instantly leaves an enormous hole in the receiver corps, but there are a few other guys around to muddy things up.

Jeremy Maclin is the biggest name, but he's returning from an ACL injury and had missed four total games due to injury in 2011 and 2012 as well.

Health concerns aside, it's still also up in the air how Maclin will handle duties as the go-to guy without Jackson around. Maclin has yet to reach 1,000 yards in a season in his five-year career and his career 13.4 YPC average is just mediocre.

Riley Cooper is also in line for an increase in targets after a pseudo-breakout 2013 campaign. In the last 11 games of the season, he caught 39 passes for 742 yards and seven touchdowns. But it is completely up in the air as to how Cooper will perform with the defense paying him more attention.

Free-agent addition Darren Sproles also figures to factor in heavily with head coach Chip Kelly's high-octane offense. He could have a role similar to his previous one in New Orleans and enjoy similar success.

Fellow rookie Josh Huff is a speedster who may take up some of Jackson's old deep routes, but Matthews figures to have the upper hand on him from a target standpoint.

These players all bring a lot to the table, but Matthews' ability is right up there with them. His size, athleticism and knack for making plays could help him develop a rapport with Nick Foles and get a lot of targets early.

Allen also undoubtedly benefited from the re-emergence of Philip Rivers as a top quarterback, which new head coach Mike McCoy undoubtedly deserves a lot of credit for.

McCoy came in last year as a respected offensive mind, and he proved his mettle by taking San Diego's offense to new heights despite not having elite talent.

There's another similarity there to Philadelphia, as Kelly helped a great quarterback of his own in Nick Foles last season. Kelly's fast-paced offense helped guys like Jackson and LeSean McCoy rack up huge numbers, and the same could happen for Matthews.

If Matthews is able to prove himself as a reliable pass-catcher early on like Allen did last year, then look for him to be the breakout rookie fantasy star that you wished you saw coming.

He's well worth a draft pick in all formats, and I'd take him as early as the 10th round. Matthews has star potential, and his breakout could come sooner rather than later.

Just don't say I didn't warn you.