Pro scouts touted the 2014 NFL Draft as the draft of the Wide Receiver, showcasing the deepest talent at the position in years. For fantasy football purposes, it used to be the case we never really expected very much from receivers in their rookie years. When Anquan Boldin or Marques Colston produced big fantasy points as NFL rookies, it was a surprise.
+-----------------+------+-----+------+------+-------+ | Name | Year | Rec | ReYd | ReTD | FPts | +-----------------+------+-----+------+------+-------+ | Anquan Boldin | 2003 | 101 | 1377 | 8 | 189.7 | | Michael Clayton | 2004 | 80 | 1193 | 7 | 164.3 | | Mike Williams | 2010 | 64 | 955 | 11 | 161.5 | | A.J. Green | 2011 | 65 | 1057 | 7 | 153.0 | | Keenan Allen | 2013 | 71 | 1046 | 8 | 152.6 | | Marques Colston | 2006 | 70 | 1038 | 8 | 151.8 | | Julio Jones | 2011 | 54 | 959 | 8 | 149.5 | | Lee Evans | 2004 | 48 | 843 | 9 | 146.8 | | Eddie Royal | 2008 | 91 | 980 | 5 | 138.9 | | T.Y. Hilton | 2012 | 50 | 861 | 7 | 131.0 | +-----------------+------+-----+------+------+-------+ Top 10 fantasy performances by wide receivers in their rookie season since 2000 (rushing included, special teams excluded from fantasy points).
More recently however, a combination of rookies being more prepared entering the NFL, coaches throwing them into the fire, and the NFL becoming a pass happy league, today’s rookies have a greater opportunity to put up Boldin or Colston-like first year numbers. Last year, Keenan Allen posted a 71-1,046-8 stat line, good for the fifth best fantasy point output by a rookie WR since 2000, narrowly missing out surpassing A.J. Green‘s points from 2011 (Allen topped Green in PPR scoring).
Now we more or less expect at least one rookie WR to make a significant fantasy impact. The difficulty is figuring out the player most likely to do it. Here are my post-NFL Draft Top 10 Rookie Wide Receivers.
Mike Evans landed into one of the best situations a rookie could land when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him with the 7th overall pick. Evans will play opposite Vincent Jackson, allowing him to go up against their opponent’s number two defensive back. At 6’5”, Evans will be a red zone nightmare and it will give him the opportunity to reach double digit touchdowns right out of the gate.
New Orleans Saints traded up to grab Brandin Cooks at the 20th overall pick. Cooks is now on a team that was second in the league in receiving touchdowns, yards, and receptions. It’s safe to say that his chances for producing right away are very high. Cooks provides speed and elusiveness, but can be considered a volume receiver as well, which is backed up by his 226 catches at Oregon State. The Saints lost Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this offseason. Cooks should be given ample opportunity to help make up for that lost production.
As the top wide receiver taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, 4th overall by the Buffalo Bills, Sammy Watkins will slide into the starting lineup right away without any competition. Watkins caught a bunch of passes behind the line of scrimmage at Clemson. He isn’t restricted to a short game though, as his speed and precise route running make him a dangerous downfield option. Watkins can be a jack-of-all trades receiver, but his success will hinge greatly on the development of second year quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel was a mixed bag of good and bad play last season, amidst sitting out injured more than once. It is difficult to be bullish on Manuel at this point, resulting in a more conservative ranking of Watkins than most fantasy pundits.
Odell Beckham Jr. was considered one of the most surprising picks of the draft when he was taken 12th overall by the New York Giants. This offseason, the Giants lost veteran wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, but weren’t in as desperate need of a wide receiver (Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Mario Manningham) as some teams. They saw value and the potential for instant production with Beckham. While many expected Randle to make a bigger contribution to this offense this year, drafting Beckham might indicate the Giants don’t have much faith in Randle. Even though Beckham is under 6 feet tall, he possesses the speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and vertical (38.5 inches) to make noise at the pro-level.
Denver Broncos said goodbye to WR Eric Decker this offseason. Even though the Broncos filled that hole signing free agent Emmanuel Sanders, it didn’t prevent them from also drafting Cody Latimer, primarily with a longer term outlook. Peyton Manning loves to spread the ball around, and in doing so he helped four different receivers (including TE Julius Thomas) make a significant fantasy impact last season. Recall there were times he even made Andre Caldwell look like a Pro Bowler. Latimer will likely start fourth on the wide receiver depth chart, but given his talent (4.39 40-yard dash plus 39 inch vertical) and situation, all it would take is one injury to a veteran in front of him or poor showing by Sanders and Latimer becomes a very valuable fantasy producer as early as this season.
When it comes to fantasy production, there may not be a better offense to be a part of than the Philadelphia Eagles. With the departure of DeSean Jackson, Matthews figures to step into the primary slot role as early as Week 1. Expect Chip Kelly to have a field day utilizing Matthews’ skills. We saw what this offense did in its first year. Now, with arguably the best dual threat running back in LeSean McCoy, the addition of Darren Sproles from the New Orleans Saints, return of Jeremy Maclin and development of Zach Ertz, Matthews will be an afterthought for opposing defenders, which could lead to some big weeks.
Jacksonville Jaguars certainly went out of their way to provide Blake Bortles with several game changing playmakers. A lot of teams were hesitant to pull the trigger on Marqise Lee because his 2013 college campaign was average and his performance at the NFL Combine was subpar. Listening to his interviews, this guy sounds determined to prove that he is more than worth the early second round draft pick the Jaguars spent on him. Given the shallow depth chart in Jacksonville, Lee should have an opportunity to contribute immediately.
When a team’s leading receivers are Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant, one can’t help but imagine this a great situation for a rookie to land, if for no other reason than the possibility for 70+ receptions because those other guys won’t do it. Benjamin will step into a significant role in the Carolina Panthers’ offense from day one. Although they are not a passing team, Cam Newton could still lock on to Benjamin which could make him one of the best rookie wide receivers this year.
Green Bay Packers are known for producing receiving talent from within their organization. Over the years, we’ve seen many wide receivers develop thanks in large part to consistent top QB play spanning Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams was a surprise pick for the Packers considering they need a lot of defensive help, but when Adams was still on the board in the late second round, the Packers saw an opportunity to develop another young wide receiver. He might not be a very productive out of the gate, but Randall Cobb missed 10 games last season and Jarrett Boykin lacks pedigree as an undrafted free agent, indicating the opportunity for Adams might be closer than many think.
Jarvis Landry might not possess any special traits, but he is one of the better fits in the draft taken 63rd overall by the Miami Dolphins. When Landry proves himself above the mediocre Dolphins wide receivers found below Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline on the depth chart, he will instantly become a favorite target for QB Ryan Tannehill on third downs because of his reliable hands and toughness. He’s also one who’s not afraid to work the middle of the field. Landry will certainly be most attractive in PPR formats.
More Guys To Monitor:
Martavis Bryant, PIT
Martavis Bryant has the size and skill set to fill the red zone void that was lost with the departure of Jerricho Cotchery, who was the teams primary red zone target in 2013, catching 10 touchdowns on only 46 receptions.
Paul Richardson, SEA
Paul Richardson possesses elite speed to blow past any defense. With opposing defenses selling out to stop the run and contain Percy Harvin, Russell Wilson should be able to pick his spots for some long ball success to Richardson.
Donte Moncrief, IND
Donte Moncrief goes to an Indianapolis Colts team with a pretty full depth chart at wide receiver, but has a great opportunity to learn from veteran Reggie Wayne.