Sure, the NFL draft was only a week ago, but it’s never too early for an examination of which rookies will have the most impact on your fantasy football team. This list is based primarily on skill and situation. There are many talented players who did not make this rookie only list because they are on a team that may not use them right away.
- Sammy Watkins WR (Buf) – The Bills traded part of their future for a transcendant talent who is already at the top of Buffalo’s depth chart. His statistical ceiling depends largely on E.J. Manuel’s ability to perform and stay healthy. Fast-forwarding for future fantasy football drafts, Watkins has every chance to be a top 5 overall WR. This year he should be considered a WR3 candidate with WR2 upside.
- Bishop Sankey RB (Ten) – Even if running backs are less of a commodity in the eyes of NFL franchises (Sankey was the first running back drafted at pick #54), running backs are still a huge value on your fantasy football squad. Sankey joins a meager running back group in Tennesse. He should get decent touches opening day and if he excels, Sankey could quickly become the workhorse running back. Sankey has huge upside, and could potentially warrant as high as a 5th round pick in upcoming fantasy drafts. He is in the RB2 conversation.
- Mike Evans WR (TB) – Mike Evans is a Vincent Jackson prototype, playing alongside Vincent Jackson–Josh McCown excelled in Chicago last year with a wide receiver duo of similar size, speed, and skill. V-Jax is still the top reciever on the team, but Evans will see plenty of balls thrown his direction. Evans should be drafted as a WR3 option and will usually be considered a flex option most weeks.
- Kelvin Benjamin WR (Car) – Benjamin is one of the most physically gifted receivers from the 2014 rookie crop. He is huge (6’5), with great hands, leaping ability, and aggressively attacks the ball in the air. Considering the unusual off season turnover in Carolina’s wide receiving corps, Benjamin has a shot at landing at the top of the depth chart, which may actually hinder his first year in the league as he will draw more attention from the opposing defense. Benjamin’s fantasy value will be in touchdowns rather than yards, that pedigree usually makes for an unpredictable fantasy player. He should be drafted as a WR4, but has upside.
- Johnny Manziel QB (Cle) - As of today Manziel is “Brian Hoyer’s backup.” Yeah, sure–good luck with that Cleveland. Johnny Football’s 2014 fate will be tied to the result of Josh Gordon’s pending season long suspension, and if Manziel develops a fondness for sliding to avoid bone-crushing hits. I personally don’t think Manziel’s small frame will survive in the NFL with his run-around-like-a-chicken-with-it’s-head-cutoff-style. From a fantasy perspective, any quarterback that an ability to gain rushing yards increases their value. Someone in your league will probably swipe Manziel by the 8th round (it won’t be me). Until proven otherwise, Manziel shouldn’t be considered anything other than a fantasy backup.
- Eric Ebron TE (Det) – Ebron couldn’t imagine himself in a more perfect offense. He is unanimously considered the top tight end prospect and will start immediately. Detroit’s offensive potency is only matched by it’s defensive ineptitude; this combination will result in every member of Detroit’s offense feasting on fantasy stats. Ebron is a low end TE1. If you skip on the elite TE’s, Ebron will be a high upside player that you can get in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts at a nice value.
- Jordan Matthews WR (Phi) – Without DeSean Jackson the Eagles wide receiving corps is fairly thin. However, Chip Kelly isn’t going to stop throwing the ball. While Matthews isn’t the breakout playmaker Jackson was, his size and great hands should make him a popular target for Nick Foles. Considering Jeremry Maclin’s injury history, Matthews could land atop Philly’s depth chart sooner rather than later. Matthews will be a late round pick up and should be considered a WR4 or even WR5, however, it is not unreasonable that Matthews could become a reliable WR2 option if things fall into place.
- Josh Huff WR (Phi) – Who? The biggest threat to Jordan Matthews’ fantasy success, that’s who. Josh Huff was not considered one of the top wide receivers in this exceptionally deep receiver draft class. But, the Eagles reached for him in the 3rd round because Chip Kelly coached this versatile receiver in college. Stepping onto the field as the coach’s favorite means that Huff will have every chance to succeed, and will enjoy a much longer leash than other rookie players. Philadelphia has a need at reciever and Huff will get plenty of opportunities. While Matthews’ size lends him to being a likely red zone target, Huff will provide fantasy owner’s safety in consistent yardage. He should be drafted late, and viewed as a WR4.
- Tre Mason RB (Stl) – A highly touted running back who posses speed and playmaking upside. The only thing standing in Mason’s way is 2013 breakout rookie running back Zac Stacey. The Rams running back situation will most likely be a time share favoring Stacey. Mason will get touches, and history has indicated that both time share running backs can be productive (C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson, Reggie Bush/Joique Bell). Mason should be viewed as a RB4, but if injury befalls Stacey, Mason could join the RB1 discussion in weeks that he is not matching up against the stout NFC West defenses.
- Odell Beckham WR (NYG) – The third wide receiver taken in the NFL draft fits a team need for the Giants. Beckham has huge potential, great upside, and should start across from Victor Cruz opening day. The biggest risk is that his success will be tied to the 2013 league leader in interceptions, Eli Manning. Beckham could ultimately be more successful than either Eagles rookie WR on this list, but he will be drafted much earlier and has more risk.
Tags: Fantasy Football, NFL rookies, Top 10