The 2014 draft was the highest rated in years, and while Johnny Manziel drove most of that, there is something to be said for the thirty-one other people taken in the first round plus the other six rounds. The first round was full of big names and high talent, but there were also quite a few later round gems poised to have serious impacts this year – fantasy or otherwise. Without further ado, I’ll give my opinions on a few of the rookies and their fantasy impact for this year.
·Eric Ebron: Detroit Lions Ebron is a top three talent in this draft along with Clowney, Watkins, but he didn’t come off the board until 10 because he’s a tight end. He’s an athletic 6’4” tight end who demands a lot of attention. Combine him with Megatron who consistently draws the safeties to the outside and defenses will end up spread very thin. Ebron up the middle will be a dangerous target for a long time starting immediately.
·Mike Evans: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Similar to Ebron, Evans is another perfect fit for his team. The Bucs just (temporarily) upgraded their quarterback with Josh McCown, who had great success last year filling in for Jay Cutler. Who was McCown throwing the ball to? Brandon Marshall (6’4”) and Alshon Jefferey (6’3”). This season McCown will have two more receivers with giant catch radiuses, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, who are both 6’5”. We see it time and time again, big receivers can dominate defenses, and putting two on the field together is downright terrifying for opposing defenses.
·Sammy Watkins: Buffalo Bills The Bills are a team constantly in purgatory, receiving only one top five pick in the last eleven years, yet consistently picking right around ten. Moral of the story: the Bills are never good, but they almost never bottom out. They traded up to get their guy this year: a can’t-fail receiver in Watkins. Watkins is incredible, but the burden will fall on EJ Manuel’s shoulders. Will Manuel justify his sixteenth overall selection? He certainly has a monster superstar in Watkins, which I think will help both him and the Bills get over the hump. Expect a good, but not dominant (yet) season from Watkins.
·Brandin Cooks: New Orleans Saints If there is there a more electrifying and likeable receiver in this year’s rookie class, I’d like to meet him. Cooks has an incredible character and he ran a 4.33 forty. He reminds me a bit of DeSean Jackson if Jackson was a team captain. With the departure of Sproles, I expect big things from Cooks mostly out of the slot. In short, Cooks is a great gift to Drew Brees who is in the twilight of his career.
·Blake Bortles: Jacksonville Jaguars For the first time since… well ever, I’m excited to see the Jaguars take the field this fall. In my opinion, Bortles was the best QB in this year’s draft. He is big, durable, and can move when he needs to. I don’t expect a Luck, Wilson, RG3 type of rookie season for Bortles, but I think giving him Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson was an incredibly smart move by the Jags. He has two weapons on the outside that can flat out play and make difficult catches. Not to mention they went out and got his college teammate, running back, Storm Johnson in the 7th round (one of my late round gems). Jacksonville wants Bortles to be comfortable in their offense, and I think he will be, BUT will he even play this season? There are early reports that Jacksonville may want to sit him this fall behind Chad Henne. This developing story will clearly impact his fantasy value for 2014.
·Johnny Manziel: Cleveland Browns This is why you’re all here, right? My personal fantasy philosophy when it comes to quarterbacks is to take the tried and true guy. This would definitely leave Manziel out; however, just because I don’t want him starting for me week one doesn’t mean I wouldn’t put him on my bench. My biggest worry with Manziel is who will be catching the balls he throws. Who knows what Josh Gordon’s fate will be, but it’s not looking good. That leaves Manziel with Jordan Cameron, Earl Bennett, Miles Austin, and Andrew Hawkins as his primary targets, not a terrible list of names, but not the best. Joe Thomas will be blocking Manziel’s blindside; he’s the best left tackle in the game and will surely be Manziel’s best friend. The way I see it, Manziel probably isn’t cut out for a sixteen game season in the NFL. I think he’ll have two or three games reminiscent of Falcons-era Mike Vick, but other than that he won’t do a whole lot. With that said, I’ve been wrong before and for the sake of the NFL and exciting games, I hope I am wrong here. He’s worth a shot as a late round backup trade-bait sort of player, but my bet is every league will have one or two guys who will reach for Johnny Football; my advice: don’t be one of those guys.
·Teddy Bridgewater: Minnesota Vikings We all understand that this guy dropped to 32 because of a bad pro day, right? I mean come on, this guy consistently made the big plays in college – he’s a damn good quarterback. I think he’ll do very well in Minnesota. He has two good receivers: a decent veteran in Greg Jennings and a budding superstar in Cordarrelle Patterson, oh yeah and he’s got that Peterson guy in the backfield. Bridgewater is someone that I would consider late for a backup. Bridgewater is the safer pick, but his upside is nowhere near Manziel’s.
·Lache Seastrunk: Washington Redskins Seastrunk is awesome, just watch his highlight reel from Baylor. The guy is a silky smooth runner that can flat out explode up field. He probably isn’t worth a look yet, since he is in a loaded backfield with Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr, but I’d keep an eye on him as the season progresses.
·Storm Johnson: Jacksonville Jaguars Are any rookie running backs going to be worth a look come fantasy draft day? This is my guy; Storm Johnson torched defenses at UCF, whether he was rushing or catching balls out of the backfield from Bortles, Johnson made plays. With the departure of Maruice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars will be looking for a number one back to step up, and I think Johnson is more than capable.
And now a few quick picks:
Kelvin Benjamin: Carolina Panthers Benjamin will be a decent receiver in the league one day, but he’s raw and will be too heavily depended on by the Panthers. Don’t expect a whole lot.
Dri Archer: Pittsburgh Steelers Archer is the most explosive guy in the draft, but he’s incredibly small. The Steelers will find ways to manufacture touches for him. Look for a Tavon Austin-esque impact from this #PickSixNation member.
Jordan Matthews: Philadelphia Eagles The Eagles got a receiver in Matthews that is smart, big, and a playmaker. He was a team captain at Vanderbilt and will do very well as the third receiver on what promises to be a top-three scoring offense.
Marqise Lee/Allen Robinson: Jacksonville Jaguars With Blackmon likely out for the 2014 season due to suspension, these two rookie receivers will see the ball a lot. Robinson is bigger than Lee, but he’s not freakishly big at 6’2”. Both are terrific football players that can make difficult catches and have great football character. This tandem should be around for a while.
Jarvis Landry: Miami Dolphins You know those guys that just have it? Jarvis Landry has it. He’s a great possession receiver who will compliment Mike Wallace very well. I expect Landry to be one of the top five receivers from this class.
Odell Beckham Jr.: New York Giants I don’t think based on his draft position that he’ll live up to the hype New York will give him. I expect a few big plays from him, but nothing too crazy just yet.
Cody Latimer: Denver Broncos Latimer has great size and good hands. In many ways, he will replace Decker in Denver. Don’t expect Decker’s numbers just yet, but he will definitely produce with Manning throwing to him.
We invite you to join our 27,000+ fans for frequent updates and content releases. Submit your email below and follow us on Twitter