Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rookie receivers that can give you a fantasy edge

The great rookie WR avalanche of 2014 is coming. It is the largest high-end WR rookie class in the history of the NFL. Never have there been more wide receivers selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft in NFL history (12). Maybe it’s a function of more passing in the NFL. Maybe it’s a function of an elite class, including a ton of underclassmen (all but one of these wideouts are underclassmen). Maybe it’s a little bit of both. It’s both talent and volume hitting the NFL and some of these receivers are going to hit, especially with more colleges running pro-style offenses. For 2014, I rank these avalanche of high-end rookie WRs like so.  

1. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans: In a few words: "Sonic Boom" (which is Cooks' nickname). Cooks blazed a 4.33 in the Forty at this year’s Combine, the fastest time among all receivers this year. You have to like the chances of Cooks joining a perennial 5,000-yard passing offense and the Saints gave a 3rd round pick to move up seven slots to land him. 

2. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina: What a great landing spot for the 6'5" WR - who else is Cam Newton going to throw the ball to? He and Cam are going to get very comfortable with one another and Benjamin should instantly be the Panther’s #1 WR. 

3. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay: Quarterback Josh McCown knows how to feature two big wide receivers as he did in Chicago last year and Evans could be a cross between Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson. Evans has a shot to be a 1,000-yard receiver right out of the gate. 

4. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo: Sammy Watkins is a can’t-miss fantasy stud but you have to wonder if it will take until 2015 given how poorly quarterback E.J. Manuel has looked in pre-season (Buffalo just signed Kyle Orton to a $5 million deal). Watkins has also been nicked up all pre-season. 

5. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia: First off, the Chip Kelly offense sort of makes everyone involved fantasy relevant. Matthews is big and strong, with gigantic hands - he looks like a young Terrell Owens. 

6. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville: Lee should be very busy right out of the gate and he is an electrifying playmaker and tremendous athlete (Lee is the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner), but struggled staying healthy in college. 

7. Cody Latimer, Denver: Latimer is down the pecking order behind a veteran receiving crew but he is a good late draft gamble if injuries hit any of the Broncos’ starters, especially playing on a team off an NFL record-shattering season of 5,477 passing yards led by Peyton Manning with 55 passing TDs. 

8. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville: Robinson is a big 6'3" WR who is used to being a featured receiver – Robinson set the Penn State record with 77 receptions in 2012 and broke his own record with 97 receptions in 2013. Robinson also played in a pro-style offense in college and he ran a full-route tree. He should be ready Week 1 but Robinson has missed the pre-season with a hamstring strain. 

9. Davante Adams, Green Bay: Adams is loaded with talent and scored 24 touchdowns last year catching passes from Derek Carr at Fresno State, but he will need an injury to get into the lineup. Still, there is high upside if that happens playing with the Packers.

10. Paul Richardson, Seattle: Richardson is a guy to remember should an injury hit Percy Harvin as he will be Harvin’s primary backup. Richardson is a bit of a DeSean Jackson clone and has blazing deep speed. 

11. Odell Beckham Jr., N.Y. Gaints: Beckham was drafted 12th overall so the talent is there, but he hasn't played this pre-season (hamstring) and most likely he will miss the first month of the season. The Giants' passing game looked like a mess in pre-season.

12. Jarvis Landry, Dolphins: Landry is scrappy and tough and has great hands – Landry ranked No. 1 nationally last year at LSU with 453 yards and 6 TDs on 3rd downs. Landry will get rotated into the slot wide receiver position for the Dolphins.