2014 NFL Rookies in Fantasy

Who Should You Target?

2014 Top NFL Rookies to Watch

With the 2014 NFL draft in the books and the first few weeks of OTAs underway, we can finally start to speculate about how each rookie will make an impact in the first year with their new teams. And with a handful of contracts already signed, we can also start to predict what that performance will cost you in terms of performance as a function of a contract, a critical element in the Dynasty Owner game.

In the last post in this series, we took a look at the top 5 rookie QBs drafted in the first 2 rounds. With Quarterback being such a critical position in Dynasty Owner, and rookie contracts making them especially efficient, we thought it warranted it's own write up.  This post will highlight all the other targets from the 2014 draft, aside from the Quarterback position.

2014 NFL Draft:  Running Backs

Running Backs just don't hold the same status they once did, as the pass happy NFL of today universally devalues the position.  In years past, we might have seen 2 or 3 of these backs go in the 1st round, but those days are gone.  However, don't be deceived and assume that there isn't top flight RB talent in this draft, and the fact that the unit collectively slid means you should be able to get elite talent for cheaper, a primary concern in Dynasty Owner's Salary Cap format.  

Here are the RBs to hone in on for your fantasy team:

1).  Bishop Sankey (TEN):  Sankey is the clear cut top Rookie RB target this year, and not just because he was the first RB off the board.  He goes to arguably the most opportunistic running back destination in the league in Tennessee.  After letting Chris Johnson walk in Free Agency, Sankey only has to beat out Shonn Greene for carries in a generally run first offense.  At a minimum he's going to share a heavy workload, and likely will be the bell cow running back out of training camp as he is an elite combination of size and straight-line speed...giving the Titans a more complete back than they've had in years.  Sankey is one of the only 3-down RB candidates in this draft, at least out of the gate.

2).  Tre Mason (STL):  The 5th RB off the board, like Sankey this ranking has a lot to do with the opportunity and the offense Mason got drafted into.   With only the plodding Zac Stacey to compete with for carries, the shifty Mason should be able to carve out a significant role in the Rams offense right away...especially as a pass catching option out of the backfield.  The only real hitch in Mason's game, aside from initial health concerns, is his ability to pass protect out of the backfield.  Watch this closely in pre-season and if he can prove to be an adequate blocker, he should get a heavy workload and provide great value that you can get for a cheap 3rd round contract that should only cost approximately $1MM/year.

3). Terrance West (CLE):  Our favorite value sleeper at the RB position, West should be extremely cheap in all drafts due to the fact that there is a perceived starter and quality back in Ben Tate ahead of him in the Browns offense.  While that is generally a sign to look elsewhere for late round fliers, there are two reasons we love West this year.   First, Ben Tate has been riddled with injuries his entire career, despite never having a full workload and generally being used to spell Arian Foster on the Texans.  With a full workload, you have to believe Tate's durability will be challenged and an injury could open the door for West to carry the entire workload.

Second, West was targeted as an Alfred Morris clone, who thrived in new Browns OC Kyle Shanahan's offense in Washington.  West's skill set of one quick cut and burst fits perfectly in what will be an offense sure to be in the top 5 in rushing attempts this year in the rough AFC north division.  West is a perfect stash candidate that you need to have on your roster come draft day.

4). Carlos Hyde (SF) /Jeremy Hill (CIN) /Charles Sims (TB): The 3 RBs taken in between Sankey and the above two, all three are in relatively similar circumstances...drafted to offenses where there is a quality and proven RB already in place.  That makes it much more difficult to see a direct path to meaningful volume of touches, but all 3 are worth monitoring as they are all strong RB prospects.  Additionally, these teams didn't spend high valuable picks without plans for these players to contribute in the next 2 years.  Of the 3, we like Charles Sims the best because Doug Martin has already shown to be injury prone.  Hyde is probably the runner with the most upside but also got drafted into the most crowded backfield.  Even if SF wants to spell the aging Gore often, they still like Hunter quite a bit so it seems like Hyde has more than one RB to compete with.  Hill is an interesting compliment to Gio Bernard for the Bengals as he runs with great power and has size to be a 2 down back, but Bernard showed flashes of being a complete back last year so this could mean Hill will be a tough start headache all year.

2014 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

Arguably the deepest WR class in a decade, this draft promises to produce quality WR production that you will want to target starting in the early middle rounds of your drafts.  If the RB group slipped due to the pass-happy NFL, the WR group reaped the benefits with 5 1st round WRs and 12 WRs in the first 2 rounds.   

1).  Sammy Watkins (BUF):  An elite WR talent with a grade in the Julio Jones range coming out of school, Buffalo gave up a ton to get him (a 1st next year!) and they didn't do that without the intention of him being targeted early in often.  In fact, Bills OC Nathaniel Hackett was just quoted as saying rookie WR Sammy Watkins was "a guy we've got to get the ball to a whole bunch."

With all of that in his favor, the big unknown is the offense and QB throwing to him.  Manuel was erratic last year, and as we've seen in years past it doesn't matter how talented a WR is if the QB can't get him the ball reliably.  That said, we still think Watkins should finish in the top 15 in overall WR scoring, and will probably be in the top 5 in terms of WR targets.  

2).  Brandin Cooks (NO):  A perfect situation in a shifty and explosive slot WR going to a top 3 NFL offense who happens to need that skill set.  Brandin Cooks is arguably the safest rookie WR to select in fantasy this year simply due to the Saints offense.  But we shouldn't underscore how explosive Cooks is, running a 4.33 at the combine and having the fastest 20 yard shuttle of all WRs.  That Olympic track speed will make for some monster Sundays in New Orleans this year.  

3).  Odell Beckham Jr (NYG):    If this were last year's draft, Beckham would easily be our favorite rookie WR target, as he's a complete package who runs crisp and disciplined routes which will help ensure he doesn't get the rookie treatment from Coughlin.  They knew they needed someone to come in right away and replace the Hakeem Nicks loss, and Beckham is one of the most ready-to-contribute WRs slated to start opposite Victor Cruz.  We love Beckham going to an offense with an elite QB, and an established Pro-Bowler opposite him for defenses to focus in on.  

4).  Mike Evans (TB):  Some may be surprised to see we've slotted Mike Evans here 4th, as many thought he was an equal or better WR prospect compared to Sammy Watkins coming out.  However, uncertainty at the QB position in Tampa Bay warrants this drop.  In Dynasty Owner, you are drafting for the present and the future, and a hyped name like Evans comes with a lot of risk because there is nothing guaranteeing that TB has the right QB now (McCown/Glennon) nor can we assume they will get it right in future drafts.  They haven't had strong QB play in over a decade.  

We do love his measurables as an explosive and very big WR, but even as an end zone target TB already has Vincent Jackson who is 6'5 as well so you have to question who is going to get the jump ball fades in that offense.  We would stay away from Evans and draft the above 2 guys a little later on in drafts.  

5).  Kelvin Benjamin (Car):  With only Jerrico Cotchery and Jason Avant ahead of him, Benjamin should quickly emerge as the number 1 WR in an offense that passes more than people think.  Cam Newton has generally relied on TEs or his legs in the red zone in years past, but he's never really had a go to WR with Benjamin's size (6'5). Benjamin is going to get every opportunity to succeed, and could emerge as a number 1 WR for the next 5 years in Car.  That upside alone puts him as a top 5 target in Dynasty Owner drafts.

2014 NFL Draft:  Tight Ends

While there are no Tier 1 TEs in the mold of Jimmy Graham or a healthy Gronk, we do think there are 2 potential top 10 TEs in this draft that should be targets.  The first is obvious, the 2nd is a bit of a sleeper in drafts.

1).  Eric Ebron (DET): The top TE prospect in the draft goes to a top 5 passing offense that has relied upon TEs heavily in the red zone in the last several years...Ebron should come off the board in the Jordan Cameron, Dennis Pitta, and Vernon Davis range.    We would slot him ahead of Pitta and Davis as he's going to cost significantly less against the cap with his rookie contract.  Jordan Cameron is still on his rookie deal and might be the best value of all TEs, but is currently negotiating an extension with the Browns so that is subject to change.  

2).  Jace Amaro (NYJ):  With the lack of playmakers on the NJY offense, Amaro has a chance to make a big impact this year, especially with how well other former basketball players are faring in the league at the position.  Was called more of an oversized WR in college, a testament to his ability to run crisp routes and run well after the catch.  We would target Amaro if you passed on the first 2 Tiers of TEs in your drafts...we think he'll outperform most of the more expensive TE retreads in the league this year.

Next Post:  Camp Battles to Watch