Valuing 2014’s Fantasy Football Rookies
Jake Ciely offers insight into the fantasy values of this year’s rookie class. Ciely runs down the top players by position and shares his thoughts on their 2014 outlook.
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Before you get excited about the “next big thing” for Fantasy Football in 2014, I’m going to pull a snippet from last year’s rookie piece…which you can read over here if you like (and you can see the level of rookie valuation you get with me).
“Since 2003 (the last 10 seasons) we have seen an average of just 5.7 starter-worthy (Top 15 QBs, Top 36 RBs, Top 36 WRs, Top 15 TEs) rookies per year.”
Last year, we had six. Depending on scoring, Tim Wright may have slipped in tied for 15th at tight end, so at best, we have seven – slightly above the norm, but certainly not amazing or giving reason to think any higher of rookies. So, as I say every year, as much as I love talking rookies, don’t overdraft them! The vast majority of the time, the draft cost is much higher than the resulting production/value.
Johnny Manziel, Browns
Rookie quarterback value in Fantasy comes from rushing ability, not from quarterbacks’ arms. That is why Manziel has real potential and is deserving of a draft pick in your league. Like Robert Griffin before him, Manziel has Kyle Shanahan as his OC and will have plenty of opportunities to run in that offense. Manziel’s value depends on if he starts Week 1, but if so, a stat line near 3,000 yards, a near-equal number of touchdowns and interceptions, 600-plus rushing yards and a couple of rushing TDs has him near QB1 territory.
2014 Outlook: High-end QB2, potential for QB1, if starts 16 games.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Matt Cassel appears to be the starter, but the Vikings are open to Bridgewater starting Week 1. Temper your expectations, as Bridgewater falls short of Manziel’s rushing ability. Bridgewater is more in the Andrew Luck range: runs when needs to and is a better passer than Manziel.
2014 Outlook: High-end QB2, potential for QB1, if starts 16 games.
Derek Carr, Raiders
Matt Schaub certainly has the upper hand at being the starter, but he is no guarantee, especially if we see 2013 Schaub. Carr possesses a NFL-level arm, has good accuracy and is quite athletic. Carr played mostly in the shotgun, so adjusting to the NFL is one of the bigger concerns and his under-pressure throws were often off target. Even if he passes Schaub, Carr will have more unhelpful weeks than valuable ones.
2014 Outlook: QB2 at best.
Bishop Sankey, Titans
Sankey has superb vision, and only Shonn Greene stands in his way, metaphorically speaking, as Greene had offseason surgery on his knee and might not be standing too well. Sankey’s frame isn’t ideal, but he does have terrific cutting ability and is a good pass-catcher. Sankey would be a solid PPR option even if Greene starts Week 1.
2014 Outlook: High-end RB3, RB2 in PPR, potential for more.
Tre Mason, Rams
Mason doesn’t have ideal NFL size, but he is a quick, one-cut back with good all-around talent. Zac Stacy is great after contact, but Mason knows how to fight for yardage too, making Mason a real threat in 2014. If Stacy repeats his low 3.2 YPC over the last five 2013 games or gets dinged up, look out for Mason.
2014 Outlook: Anywhere from RB4/5 to RB2 depending on Stacy
Crowell is the most talented, best all-around rookie running back. If not for his off-field issues, he would have seen his name called in the draft and before West’s was. West is a mass of muscle and hard to tackle, but Crowell is powerful as well with explosiveness, speed to outrun defenders and good pass-catching ability. When Ben Tate misses time to injury, Crowell will be the one to step in and bring value.
2014 Outlook: RB4/5 to RB2 when Tate suffers an injury.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals
The Bengals found their new law firm, even though Hill doesn’t have the same fun name. Hill is a load once he gets moving and doesn’t take too long to get there with a solid burst. Hill can easily replicate BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ numbers, even with a better YPC.
2014 Outlook: RB3/4 just on touchdown potential
Devonta Freeman, Falcons
Freeman is already the better backup to Steven Jackson than Jacquizz Rodgers is. S-Jax managed just 157 carries and a 3.5 YPC average last year, and we know he’s as worn down as they get. Freeman will be in the mix from day one and will be a nice option once Jackson misses time.
2014 Outlook: RB5 to RB3 once S-Jax gets hurt.
Charles Sims, Bucs
I don’t trust Doug Martin, as even before his 2013 injury, Martin looked mediocre. Martin also scored 40 percent of his points in only three games back in 2012. Plus, Lovie Smith kills running back value. Speaking of Lovie, Sims is much like his old team’s RB, Matt Forte, with less receiving ability.
2014 Outlook: RB5, more of a handcuff to Martin
Andre Williams, Giants
Williams is Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris rolled into one. Stop the presses, draft him No. 1 overall! No, Williams is not that good. The comparisons are that Williams is tough to stop like Lynch and can’t catch passes like Morris. He’s certainly not on their levels.
Hyde has great power and solid elusiveness but can dance too much… Carey has a nice all-around skill set but is risk-laden when fighting for extra yards… Seastrunk is hard to tackle, has good lateral ability but can’t catch well (ALF 2.0?)… Johnson is a good all-around player with no elite skill and goes down on first contact too often.
2014 Outlook: All depend on roster circumstances for opportunity
Sammy Watkins, Bills
Great after the catch, smooth acceleration, terrific all-around receiver. Watkins’ only concern is size, but with Stevie Johnson gone, Watkins is a solid bet for 20-25 percent of the targets. Even with poor quarterback play, those targets will translate into 70-plus catches.
2014 Outlook: WR3/4
Mike Evans, Bucs
The Bucs drafted Vincent Jackson version 2.0. Evans will bring down nearly all of the contested ball thanks to his size, and he will be an immediate red zone threat as a rookie. Evans overcomes his lack of initial burst via the aforementioned size and his ability to adjust to the ball.
2014 Outlook: WR4 just on touchdown potential alone
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
Despite his size (compared to tight ends), Benjamin brings more speed and fluidity than you would expect. Benjamin needs to improve his route running and catching consistency, but he’s also a great bet to be the top option in Carolina (thanks to the Panthers offseason).
2014 Outlook: WR4
Just as with West and Crowell, I am looping teammates together. Lee relies too much on his ability – speed, fluidity, route savvy – instead of being technically sound. That is why I think Robinson stands above as a rookie. Unless Lee gives max effort, Robinson will provide better numbers in that he is already set to be a good possession receiver in the NFL. Robinson has good size and route-running ability, and he plays faster than the 40 time would suggest.
2014 Outlook: Robinson WR6, Lee WR8
Odell Beckham, Giants
Beckham is a great receiver. He has the athleticism, speed, shiftiness, hands… pick a trait. The only thing Beckham lacks is size. That said, if Rueben Randle runs the league’s worst routes again, Beckham will pass him on the depth chart. Ideally for the Giants though, ODB’s best role this year would be as the No. 3 option in a three-wide heavy offense.
2014 Outlook: WR6 if Randle improves, WR4 if ODB is the Giants’ No. 2 WR
Brandin Cooks, Saints
Cooks is a video game character. He has great speed, acceleration, stop/change-of-direction ability, etc. However, for all of his talent and the potency of the Saints offense, where will Cooks land in the pecking order and target total? That’s the problem in New Orleans, and it always has been when dealing with the likes of Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Kenny Stills… you name the receiver, past or present.
2014 Outlook: WR6/7
Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Like Zac Stacy, Matthews dominated at Vanderbilt, and that deserves our attention. Matthews may struggle to separate from press coverage, but he wins the majority of contested balls and is a quality route runner. Plus, it’s Chip Kelly’s offense.
Adams is very similar to former Packers receiver James Jones. He’ll fight with Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 roll and has plenty of upside should he win the job or if Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb is hurt again… Watkins overshadowed Bryant at Clemson, but Bryant can take the top off a defense and could press Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore for the No. 2 role in Pittsburgh… When you play with Peyton Manning, well, you have Fantasy potential no matter what. Latimer is a good replacement for Eric Decker, but has no elite ability and Emmanuel Sanders is blocking his path.
2014 Outlook: As with the lower-end RBs, these receivers need injuries or roster changes to have real impact
Eric Ebron, Lions
Don’t overpay (or probably even draft) for Ebron or any of these tight ends. Why? Tight ends rarely make a Fantasy impact as rookies. In fact, only 5.5 percent and 10 percent of the first rounders have reached TE1 status in the past decade! With that out of the way, if any tight end can, it’s probably Ebron. He’s a wide receiver in a tight end body, and the only downside is that Ebron doesn’t always use his body to its potential when fighting off defenders.
2014 Outlook: High-end TE2, potential for TE1 value
Jace Amaro, Jets
Amaro rarely lined up inside at Texas Tech, which shows you just how much of a pass-catching tight end he is. Amaro is also tough to tackle and fills a need for the Jets.
2014 Outlook: TE2
Austin Seferain-Jenkins, Bucs
The Bucs have a three-headed monster of 6′-5″ trees with V-Jax, Evans and ASJ. Seferain-Jenkins has good body control given that size and brings soft hands and a great catch radius.