In fantasy football (and fantasy sports in general) rookies are almost always overhyped because everyone wants to play with the shiny new toy. Fantasy owners want to show their friends how smart they were by drafting the next big breakout star when nobody knew who they were. Unfortunately stats have shown that rookies are more likely to fall flat on their faces than they are to take off and for every Keenan Allen there’s plenty of Tavon Austin‘s who get dropped by week five.
The 2014 crop of rookies is very deep, especially at the wide receiver position, but there are no real standout stars like the Andrew Luck / RGIII or the Julio Jones / A.J. Green drafts. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see at least four or five players in this class become perennial pro-bowlers and this draft as a whole could go down as one of the better draft classes overall. If you’re in a redraft league, draft these guys for their upside, but don’t pass up established fantasy players to do so.
Who Are The Top Rookies In 2014?
Rookie Quarterbacksstrong>1. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns – Far from ideal QB size but his running/passing ability is a great combo in fantasy. The Browns cupboard is bare at receiver, but he always seems to find a way. Should be a good backup with big upside right away.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings – The most “pro ready” QB in this year’s draft but lacks ideal size. 50/50 chance Vikings let him watch from the sidelines in 2014 but Minnesota has a few weapons and he could be a solid backup if he starts.
3. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders – Big NFL arm that can make all the throws but gets happy feet in the pocket and makes bad decisions. Should find his way to the starting job at some point this year but I wouldn’t rush to grab him in redrafts.
4. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars – Ideal NFL size and arm strength plus he can pick up yards on the ground, but he’s still pretty raw and will likely sit for most of 2014. Jags are on the upswing and I like him in dynasty but not so much in redrafts.
Rookie Running Backs
1. Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans – Dream scenario with only Shonn Greene to beat for the job and a run first head coach. Good, but not elite back who should be a RB2 going forward. Should be the top rookie RB this year.
2. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers backfield is murky and Frank Gore isn’t going down without a fight, but Hyde is a big time talent. If he gets the job in that run first offense he could be special.
3. Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams – Good all around back with a lot of upside. Should work in right away as a complement to Zac Stacy, but don’t be surprised if he takes the job by year end.
4. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons – Solid all around back and heir apparent to Steven Jackson. Should work in some even if Jackson is healthy and would be very valuable if Jackson goes down.
5. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals – Big back who runs hard and should complement Gio Bernard right away. Major off-field issues are a red flag though. If he keeps his nose clean he’s a good flex option.
6. Terrance West, Cleveland Browns – Big back who dominated below average competition. Tate is ahead of him and Crowell could push him so his situation is very unsettled.
7. Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Great pass catcher and may work in to RB rotation right away, but there could be a lot of backs in the rotation which limits his upside.
8. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns – Big time talent, but a knucklehead. If he gets a chance to start it wouldn’t surprise me if he kept the job.
9. Andre Williams, New York Giants – Tom Couglin loves a good committee so he’ll get some work but with hands of stone his role may be limited. Goal line back?
10. James White, New England Patriots – Early training camp rumors have White impressing, but even if he starts do you want Belichick running back headaches?
11. KaDeem Carey, Chicago Bears – Like his talent but he needs a Matt Forte injury to have redraft value. If Forte goes down he could impress.
13. Lache Seastrunk, Washington Redskins – Probably the best athlete of all rookie backs but Washington’s backfield is crowded and he could use more polish.
Rookie Wide Receivers
1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – My #1 receiver even pre-draft, he has elite size, good speed, reliable hands and now a good situation. If nothing else should be a good source of touchdowns.
2. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints – A little guy (5’10” 189lbs) but has great hands and blazing 4.3 speed. Oh, did I mention he’s playing with Drew Brees now? Love. Love. Love.
3. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills – Oozing with talent and could be special but EJ Manuel will likely bring him down for a couple of years. Love in dynasty leagues, not so much in redraft.
4. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles – A very polished receiver right out of college, he should be ready to go right away. Philly’s offense is amazing and Matthews should be a big part if it now that DeSean Jackson is gone.
5. Odell Beckham Jr, New York Giants – Smallish receiver, but a great route runner with good hands. Good fit for Giants new west coast offense but catching passes from Eli can be frustrating (just ask a Cruz owner).
6. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers – Massive receiver (6’5″ 245lbs) drafted in to a receiver starved Pathers offense. Needs to cut down on the drops if he’s going to live up to his potential, but if he does… look out.
7. Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos – Good size and speed with great hands (one drop on 119 targets last season). Now playing with Peyton Manning, sign me up! Could find a starting role by mid-season if he lives up to his talent.
8. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars – Not special in any one area, but very good in almost all of them. Jacksonville’s offense is a work in progress and is probably a year away but I like him better than Lee.
9. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars – Like with Robinson, probably a year away from fantasy value. Lee has blazing speed (ran track for USC) but nagging injuries make me think he could be a headache in pros.
10. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts – Big time physical talent with good size, but is still a bit raw. Should develop in to Luck’s #1 target eventually, but not sure it will be in 2014.
11. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers – Led NCAA in receptions last season and lands in a great situation catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, but Packers’ WR corps is crowded and Adams is one of three rookie pass catchers in Green Bay.
12. Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers – Somewhat unheralded pre-draft, Bryant is a nice fit in Pittsburgh and gives them the big body (6’4″ 211lbs) they haven’t had since Plaxico. If he lands a starting role he could surprise.
13. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins – Smallish receiver but plays with an aggressive “my ball” mentality and is a precise route runner. Don’t love his long term upside, but he could outperform his peers in 2014.
Rookie Tight Ends
1. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions – Physical freak with great speed and presents a lot of matchup issues. In pass happy Detroit he should lead all rookie TE’s in production but I wouldn’t go too heavy on any rookie TE in redraft leagues.
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – A huge target (6’5″ 262lbs), ASJ should contribute right away in the red zone but Tampa has a few other TE’s so playing time might be an issue.
3. Jace Amaro, New York Jets – A big body (6’5″ 265lbs) with good speed, but his NCAA stats were inflated by ultra pass heavy offense. Still, Jets need weapons in pass game so he’ll get a lot of work.
4. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – The Packers needed a TE after losing Finley and Rodgers’ size and athletic ability is a great fit. He might not start right away but don’t be surprised if he’s on the field a lot. At his draft cost I’d rather have him than any rookie TE listed above him.