Fantasy Football 2014: Highlighting The NFL Draft
I don’t know what to do with my hands.
We all know that the NFL Draft is exciting, but when things don’t go as planned (and it always happens), it gets to the point where you don’t know what to do with yourself. Sitting down, watching the draft and writing fantasy notes, I struggled to sit still. But alas, I got through it, and have plenty of fantasy analysis from the first round of the draft.
I’m still not entirely sure what to do with my hands, though.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles, the consensus number three rated quarterback, went before any other signal caller in this draft, in a surprise move. Jacksonville certainly isn’t the greatest fantasy fit, but even guys like Chad Henne were stream-worthy last season, and Bortles is a much better talent. Drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger, Bortles has great size for a quarterback (6’5″, 230 pounds) and can extend plays with his strong mobility and improvisation skills. He is an incredible passer when on-the-run and uses his size to take hits that other passers wouldn’t normally be able to withstand.
Jacksonville isn’t the greatest fantasy fit by any means. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon‘s availability is still in question and they have an unproven running back in the backfield. However, Bortles has fantasy upside because of the combination of his arm and legs. During his final year at Central Florida, Bortles attempted a screen on 23 percent of his passes, the most among the big three in quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the Jags do have some solid screen wideouts in Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders, so perhaps there is some potential.
Still, Jacksonville isn’t very enticing.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
This is right around where I had difficulty breathing.
As a diehard Bills fan, I knew they were looking to trade up. I knew they liked Watkins and I knew the feeling was mutual. However, for whatever reason, I just didn’t envision him landing in Buffalo. Watkins, a Bills fan growing up, must be feeling pretty darn high right now.
We all know what this guy can do. 4.43 speed, explosive, playmaking ability that allows him to take the top off the defense, Watkins is a stud. Buffalo now has some incredible speed with Watkins, C.J. Spiller, Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods. The arrival of the talented wide receiver could spell a trade for Stevie Johnson, who Buffalo stated would be on the block if they selected a wideout. As for Watkins’ fantasy value, there is reason to be excited, but you should also temper expectations. 57.43 percent of his receptions last year came off the screen, and Buffalo is a fast-paced offense that runs plenty of screens. He’s a solid fit, but the quarterback situation isn’t ideal, and as I have been saying all week, rookie wideouts rarely translate to fantasy studs:
ESPN looked at about 60 receivers to post 1,200 yards in a season, and noticed that their biggest jump in fantasy points came in their second season, seeing a 65 percent uptick. And since 2005, only two wideouts have posted 1,000 yards in their rookie campaign (A.J. Green, Keenan Allen). However, while I am a fantasy guy, I am also a Bills fan.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not much of a surprise here.
After the Bucs dealt Mike Williams to Buffalo, a need opened up at wide receiver. Many had Evans pegged as their selection at number seven overall, and sure enough, there he went. Evans goes to Tampa to play alongside his clone in veteran veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
Height- 6’5″ Height- 6’5″
Weight- 231 lbs Weight- 230 lbs
40-time- 4.53 40-time- 4.46
Vertical- 37 inches Vertical- 39 inches
Evans has more fantasy upside than Watkins because of his touchdown potential. A man with his size, his physicality and his catch radius, Evans could serve as a red zone monster. Rich Hribar highlighted in a chart that the game is trending towards bigger wideouts seeing better touchdown numbers, which obviously makes sense. In fact, from 2010 to 2013, receivers that are 215 pounds are bigger are posting eight-touchdown seasons about 40 percent of the time. Vincent Jackson, meanwhile, will draw more attention from the defense, as well as running back, Doug Martin.
This move also impacts new quarterback, Josh McCown. We saw the veteran see rejuvenation with Chicago last year, throwing to two big targets in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. He was very fantasy relevant throwing to them last year, and Evans and Jackson may not be better, but they are certainly bigger.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
This pick also makes sense. Ebron visited with Detroit a lot leading up to the draft, and the Lions really wanted the athletic tight end. Ebron is an incredible athlete and an outstanding route-runner. When running routes, he changes direction very well and knows how to create separation. The fit with Detroit is interesting because they pass the ball as much as anyone, but they also have plenty of mouths to feed. Calvin Johnson is a lock for 200 targets, Golden Tate is now in the mix, both running backs can catch 50 balls and the Lions still have two other tight ends in Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew. Still, Ebron lined up in the slot an insane 71.74 percent of the time last year, and because he’s an inconsistent blocker, the Lions could just use him as a glorified tight end.
Rookie tight ends hardly ever produce in fantasy. In fact, over the last 11 seasons, only three rookie tight ends have finished as top-12 fantasy options. Ebron is exciting, but don’t overpay for Ebron because of his home in pass-happy Detroit.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns
Finally… “The Rock… has come ba–” Whoops. Sorry about that.
Got ahead of myself.
The Browns teased us all night long, trading in and out of different spots, but finally, at pick number 22, they took the guy everyone was waiting to see on the podium. Manziel isn’t a lock to enter the season as the starting quarterback, though. He’ll compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job, but if he wins that job, he is easily going to be inside my top-15 among quarterbacks for fantasy purposes. Here’s a guy who rushed for almost 2,200 yards in two seasons at A&M, and became just the fourth quarterback to ever rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. The mobility is always intriguing for fantasy reasons, but he is also more accurate than people give him credit for. What he lacks in size, Manziel makes up for with his heart and hand size, two important parts of playing quarterback.
As for the fit with the Browns, it’ll be interesting. This team is coming off a season where they led the league in pass attempts per game (42.6), and he’ll be behind a top-12 offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus. Also, new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan wants to implement an outside-zone rushing attack, which forces lineman to move laterally. The versatile Manziel could be a good fit in that system.
Oh, and throwing to Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron should be fun, too.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings traded up for the final pick of the first round, and selected Bridgewater, who deservedly went in the first round of the draft. I think he is the most pro-ready passer in this class, and although he lacks arm strength, this is an offense where he will be throwing short and intermediate passes to guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and Adrian Peterson. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner will be a nice fit for Bridgewater’s fantasy value, though this offense lives and dies with the best runner in the game, AP.
Two speedy wideouts found new homes, and made some fantasy noise. First, Odell Beckham Jr. was selected by the New York Giants. He’s actually a pretty solid fit for the G-Men, who were absolutely terrible on special teams. A dynamic return man like Beckham can help that cause, while also serving as an electric third wide receiver for the ball club.
Finally, one of the biggest fantasy winners is Brandin Cooks, who the New Orleans Saints traded up to grab at pick number 20. Catching passes from Drew Brees is great for anyone’s fantasy value, but especially in a creative offense like the Saints. Cooks ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, making him the fastest wideout in this draft class. He’ll likely slide into the team’s number three receiver role, making him a sneaky name to remember come fantasy draft time.