Fantasy Football 2014: Rookie Preview; Wide Receivers
The wide receiver position is filled with talent in the 2014 draft, which is very, very exciting for fantasy purposes. There are a handful of elite talents in this class that have major fantasy upside, and most expert mocks have around six or seven receivers being selected in the first round alone. But this is your friendly reminder that you shouldn’t always bank on rookie wideouts. Since 2005, only two wideouts posted 1,000 yards in their rookie seasons – A.J. Green and Keenan Allen. And I’ve plugged this before, but below is a chart that shows some of the top receivers in the league who struggled in their rookie seasons:
Of course, all of these guys saw a major uptick in production during year two, and it comes to no surprise. According to ESPN, when they looked at the 60 wideouts to post 1,200 yards in a season, they noticed that the biggest spike in production occurred in year two. In fact, they saw a 65 percent increase in fantasy points during their second year. So, these rookies do have plenty to offer, but don’t automatically assume they are going to post insane fantasy numbers.
But year two, however…
Perhaps the best all-around receiver in this year’s class, Evans is going to be a very, very good player in this league. He has decent speed, running a 4.53 40-yard dash and showcasing deceptive straight-line speed. But when you look at Evans, you see a physical specimen. A 6’5″, 231-pound freak who uses his size and physicality to simply bully opposing defenders. He also has great body control to go up and make those tough catches in traffic, and also initiates the contact with defenders. He always fights for extra yardage and can create separation with ease. Evans is going to draw plenty of mismatches at the next level.
It’s pretty clear to me. When you look at Evans, you see Vincent Jackson. 150 percent. The two are clones of each other, possessing similar size, metrics and skill-set.
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 is going to be a tremendous fantasy wide receiver because of his elite red zone prowess. Touchdowns result in fantasy numbers, and Evans has the size, physicality and skill to score a ton. Look at what Keenan Allen did in his rookie year last season. The guy showcased that go-up-and-get-it mentality, scoring eight touchdowns. However, Allen is three inches and 20 pounds smaller than Evans, and you simply cannot teach the size that he possesses. 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. Keep an eye on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just traded Mike Williams. Evans could fall to them at number seven, and can you imagine a pairing of he and Jackson?
If Evans is 1A among receivers, Watkins is 1B. In fact, most people probably have Watkins as the top receiver on the board. The most explosive offensive player in this class, Watkins is the type of player that opposing defenses absolutely fear. A guy with 4.43 speed, he can flat-out take the top off the defense, but also has tremendous ball-tracking ability. He can go up and get it just like Evans, though, his catch radius isn’t as freakishly large. Still, Watkins has that big-play ability that NFL teams crave, possessing versatility on a team. You can throw it to him deep, you can run a jet sweep with him, dump it off, use him in a bubble screen. This guy can do it all, folks. At 6’1″, 205 lbs, Watkins isn’t “small” by any means. Still, you would imagine that he’d be used in screen scenarios quite a bit, seeing as 57.43 percent of his catches last season came via the screen pass (hat tip to Greg Peshek).
*missed 3 games in 2012
Watkins can easily be a top-25 fantasy wide receiver during his rookie year, but it will certainly help if he lands in the right situation. Teams like Jacksonville, Oakland and Cleveland all are interested, but neither team has the greatest quarterback situation. Luckily, all you need to do is get this guy in space, and any NFL quarterback can throw a bubble screen. He is very similar to a guy like Torrey Smith, someone who is more known for his speed and breakaway ability, but also holds strong catch radius value.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Now, I don’t have Beckham going as the third overall wideout. In fact, I have no one going anywhere because I don’t do mock drafts. But, after Watkins and Evans, there are a bunch of guys that have plenty of upside, but a few flaws, too. Beckham could very well be taken next after the first two, after all.
- Great acceleration, burst.
- Crisp route runner. Can get open fairly easily.
- Improved his hands.
- Good footwork, elite after the catch.
- Dynamic return man that can change the game on any given play.
- Average size.
- Has speed, but lacks elite speed. Can be caught from behind.
- Needs to get stronger.
Beckham Jr. could go anywhere between 10 and 25 in the first round, meaning plenty of teams show interest. He would fit very well with a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who play at a fast-pace and love bringing in explosive playmakers. They also need to replace an elite playmaker like DeSean Jackson.
Other notable WR: Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, Cody Latimer.
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