By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on June 2, 2014
It isn't easy for rookies to step in right away and be productive not only in the NFL, but in Fantasy Football. However, a small handful of them seem to make an impact in both real and fantasy terms on a yearly basis. Rookies like Keenan Allen (pictured) and Eddie Lacy were instant contributors for their respective teams and in fantasy terms. With this in mind, here is an early look at 10 rookies who will be fantasy football stars in 2014.
If you are in a custom league using IDPs (individual defensive players), a secondary player to look out for is Cleveland's Justin Gilbert. With shutdown corner Joe Haden forcing a lot of throws to the other side, Gilbert will get plenty of opportunities for interceptions and scoring opportunities. Also, if you are in a league that scores return yards, Gilbert should see plenty of action as a returner as a rookie.
Another IDP to draft for a custom league is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft in Jadeveon Clowney, Clowney joins a team that already features several solid pass-rushers in J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed, giving him plenty of opportunities to excel in one-on-one situations. Clowney is good enough to be a top-10 fantasy football defensive end and will have a double-digit sack season.
Kelvin Benjamin might be a raw prospect this year, but he was put in the best situation for any of the rookie wide receivers. Carolina released or chose not to re-sign all three of their top receivers from a season ago. With only veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant as viable weapons, Benjamin can be a starter from day-one as QB Cam Newton needs a No. 1 option. Benjamin will see plenty of targets this year and is a major red zone threat.
Odell Beckham might not start for the Giants right away, but he won't have to in order to make an impact. With Rueben Randle likely to start opposite Victor Cruz, Beckham will still see plenty of significant snaps in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's three-receiver sets. Beckham is a polished receiver who will help Eli Manning when he needs a safety valve. Beckham's return ability will also help in custom leagues.
Eric Ebron will be the biggest difference-maker as a rookie tight end in fantasy, especially in a pass-friendly offense. The Detroit Lions were third in the NFL in passing last year, and even if Ebron shares targets with either Brandon Pettigrew or Joseph Fauria, he will get plenty of opportunities to make an impact as a rookie in fantasy.
The only quarterback to make this list, Cleveland's Johnny Manziel will be the biggest difference maker this year as a rookie quarterback in fantasy. When Manziel starts this year, not if, he will light up the NFL just like he had at Texas A&M the past two seasons. Manziel's dual-threat ability will prove valuable to any owner who uses a dual-threat quarterback like Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and RG III.
Evans will be an instant starter opposite Vincent Jackson with the Buccaneers this season and will see plenty of targets this season. Because the Bucs don't have other viable options after dealing Mike Williams to the Bills, Evans will have more opportunities to succeed than other rookies. Evans will also be a viable weapon in the red zone as his size will be a matchup nightmare against smaller corners.
The thought of Brandin Cooks joining an offense that already has Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Kenny Stills is a scary one. Add the fact that Drew Brees is the quarterback and Cooks could not have asked for a better team to go to. Cooks will stretch the defense and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Sean Payton will find ways to give Cooks the ball just like he did with Darren Sproles last year.
With the trade of Stevie Johnson to the 49ers, Sammy Watkins is now the primary receiver for the Buffalo Bills; and as the primary receiver, he will get plenty of opportunities to excel as a rookie. There might be some reservations as far as the quarterback throwing him the ball in E.J. Manuel (injuries), but Watkins is still the best receiver out of this rookie class.
Sankey has feature-back potential because of his receiving skills, and with Shonn Greene starting to get long in the tooth, Sankey can not only start but be a three-down back right away. Sankey will be the first rookie off the board in fantasy leagues, perhaps in rounds 3-5. Also, if Sankey can get carries around the goal line, he will be a solid No. 2 running back on any fantasy team.
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