Continuing our way too soon rankings for you fantasy fans that can’t get enough, and you dynasty leaguers with deadlines to draft very soon. We’ll tackle the clear marquis position from the 2014 draft: The WR, lots of good value here – but who makes the best value, who makes the longest term contributions, who is ready to play right now?
Let’s take an initial look, put them in your input file, and let’s watch how they change over the course of the summer.
1.) Mike Evans – Buccaneers – Remember because these are early rankings without having seen this play out, my rankings are heavily influenced by who has the longest term value as a fantasy player over their career. Evans is the top of a very good group, even though I’m not in love with his initial landing spot. Evans is a massive target, runs well, and opposite Vincent Jackson will see a lot of single coverages in 2014. But I think his real value is a few years down the line when Lovie finds a long term answer at QB, and when Jackson has relinquished primary redzone status. I’m putting Evans at the top, just slightly ahead of Watkins because I really hate Watkins’ situation – and I feel Watkins is overrated to a degree.
2.) Sammy Watkins – Bills - Let’s get this out of the way, I don’t like the Bills giving up a ton to move up to grab Watkins. It was a deep WR draft, therefore it was a stupid move. You do that for a once in a generational WR talent like Calvin Johnson, you don’t do it for a guy with very similar measurables to his former teammate DeAndre Hopkins. There is a guy (or two) like Watkins every year. Anyway, a more practical reason to hate the move is for fantasy owners that are now staring at Watkins in Buffalo, with the cold, and the low output offense, and EJ Manuel. I actually think Manuel could be better than people think, but better than people think doesn’t mean Watkins will be fantasy relevant in 2014. He should be used a ton since the Bills fully committed to him, but the output of that commitment to me seems very much in flux. In a few seasons if Manuel stabilizes himself Watkins could be a top 10 fantasy WR – so in rookie drafts I couldn’t blame you for taking him #1, there’s just a little too much hype, and a little too much situational discomfort for me to rank him 1st.
3.) Jordan Matthews – Eagles - This guy might be the best physical prospect in the draft. I’m not kidding. It’s tough to rank him over Evans and Watkins because he does need to polish a little bit of his game. But in 2 seasons, he could very easily be the best WR in this class with some more instruction on route running. I believe in him, and I definitely believe in the extremely high output Chip Kelly offense. If he gets a one on one matchup in an uptempo offense he’ll be terrifying. In dynasty drafts I would not blink if you put this guy as your your 1st pick, I’m higher on him than some – but I really feel in a short time you will see him rise to top 10 fantasy WR status. In 2014 redrafts however, he’s little more than a late round flier as a WR 4 or 5.
4.) Brandon Cooks – Saints – Another WR with freaky measurables that landed in a fantastic spot. Cooks actually is probably in the best position of these top 4 to contribute right away – he’s a burner on a nearly legendary passing offense. But Cooks isn’t just a speedster he’s very strong for his 5’10 frame and should be able to handle press coverages at this level without much issue. I think he also has a legit chance to pass Watkins during his career, but I’ll temper it with the fact that he may be saddled at some point with a complete change of offense after Drew Brees moves on. In redraft leagues right now he’s the top guy I’m taking from this class – you could probably do a lot worse than having him as your fantasy team’s # 3 option in 2014.
5.) Odell Beckham – Giants - Beckham’s great combine really helped pushed him onto the charts. How much so? Well that the Giants took him 12th overall. I don’t doubt that Odell can be productive in the NFL and in a jack-of-all-trades type of way if they let him explore his returner capabilities. I do have some doubts about his explosiveness, as against better SEC competition in college he really struggled. Ron and Tim would probably have Beckham at the same level, and higher than some of the 4 above. I have him clearly as number 5. And there’s nothing really wrong with that – heck for 2014 I could easily see him outproducing everyone from this class except for Cooks. In redraft leagues right now think more low end WR3 high end Wr4 – in dynasty you’re welcome to take him higher than 5th, but to me he’s not quite there.
6.) Allen Robinson – Jaguars - In many ways I think Robinson the most underrated WR in this draft. I know putting him above Lee and Benjamin probably seems ridiculous at 1st glance….but I believe he’s better physically than his new teammate Lee (although he is slower), and he’s got better instincts and moves than Benjamin. The caveat here is Jacksonville – rookie QB, competition with Lee, and overall rookie growing pains on a bad team. It’s a risk pick in dynasty that many people won’t make because they’ll assume Lee will be given more rope, and Robinson may not get a chance to shine. So I wouldn’t blame anyone for flipping these 2 selections – but I want it on record that I think Robinson is the better player right now. In 2014 redrafts you can delay this debate for another year – because Robinson is worth waiver wire consideration only.
7.) Marqise Lee – Jaguars - How the years have changed, last year at this time as people were looking forward to who might be the best WR in the following draft – Lee’s name was mentioned early and often. Now with how deep the WR class became he’s almost relegated to an afterthought. Lee’s in a tough spot here for a lot of reasons: my disdain for Blake Bortles has already been mentioned (not that a rookie QB is usually a good thing regardless), physically he’s not exceptional – not the biggest, not the fastest, and finally he’s got plenty of competition from Cecil Shorts & Allen Robinson. Lee is probably a solid NFL WR but I don’t think he ever gets to elite status – and it’s certainly harder to see that in Jacksonville where they need to define their entire offense for the 4th time in 6 years. In redrafts for 2014 Lee may have value if the Jags force the ball his way to get him involved…I still let someone else take that risk. In dynasty it’s not out of the question that Lee becomes a top 25 WR in 2 or 3 years.
8.) Cody Latimer – Broncos - Here’s a risky one that at 1st doesn’t seem like it. I mean who wouldn’t want to be paired with Peyton Manning? Well, how about a guy who’s just starting out may have to be eased into his role, and by the time he gets it his team has moved on to a new QB and a new philosophy? I love Latimer’s strength, speed, and hands – but I’m not sure how big a part of the Broncos offense he’ll be in 2014 – and if you handicap Peyton with a 2 year window or so, I can’t guarantee Latimer will see the field enough with the Manning offense. If I could do that, Latimer easily jumps into top 4 of this draft – I believe in his talents that much. I also believe long term he will make a great “Eric Decker” like prospect over the course of his career. A solid fantasy #2, but for 2014 you really have to track reports out of Denver to see how he’ll be used. He’s either a potential rookie sleeper, or a deep stash in dynasty.
9.) Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers - My dislike of how “stiff” a player Benjamin is cannot be overstated. He’s like Plaxico Burress at 36, not Plaxico in his prime like what he’s been compared to…still he lands in a pretty good situation for himself. The Panthers, as we discussed numerous times throughout the offseason, were cobbling together a WR corps after cutting Steve Smith. Drafting Benjamin in the 1st round clearly shows their commitment to building a passing offense around him. The problem is, for all the progress Cam Newton made last season, he’s largely still a check down, scramble QB leading a heavy run offense. Benjamin doesn’t have much gamebreaking ability to create for himself and so will be tied very heavily to redzone usage – where his incredible height may give him an advantage – but he may not be top in the pecking order down there. As he watches Cam run in another draw, I’m sure fantasy owners will appreciate his blocking. He’s too big to write off completely, so in dynasty mid 2nd round pick, in redraft late flier if you’ve built your team well….but to me he has very high bust potential.
10.) Davante Adams – Packers - Adams initially is probably a fantasy non-factor in 2014. But man, his landing spot – after this season the Packers will have to come to contract discussions with Jordy Nelson and Randle Cobb. My guess is they’ll probably only sign one of them, leaving Adams in 2015 with competition from only Jarret Boykin & fellow rookie Jarred Abrederis for the #2 in an Aaron Rodgers’ offense. Oh sure, the Packers could trade or draft someone prior to 2015 – but Adams is a solid option for them in house and should just be waiting in the wings for more and more playing time. He’s riskier than guys like Benjamin or Lee, but his payoff if things break right could be very nice. If you like upside guys dynasty leaguers aren’t out of their minds to draft him in the late 1st, early 2nd rounds of rookie drafts.
Donte Moncreif – Colts - solid but not great measurables, won’t become the coveted future “go-to-guy” for Andrew Luck, but could hang around for years being a productive player.
Paul Richardson – Seahawks – they like his deep ball skill set. But will they use it? What overlap does that have with Percy Harvin’s game?
Jarvis Landry – Dolphins - I don’t think he’s special at all, but Dolphins will give him every chance to make it work.
Bruce Ellington – 49’ers - Above average talent, but will he be buried on that roster? Even if Crabtree leaves in 2015 and Boldin moves on after that he fits the burner role rather than the possession role the Niners have coveted.
Martavis Bryant – Steelers - Draft stock tumble was probably warranted – average possession level WR, could be useful career fantasy Wr3.
Jared Abbrederis – Packers – Bit of a wildcard good pass catcher, not fast, potentially a #3 in Green Bay which could spike value. But may not be polished enough to grab gig and get lost in shuffle.
Devin Street – Cowboys – Underrated player chance to supplant Terrance Williams, but certainly no lock to do so.
Michael Campanaro – Ravens – One of my favorite sleepers, but on a traditionally low output offense shifting toward heavy TE use – he may be a story more of never was, than will be…
John Brown – Cardinals - To take this guy in the 3rd round shows the Cardinals must have plans for him. Doesn’t mean those plans will pan out however.
Josh Huff – Eagles - Same as John Brown on a much better offense.
Quincy Enunwa – Jets - The best of a truly odd trio the Jets brought in to pair with Geno Smith. Long term he might work out….short term betting against it.
Jeremy Gallon – Patriots - There’s just too much competition for him – smallest WR drafted by Patriots since Bellichik took over, likely views him as special team coverage player.
Robert Herron – Bucs - Could carve out a speed role in a land of giant WR, but not confident the Bucs offense will utilize him.
Matt Hazel – Dolphins - I might be among the very few that wouldn’t be shocked by him beating out Jarvis Landry for playing time.
TJ Jones – Lions - I’m not so sure TJ makes the team, I know there is some fantasy teasing with a Lions WR, but not sure he can handle being a 3rd or 4th option at the pro level.
Ryan Grant – Redskins - No, not that Ryan Grant. Great hands, average measurables, and a very crowded WR crew have him pegged for a preseason cut or practice squad.
Kevin Norwood - Seahawks – Long odds to make the team, steady but not any kind of standout player.
Shaq Evans – Jets - Shaq Evans a 4th rd pick?!! Oh you wacky Jets.
Jalen Saunders – Jets - Jalen Saunders a 4th rd pick even higher than Evans?!!!! Oh Jets….no…