To the millions of general managers out there in Fantasy land, job well done, but it’s time to get back to tweeting about your lunch and any interesting bumper stickers you may have seen. At the end of last week, the NFL’s real general managers completed the grueling task of adding newly eligible players to their teams……commonly referred to as, “the Draft.”
Honestly, the first two picks of the draft were somewhat of a letdown due to the unsurprising nature of the picks; then came pick number three. Commissioner Roger Goodell strolled to the stage in his confident manner and uttered the words, “With the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida,” and that’s when it clicked. There were going to be serious Fantasy football implications in the hours and days to come.
When the smoke finally cleared, all 32 teams had new toys to play with. Now it’s time to figure out which toys will shine (like Woody and Buzz) and which will turn into Sid’s mutilated playthings and have no future value. (For those of you that I’ve lost, that was a Toy Story reference.) In analyzing how productive these players may turn out to be, a combination of factors needs to be taken into consideration: talent, landing spot and gut feeling. Obviously, the more talented the player, the better chance he has to move up the depth chart and succeed. Landing spot will definitely help a player because no team in their right mind would draft a running back and immediately start him over Adrian Peterson. Last and sometimes most importantly, is the queasy feeling you get inside when you think a player may just fit in a situation. Who would have predicted Keenan Allen would be the wide receiver gem from last season’s class? Talent, injuries to the position and good fortune led Allen into the starting lineup where he eventually shined.
So looking at this year’s class, and taking all those factors into consideration, here is how I rank the class according to both re-draft and dynasty formats. To infinity and beyond!
Yearly Re-Draft Leagues
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends
1. Blake Bortles Bishop Sankey Sammy Watkins Eric Ebron
2. Johnny Manziel Tre Mason Mike Evans Austin Seferian-Jenkins
3. Teddy Bridgewater Terrance West Jordan Matthews Jace Amaro
4. Derek Carr Andre Williams Brandin Cooks C.J. Fiedorowicz
5. Tom Savage Carlos Hyde Kelvin Benjamin Troy Niklas
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends
1. Johnny Manziel Bishop Sankey Sammy Watkins Eric Ebron
2. Blake Bortles Tre Mason Mike Evans Austin Seferian-Jenkins
3. Teddy Bridgewater Andre Williams Brandin Cooks Jace Amaro
4. Derek Carr Carlos Hyde Jordan Matthews C.J. Fiedorowicz
5. Tom Savage Ka’Deem Carey Allen Robinson Richard Rodgers
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville – If you took the time to read any of my pre-draft articles, you would see I have a mini-man crush on Johnny Manziel. Still, for the goal of accuracy, Bortles still projects as the safest bet for Fantasy value in his rookie season. Although the coaching staff is calling Chad Henne the starter, we’ve seen that story before. Coaches always say they will play, “the guy who gives them the best chance to win.” Henne isn’t giving you the best chance for anything. Bortles should be the starter by Week 3 at the latest. If I believed in Teddy Bridgewater’s ability I’d have him number one, but the fact of the matter is I do not. Even if there are growing pains, the opportunity should be enough for Bortles to have the best rookie season. Beyond year one, give me Manziel.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland – The Browns are calling Brian Hoyer the starter but there is merit to this claim. Hoyer looked like a legitimate NFL starter in his short stint running the show in Cleveland last season. His reign only lasted two weeks but that still qualifies as a better track record than Henne. Manziel’s run/pass combination should be making Fantasy owner’s mouths drool. If given a full allotment of playing time, he could have Cam Newton-like statistical ability. Even if Manziel earns the job sooner than expected, the loss of Josh Gordon takes away his would-be top weapon. When Manziel is eventually handed the job, Jordan Cameron should become a good friend of his. Ben Tate’s running ability should help open up space for Manziel himself. The minute he earns the starting job, he becomes the best Fantasy QB in the draft. The only question is when, or if, that day will come in 2014.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee – Easily, Sankey found himself the best situation both short and long-term for consistent Fantasy value. After losing Chris Johnson, the Titans immediately looked to draft his permanent replacement. Neither Shonn Greene nor Jackie Battle possesses the talent to challenge for big-time roles. Therefore, Sankey will be the workhorse by default starting in year number one. He doesn’t possess explosive speed but his decision making makes up for it. His above average speed is enough when he chooses his hole and pounds it. He has the body type of a Ray Rice/Maurice Jones-Drew type and we’ve seen them succeed. If you are looking for a large workload from day one, look no further than the man from Washington University.
Terrance West, RB, Cleveland – Injury prone Ben Tate is the only player standing in West’s way. Cleveland’s coaching staff is on record saying, “we love this guy.” Typical coach speak doesn’t automatically guarantee touches or time on the field for players but there seems to be no alternative here. Tate will surely break down with a giant workload, so West will be used to spell him at the very least. In the best case scenario for West, this will turn into a true running back-by-committee.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco – Twitter came through in a big way when someone said the best pro comparison for Hyde was the Dolphins Daniel Thomas. Both are bull-you-over runners that are best suited for goal line work. If need be, they could be workhorse backs but are best fits as situational backs. Frank Gore will break down soon. As for how soon, well that ultimately will determine how soon Hyde’s value increases exponentially. Until that day, the best Fantasy owners can hope for is a handful of carries with a goal line carry here and there. His future potential is greater than that of his outlook for the 2014 season.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo – Admittedly, this is a true gut feeling call. Everything points towards Mike Evans having the better short term fit than Watkins. Evans gets to play next to a dominant wide receiver while Watkins will be the one drawing all the attention. This coaching staff drafted him for a reason, however, and will tailor an offense around his needs. Jayson Braddock calls Watkins a bigger Percy Harvin, and we all remember how he burst onto the scene as a rookie. When a player is so versatile that he can play anywhere in any formation and take it to the house at any point, it is hard to be down on them. Do not get cute and just take Watkins before Evans in any Fantasy draft.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay – As a classic large-bodied receiver, common knowledge would say he’s a safe bet for touchdowns. In this case, common knowledge would be correct. Mike Williams had success playing alongside Vincent Jackson and he is not nearly as talented. Jackson will help Evans draw one-on-one coverage more often than not. Evans will be able to beat 6’0” cornerbacks every day of the week and twice on Sundays (or maybe more). Watkins’ combination of speed and size is the deciding factor over Evans, who just has size to his name. To be fair, if Watkins and Evans ended up in opposite situations, the disparity between the two would have been much greater. In other words, Evans absolutely found himself the more Fantasy-friendly situation. Watkins’ talent is just too great to pass on.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia – Speaking of Fantasy-friendly landing spots, Chip Kelly’s offense ain’t too shabby. Out goes DeSean Jackson, in comes Matthews. Riley Cooper became Nick Foles’ favorite target by default because Zach Ertz was still developing and Jackson put forth an inconsistent effort. Matthews comes into the NFL with pedigree (he is the cousin of Jerry Rice) and the most NFL-ready game of any of the rookie receivers. At 6’3”, 212 pounds, Foles may have just landed himself his new favorite target; this time, it is not by accident.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit – By far the most talented tight end in the draft, Ebron latches onto an offense that already featured Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. In terms of scheming against the Lions, Ebron will rank third on opponent’s lists at best. Okay, so the Lions just re-signed Brandon Pettigrew but things change fast in the modern NFL. When something better comes along; bye-bye outdated asset. Just ask Fred Davis what happened last season when Jordan Reed showed up. Expect the Lions situation to play out the same way in which the rookie tight end leads the team in productivity by the end.
Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets – The Jets needed a tight end and dang it they went out and found themselves one. Amaro runs excellent routes and plays both in tight and in the slot. He will give the quarterback a second weapon besides the presence of Eric Decker. The big problem with Amaro is he runs incredibly straight up. His running style reminds me of former NFL running back Chris Brown of the Titans, whose career eventually ended due to injury. When healthy, he will catch a significant number of passes while lining up all over the field. I just worry that he will eventually taking a hit while running in his uncoordinated manner that may sideline him for an extended period. For that reason, Seferian-Jenkins slides ahead of him in both re-draft and dynasty Fantasy football leagues.