DEANDRE HOPKINS COULD MAKE INSTANT IMPACT
Now more than ever before, WRs and TEs are at the forefront of the Fantasy world. As the league gets more and more pass heavy each year, young prospects are thrown into action early on. That means more of an opportunity for an accelerated Fantasy impact, especially in point-per-reception leagues. Let’s discuss keeper/dynasty rankings for rookie pass catchers:
The 2013 WR Class is deep and talented. We could see a handful of wideouts make a splash this season while others climb their way up the depth chart. For a keeper/dynasty owner, this is a chance to stack your bench with upside.
- Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings) has the most upside of any skill position player available this year. He is an athletic freak and ridiculously explosive with the ball in his hands. He lands on a Vikings team desperate for playmakers after trading Percy Harvin this offseason. He is a raw prospect who needs to refine his route running. Expect a handful of huge performances from Patterson this season, but ultimately he will be an inconsistent Fantasy option. By 2014, he could be ready to overtake Greg Jennings as the Vikings go-to receiver. His ceiling makes him a Top 5 rookie draft selection.
- DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans) is exactly what the Texans have been searching for. He has the ability to start opposite Andre Johnson as a rookie and the upside to be his heir apparent. Hopkins game is NFL ready with excellent hands, route running ability and ball skills. He should be able to make a redraft impact and long-term has WR1 upside. Houston would have been a great landing spot for any rookie receiver, but Hopkins has the talent to exceed even the loftiest of expectations. He is a surefire first round selection in rookie drafts with instant impact potential.
- Tavon Austin (St. Louis Rams) is likely to be the first WR off the board in most rookie drafts this summer. Austin’s explosiveness and playmaking ability are off the charts, but his size is a legitimate concern. He is not as physical as Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb, but could carve out a similar type of role. If the Rams are dedicated to using Austin as an offensive weapon, he could rack up plenty of Fantasy points as a receiver, runner and returner. His Fantasy ceiling is capped because he is not a go-to receiver, but he should be a high upside WR2 for years to come.
- Keenan Allen (San Diego Chargers) has the hands, build and strength to be a Fantasy factor. He may not be a burner, but when healthy he plays faster than his 4.71 forty time. San Diego is a great spot for Allen to land, as they lack a true WR1. He will compete with Danario Alexander, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown for playing time. He has the talent and opportunity to be a first year performer and eventually become one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. He should be a late-first round pick in rookie drafts, and represents strong value if he falls beyond that.
- Justin Hunter (Tennessee Titans) has a Fantasy ceiling only matched by his fellow Tennessee Volunteer Cordarrelle Patterson. Hunter tore his ACL in 2011 and did not look like the same explosive playmaker last season. If he can regain that burst and eliminate the drops, he will make Kenny Britt expendable at the end of this season. He is not in line for a consistent impact this year behind Britt and Kendall Wright, but could flash glimpses of his potential. He is a high risk/high reward selection in dynasty leagues.
- Markus Wheaton (Pittsburgh Steelers) brings speed and versatility to Pittsburgh. Given that Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown lack elite qualities, Wheaton could force his way into action early on with his explosive skill set. He may very well end up replacing what Mike Wallace brought to this offense. While not a true WR1 talent, Wheaton has a considerable Fantasy ceiling because of his playmaking ability.
- Robert Woods (Buffalo Bills) is an NFL-ready receiver with long-term WR2 potential. He lands in Buffalo where he has a legitimate shot at the starting job opposite Stevie Johnson. While not dynamic or oozing with upside, Woods is a good route runner with reliable hands. He should be a second rounder in rookie drafts and is certainly on the re-draft radar as a late round pick.
- Aaron Dobson (New England Patriots) enters a land of opportunity. The Patriots have lacked size at WR since Randy Moss left town and Dobson has the talent to step into the starting lineup as a rookie. Other than size, Dobson has good speed, hands and football IQ. Those are all things that could endear him to the Patriots coaching staff and QB Tom Brady this summer. He should go off the board no later than the second round in rookie drafts.
- Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys) put up big numbers at Baylor and now lands in an intriguing spot with the Cowboys. He has the downfield speed to be a dangerous complement to Dez Bryant, but lacks physicality despite his size and athleticism. Still, his upside is considerable in a potent offense and he could push Miles Austin out the door by 2014. Do not expect much in year one as he adjusts to life in the NFL, but he could have a situational impact. Williams should be considered a second or third round rookie draft prospect.
- Stedman Bailey (St. Louis Rams) is a high floor, medium ceiling talent that could contribute right away in St. Louis. His long-term potential is capped by a lack of explosiveness, size and strength. Bailey runs precise routes, has consistent hands and could carve out a solid career as a possession receiver. Bump up his value in PPR leagues. It would not be a complete shock if he has a more productive rookie year than Austin from a Fantasy perspective. View him as more of a WR3 for the future.
[caption id="attachment_43986" align="alignright" width="300"] <em><strong>Hopkins has the potential to be starter-worthy out of the gates.</strong> Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rylan8t/" target="_blank">Rylan8t</a></em>[/caption]
- Aaron Mellette (Baltimore Ravens) is a raw talent from Division I-AA Elon College. He has the size, speed and athletic ability to develop into a starter for the Ravens alongside deep threat Torrey Smith. There is open opportunity in Baltimore, with only Smith as an established, reliable receiving option.
- Marquess Wilson (Chicago Bears) has an enticing size/speed combination and a high Fantasy ceiling. With only Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey locked in ahead of him, he has an opportunity to see action as a rookie. Eventually, he could be a starting WR but it would take an injury or lack of development from Jeffrey in the short-term. He would benefit from adding some bulk, but Wilson has great hands and could be a dangerous redzone threat.
- Da’Rick Rodgers (Buffalo Bills) comes with some red flags, but his physical play was worth the risk for the Bills as an undrafted free agent. He is a big, explosive receiver with a high Fantasy ceiling. He will need time to develop, but has the skill set to earn playing time. Could be the eventual go-to receiver opposite Robert Woods. Worthy of a mid-round rookie selection on upside alone.
- Quinton Patton (San Francisco 49ers) is someone who could surprise a couple years from now. He does not profile as a future WR1 because of less than ideal size and speed. He is aggressive to the ball and could end up a chain-moving possession type. Right now, he is buried on a run first offense behind veteran Anquan Boldin and go-to option Michael Crabtree. He is not nearly the athlete 2012 first-rounder A.J. Jenkins is, but he could definitely push him for playing time as a rookie.
- Tavarres King (Denver Broncos) gives the Broncos a developmental project at WR. By the time he ascends up the depth chart, Peyton Manning could be riding off into the sunset. Still with Eric Decker a free agent after this season and Wes Welker after the next, King has a shot at Fantasy relevance sooner than many think. He has the speed and after the catch ability to be an eventual WR2. A great landing spot if you can afford to be patient and let him develop.
- Ryan Swope (Arizona Cardinals) turned heads long before his impressive 4.34 forty time at the Combine. He profiles as a highly productive slot receiver, but has the versatility and size to lineup outside if needed. In Arizona, he could really push Andre Roberts with a strong summer. His upside is somewhat capped, but Swope could carve out a nice career as a WR3 in PPR leagues.
- Kenny Stills (New Orleans Saints) could be the eventual replacement for Lance Moore in New Orleans if he develops as expected. And that is not a bad thing at all from a Fantasy perspective. He has good short area quickness and long speed, but lacks the strength to break tackles. Any WR landing in New Orleans is intriguing and Stills should be monitored closely this season.
- Chris Harper (Seattle Seahawks) lands in a crowded situation, at least for 2013. He has impressive strength and enough speed to be dangerous on the outside at 6’1” and 229 lbs. Golden Tate is entering the final year of his rookie contract, Doug Baldwin will be a restricted free agent after the season and Sidney Rice could eventually become a cap casualty. Harper is the type of player that dynasty owners should stash for a couple seasons to see if he emerges.
- Charles Johnson (Green Bay Packers) is the ultimate rookie draft lottery ticket. Not invited to the Combine, he instead shredded the Grand Valley State pro day. That performance along with his elite measurables has him on the dynasty radar. The Packers have three receivers locked in for 2013, but James Jones is a free agent after this season. Johnson has the raw talent to become a factor. If you are a gambling type, Johnson makes for an intriguing pick in the later rounds of a rookie draft.
- Mark Harrison (Chicago Bears) may not be as game-ready as fellow rookie Marquess Wilson, but he is just as intriguing for long-term leagues. He is a big, athletic target with the ball skills and deep speed to stretch defenses. Harrison has trained with Brandon Marshall and resembles him physically. He needs to work on sharpening his routes, concentration and burst off the line of scrimmage if he wants to get on the re-draft radar within the next couple years. He is very much a boom or bust selection.
DIGGING DEEP: Marqise Goodwin (Buffalo Bills), Josh Boyce (New England Patriots), Cobi Hamilton (Cincinnati Bengals), Ace Sanders (Jacksonville Jaguars), Cory Fuller (Detroit Lions), Marcus Davis (New York Giants) and Conner Vernon (Oakland Raiders) all have intriguing upside in deep dynasty leagues. Their progress should be monitored closely in camp this summer.
The TE Class is top heavy with three high-upside talents in Eifert, Ertz and Kelce. Do not look for a big rookie impact from the TE position, but there are at least 10 prospects here that could be startable down the road.
- Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals) seemed to land in a questionable Fantasy situation. While it may make his rookie season inconsistent, the outlook is quite bright for the future. The Bengals have former first round pick Jermaine Gresham entrenched as their starter, but Eifert can push him immediately. He is a better athlete and more dynamic receiving option. Gresham’s rookie deal is up after 2014 and Eifert will make him an afterthought by then. He has TE1 potential and deserves to be selected by the second round in rookie drafts.
- Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles) is an athletic receiving TE that should make Brent Celek owners nervous. He runs clean routes, has reliable hands and excellent body control for a big target. He should fit in well with the Eagles fast-paced offense and be an over the middle threat. Long-term he has TE1 upside, especially in PPR leagues. He should be targeted in the middle rounds of a rookie draft.
- Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) has the upside to be a better Fantasy option than Eifert and Ertz long-term. Kelce lands in Kansas City where he will compete with oft-injured Tony Moeaki and underwhelming Anthony Fasano for playing time. He should make quick work of both and be the three-down starter by 2014 at the latest. Kelce is a devastating blocker with potentially elite receiving ability. He has the raw strength, soft hands and brute force to be a dominating Fantasy option. Right now, his value as a mid-round pick is a steal.
- Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins) often gets compared to fellow former Florida Gator Aaron Hernandez. He is undersized and offers little as a blocker, but he can catch the football and make plays after the catch. He has the athleticism and upside to develop into a high upside TE2 within the next few years.
- Gavin Escobar (Dallas Cowboys) has the size and enough athletic ability to develop into Jason Witten’s successor. He will likely take a few years before he is ready to contribute consistently, but the Cowboys have time with Witten just turning 31.
- Vance McDonald (San Francisco 49ers) is an athletic tight end with major upside as a receiving option. He will start out his career backing up the beastly Vernon Davis, but he could eventually succeed him. It’s a great landing spot for a developmental prospect to learn.
- Dion Sims (Miami Dolphins) is a big, athletic target for Ryan Tannehill. Free agent signee Dustin Keller is on a one-year deal and Sims could be groomed to slide into the starting role next year. He has TE2 upside.
- Nick Kasa (Oakland Raiders) lands in one of the most opportunistic spots for a young TE. He is a converted defensive end with potential to grow into a threat in the passing game. He moves well for his size and has the strength to overpower defenders over the middle. Keep a close eye on him; Oakland lacks talent at the position.
- D.C. Jefferson (Arizona Cardinals) is a project at the TE position. He has the measurables and potential to develop into a usable Fantasy TE. If Rob Housler does not take the next step this year, Jefferson could see time in 2014.
- Ryan Griffin (Houston Texans) has upside as a pass-catching TE in the Texans offense. Initially, he will work behind starter Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, but could develop into the primary option in a few years. He is someone to monitor unless your league is extremely deep.
DIGGING DEEP: Joseph Fauria (Detroit Lions), Ryan Otten (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Jake Stoneburner (Green Bay Packers) were all undrafted free agents that could make a Fantasy impact in keeper/dynasty leagues.
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