POTENTIAL BEST FANTASY FITS FOR TOP ROOKIE WRs AND TEs
As NFL offenses pick up the pace in the passing game, more rookie receivers are making instant Fantasy impacts. The 2013 Draft class is a deep one and loaded with potential. There are plenty of teams hungry for receiver help and that will create early opportunities for many of these prospects.
Tavon Austin is a dynamic offensive weapon and will definitely be one of the first couple WRs off the board Thursday night. Yes, he is undersized and that could hinder his ultimate upside, but he is so dangerous in space. He needs to land in wide open situation or a spot with an established offense and proven, creative play-caller who can take advantage of his unique skillset.
Ideal Landing Spot: The New York Jets need to add high upside talent at WR and TE during the draft. Austin would be an excellent place to start, giving them a true threat on offense. If Stephen Hill develops as expected, the Jets could lock down their WR situation for the foreseeable future. Austin would have plenty of opportunity for touches in New York, making him an intriguing re-draft option as a rookie. Long-term, he is likely a high upside Fantasy WR2.
Less Than Ideal: While the Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly in the market for a WR, Austin would not necessarily be used to the best of his abilities. Antonio Brown has a similar skill set, even if Austin does have a higher upside. The Steelers tend to be more traditional on offense and may not be willing to get creative with him. Pittsburgh would benefit more from a true possession type or big-bodied receiver that they have been lacking since Plaxico Burress left town.
Cordarrelle Patterson possesses the most Fantasy upside of any player in the Draft regardless of position. He is somewhat raw and needs to refine his route running, but he could become an elite WR option. His size, speed and after-the-catch ability are that of a game-changing prospect. He will be a popular sleeper in re-draft leagues no matter where he lands because of his upside. Patterson is a surefire first rounder in rookie drafts this summer for owners looking to gamble on his ceiling.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Carolina Panthers have been searching for WR help alongside Steve Smith for years now. They thought they may have found something in Brandon LaFell, but he has been slow to develop and lacks WR1 upside. Patterson is just the type of player who could explode with Cam Newton under center. He will show flashes as a rookie and should be ready for a breakthrough in 2014, just as Steve Smith is about to fade away.
Less Than Ideal: The New York Jets already have one wildcard in WR Stephen Hill and the organization is not in a position to take another huge risk. The coaching staff lacked patience with Hill last year and Patterson is similarly not a finished product. He is a supremely gifted player, but with question marks surrounding the entire offense, his development could be disrupted in New York. His immediate Fantasy future would be filled with inconsistencies and frustrating flashes with the Jets.
There is not much to dislike about DeAndre Hopkins as a receiving prospect (his hotel etiquette is another situation entirely). He has natural hands, runs clean routes and excellent ball skills. His speed and burst are not elite and he is not a game breaker, but still has go-to WR type of potential in the right situation.
Ideal Landing Spot: The New England Patriots cut Brandon Lloyd and let Wes Welker walk but signed Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman to help fill the void. Even with their elite TE options, the Patriots need another pass-catching option. Hopkins has the skill set to fit right in with Tom Brady’s offense and be a reliable possession receiver. He gets a bump in PPR leagues, especially if he lands in New England.
Less Than Ideal: The Cleveland Browns stole Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft this past summer, giving them a potential WR1 talent. Other than drop happy Greg Little, recently signed David Nelson and a rumored trade for Davone Bess, they do not have much to speak of at WR. Hopkins would have the skills to pair nicely with Gordon, but Little’s presence and a potential addition of Bess would make this a very cloudy Fantasy situation. A year one impact would not be likely in Cleveland for Hopkins.
Robert Woods is a polished receiver who could make a first year impact if the opportunity arises. He is not dynamic or overly physical, but can make plays in traffic, has excellent hands and runs good routes. While not oozing with upside, there is a lot to like about Woods as a Fantasy asset. He will be a late round flier in re-drafts and has a WR2 ceiling for keeper/dynasty leagues.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Detroit Lions thought they had their WR situation settled last April when they nabbed Ryan Broyles to go alongside Titus Young and Calvin Johnson. Broyles ended up tearing his right ACL in December after doing the same to his left knee a year prior. Young’s maturity issues are well-documented and he was cut this offseason. On the plus side, Calvin Johnson did top 2,000 yards receiving, so at least that worked out. Woods would flourish opposite Megatron and even if Broyles bounced back healthy there would be enough for everyone to eat in Detroit’s pass heavy offense. Woods would get an extra bump in PPR leagues with this landing spot.
Less Than Ideal: The Minnesota Vikings are a popular mock draft destination for Tavon Austin, but he might be long gone by 23rd overall. There are plenty of alternatives but Woods is not the best fit. They signed Greg Jennings, who should hog targets as their top possession receiver. Woods would be fighting for poorly thrown scraps with Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and possibly Greg Childs. As long as Adrian Peterson is around, the Vikings offense is not likely to support two reliable Fantasy receivers. The Vikings would be better served gambling on the upside of Patterson or Hunter at WR.
Keenan Allen may not develop into a true go-to receiver in the NFL, but he could be plenty productive from a Fantasy standpoint in the right situation. He is a good route runner with trustworthy hands and the ability to make plays after the catch. He is not overly physical, but is very athletic and has great ball skills.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Baltimore Ravens traded Anquan Boldin away this offseason and now have a major need in the passing game. Torrey Smith is a dangerous deep threat, Jacoby Jones is not a dependable receiver and the other WRs are projects (Dynasty leaguers, keep an eye on Tommy Streeter). Allen would give the Joe Flacco and the Ravens a dependable possession receiver. With the lack of talented depth, Allen could make an instant Fantasy impact and would be worthy of a first round pick in rookie drafts as well.
Less Than Ideal: The Tennessee Titans do not have a glaring need at WR, but they could use depth. Unfortunately, they drafted a playmaking possession type last April in Kendall Wright. Kenny Britt is a free agent after this season, but he has true WR1 upside and Allen would not be able to replace what he can do for the Titans offense. He could certainly replace Nate Washington, but that would leave him fighting for scraps with two very talented wideouts. His presence would certainly help Jake Locker, who struggles with accuracy, but the Fantasy situation would not be as productive for Allen.
When all is said and done, it may be another Tennessee Volunteer that stands atop this WR class. Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson’s college teammate last year, is another high upside WR prospect with ideal size and versatility. A healthy Hunter also has above-average speed and quickness, but some of that has yet to come back after he tore his ACL in 2011.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Houston Texans played it safe last year at WR and they may have two solid role players in Keshawn Martin and Devier Posey. Now, they need to swing for the fences. Andre Johnson is not getting any younger and the Texans cannot afford go another draft without lining up an heir apparent. Hunter may need some time to adjust, but he has the skillset to contribute as a rookie. If he lands in Houston, he will be on the re-draft radar with the potential to lead all rookies in receiving yardage.
Less Than Ideal: The St. Louis Rams spent two early picks on the position last year, getting the size/speed combination of Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Whether Brian Quick pans out or not remains to be seen, but Hunter profiles similar enough for it to be an awkward Fantasy fit. The Rams need is for a possession receiver who can run clean routes like a Keenan Allen or Robert Woods.
The TE position is evolving into an important and deep Fantasy position after being top-heavy for years. With offenses throwing at record rates, TEs have been joining in on the fun. This Draft class is expected to thin out a bit after the first couple rounds. Teams looking for a TE with receiving upside may need to spend an early pick to secure one of the top options.
Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is widely considered the top TE prospect in this draft for Fantasy purposes. He has the size, athleticism and hands to be a dominating target for his QB. While not a game-breaker or overly powerful, he has enough speed to break tackles and make plays after the catch. Long-term he has obvious TE1 upside.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Oakland Raiders let Brandon Myers walk via free agency this March and now they are in desperate need for help at the TE position. Their current depth chart is topped by raw prospect David Ausberry. That is not going to cut it. Eifert will add a much-needed dynamic element to the Raiders offense and also be a big boost for whoever is under center this season. Few tight ends produce as rookies, but Eifert would definitely be on re-draft radars if he lands in Oakland.
Less Than Ideal: The Miami Dolphins are still searching for a long-term solution at tight end despite signing Dustin Keller to a one-year deal this offseason. Eifert has the talent to fill that role, but his Fantasy impact could be limited, at least initially. Keller is a solid receiving option and the Dolphins did not throw much to their TEs last season. Part of that could have been because of a lack of quality options, but Eifert can do better when it comes to landing spots.
Coby Fleener’s successor at Stanford, Zach Ertz, is similarly well thought of as a receiving option. He is more quick than fast and can struggle going over the middle. While not an elite athlete, Ertz does have plenty of Fantasy upside because of above-average hands and route running ability. He has excellent ball skills that should make him a reliable asset in the passing game.
Ideal Landing Spot: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heath Miller was enjoying the best year of his career before tearing his ACL in Week 16 last year. The injury, coupled with Miller’s age (31 in October), has added TE to the list of offensive needs for the Steelers. Ertz would solve that problem in short order. He has more upside in the passing game than Miller and his hands could make him one of Big Ben’s favorite targets. Miller is signed through 2014, but could be used more as a blocker or ultimately cut loose if Ertz develops as expected.
Less Than Ideal: Eli Manning loves to utilize his TEs, but the New York Giants typically like to see blocking ability as well. That is one of the weaknesses in Ertz’s game and it could affect his playing time. After losing Martellus Bennett to the Bears in free agency, they replaced him with Brandon Myers, who is definitely a catch-first TE. The Giants also have second-year project Adrien Robinson, who GM Jerry Reese called the Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends just last year. Ertz’s lack of upside as a blocker and the presence of Myers as the lead pass catcher make the Giants a tough fit for an immediate Fantasy return.
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