2014 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings – updated Saturday August 19th
Last year’s rookie class was running back heavy at the top with Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy. All five are Top 15 running backs this season according to FantasyPros. Alfred Morris and Doug Martin finished second and fifth in rushing two seasons ago and it’s a running back that leads the way in the 2014 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings, although there are two or three wide receivers from this rookie class that many view as having more skill.
When talking Fantasy Football, sometimes it’s the players with better opportunities in their first year who get all the hype and all the attention come draft day. With that said, this season brings another set of rookie running backs who should be factors in your fantasy lineup. Most find themselves as a second or third option on their teams, but at the end of the day there have only been four top 25 WR among rookies since 2010, as our Jon Collins pointed out earlier this offseason. Keenan Allen last year finished as the 17th ranked WR. Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Mike Williams were all top 25 WRs in their rookie season. Bottom line is very few rookies actually begin their careers as fantasy starts and the hype will die down as the seasons begins.
[This post appears as part of our free 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide]
1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans – RB 20, ADP 51 (2nd-Round Pick, 54th Overall)
Sankey is by no means the most talented of the 2014 NFL Rookies, I’m not even sure he is the most talented rookie running back, but he has the best landing spot. Running backs are hard to come by in Fantasy Football and in most drafts you’ll see a ton of them fall off the board early and often. Sankey is overvalued a bit here with RB20 status on FantasyPros, but with Chris Johnson now in New York, it leaves the former Husky in a nice situation.
As a sophomore in 2012, Sankey racked up 1,439 rushing yards (third-most-all-time at the University of Washington) and 16 touchdowns. Sankey continued to turn heads at the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas where he set a bowl record with 205 rushing yards and was named the game’s MVP. He finished 2013 with a school-record 1,870 yards, which ranked fourth in the country. He also had 20 scores.
NFL expert Mike Mayock says Sankey is “a great combination of make-you-miss and north-south production, he’s tough, but he can make you miss in the open field. Really good balance, quickness and instincts.” Sankey now joins former Washington alum Jake Locker in Tennessee with a great offensive line in front of him. The Titans will likely use a running back by committee approach in Sankey’s first few games, but Dexter McCluster and Shonn Greene shouldn’t stand in his way for too long making Sankey a solid RB2. Green left the Titans’ second preseason game with a knee injury, leaving Sankey with more 1-team reps throughout camp.
2. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints – WR 41, ADP 121 (1st-Round Pick, 20th Overall)
There are a lot of people talking and moving up last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner as college’s top receiver in their rankings. Cooks had the second fastest 40-yard dash (4.43) at the NFL combine and that breakaway speed makes him an appealing pick this season especially with Drew Brees at the helm.
Brees averaged 40.25 pass attempts per game last season and the New Orleans offense is pretty good at spreading the ball around. Cooks should see enough targets to make him valuable in 2014 as he may be the most ready rookie WR on this list. A lot of Sproles’ balls from last year may go to the running backs, but a lot could come Cooks’ way in the screen, short passing game. If you don’t believe me watch for yourself!
3. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR 39, ADP 113 (1st-Round Pick, 7th Overall)
Evans really is the perfect person to put across from Vincent Jackson. Both wideouts are 6’5″ and 231 pounds. Jackson is actually one pound lighter than the rookie out of Texas A&M, but both should provide plenty of targets, and in the red zone too!
Evans will benefit playing alongside Jackson and may get more red zone targets and scores than any other rookie on this board. Evans certainly doesn’t possess the same blazing speed, as Sammy Watkins or Brandin Cooks, but he has that ‘throw it up’ quality I just love, regardless of who wins the QB job in Tampa Bay.
4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills – WR 34, ADP 89 (1st-Round Pick, 4th Overall)
The Bills wouldn’t have traded up to take Watkins as the first wide receiver in the draft if they didn’t think he was able to make a big impact. Heck, it may have been the 16 catch, 227 yard, two touchdown game that did it for the Bills. Point is, Watkins can play. The former Clemson star is fantastic in open space and has already impressed in camp. My issue with him is his quaterback and the fact that the Bills ran the ball an NFL-leading 546 times in 2013. I’m not in love with E.J. Manuel, but if he can just find away to get Sammy the ball in open space, then just sit back and watch this kid go.
Watkins reminds me of Cordarrelle Patterson, but he has a bit more experience and may even be a tad more explosive! Like Patterson, it may also take some time for Watkins to be a valuable Fantasy Football asset. WR34 is too high for me, but he has the potential to make big plays. Big plays, equal big fantasy points. The upside is there with amazing keeper/dynasty value. Talking TOP 10!
5. Jordan Mathews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles – WR 59, ADP 179 (2nd-Round Pick, 42nd Overall)
Size, Speed and Chip Kelly. There’s a lot to like about Jordan Mathews. The Vanderbilt product will be third on the Eagles’ depth chart behind Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. Can he replace the numbers and production left by DeSean Jackson? No. But it’s clear Chip is looking for size in the middle and he has it with Mathews and Zach Ertz.
The all-time leading receiver in the SEC has huge upside and is the perfect late round sleeper and that’s exactly where you can get him with his current ADP. The Eagles ran the ball a lot last season and that shouldn’t change in 2014, but Matthews brings a lot to the table and is already turning heads at camp, in fact he is dominating! His big body, speed and number 81 has resemblance of a former Eagle. Let’s hope he comes with a good attitude.
Based on his training camp performance today I really don’t think it’s too soon to say Jordan Matthews is the best WR in NFL history.
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) July 30, 2014
6. Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns – RB 38, ADP 111 (3rd-Round Pick, 94th Overall)
Ben Tate is more proven in the NFL so he will get first crack as RB1 in Cleveland, not to mention they paid him to be. But Terrance West is poised to get his shot in 2014 and challenge Tate who has never been in a lead back situation before. To be honest, I’m a little curious if he can handle the load and stay healthy in his first crack as a starter as he has never been healthy for a full season and reached the 200 carry plateau only twice in his professional career.
West tallied up 838 touches (36 in the air) in three seasons at Towson and has a similar skill set as Alfred Morris, who new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had last year in Washington. It’s looking like it’ll be a timeshare in Cleveland, but West has more upside with great value at his current ADP. West dominated scoring 41 touchdowns last season and if he can pass block, it’ll go along way in his overall game. The Browns should run the ball a lot this season with Josh Gordon sidelined.
7. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals – RB 44, ADP 132 (2nd-Round Pick, 55th Overall)
It seems Jeremy Hill has moved in front of BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart for RB2 status with the Cincinnati Bengals and that’s a good thing for HIll considering that BGE has over 200 carries last season. He also only averaged 3.4 yards per carry which tells us that could spell the end of Green-Ellis all together in Cincy.
The Bengals look to be transitioning from a pass-heavy offense to a run heavy system. It’s likely that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson keeps Gio Benard fresh giving plenty of opportunities for Hill to be the ground and pound back with plenty of goal-line work.
8. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – RB 50, ADP 151 (4th-Round Pick, 103 Overall)
Freeman should get an opportunity to start games for Atlanta this year with 31-year-old Steven Jackson just a tackle away from being sidelined. Jackson is already banged up and is a long shot to play a full season, leaving Freeman with a great chance to be involved in what should be a better offense in Atlanta this season.
Freeman is the perfect handcuff with a lot of upside as Jackson is the current active leader in carriers with over 2,500. Jackson played in a career-low 12 games while rushing for a career-low 3.5 yards per carry. It’s not a matter of will Jackson get hurt, it’s a matter of when? Look for Freeman to split carries at some point in 2014 and likely open up as the starter in 2015.
9. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers – WR 50, ADP 147 (1st-Round, 28th Overall)
The six-foot-five, 241 pound Benjamin has some hype simply because Cam Newton has very little to work with in Carolina. Benjamin has issues catching the ball and the Panthers seem poised to run the ball as much as last year where they finished inside the Top 10 in rushing attempts. Outside of Greg Olsen, Benjamin should see a majority of the red zone targets with his big frame.
I don’t think Benjamin will be a great Fantasy Football option in his first year and it’s likely he has a lot to learn. A lot of the offseason discussion on him has centered on his lack of polish in his route running, so it isn’t as if he can simply step in and be a legitimate number one target in Carolina. Newton doesn’t have a lot of options, but Olsen, Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery are more experienced. With that said, look for Benjamin to be a threat in the redzone providing boom/bust fantasy football value in year one.
10. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco – RB 47, ADP 145 (2nd-Round Pick, 27 Overall)
Frank Gore is getting a little older and is coming off his fewest yards per carry season as a pro with only 4.1. As he heads into his early 30’s this could finally be the year where he falls off, or we see a major drop off in his production. SF needs a fresh Frank Gore for a Super Bowl run.
Kendall Hunter didn’t really serve as a threat and with the recent injury it makes Hyde that much more appealing. Target Hyde in keeper leagues as it’s quite possible he ends up the starter in San Fran in the next two seasons. 2,378 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns over his last 20 games at Ohio State say so.
11. Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants – RB 64, ADP 222 (4th-Round Pick, 113th overall)
Williams is moving up the ranks with the recent injury (yet again) news regarding David Wilson. Rashad Jennings is also seeing his Fantasy Stock rise, but he too is no stranger to getting sidelined. Jennings missed all of 2011 and finished 2012 on injured reserve before having a breakout season with the Raiders last year. Word is Wilson “needs a miracle” to return to the football field. Williams has been working with the Giants first-team offense in goal-line packages, and why not? He led the country with 2,177 rushing yards last season and found the endzone 18 times. Williams had seven rushes for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Hall of Fame game against the Bills. He has the most potential to move up this list before the season beings.
12. Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams – RB 45, ADP 139 (3rd-Round Pick, 75th Overall)
Zac Stacy came out of nowhere last season to take the starting running back gig in St. Louis and many think Tre Mason has the potential to take over Stacy’s role, or at least put a dent in his carries. The Rams are going with a high-volume rushing attack in 2014 and that is something that Mason is used to, having played in a similar system at Auburn last season. Last year’s Heisman finalist is next in line to get rushing attempts from Jeff Fisher. Certainly, they won’t feed Stacy the 22 carries per contest that he averaged to close the 2013 season.
13. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants – WR 56, ADP 170 (1st-Round Pick, 12th Overall)
Hakeem Knicks is out of town, leaving Rueben Randle opposite of Victor Cruz. Beckham will have to earn the number three status, but has all the potential in the world to do just that. New York is reportedly pleased with his after the catch skills, and Ben McAdoo’s offense (or the one he worked in with Green Bay) has done a nice job of of spreading the ball around. Still, with Randle’s progression he is very much the third receiver in the pecking order.
14. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions – TE 13, ADP 134 (1st-Round Pick, 10th Overall)
Ebron has that nice 6-foot-4 TE frame, much like Jimmy Graham, and much like Graham, Ebron finds himself in a pass-happy offense in Detroit. The addition of Ebron should make others around him better, but as we pointed out earlier it’s likely it takes a couple years for Ebron to have a major Fantasy Football impact.
15. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings – QB 25, ADP 176 (1st-Round Pick, 32nd Overall)
Bridgewater has looked the best of the three rookie QB’s; ahead of Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. He also probably has the best shot out of all three to get consistent playing time in 2014. Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Greg Jennings make for decent weapons and Adrian Peterson can certainly help take the load off.
Teddy is a potential sleeper in two-quarterback leagues and may go undrafted in most leagues. Norv Turner has gone on record saying Matt Cassel is his guy and that he even wanted the Browns to go after the quarterback last season, but it’s Bridgewater who has been most impressive so far. In the long run I like Manziel more, but in year 1, Bridgewater is the rookie QB to watch out for.
… The coaches cut Ponder’s reps, and gave Bridgewater reps with the 1s. My sense for it is Cassel still leads, but Teddy’s closed the gap. — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 31, 2014
16. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns – QB 18, ADP 136 (1st-Round Pick, 22nd Overall)
Of course, not having Josh Gordon around hurts whoever the quarterback is in Cleveland. Brian Hoyer I feel will get the nod ahead of Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football will have to prove his worth and show some maturity on and off the field to get a chance this season. I wouldn’t blame you to take a flyer on Mazniel, and he should be drafted and stashed in keeper/dynasty leagues. He has big time upside and can make things happen with his feet. Ask Cam Newton where he gets all his Fantasy Football points from.
17. James White, RB, New England Patriots – RB 66, 227 ADP (4th-Round Pick, 130th Overall)
White may not be that exciting this year, in fact there is a good chance he isn’t unless Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen get dinged up or Ridley continues to fumble the football. White seems like the back of the future in New England with Ridley and Vereen possible out the door next year due to free agency. White spent most of his career at Wisconsin as a backup to Montee Ball and unlike Ridley, White takes care of the football having fumbled only twice in 745 career touches. Nick Raducanu makes a solid argument for White to be a decent sleeper in 2014. Ridley was benched during the Pats’ second preseason game because, well you guessed it, a fumble!
18. Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos (2nd-Round Pick, 56th Overall)
Latimer will need one of the many options in Denver to get sidelined with an injury, but he is the perfect long term replacement for Eric Decker. Latimer is a player you will want to have on your roster if Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders or anyone else in that potent offense misses times.
19. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (2nd-Round Pick, 53rd Overall)
Same applies for Devante Adams. If any of the three wideouts in Green Bay, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Jarrett Boykin fall to injury, Adams should be next in line, in a pass-happy, rumored to have 70 plus plays a game offense. Adams led college football last season with 24 touchdowns and 131 receptions so you know he has game..
Dynasty Rookie Rankings
1. Sammy Watkins
2. Mike Evans
3. Odell Beckham Jr.
4. Brandin Cooks
5. Jordan Matthews
6. Carlos Hyde
7. Cody Latimer
8. Devonta Freeman
9. Bishop Sankey
10. . Devante Adams
11. Kelvin Benjamin
12. Johnny Manziel
13. Jeremy Hill
14. Terrance West
15. Eric Ebron
16. Tre Mason
17. Donte Moncrief
18. Marqise Lee
19. Teddy Bridgewater
20. Allen Robinson