I may not have seen updated team depth charts, and I may not have seen players interact or play with their new teams. I may not have any idea how these players will stack up in the NFL at all; and yet, against all better judgement, I will provide you with this incredible list of the top five rookie fantasy prospects for the 2014 season.
I knew being psychic would work out for me one day…
5. Eric Ebron, TE––Detroit Lions
This monstrous man (6’4″/245 pounds) drafted 10th overall by the Detroit Lions comes courtesy of the University of North Carolina. Ebron is often compared to a young Jimmy Graham due to his size, acrobatic catching abilities and precise route-running. He was considered by far the top TE coming into the 2014 draft and was snatched up by the already pass-happy Detroit Lions.
The reason Ebron is so high on this list is because of his surroundings in Detroit; these same surroundings are what will keep him at the last spot on this list. On one hand, Ebron will create the perfect tandem with fellow tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The latter is known as one of the biggest and best blocking tight ends in the league. Pettigrew will likely be used largely for running plays. Ebron, on the other hand, is known as a poor blocker but excellent receiver and will be swapped out to run screens as receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate spread the field.
The skepticism with Ebron’s production lies in all of Detroit’s weapons. When you’re surrounded by RBs Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, WRGolden Tate, TE Joseph Fauria and (who am I forgetting? Oh yeah…) Calvin freakin’ Johnson, it may be hard to put up monstrous fantasy numbers. Watch how he’s used in the off-season and draft him fairly high––just take a decent backup.
4. Johnny Manziel, QB––Cleveland Browns
I’m literally in pain putting “Johnny Football” on this list. Literally. Although, according to the Browns’ ticket sales, I seem to be the only person tired of hearing his name every second of every day (Tebow fever, anyone?). But I digress…Manziel could be a productive fantasy option this year.
Firstly, Manziel has a solid arm and proven talent. It should also be noted that––spoiler alert––he’s the only quarterback on this list because he’s the only one who’s a shoe-in to start the season. Even Bortles, the first quarterback off the board in the draft, seems to be taking a back-seat for the season. As the Browns’ sole source of ticketing income, it would be a publicity nightmare if they didn’t start Manziel from the very beginning.
Unfortunately, Johnny Football does not have anyone to throw to. The league’s highest yardage receiver, Josh Gordon, has been rumored to have failed a second drug test. If he’s out for the season, which seems likely, the Browns will be left without any tangible receivers at all. Let’s hope Manziel can throw the ball, run down the field, and catch it himself for some nice fantasy stats. I’d draft him as a third-tier quarterback until his receiver situation improves.
3. Sammy Watkins, WR––Buffalo Bills
Watkins is an incredible talent coming out of Clemson who will be an immediate starter and impact player for Buffalo. This kid broke an Orange Bowl record with 16 receptions for 227 yards, along with every other school and freshman record during his college career. To say Watkins is talented is a severe understatement.
Unfortunately for Watkins, he will not be surrounded by a lot of offensive power on his new team. The backfield duo of Spiller and Jackson created the most opportunity for Buffalo in their 2013 campaign. He is also getting the pigskin from second-year QB E.J. Manuel. While he’s by no stretch a bad quarterback, Manuel is still finding and establishing himself in the NFL. This could be an incredibly dangerous duo in the future; however, Manuel and the entire Buffalo offense isn’t developed well enough to give Watkins much of a chance. Draft him confidently as a low 2nd, high 3rd-tier receiver.
2. Mike Evans, WR––Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It may surprise some that I’m plopping Evans ahead of Watkins. After all, Watkins basically broke every collegiate record ever. That being said, Evans is no push over. In 2013 he recorded a school-best 7 catches for 279 yards in a single game. A few games later, he broke that record by hauling in 11 catches for 287 yards and 4 touchdowns. As the second receiver taken overall, Evans is surely talented.
What places him slightly ahead of Watkins as a 2014 fantasy prospect is his team. Veteran quarterback Josh McCown proved last season that he has improved his game dramatically through the years despite being a backup. He was incredibly accurate and managed games well when filling in as a starter in Chicago. There’s no reason he won’t keep that pace in Tampa. Not only that, Evans will have fellow receiver Vincent Jackson drawing coverage and spreading out the field. This rookie receiver has been given the perfect situation to excel in the NFL. Draft him slightly ahead of Watkins as a low-2nd tier receiver.
1. Bishop Sankey, RB––Tennessee Titans
Sankey is sprinting in at No. 1 as the only running back on this list. Though this draft class was deep and had several running back talents, they’re all on teams with other backfield starters. Sankey is assumed to come in as the starting runner for Tennessee and should deliver. His college career was incredibly impressive to earn him the honor of being the first running back scooped up in the draft. In his last season with Washington, he rushed for over 1,800 yards, 20 touchdowns, and averaged 5.7 YPC.
What’s even more exciting for this all-purpose back is the setup of his team. Tennessee is not exactly offensively gifted. Instead, they seem to be moving toward a scheme reminiscent of the old-school Steelers. They’ve pieced together a great, hard-hitting defense and seem to be leaning toward a backyard football type of offense. In other words, Sankey will be getting the ball a lot––if only to run out the clock. Draft him as a second-tier running back and keep your fingers crossed––he’s likely to be next season’s Eddie Lacy.
image source: ffoasis