NFL Draft Round 1: Fantasy Impact of WRs and TEs
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF - Solid/Safe Pick
Redraft ADP: 52.40 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 23 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 1 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Buffalo traded up from the No. 9 up to the No. 4 pick to select Watkins, a former receiver with the Clemson Tigers, as their first round pick. Watkins immediately becomes the Bills' top receiver. Forget about Stevie Johnson. The Bills have already traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2014 fourth-round selection.
The No. 4 overall pick has instant impact written all over him. Watkins' tenacity after the catch is something very special. He can catch a short slant, find a seam, barrel over a safety and run away from the defense for big gains. Now that the Bills traded Johnson, if they provide Watkins a clear shot as their No. 1 WR, the rookie has WR2 (Top 25) upside. We still need to see more improvements from QB E.J. Manuel though. This offense lacked balance last season, ranking 28th in passing yards per game. Watkins will contribute to improving that statistic and he should be on your radar regardless of league format or scoring system.
WR Mike Evans, TB - Quality Backup
Redraft ADP: 86.20 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 33 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 2 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Many owners are touting Evans as the top rookie fantasy WR. They cite his massive wingspan and catching radius, his ability to high-point a deep pass and tremendous speed considering his height, weight and length. All of these points are valid and it's not unreasonable to think Evans could outproduce Watkins, especially if QB Josh McCown plays as well as he did in 2013. My primary concern is that Evans is the clear No. 2 receiver in this offense behind Vincent Jackson. There are only so many deep passes a team will throw in a given game and both of these guys will need to share those opportunities. It's also unlikely Evans will have more than 75 receptions. Big play receivers typically have better yardage and yards per catch numbers than reception totals.
Barring some kind of red zone explosion where he assumes a primary target role around the end zone, Evans has good, but not great first-year potential. The Bucs will likely lean hard on Doug Martin, the unassuming centerpiece of this offense. This leaves Evans as the third-best offensive weapon. A slow start will essentially relegate him back to waivers in redraft. His final value could be very high or very poor depending how quickly he can assimilate into the offense.
TE Eric Ebron, DET - Sleeper (undervalued)
Redraft ADP: 121.40 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 89 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 7 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
There is a bit of a logjam right now at tight end in Detroit. Brandon Pettigrew is locked in at No. 1 and the last year's red zone specialist Joseph Fauria is No. 2. Ebron has higher upside as a pass-catcher than either of the men ahead of him on the depth chart, but they are ahead of him regardless.
Instant impact in redraft is a stretch. There's no reason to bank on him until Detroit's coaching staff starts hinting at their interest to start him immediately. Another way he may see the field early and often is if the Lions use a lot of 2-TE sets. Finally, if given enough snappossible the former UNC TE sees enough snaps to score enough fantasy points to earn TE2 status.
If you land a surefire starter like Jimmy Graham, Ebron's high ceiling is worth a shot in the dark. A hot start gives you a valuable trade commodity. This rookie plays like an oversized WR and could produce like one, but it's difficult to imagine a clear path to playing time.
WR Odell Beckham, NYG - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Redraft ADP: 148.80 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 78 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 4 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Two months ago, Beckham looked like a possible third round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the report on him rapidly changed. Blessed with great hands and a high football IQ, the former LSU receiver is a very pro-ready prospect. He should immediately challenge new teammate Rueben Randle, another LSU product, for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. The problem with any Giants WR for fantasy owners is leaning on the inconsistency of QB Eli Manning. He threw 27 INTs last year, most in the NFL.
Beckham is an excellent intermediate route runner who can move the chains and keep drives alive. He doesn't have the speed to take the top off of a defense, but considering he will play alongside Victor Cruz, the rookie will see a lot of one-on-one coverage. With a more balanced offensive attack and running game to take pressure off of Manning, this offense may be worth keeping an eye on.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Redraft ADP: 147.43 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 86 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 3 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Cooks was wildly productive in his time at Oregon State. He has breakaway speed that can turn a simple screen pass into six points. Landing with the Saints could prove to be a huge blessing. We already know the prowess of QB Drew Brees and of the first round WRs selected, Cooks may have the best year one upside.
Standing in his way though are a number of young receivers, such as Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and even Joseph Morgan. It's not guarantee that Cooks will just walk into training camp as the team's No. 2 receiver. If he does establish himself as at least the slot receiver, he could manufacture comparable stats to Darren Sproles. Cooks has the versatility to line up just about anywhere and make plays. In PPR, he should be at least a flex option by midseason.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Redraft ADP: 146.33 (MyFantasyLeague)
Dynasty startup ADP: 113 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
Dynasty rookie ranking: 15 (DynastyLeagueFootball)
The concerns with Benjamin are well-known. Scouts are worried about his speed and burst off the line. They doubt his ability to create separation. Although he is a huge target and a potential red zone monster, he was floundering in his development up until QB Jameis Winston came along and lit a fire under Florida State's offense. On the plus side, the Panthers have almost nothing going on at receiver. Benjamin will have every opportunity to start opposite WR Jerricho Cotchery, a wily veteran who will be tasked to show him the ropes.
Redraft owners should temper their expectations in his rookie campaign. The consensus says he needs a year to develop and improve his route running. With consensus opinions such as these, it's easy to believe the hivemind and dismiss a player who was one of college football's most dominant scorers last year. Without his contributions, the Seminoles' offense isn't nearly half as good. Let's not also forget that Cam Newton is an elite fantasy QB who has never had such a young and gifted receiver at his disposal. It is entirely possible Newton shocks us all and makes Benjamin a Rookie of the Year candidate just by tossing him nothing but goal line fades all season long.