Offseason Extra: Draft impacts and rookie rankings
Johnny Manziel got most of the headlines from the NFL Draft, and Jadeveon Clowney was the No. 1 overall pick. But the name Fantasy owners need to know is Bishop Sankey .
The running back from Washington was the first player taken at his position by the Titans at No. 54 overall in the second round, and he should be the first rookie drafted in all leagues barring injury. That's re-draft leagues and dynasty formats.
There are a lot of rookies to love following this draft -- Sammy Watkins , Mike Evans , Eric Ebron and Brandin Cooks are some of my favorites -- but Sankey has the best opportunity to be a significant factor from Week 1. He plays a need position for all owners at running back, and he should be the starter for the Titans this season.
Rookie quarterbacks rarely make an impact for Fantasy owners, and rookie receivers and tight ends usually take at least a year to develop, if not longer. But running backs can be Fantasy starters right away – see Eddie Lacy , Zac Stacy and Le'Veon Bell from 2013 for examples -- and Sankey landed in the right spot, which is why he's ahead of Carlos Hyde , Tre Mason , Terrance West and Jeremy Hill , among others.
All of those running backs have the chance to be contributors this season, but in 2015 they could be stars. Sankey's timetable is a little more accelerated, which makes him No. 1 on both of these rookie lists for dynasty owners and everyone drafting now.
Now that the NFL Draft is over, we'll look at some winners and losers for the rookies and veterans. We finally have a clear picture of how most rosters will look for the 2014 season, and that means Fantasy Football is almost back. Hopefully, you're as excited as we are.
Quarterbacks who are smiling: Drew Brees (Cooks), Matthew Stafford (Ebron), Colin Kaepernick ( Steve Johnson and Bruce Ellington ), Nick Foles ( Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff ), Ben Roethlisberger ( Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer ), Eli Manning ( Odell Beckham ), Josh McCown (Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins ) and EJ Manuel (Watkins). All of these quarterbacks got at least one significant upgrade at receiver, which will help their Fantasy value in 2014.
Stafford now has a dominant receiving corps with Calvin Johnson , Golden Tate , Ebron, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell . And Foles needed the receiver upgrade with DeSean Jackson gone.
Running backs not worried about competition: Montee Ball , Andre Ellington and Trent Richardson . There was a chance Ball, Ellington and Richardson could have gotten competition for carries, but their respective teams didn't add anyone in the draft.
Ball is now locked into the starting job for the Broncos, which makes him worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2. Ellington is worth drafting in Round 3. And Richardson is a mid-round pick with bounce-back potential since his only competition for carries is Ahmad Bradshaw , who is coming off neck surgery.
The best rookie running back this season will be: Sankey has the best chance for playing time right away with Shonn Greene his main competition for touches, and Greene recently had surgery on his right knee, which will keep him out until training camp.
|Player, Pos., Team|
|1.||Bishop Sankey , RB, Titans|
|2.||Brandin Cooks , WR, Saints|
|3.||Sammy Watkins , WR, Bills|
|4.||Mike Evans , WR, Bucs|
|5.||Terrance West , RB, Browns|
|6.||Devonta Freeman , RB, Falcons|
|7.||Jeremy Hill , RB, Bengals|
|8.||Eric Ebron , TE, Lions|
|9.||Kelvin Benjamin , WR, Panthers|
|10.||Odell Beckham , WR, Giants|
|11.||Tre Mason , RB, Rams|
|12.||Andre Williams , RB, Giants|
|13.||Carlos Hyde , RB, 49ers|
|14.||Jordan Matthews , WR, Eagles|
|15.||Davante Adams , WR, Packers|
|16.||Allen Robinson , WR, Jaguars|
|17.||Martavis Bryant , WR, Steelers|
|18.||Marqise Lee , WR, Jaguars|
|19.||Cody Latimer , WR, Broncos|
|20.||Teddy Bridgewater , QB, Vikings|
The Titans have a good offensive line, and new coach Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers last season, helping Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead both finish as Top 20 Fantasy running backs in a standard league. Plan on drafting Sankey toward the end of Round 3 or beginning of Round 4.
The rookie running back you'll love in 2015: Hyde could be the starter for the 49ers next season since Gore is 31 and in the final year of his contract, and Marcus Lattimore (knee) might never fully recover from his devastating injury in college.
Hyde could be a factor this season, especially if he beats out Kendall Hunter and Lattimore for the No. 2 job behind Gore. But the backfield is crowded this season. Next year, Hyde could be a Top 30 overall pick in all leagues.
The best rookie receiver this season will be: Cooks landed in the right spot with the Saints, who have a need at receiver with Marques Colston declining and Jimmy Graham a potential holdout. Kenny Stills will be a factor this year, but the Saints lost Darren Sproles and Lance Moore , which should help Cooks as a rookie.
Watkins, Evans and Beckham should all have their moments among the rookie receivers, but Cooks has the best quarterback with Brees. His speed should also be enhanced at the Superdome, and he's worth drafting with a mid- to late-round pick in re-draft leagues.
The rookie receiver you'll love in 2015: Cody Latimer could start for the Broncos next season with Wes Welker likely gone as a free agent. When the Broncos lost Eric Decker this offseason, they signed Emmanuel Sanders , who can play outside and in the slot. What will likely happen in 2015 is Demaryius Thomas and Latimer will play outside, and Sanders will move into the slot to replace Welker.
Latimer could be the No. 4 receiver for the Broncos this year, which gives him value with a late-round flier. But in 2015, when he could be the starter -- we hope Peyton Manning will be there as well -- he could be a breakout star.
The best rookie quarterback this season will be: Teddy Bridgewater could start in Week 1 for the Vikings, and he's going to a great offense with Norv Turner as the coordinator. I don't trust Manziel as a Fantasy option, especially if Josh Gordon is suspended, and Blake Bortles likely won't be a factor until 2015. Bridgewater has to beat out Matt Cassel , and both are learning a new offense under Turner this year. If Bridgewater does start he gets quality weapons in Cordarrelle Patterson , Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph to go along with an excellent running game with Adrian Peterson .
You're not drafting any of these quarterbacks to be starters in re-draft leagues, but in two-quarterback formats or as a potential bye-week replacement, I would target Bridgewater with a late-round pick if he's the starter for the Vikings in Week 1.
The rookie quarterback you'll love in 2015: We'll find out how long Bortles will sit behind Chad Henne this season, but the Jaguars are building an offense around him. They added two rookie receivers in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the draft, and they signed running back Toby Gerhart and offensive lineman Zane Beadles earlier this offseason.
If Bortles is the real deal after being selected at No. 3 overall, he could be ready to step in and play at a high level in 2015. And that would make him a late-round pick next season with the chance to contribute in two-quarterback leagues and maybe more.
The Eric Ebron factor: Ebron is easily the No. 1 rookie tight end, although there's potential for Seferian-Jenkins and Jace Amaro . But is Ebron a No. 1 Fantasy tight end right away?
Once you get past the Top 10 tight ends in my rankings -- Graham, Julius Thomas , Rob Gronkowski , Vernon Davis , Dennis Pitta , Jason Witten , Jordan Reed , Greg Olsen , Kyle Rudolph and Jordan Cameron -- then Ebron has the chance to come off the board. He has the same upside, and the same risk, as guys like Zach Ertz , Martellus Bennett , Heath Miller and Ladarius Green .
I would draft Ebron with a late-round pick in seasonal leagues and then pair him with someone like Ertz, Bennett, Miller or Green. If he struggles early on then cut him, but hopefully he can be dominant playing with Stafford and for offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was with the Saints and Graham last year.
Rookie sleepers for this year: Terrance West , Devonta Freeman , Andre Williams , Kelvin Benjamin , Jordan Matthews and Davante Adams . These are all guys to keep an eye on during the preseason since they could emerge as potential starting options this year.
Of this group, I like the running backs in West, Freeman and Williams the most. West, along with undrafted rookie free agent Isaiah Crowell , could challenge Ben Tate for touches. Freeman should replace Jacquizz Rodgers as the No. 2 running back for the Falcons, and Steven Jackson is near the end of his run as a feature back. And Williams could help the Giants as a power rusher if Rashad Jennings struggles or David Wilson (neck) doesn't return at 100 percent.
Josh Gordon ruined the Browns: The worst news from the NFL Draft was that Gordon could be suspended for the season after a failed drug test. He was a Top 3 Fantasy receiver coming into the year and a potential first-round pick in all leagues, but now we might not have him at all.
The length of his suspension isn't finalized yet, so keep your fingers crossed. But if Gordon is out that kills any chance of Manziel having a significant Fantasy impact as a rookie and also hurts the value for Tate and Cameron.
The Bills traded for a running back: The addition of Bryce Brown from the Eagles for a 2015 fourth-round pick might be nothing when it comes to C.J. Spiller value this year. But it's clear the Bills are trying to improve their backfield for the future.
Fred Jackson , 33, is in the final year of his contract. And Spiller, who struggled last year, can opt out of his rookie deal next offseason. We hope Brown's addition doesn't hurt Spiller in 2014, but this feels like another hindrance for him after last year's debacle. You should only draft Spiller in Round 4 at this point.
|Player, Pos., Team|
|1.||Bishop Sankey , RB, Titans|
|2.||Sammy Watkins , WR, Bills|
|3.||Eric Ebron , TE, Lions|
|4.||Mike Evans , WR, Bucs|
|5.||Carlos Hyde , RB, 49ers|
|6.||Terrance West , RB, Browns|
|7.||Brandin Cooks , WR, Saints|
|8.||Odell Beckham , WR, Giants|
|9.||Devonta Freeman , RB, Falcons|
|10.||Kelvin Benjamin , WR, Panthers|
|11.||Jeremy Hill , RB, Bengals|
|12.||Tre Mason , RB, Rams|
|13.||Cody Latimer , WR, Broncos|
|14.||Andre Williams , RB, Giants|
|15.||Jordan Matthews , WR, Eagles|
|16.||Jace Amaro , TE, Jets|
|17.||Allen Robinson , WR, Jaguars|
|18.||Blake Bortles , QB, Jaguars|
|19.||Johnny Manziel , QB, Browns|
|20.||Davante Adams , WR, Packers|
|21.||Donte Moncrief , WR, Colts|
|22.||Marqise Lee , WR, Jaguars|
|23.||Teddy Bridgewater , QB, Vikings|
|24.||Austin Seferian-Jenkins , TE, Bucs|
|25.||Isaiah Crowell , RB, Browns|
|26.||Martavis Bryant , WR, Steelers|
|27.||Jerick McKinnon , RB, Vikings|
|28.||Jarvis Landry , WR, Dolphins|
|29.||James White , RB, Patriots|
|30.||Storm Johnson , RB, Jaguars|
|31.||Ka'Deem Carey , RB, Bears|
|32.||Lache Seastrunk , RB, Redskins|
|33.||Derek Carr , QB, Raiders|
|34.||Charles Sims , RB, Buccaneers|
|35.||Jalen Saunders , WR, Jets|
|36.||Paul Richardson , WR, Seahawks|
|37.||Shaq Evans , WR, Jets|
|38.||Josh Huff , WR, Eagles|
|39.||Dri Archer , RB, Steelers|
|40.||Bruce Ellington , WR, 49ers|
|41.||Zach Mettenberger , QB, Titans|
|42.||Tyler Gaffney , RB, Panthers|
|43.||C.J. Fiedorowicz , TE, Texans|
|44.||John Brown , WR, Cardinals|
|45.||Lorenzo Taliaferro , RB, Ravens|
|46.||Tom Savage , QB, Texans|
|47.||De'Anthony Thomas , RB, Chiefs|
|48.||Alfred Blue , RB, Texans|
|49.||Jimmy Garoppolo , QB, Patriots|
|50.||Marion Grice , RB, Chargers|
Andre Johnson didn't get a quarterback: The Texans could still add a quarterback this offseason -- maybe a trade for Ryan Mallett ? -- but if the season starts today we're looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick , Tom Savage and Case Keenum vying for the starting job in Week 1. That's not great for Johnson's Fantasy value.
He played well with Keenum last year with all five of his touchdowns and four 100-yard games when Keenum started. But we would have liked the Texans to upgrade at the position instead of just drafting Savage in Round 4. Johnson should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth drafting in Round 4 or 5.
Cam Newton didn't get enough weapons: We're glad the Panthers drafted Benjamin in Round 1 because Newton needed a receiver in the worst way after losing Steve Smith , Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn this offseason. Benjamin is worth a late-round flier in all re-draft leagues because Newton could depend on him a lot since his only other reliable weapon is Greg Olsen .
But instead of taking defensive end Kony Ealy in Round 2 at No. 60 overall, which isn't a position of need, the Panthers could have added at least one more receiver. The Jaguars took Robinson at No. 61 and several of the receivers after that selection on this list would have been an upgrade. If Newton is your franchise quarterback, why not at least give him a chance to succeed?
Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy got handcuffed: There's no reason to panic with Bernard and Stacy after the Bengals and Rams, respectively, added running backs on the second day of the NFL Draft. But Hill in Cincinnati and Mason in St. Louis will hurt their upside. Hill should push BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the bench or off the roster, and he could definitely steal touchdowns and short-yardage work from Bernard. I'd still draft Bernard in Round 2, but I'd be more confident about it if he was competing with Green-Ellis compared to Hill.
Stacy also remains a Round 2 selection, but Mason is a significant upgrade over Benny Cunningham , Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead . Don't be surprised if Mason makes this more of a 50-50 split for the Rams, and Stacy's upside is capped a little following the NFL Draft as long as Mason's wrist injury isn't a serious concern.
The 49ers ruined some veterans: Gore, Steve Johnson , Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton did not fare well following the NFL Draft. Gore now has Hyde, Hunter and potentially Lattimore ready to take away carries, and he's looking more like a flex option than a No. 2 running back. He's worth drafting in Round 5 at the earliest.
The addition of Johnson will help Kaepernick, but Boldin will suffer, as will Patton. Bruce Ellington could also cut into Patton's targets. We wouldn't draft Johnson in the majority of leagues, and Boldin is only worth a late-round pick.
Ray Rice and Stevan Ridley have company: Fantasy owners were leery of Rice and Ridley coming into this season after down years in 2013. The aftermath of the draft didn't help matters much.
While the Patriots allowed LeGarrette Blount to walk as a free agent this offseason, they added James White in Round 4 from Wisconsin. He will likely be waiting in the wings should Ridley start fumbling again. The earliest you should draft Ridley is Round 5, and White is worth a late-round flier.
Rice was miserable in 2013 as he battled hip problems, a bad offensive line and an uncomfortable scheme. Then he had the off-field issues this offseason with his then fiancé, which only complicated matters. He's definitely on notice from the Ravens, who drafted Lorenzo Taliaferro from Coastal Carolina in Round 4.
If Rice looks sluggish again in training camp then Taliaferro could get an extended look. Draft Rice in Round 4 or 5, and Taliaferro is also worth consideration with a late-round pick. Bernard Pierce is coming off shoulder surgery, so Taliaferro could pass him on the depth chart.
Bad dream for potential sleepers in Markus Wheaton , Rueben Randle and Kenny Stills : Wheaton, Randle and Stills could still start for their respective teams, but the NFL Draft limited their upside. Wheaton faces competition from Bryant, and he's only worth a late-round flier in the majority of leagues.
Randle gets limited by Beckham even though the Giants will use plenty of three-receiver sets. But he drops from a mid-round selection to a late-round pick now that Beckham is in New York. And Stills should still start opposite Colston, but Cooks might have more upside and is likely the better PPR selection. I'd draft Cooks over Stills as of now in re-draft leagues.
Ben Tate and Steven Jackson days are numbered: The Browns and Falcons came out of the NFL Draft with running backs of the future, which could impact Tate and Jackson right away.
Tate is signed through 2015, but he might not be featured in the Cleveland backfield the next two seasons after the Browns drafted West in Round 3 from Towson and signed Crowell, who was once a prized recruit at Georgia but transferred to Alabama State following off-field issues. Tate went from a potential No. 2 Fantasy running back to a flex option now, and the loss of Gordon also hurts his value for this season.
Jackson should still start ahead of Freeman, who was drafted in Round 4 from Florida State. But Jackson was terrible in his first season with the Falcons in 2013 after missing four games and not rushing for more than 85 yards in any game. He did close the season with double digits in Fantasy points in four of his final six outings, but Freeman has the chance to steal touches if he plays up to his potential.
Sammy Watkins didn't land in an ideal spot: Watkins wasn't going to fall far in the first round based on his upside, but we don't love his outlook as a rookie going to the Bills. Manuel is going to have to improve dramatically as a sophomore for Watkins to become a weekly Fantasy starter.
The Bills best receiver last season was Robert Woods , who was No. 55 in Fantasy points. Johnson missed four games in 2013, but he also had his worst year since 2009. We hope Watkins can shine right away, but he'll be just a No. 4 Fantasy receiver in re-draft leagues worth a mid-round pick at best.