I thought the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was a lot of fun. Defense dominated the round but there are still a number of key skill-position players on offense that should make an impact this season.
Let's rank the rookie winners from Round 1.
10. Blake Bortles. This isn't to say I dislike the Jaguars' pick. This is to say he won't contribute to Fantasy rosters in 2014. The Jaguars offense lacks quakity receivers and Bortles will need help adjusting to the pros. I could see Chad Henne beginning the year under center and Bortles sputtering considering Jacksonville's weapons. I'm not drafting Bortles.
9. Texans DST. Jadeveon Clowney will help the Texans ramp up their sacks, and that's the biggest indicator I look for in a preseason DST. Putting him and Watt and their other pass rushers on the field puts this DST back on the map.
8. Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings might not let Bridgewater see the field until Matt Cassel struggles, so unless training camp changes that thinking we're looking at a part-time season for Teddy B. He's got a live arm and should do well in Norv Turner's offense. I don't think he'll be limited much if at all, and we know he has the smarts for it. In time he'll be a very, very good fit for Minnesota, but I can't say I'm excited about drafting him since it'll mean probably holding on to him for a while.
7. Kelvin Benjamin. A lot of people don't like Benjamin because he wasn't always "on" at Florida State. I'll concede that but counter with a huge opportunity with the Panthers. Taking a look at their receiver depth chart, I think Benjamin's a starter already. He's a big, fast target with insane arms and Cam Newton needs that element badly. He's going to be a pain in the butt to trust in Fantasy but there's no doubting the snaps he should get. Definite late-round material as of now.
6. Odell Beckham. Had a funny gaffe before the draft tonight where I told Chad Ochocinco he was a little slow. Obviously I meant his teammate at LSU! Beckham is a great talent and should get a strong push to the starting lineup. But I don't quite love the short-term fit with the Giants. Has nothing to do with Eli Manning, has everything to do with Manning's ankle and offensive line. That problem still isn't quite fixed. I'd reach for him in long-term leagues, not short-term leagues.
5. Eric Ebron. There is potential for him to become the next elite-level Fantasy tight end. This guy is all receiver, not blocker, and is big and fast. Putting him on the field with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate makes for a challenge for any defense. Throw in Matthew Stafford chucking it all over the place and there's rich potential. Stafford hasn't played with an explosive tight end yet in his career. Someone will draft him as a Fantasy starter in every single league. Can't argue with it.
4. Mike Evans. Love the fit in Tampa Bay but, like Watkins, the quarterback situation isn't great. We did see Josh McCown play very well last season with two tall receivers. He'll get the chance again, though I suspect the Buccaneers will run the ball a good amount. When the receiver run goes dry in Round 6 or 7, that's when people will look to Evans.
3. Sammy Watkins. I don't love his quarterback but there's no doubt he's going to get pressed into action and see a lot of targets. Not just close-range targets either -- one of EJ Manuel's strengths is the deep ball and Watkins can go get it. He can make 1,000 yards as a rookie. He's Round 6, 7, 8 material.
2. Brandin Cooks. The Saints told us something by moving up to get him. There's no doubting his speed, quickness, hands, etc. He's undersized but it otherwise a dandy of a playmaker in the mold of DeSean Jackson. We have seen Sean Payton utilize unique players before (Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham). There are definitely big plans in store for Cooks. LOVE that he's going to catch passes from Drew Brees. I'd rather take him in Round 8 or 9 than Watkins or Evans in Rounds 6 or 7.
1. Johnny Manziel. Falls into a team loaded with difference-making receivers and a scheme that will utilize the running back as a pass catcher. Also will have a great offensive line. I can't rule out a huge season for Manziel assuming the Browns don't take it slow and begin the year with Brian Hoyer as the starter. It's possible, though the second Manziel shows any promise of being capable on the pro level they'll scream for him to play. You can count on him getting picked in every draft with a late pick as not only a backup but as a player who could become part of a juice trade later in the year.