The Year of the Rookie Wide Receiver
Was Mike Evans the real reason Johnny Manziel was a first round choice? (Melina Vastola, USA Today Sports)
If the 2014 Rookie WR class was a pop song it would a solid gold number one hit with a plethora of singles to follow! Like a catastrophic force with overflowing potential, they simply did not disappoint. See what we thought about them heading into the season in Part One and Part Two of our 2014 NFL Draft Fantasy Stock Report (note some omissions compared to the list below).
Without further ado, here are the rookie receivers that we believe made a significant Fantasy impact:
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills: The pressure was firmly on the highest drafted WR and because of that, Watkins will always be the torch barer of this class. A couple of early injuries stunted him and he was still amazing. Speed is always an essential tool for WRs and Watkins is fast. But, it’s his acceleration while the play is underway that leaves us awestruck.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If the shoe fits, no shoehorn shall be purchased. Perhaps instead Tampa Bay can invest in a franchise QB. We see now why Johnny Manziel was a first round pick. Evans is simply one of those players that can make those around him better, and he thinks he owes a lot of his rookie success to Vincent Jackson (see video below).
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: Beckham’s Spider-Man abilities gained him national exposure on abysmal team. We believe Beckham could have won this award outright had he not been injured to start the season and if Victor Cruz could have stayed healthy. Obviously the sky is the limit here and the Giants have a foundation pillar for the future.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints: An injury ended Cooks’ season after 10 games, but he had already amassed 53 receptions for 550 yards and four totals TDs. This kid is a hard-nosed aggressive player, reminding us of a young Steve Smith Sr.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers: We had a doubts about Benjamin, but he uppercutted the rookie ceiling before it was even in place. We believe labeling him as the next Anquan Boldin is a fair yet modest assumption.
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars: So maybe Lee didn’t do enough to warrant a position on this list. However, we believe when he was healthy he made a difference and his future is beaming.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles: The maturity of Matthews still remains impressive. Sure, he experienced normal rookie ups and downs but when he was good, he looked like a veteran in his prime. Going forward, we see Matthews as Terrell Owens without the extra baggage. Yes, Matthews can be that lethal.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers: Is Adams the second coming of James Jones? Well, Adams just may be far better. What helped and also hurt Adams’s numbers were his teammates Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. It may take some time but with Aaron Rodgers as his QB, Adams will be Fantasy worthy for years to come.
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars: An injury befell Robinson in his 10th game as well, yet he still managed 48 catches for 548 yards and pair of TDs. The Jags trusted him enough to give him double-digit targets in four games.
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins: “Juice” Landry proved to be a fighter. How else does one get targets with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline on the same field? As the slot/third WR in Miami, Landry produced a stretch of three of four games with double-digit targets en route to 84 receptions and five TDs.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts: At the beginning of this season, Moncrief was blocked by three quality veterans. But even as the seventh bullet in Andrew Luck’s six-shooter he made a difference.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: On paper, Brandin Cooks and Dri Archer are supposedly faster. Yet, with pads on and turning the corner, Brown looks like the fricking Bat-Mobile powered by hi-test. Brown becoming the next Santana Moss with the heart of Wayne Cherbet seems about spot on.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Plaxico Burress comparison can not be understated. Toss the Burress off-field stigma aside and realize the thing Bryant is known for is ravaging DBs in the red zone. Playing with Antonio Brown can make almost any rookie be effective, but Bryant uses his size and ups like a veteran.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars: When the undrafted Hurns led the league in receiving during the preseason, some of you took notice. However, no serious investors were willing to drop more than a dime on him. That’s a shame as Hurns became the first player in NFL history to score two TDs in his first quarter of regular season action.
Taylor Gabriel, Cleveland Browns: Although he was very erratic, Gabriel still racked up over 600 yards receiving for the Dawg Pound. Now in the post-Brian Hoyer/current Josh Gordon era, the undrafted Gabriel may seem obsolete. However, this hungry franchise can’t afford to let him walk without squeezing out every ounce of production it so sorely needs.
All of the aforementioned rookies had at least 26 receptions and 422 yards receiving. While Bryant was the only player with less 30 receptions he led the pack in average per reception (21.1 yards). Beckham, Benjamin and Evans finished with at least 1,000 yards, while Watkins just missed (982). Other notables that we believe will contribute in the future included Paul Richardson (Seattle Seahawks), Cody Latimer (Denver Broncos) and Josh Huff (Philadelphia Eagles). What a class!
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which of the 2014 class of rookie wide receivers caught your attention.
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