Part 2 of 2: Fantasy Football Rookies 2014 - Moxyball's top rookies for the 2014 fantasy football season. A short overview for each player and their 2014 expected contributions are detailed below.
11) Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
The recent David Wilson injury has helped Williams vault up my rankings. It's a shame to see such a promising young player like Wilson go down to a serious (and likely career-ending) injury. The fallout from this has a direct impact on another fantasy rookie, Andre Williams. He led the nation in rushing last year, running rampant for 2,177 yards and 18 TDs, good for a fourth place finish in Heisman voting as well. Many believed his selection as the 112th pick overall put him in a position to succeed right away, on a team that is seeking a bell-cow back they can count on for the forseeable future. The Wilson injury, coupled with 29-year-old Rashad Jennings as his only other competition, gives significant cause for fantasy managers to bring him on board this year. He's a big body, but can't catch the ball - which limits his fantasy potential (at least in the short-term, anyways). Williams is more of a downhill runner, who gets the ball and tucks it away going full steam ahead. He should get a good chunk of work early on, but is likely not going to ever be an every-down back considering his lack of ability to be a pass-catcher out of the backfield. All this being said, he should have some value in 2014 and makes for an intriguing rookie to watch.
12) Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
There is a lot to be excited about with Ebron. He's coming into a very pass-happy offense and doesn't have much ahead of him to worry about for targets. Brandon Pettigrew's time as the TE1 in Detroit is just about over, and the brilliance we saw from Ebron in college and in training camp is just giving us a taste of what we can from him in short order. His 6'4", 245 pound frame is having him draw comparisons to current TE stud Vernon Davis. It usually takes time for young TEs to develop as they learn the game, their blocking responsibilities, and how to get open against much quicker defenses. For these reasons, I'm expecting it to be at least a year before Ebron emerges as an elite option at the TE position for fantasy owners. He's not a bad gamble in the later rounds on draft day, but is a much better target in keeper formats for his long-term upside.
13) Odell Beckham Jr, WR, New York Giants
The Giants selected Beckham with the 12th overall pick this past May - and there is reason to be both excited and cautioned. He doesn't really have the size or strength to project as a top 10-20 type receiver in the league over the long haul. What he does possess is great speed and agility, based on what we saw at the combine. Many see him developing into a top-tier kick returner and a very solid slot receiver, which sounds about right given his 6'0" stature and speedy profile. Some see him taking a path similar to that of Ted Ginn Jr, which would make him a very big disappointment for a 12th overall draft selection. Others see him as having the potential to be a slightly better receiver than Antonio Brown, using a bit more size to his benefit at frustrating defenses with a speed/height combo. The jury is out on him for now, but he does have a lot of raw talent and should contribute in some capacity from week 1 in 2014.
14) Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews has a strong frame to help the Eagles right away in the rushing game as a blocker (6'3", 212 pounds) but may struggle to find consistent targets in his rookie year. He'll likely be used as a slot receiver to help his TE teammates (Zach Ertz and Brent Celek) in the passing game, as well as one of the league's best rusher (LeSean McCoy) get space in the open field. For me - it comes down to his ability to get on the field and take Nick Foles' attention away from Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. If he can find his way into being on the turf consistently, look for big things out of Matthews. He has a great work-ethic and has been impressing in the early going at camp.
15) Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Steven Jackson is no spring chicken, checking in at 31 years of age this season. Jacquizz Rodgers is entering his fourth NFL season, and has shown some flashes of being a productive runner when he's had the chance. The issue is that many don't see him as a workhorse type back that can be counted on for 20+ touches a game, particularly because of his 5'6", 196 pound stature. He only was able to amass 3.5 yards per carry last year. There's no doubt that the Falcons are going to look to Jackson as their bell-cow back as often as possible, to extract as much value out of him as they can before his time as a productive runner expires (if it hasn't already). We could see Freeman play a pretty key role in the Atlanta offense should Jackson go down with an injury - even if Rodgers is healthy. It wouldn't surprise me to see Freeman have a few games where he gets 10-15 touches to show what he can do. There have been comparisons to Shane Vereen, with the potential to run between the tackles at a better rate than the aforementioned New England back. Freeman could take over lead back duties as early as this year, and makes for a very nice target late in drafts as a bench spot in most leagues.
16) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota QB situation is going to be a bit of an interesting one. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out over the course of training camp and preseason. We have veteran Matt Cassel, who seems to be the team's starter at the moment. We also have the less-than-impressive Christian Ponder in town who could be the 2nd option if something happens to Cassel. Bridgewater has an accurate arm, is a selfless player and has an element of toughness to his game that should make him a successful player in the NFL in time. He improved his accuracy and decision-making considerably every season in college, something I love to see from a rookie play caller. It remains to be seen just how much he will get to contribute this season, but it shouldn't be too long before he becomes fantasy relevant. He should be a QB2 either by season's end or at this time next year.
17) Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin was an easy first round selection heading into drafts last year - but we all know what a disappointment that turned out to be. He had a fairly pedestrian start to the season, but went down with a season-ending injury in only the 7th game of the year. Mike James took over, then was injured. Next came Bobby Rainey, who was very helpful to fantasy owners (at certain points more than others) but struggled down the stretch. With a brand new coaching staff in place, and Lovie Smith already stating that he wants to use more of a committee-based approach - we could be looking at quite a nice situation for a sleeper RB in Charles Sims to step in and contribute. He's already been named as a key part of their passing game, thanks in large part to having strong catching skills for a running back. I've seen a lot of talk about how scouts believe Sims has elements of Matt Forte in his game. If this comparison does play out, what a sleeper Sims is going to turn out to be on draft day. Monitor this situation closely throughout the year. If Sims finds his way into more touches, he could quickly become a fantasy star.
18) Tre Mason, RB, St Louis Rams
There seem to be 2 schools of thought on the St Louis running back situation. People either believe Zac Stacy is going to run away with the job this year - or they believe he's going to lose it quickly to fellow running back Tre Mason. Coming off a terrific season with Auburn (1,816 yards and 23 TDs), Mason has the ability to be an effective runner in his rookie year for the Rams. My money is on Stacy being productive early on, but slowly losing his effectiveness as the season wears on. This is where Mason will step in and take a bigger chunk of a role - eventually being more of a (dreaded) RBBC situation, with the Rams going with the hot hand based on how things are playing out on the field. Not a great fantasy situation for most owners, but decent RB3/RB4 value could easily emerge.
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19) Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos
Been compared to by analysts on the web as a James Jones type receiver. 6'2" and ran a 4.39-40. He led all receivers in the combine in the bench press (23) and had one of the best verticals (39") in the class. He's still fairly raw, having picked up football fair late in his teenage years - so there is a lot of growth expected from him as he spends time getting to know the game in more depth. He's not going to contribute right away for fantasy owners, as he plays behind Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker on the depth chart. Assuming the Denver receiving corps stays healthy, Latimer will spend most of his time on the sidelines learning the game - and doing so in one of the league's best offenses under Peyton Manning's leadership. If an injury does hit, Latimer becomes must-own and very likely must-start material for his tremendous upside.
20) Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Marqise had an up and down year in college, having dealt with injuries throughout that limited him to just 57 catches for 791 yards and 4 TDs last season. Jacksonville snatched him up in the second round of the draft this past May, and I think they will be quite happy they were able to do so. It's currently a frustrating situation for the Jaguars receiving corps, with Cecil Shorts missing a chunk of training camp and Justin Blackmon serving an indefinite suspension. Even Ace Sanders is going to be missing the first 4 games of the year. Lee should get a good number of looks early on in the season, which will bode well for his development as he gets game experience under his belt. The Jaguars throw the ball plenty - last year they ranked 11th overall in passing attempts in the league. Considering he's going to be counted on regularly during the season, at least in the early going, he's worthy of attention in deeper leagues. Once Blake Bortles takes over for Chad Henne, I expect him to team up with Lee to make a nice 1-2 punch in the passing game for years to come. He should have no problem catching 60 balls for 800 yards in his rookie year.
Just missed the top 20:
- James White, RB, New England Patriots
- Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
- John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
- Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks
- Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
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