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Five must-watch rookies

By Dave Holcomb, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Last year's NFL fantasy season saw the emergence of key rookies Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard and Keenan Allen. Owners also took a shot at rookies Tavon Austin, Kenbrell Thompkins, DeAndre Hopkins and E.J. Manuel. Besides a few standout moments, the last four names were misses.

What rookies are worth drafting this season? Which ones have long-term value for dynasty leagues and which ones do owners take a flier on late in the draft?

Here's a list of the projected top five fantasy rookies for 2014.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

At this point among all the rookies, the Titans first-year running back has the best chance to make an impact this season. Veteran Shonn Greene still has the starting job, but all reports say Sankey will be ready to take the bulk of the carries at some point this season.

The biggest problem with Sankey though is the cat is already out of the bag on him. His fifth-round ADP is much too steep a price to pay for a rookie who might not start the first half of the season.

Plus, in his first opportunity to play with the first-team offense in Tennessee's third preseason game, he ran for just 44 yards on 16 carries.

It would be wise to let another owner draft Sankey too early, but if somehow the rookie falls in the draft, he is still one of the most talented rookies to have this season.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Some experts have compared Watkins' possibilities in his first season to Keenan Allen's sensational rookie season last year (71 catches, 1,046 yards, eight touchdowns), but since Watkins does not have a Philip Rivers-caliber quarterback throwing to him, it would make a lot more sense to compare him to Hopkins, his former college teammate.

Hopkins caught 52 passes for 802 yards but was a boom-or-bust player in 2013. He went over 100 yards just once and caught only two touchdowns.

Watkins has the advantage of being the clear No. 1 wide receiver for the Bills, but we project him to produce just slightly better than Hopkins did (61 catches, 852 yards, five touchdowns).

With an unproven E.J. Manuel under center and Jeff Tuel still the team's backup in case Manuel goes down again, Watkins cannot have a very high ceiling.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals second-year running back Giovani Bernard is going in the top seven at his position in nearly all leagues, but owners should not forget about Hill.

Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson believes veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a decent chance of not making the roster. In that case, Hill is the immediate backup for Bernard.

In addition, Hobson said "It looks like Bernard and Hill could both get about 200 attempts." With Hill's ability to run between the tackles, he could steal Bernard's goal line carries and score a bulk of the team's rushing touchdowns.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay's Mike Evans is another popular pick among rookie wide receivers along with Watkins, but it is hard not to go with the guy catching passes from Drew Brees.

Cooks won the 2013 Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top wide out in college. The rookie out of Oregon State has an uncanny ability to go deep and will use his tremendous speed on the fast field at the Super Dome. He will also be Brees' third wide receiver option.

With so many weapons, Brees will likely spread it around enough for the rookie to be in the same neighborhood as Watkins (79 catches, 831 yards, five touchdowns), but Cooks has a much higher ceiling and his eighth round ADP provides better value than Watkins' sixth round ADP.

Cooks arguably has more upside in the long-run for dynasty drafts as well.

Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns

No, the best rookie fantasy option on the Browns is not Johnny Manziel, but former Towson star running back Terrance West.

Running back Ben Tate is the clear starter in Cleveland's backfield, but Tate has never played an entire 16-game season in his career. Through three preseason games, West has already worked his way up the depth chart to be Tate's backup.

With the NFL upholding Josh Gordon's season-long suspension, the Brown offense will have to turn somewhere for yardage. West has the talent to make some big plays.

Although the situation at quarterback will not help, West is a viable handcuff for owners to take on a late-round flier.

49ers RB Carlos Hyde, Giants RB Andre Williams and Jaguars WR Marqise Lee are honorable mention rookies that are worth keeping an eye on the first few weeks.

08/27 15:43:46 ET


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