The rookie most likely to succeed is ...
By Steve Schwarz, Fantasy Sports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL's draft was about three weeks ago, giving fantasy owners plenty of time to digest all that took place over the three-day event.
The first round saw nine offensive skill position players selected - three quarterbacks, five wide receivers and one tight end. The second round added 15 more players to the mix.
Somewhere among the two dozen selections is a guy who will have a breakout rookie season and your job as a fantasy owner is to correctly identify that guy and pick him for your fantasy team this season.
My assignment today is to help you with that process. Let's jump right in and get started.
None of the quarterbacks will star in their first season.
Sorry, ESPN, no matter how much you overhype Johnny Manziel, he's not good enough to pick up the Cleveland Browns offense and carry them to greatness ... or anything more than mediocrity in 2014. Between first-round choices Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater along with second-rounders Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, none is the next Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck.
Manziel will likely be without his best weapon (Josh Gordon), the Jacksonville Jaguars are threatening to sit Bortles for the entire season, and while I like the receiving corps in Minnesota, I don't think Bridgewater will take over for Matt Cassel until sometime in the second half of the season ... if at all. Meanwhile, Carr is headed to the disaster that is Oakland and Garoppolo is a multi-year project.
We also can rule out any of the running backs selected in May. There were none selected in the first round, which should tell you a lot of what scouts think about this group. And the backs selected in Round 2 will all head into "shared situations."
Bishop Sankey was drafted by Tennessee to share the load with Shonn Greene, Jeremy Hill will play behind Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Carlos Hyde won't get any higher than No. 3 on the depth chart in San Francisco without an injury to the guys ahead of him.
Of the four tight ends selected, the talented Eric Ebron is in the best situation at Detroit. Quarterback Matthew Stafford frequently targets his tight ends. The problem is they still have a few on the roster in Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. Ebron will eventually be able to beat out both veterans, then all he'll have to do is fight Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell for attention.
Which leaves us with wide receivers as the most likely to succeed in Year 1.
As noted even before the draft, it's an excellent group. The five first-round selections (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin) all have the talent to be stars in this league, and even the second round is well qualified with Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Davante Adams, Cody Latimer, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry.
As usual with rookies, it comes down to opportunity and surrounding talent.
I expect Watkins, Evans, Beckham Jr. and Benjamin to start immediately, which gives them an early advantage.
On the other hand, some of the second-round guys have better quarterback options. Adams will catch balls from Aaron Rodgers and Latimer gets to learn from one of the all-time best in Peyton Manning. I also like Matthews' situation in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense.
Watkins will be the No. 1 receiving target in Buffalo, though I have concerns. The team's primary weapons are running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. We also don't know how Watkins will perform in the cold of Buffalo. He's a Florida kid, who played his college ball in South Carolina. The average high temperature in Buffalo is 36 degrees in December.
In the case of Evans and Beckham Jr.. I have quarterback concerns. I'm not sold on any of the options, be it Josh McCown and Mike Glennon in Tampa Bay or Geno Smith and Michael Vick with the New York Jets.
That leaves Benjamin, Cooks and the best option of the second round, Matthews.
I'll toss out Matthews because he's likely going to be the No. 3 guy behind Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper in Philadelphia. However, if Maclin's knee isn't as healthy as advertised or Cooper's breakout season in 2013 was a one-year fluke, then Matthews' time could arrive earlier than expected.
Cooks has the wonderful opportunity of catching balls from Drew Brees. Our only complaint here is that while Brees is likely to throw for another 5,000 yards this season, he's favored two receivers among all others. Since coming to New Orleans in 2006, Brees' passing has produced nine 1,000-yards receivers, eight of which were either Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham, and both are still on the roster.
It's a similarly crowded field in Denver where Latimer will have to grab the leftovers after Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas are satiated.
Which leaves us with one choice.
Benjamin and his quarterback, Cam Newton, have apparently hit it off and he has a great opportunity to shine in Carolina. Former No. 1 target Steve Smith is now plying his trade in Baltimore and the team doesn't really have a No. 2 to challenge Benjamin. The Panthers' best receiver from last season was tight end Greg Olsen - more by default than by choice. This year, Newton will have the 6-foot-5 Benjamin to target, particularly near the goal line, where he was lethal at Florida State (54 receptions, 1,011 yards and 15 TDs in 2013).
Fantasyfootballcalculator currently has Benjamin with a 107.3 ADP, the 43rd receiver off the board, in the ninth round. I think he's a steal at that price and the most likely rookie to produce big fantasy numbers in 2014.
05/30 12:18:40 ET