Rookies had a huge impact on the 2013 fantasy football season. Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, Zac Stacy and Keenan Allen were on a ton of championship teams.
This year will not be as fruitful for rookies. Backfields are far more solidified and the running back talent as a whole just wasn’t there in this class. The best rookies at each position will be mid-tier players, not studs.
Cup of Sankey
The first running back off the board landed in Tennessee, the best possible spot for short-term value. Lumbering big back Shonn Greene is a committee player, and has now had two right knee surgeries in the last eight months. Bishop Sankey is going to come in, win the starting job and push for 16 to 20 touches weekly behind a plus offensive line. The Titans are comparing his size and speed combo and well-rounded abilities to Tiki Barber. Sankey is a plug-and-play RB2 in fantasy.
We like Mike
Last year, Josh McCown set the league on fire by throwing jump balls to 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffery. Now he’s in Tampa, where they’re recreating that scheme with 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson and the No. 7 overall pick, 6-foot-5 Mike Evans. This dude is a touchdown machine, using his ridiculously long arms (35 1/8 inches), 4.53-second 40-yard dash wheels and 37-inch vertical to dominate at the catch point. Evans wins even when he’s “covered” and will play every down right away. He’ll be fantasy’s top rookie wideout and a WR3 with upside.
If Johnny Manziel can’t beat out journeyman Brian Hoyer, who is coming off an ACL tear, the Browns have serious problems. Look for Johnny Football to start Week 1 as the caretaker of a “ground and pound” philosophy installed by Rex Ryan-disciple Mike Pettine. He won’t have a ton of passing upside with Josh Gordon in street clothes, but quarterbacks with elite running ability are always fantasy monsters. Manziel averaged 83.4 yards and 1.15 touchdowns per game on the ground as an Aggie. He’ll be a QB2 with upside at fantasy’s deepest position.
Rookie fliers …
These rookies don’t have direct paths to snaps, but are one injury away from massive value:
1. Cody Latimer, WR, Broncos — He had the best hands in the draft and ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. Peyton Manning will love him.
2. Terrance West, RB, Browns – A souped-up Alfred Morris lands in the same Kyle Shanahan scheme that made Alf a star.
3. Davonta Freeman, RB, Falcons – Already a stud in pass protection, Freeman just needs 31-year-old Steven Jackson to blow a tire.
Overrated rookies box …
Don’t get caught up in the hype with these rookies:
1. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars – He has knee issues and is with a run-heavy offense. It is no lock Lee will even beat out Allen Robinson or Cecil Shorts.
2. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers – Benjamin’s role will be massive, but he’s not ready for it. Way too raw to handle No. 1 duties.
3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills – By betting on Watkins, we’re betting on E.J. Manuel. Considering the rookie tape, that’s a leap of faith.
MLB pickups …
1. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds – He was hitting .468 with a 1.296 OPS before landing on the DL with a hamstring pull.
2. Brad Ziegler, RP, Diamondbacks – Arizona closer Addison Reed is struggling so bad he got the dreaded “vote of confidence” from his manager.
3. Bryan Shaw, RP, Indians – John Axford is out. Shaw has the slight edge on Cody Allen for saves right now.
Follow Metro fantasy sports writer Adam Levitan on Twitter @adamlevitan.