Before the draft I profiled the 2014 Keenan Allen candidates, but it’s time to catch up with them and look at their redraft values. In addition to the original candidates, I’m also going to touch on three more sleepers for rookie year value.
Only four non-first round rookies have qualified for WR1 status in the last twenty years. You’re possibly better off to focus on the 8 Breakout WRs culled from the ranks of second and third year players.
On the other hand, this is the one of the best classes at the receiver position in memory, and a Keenan Allen simulacrum would be a league winner.
1. Marqise Lee
Why he’s similar to Allen: Lost momentum due to injury.
Lee is a strange prospect. He was an absolutely dominant college player as a freshman and sophomore. A full breakdown of Lee versus Sammy Watkins reveals two almost perfectly equivalent players. Despite this, game watchers seem to have soured on Lee due to a flurry of dropped passes, and analysts are worried about his mediocre size/speed package paired with a flagging final year Dominator Rating. It’s rare you get such a great discount from both sides of the aisle.
How his landing spot affects his prospects: Drafted by the Jaguars at No. 39 overall, Lee lands on a team with a muddled quarterback situation. That’s the only negative. He becomes an immediate starter and should play a full complement of snaps in 2014. Cecil Shorts has been an underrated reality player, but he seems to have become a full-fledged Miles Austin Hamstring Zombie.
What should we expect from Lee as a rookie? Lee would be my choice as the top rookie wide receiver.
How to Play It: Lee’s ADP has actually lost a little steam in July, and he currently sits at WR59 in Round 13. He’s still going ahead of my No. 7 ranked breakout WR and my No. 1 post-hype sleeper, so Lee isn’t completely free by any means. I expect him to fall even further in more serious formats as owners will be looking to avoid rookies. Target him in Round 14 or 15.
2. Jordan Matthews
Why he’s similar to Allen: Doesn’t flash on tape.
How his landing spot affects his prospects: After going No. 42 to the Eagles and Chip Kelly, reports were mixed on how his prospects were affected. Philadelphia’s ultra-efficient but egalitarian and run-based offense could raise his floor and lower his ceiling.
What should we expect from Matthews as a rookie? The tune is swiftly changing on Matthews. Evidently a full college career of utter dominance didn’t convince many people, but a few big plays in practice and he’s the next Terrell Owens. As is the case for most rookies, Matthews is probably a better bet for WR2 value a year from now, but I think he’ll be playable as a WR3/4 by midseason.
How To Play It: Matthews is being selected as WR42, ahead of players like Justin Hunter, Dwayne Bowe, and Aaron Dobson. On the surface, this would appear to be a case of Rookie Derangement. A year ago DeAndre Hopkins was our favorite rookie, but Coleman Kelly persuasively argued for selecting the previous year’s Hopkins in redraft. That man? Alshon Jeffery. An avalanche of fantasy titles followed. I still like Matthews in this range as I expect Hunter and Dobson will not last into the 100s in mid-August.
3. Brandin Cooks
Why he’s similar to Allen: Age isn’t fully appreciated
How his landing spot affects his prospects: With New Orleans trading up to nab Cooks at No. 20 overall, he’s the only first rounder in our group. (If Cooks is even better than believed, it’s a scary thought.) Expected to compete for the Lance Moore role and soak up some of the types of routes vacated by Darren Sproles, Cooks won’t lack for immediate opportunity. Similar to the situation with Matthews, the explosive nature of the Saints offense combined with their heavy rotation of personnel could serve to raise his floor and lower his ceiling.
What should we expect from Cooks as a rookie? A great target in best ball formats, Cooks could be the same type of frustrating field-stretching talent as players like T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson. Both players posted numerous starter-caliber games as rookies but were difficult to play successfully. If Cooks does add a few of the Harvin- or Cobb-type receptions, his value would skyrocket. Scott Smith likes Cooks for approximately 750 yards and 5 touchdowns.
How To Play It: Cooks is currently coming off the board early in Round 8. In perhaps the clearest case of Rookie Derangement yet, MFL has him going just ahead of both Marques Colston and breakout candidate Kenny Stills. Before drafting Cooks in that range, make sure you read Dan Schneier on why Stills will see an expanded role. On the other hand, Cooks could easily slip into Round 10 or 11 in your draft. He’s a definite target in that range.
4. Paul Richardson
Why he’s similar to Allen: Played for a poor Pac-12 team
How his landing spot affects his prospects: The Seahawks prioritized him at No. 45 overall, ahead of players like Davante Adams, Cody Latimer, and Allen Robinson. Although Seattle is a very difficult place to generate fantasy value as a receiver, Percy Harvin continues to be drafted as a WR2. Richardson might have more long term value.
What should we expect from Richardson as a rookie? Who knows? Richardson appears slated for special teams duty, but that could change in a hurry. Seattle doesn’t appear to have any real candidates to take over for Golden Tate. Doug Baldwin is underrated but is more of an intermediate presence. Harvin looks like an OW. Jermaine Kearse profiles as a role player, although a good one.
How To Play It: Draft Richardson in the late rounds of best ball formats and put him on your redraft watch list. The Seahawks are known for their great team depth and willingness to bring players along slowly, but they also create competition and play the best players. If Richardson is as good as his metrics suggest, he will carve out a role as a rookie. The guy sports incredible separation skills. You’ll want to click over to the original article just to watch the Richardson highlights.
5. Jarvis Landry
Why he’s similar to Allen: Sun dial speed
How his landing spot affects his prospects: Miami seemed like one of the least likely destinations with Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, and Rishard Matthews already entrenched. I’m not sure how many mediocre-athlete-but-underrated-receiver types are necessary for a single team. Even if he seems superficially redundant, it certainly doesn’t hurt Landry that he was picked in the second round by a team without a single real star to block him.
What should we expect from Landry as a rookie? The word out of Miami continues to insist Brandon Gibson will be the guy in three-wide sets with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Don’t expect that to last. Landry might immediately be the most trustworthy receiver on the team. He should be worth a spot start in PPR leagues down the stretch.
How To Play It: Landry’s real value is in dynasty formats, but he’s definitely someone to have at the top of your watch list. Currently going outside of the Top 200 picks, he’ll be on the waiver wire in most leagues. If Ryan Tannehill seems to be making progress and the Bill Lazor offense is humming, he could emerage as a priority pickup.
Other Sleeper Rookies to Target
In the original piece, I was mostly interested in receivers who were being undervalued for very similar reasons to Allen, but at this juncture we’re looking for anybody who could be worth a redraft flier.
Why He Fell: Doesn’t present a compelling narrative.
How his landing spot affects his prospects: Robinson was arguably the draft’s most bizarre faller, but an ascending Jaguars squad stopped his plunge. Injuries could clear the way for Robinson in much the same way Allen’s path opened up last year.
What should we expect from Robinson as a rookie? Robinson was Jon Moore’s favorite prospect and scores very highly in terms of games dominated and the Phenom Index. It may seem like a long time ago now, but there’s a reason Robinson was a focal point of the RotoViz Reach portfolio. He’s a real threat to outscore more highly touted players like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham.
How To Play It: Robinson is being selected only 11 spots later than Lee even though his playing time scenario looks more complicated. This fits with general perception within the analyst community that Robinson is the bigger talent. He’s a solid selection at pick 167.
Why he fell: Played in a small market. Concerns about Adams’ level of competition are legitimate, but his play certainly seemed to transcend situation.
How his landing spot affects his prospects: Adams got the biggest dynasty bump of any rookie receiver but may see his fantasy impact delayed a season. The Packers appear set for 2014 with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin, although Nelson and Cobb have been oft-injured and Boykin is no lock keep Adams on the bench.
What should we expect from Adams as a rookie? Adams is the poster boy for contingency-based drafting. Likely to unseat Boykin by midseason, Adams is a good bet to have WR3 value during your fantasy playoffs. Think Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt as rookies.
How To Play It: Currently coming off the board at 162, the key is simply not to reach for Adams. If he doesn’t slide to you in your draft, there’s an excellent chance he’ll be on waivers in Week 2 or 3. Add him then and enjoy the spoils over the second half of the season.
Is he like Allen? Dubbed this year’s Keenan Allen by a handful of pundits, the biggest similarity between Latimer and Allen would be a draft fall followed by an explosive rookie season. That’s if Latimer follows through with the crucial second part of that sentence. The problem? Latimer’s on-field performance lagged behind Allen’s, and he enters a much more crowded depth chart.
How his landing spot affects his prospects: If Latimer is the player many expected to go late in Round 1, Denver provides him with a chance to be an immediate WR2. You can’t find a better situation than catching passes from Peyton Manning with the twin towers of Thomas to draw coverage.
What should we expect from Latimer as a rookie? The narrative surrounding Latimer focuses on his explosive athleticism and “ability to win contested passes.” That may all be true, but those strengths are likely offset by more important weaknesses. A player with Latimer’s gifts would be expected to dominate more of the receiving market share at Indiana. Consider Latimer next to Adams and Robinson.
I drafted Latimer in all three of my main dynasty drafts, so I’m no stranger to his siren song . He may just be a little further away than some of the other rookie receivers.
How To Play It: I’m not sure it makes sense to use a pick on Latimer unless an injury strikes the Broncos receiving corps in the preseason. Latimer’s presence does complicate the thesis for Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders. If he ascends to the Eric Decker role earlier than expected, the two diminutive receivers could become package players. Welker and Sanders both have the potential to provide weekly WR2 value, but they represent real threats to blow up your roster.Don’t want to fall victim to Rookie Derangement? Check out the 8 Breakout WRs for 2014 and the 5 Breakout Receivers Who Won’t.