by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
First round wide receivers are known as significant risks. While fantasy owners want to believe that they are going to be stellar producers, there’s always going to be a learning curve. The success stories, for Year 1, are harder to come by then the busts (just think Tavon Austin). That said, that doesn’t mean we should simply ignore rookie wide receivers. Who is the best bet to produce? Let’s take a look:
1) Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s easy to argue that Evans finds himself in the best spot to produce immediately as he will be asked to fill the Mike Williams role in Tampa Bay’s offense. Better yet, he could easily play the Alshon Jeffery to Vincent Jackson’s role of Brandon Marshall (to draw a comparison to Lovie Smith’s former team). While Jeffery was used sparingly in his rookie season (48 targets in 10 games), Evans likely won’t fall victim to that same fate. He’s a big receiver (6’5”, 231 lbs.) and could easily emerge as a red zone target immediately.
2) Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
With James Jones in Oakland, Adams should immediately play a major role in Green Bay’s offense with the chance to overtake Jarrett Boykin for the #3 receiver spot. Better yet, Randall Cobb has a history of injuries and is better suited as a slot receiver. That should open the door for Adams to grab the starting job across from Jordy Nelson with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football. What’s not to like about that potential situation?
3) Sammy Watkins – Buffalo Bills
Long-term Watkins may have the highest upside, but it’s hard to figure him as being in the best option in Year 1. The Bills are going to be a run first team, they added Mike Williams and they still have E.J. Manuel learning the ropes under center. There’s talent, but there are also going to be some growing pains.
4) Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints
While he’s going to one of the best offenses in the league, he also could be buried on the depth chart in Year 1. The potential is there, but he also could be a boom or bust type in the early going viewed as a player to take the top off the defense as opposed to being a regular target for Drew Brees.
5) Marqise Lee – Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars offense is in shambles, and Lee is one of two new wide receivers tasked with picking up the pieces (as well as the addition of Toby Gerhart). He had the talent of a first rounder and could emerge as the go to receiver in Week 1, though he carries significant boom or bust threat.
6) Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
He could be the more dependable rookie receiver in Jacksonville, but he also may not have the same type of upside as Marqise Lee. That means he’s going to come in under him in the rankings, but it doesn’t mean he couldn’t be the more productive receiver in 2014.
7) Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
A first round selection, this ranking isn’t about his talent overall. Instead it’s about him playing in an offense that’s going to center around the running game and, when they do throw the football, Greg Olsen should be the leading receiver. Look for the Panthers to bring Benjamin along slowly.
8) Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
The Giants need a to replace Hakeem Nicks, as well as surround Eli Manning with more weapons. Beckham should get the opportunity to step into both of those roles, but he’s not going to be alone in that competition. With Victor Cruz leading the way, Ruben Randle likely #2 on the depth chart (at least initially) and Jerrel Jernigan primed to potentially surprise it’s not like Beckham is a slam dunk to produce. Things have become even worse with him missing time early in Training Camp due to a hamstring injury, putting him behind the learning curve.
9) Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins
His upside isn’t that of the receivers above him, but he could enter the season as the Dolphins’ slot receiver. The problem is that he’s not going to be a red zone threat, thanks to his size, though he does have the potential to produce if Ryan Tannehill turns the corner as expected.
10) Jordan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews is a player that’s going to get a lot of hype, thanks to the offense he plays in. That said, does anyone truly see him as a star option in Year 1? The Eagles have Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the outside, an emerging Zack Ertz at tight end and a pair of running backs (Lesean McCoy & Darren Sproles) who will likely be the center of the offense.
Others to Watch – John Brown (Arizona Cardinals), Paul Richardson (Seattle Seahawks)
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: