With the draft coming to an end this past weekend, it is time for fantasy owners to get serious about the 2014 season. Rookies have finally found their new homes. Training camps are right around the corner as these first year players will do what they can to show the coaching staff that they have what it takes to play on Sundays. Teams will start the evaluation process in getting their roster trimmed to 53 players. Even though we are still months away from the regular season, it is certainly an exciting time for not only NFL fans but fantasy football enthusiasts.
Below you will my updated wide receiver rankings. They are based off of the value I expect them to have this upcoming season. I have separated them into four tiers: Immediate Contributors, First Year Potential, Late Round Flier/Deeper League Value, and Keeper/Dynasty League Watch.
1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Round 1 Pick 7 (7)- The Bucs are doing their best to give veteran free agent signing Josh McCown two big weapons like he had in Chicago. Evans is firmly entrenched as the team's number two receiver opposite Vincent Jackson. I expect Evans to edge out Watkins as the number one rookie fantasy receiver. Blessed with impressive size at 6'5'' and 235 lbs, he should help drastically improve one of the worst red zone offenses in the NFL a season ago.
2. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills: Round 1 Pick 4 (4)- The Bills have done a lot to revamp their receiving corps this offseason. They dealt for former Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams, traded away former #1 Stevie Johnson, and dealt for the ultra-talented Watkins after trading up from the #9 spot to draft him fourth overall. I am not a big EJ Manuel fan, but Watkins will get every opportunity to shine immediately with the Bills.
3. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles: Round 2 Pick 10 (42)- When it comes to fantasy production, there may not be a better offense to be a part of than the Philadelphia Eagles. Matthews figures to step in immediately as the team's primary slot receiver. Chip Kelly is just loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball but with NFL size and an impressive skill set, I expect him to hold fantasy value in just his rookie season.
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers: Round 1 Pick 28 (28)- There may not have been a better situation for Benjamin to land from a fantasy perspective. Carolina's depth chart at receiver is extremely thin as veterans Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are the only other two notable names on the roster. While I expect Carolina to add another body at some point, Benjamin should be in the plans from day one.
5. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: Round 1 Pick 12 (12)- With Hakeem Nicks departing for the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants decided to keep feeding Eli weapons with the selection of Beckham. He should come in and contribute immediately as a return man and also compete for the #2 receiver position with Reuben Randle. Beckham is a dynamic athlete who the Giants will try and find ways to get the ball in his hands.
6. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints: Round 1 Pick 20 (20)- The Saints clearly have a plan for Cooks after they traded up seven spots in the first round to grab the talented receiver out of Oregon State. He should be heavily involved in the offensive gameplan not only as a receiver but also in the "Darren Sproles' role" in the offense as the "space" player who will be moved around the formation. When you factor in his big play ability in a high-powered offense you have a potential fantasy asset.
First Year Potential
7. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars: Round 2 Pick 29 (61)- Assuming Justin Blackmon is out of the picture in Jacksonville, Robinson should have a great chance for significant snaps as a rookie. I expect Robinson to win one of the starting outside receiver positions as he brings a size element that teammates Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts do not. But playing in a pedestrian offense in Jacksonville with a rookie QB, his production will likely be all over the place as a rookie.
8. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers: Round 2 Pick 21 (53)- Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb have all been recent second round wide receivers taken by the Green Bay Packers. Enter Davante Adams, who was extremely productive the past two seasons at Fresno State and possesses the hands and run after the catch ability that will make him a favorite target of All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If Adams can beat out third-year receiver Jarrett Boykin for the #3 receiver duties, he could definitely serve as a valuable player in one of the best offenses in the NFL.
9. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars: Round 2 Pick 7 (39)- Probably one of the toughest players to predict in this class is Lee. He is a first round talent who slipped to the second round on draft day due to concerns with his knee. The durability issues coupled with the fact he will be playing with either Chad Henne or a rookie QB in Blake Bortles this year make him hard to trust from a fantasy perspective. With limited competition at receiver, the upside is certainly there. But for what it will likely cost to draft Lee, I find a hard time thinking I will own him in any leagues this year.
10. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins: Round 2 Pick 31 (63)- Landry may not possess any exceptional traits but he is one of the better fits in this draft. He will instantly become a favorite target of Tannehill on third downs because of his reliable hands and toughness he portrays working the middle of the field. I would be surprised if Landry was not the starting slot receiver come week 1. Landry will certainly be a more attractive fantasy option in PPR formats.
11. Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers: Round 4 Pick 18 (118)- I love this fit for fantasy purposes. The Steelers lost their primary red zone target in Jerricho Cotchery to Carolina. 2013 starting receiver Emmanuel Sanders is also gone, signing with the Broncos. Bryant has the size and skill set to fill the void of both. He may be one of the more raw prospects to enter the NFL from the reciever position, but there may be no other player with as much upside given his impressive blend of size and speed.
12. Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos: Round 2 Pick 24 (56)- Despite being drafted into the best offense in the NFL from a season ago, Latimer has his work cut out for him as a rookie. Demaryius Thomas is locked in as the team's #1 WR and Welker will be the slot receiver. Latimer will have to battle free agent signing Emmanuel Sanders for snaps. When you factor in breakout TE Julius Thomas from a year ago and the fact Manning loves utilizing his backs in the passing game, expect his biggest contributions to come down the road.
Late Round Flier/Deeper League Value
13. Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks: Round 2 Pick 13 (45)- I was definitely a little surprised to see the Seahawks nab Richardson in the middle of round 2 on draft day. He seemed like more of a late day two to early day three selection to me. While Richardson possesses the elite speed to blow the top off of any defense, Seattle is not exactly an ideal situation for any wide receiver in fantasy as they figure to build around the running game once again in '14. He will likely be a situational deep threat as a rookie.
14. Shaq Evans, New York Jets: Round 4 Pick 15 (115)- While I don't expect the Jets to have one of the better passing offenses this season, the opportunity for early playing time is what entices me here. New York went out and signed Eric Decker to a big free agent deal but the other starting job figures to be an open competition. Jalen Saunders was taken by the Jets 11 picks before Evans, but his biggest contributions will come in the slot and on special teams as a returner. Evans has the size and strength to be an effective weapon for Michael Vick or Geno Smith on the outside.
15. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts: Round 3 Pick 26 (90)- While Moncrief may hold minimal value in 2014, I think he offers a lot from a dynasty league perspective. He lands with arguably the best young quarterback in the game in Andrew Luck in what should be a good offense for years to come. Moncrief will likely see limited snaps behind the trio of Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, and T.Y. Hilton in '14. But with Nicks on a one-year deal and Reggie Wayne 35 years of age, he is an intriguing player to monitor.
16. Josh Huff, Philadelphia Eagles: Round 3 Pick 22 (86)- It won't probably be until 2015 until Huff gets a chance to contribute significantly. Veterans Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper as well as second round pick Matthews figure to all be ahead of Huff on the depth chart. It is worth noting that Maclin signed a one-year deal in the offseason and is coming back from a torn ACL. If he doesn't work out like the Eagles hoped expect Huff to become the primary slot receiver with Matthews sliding outside in 2015.
17. Bruce Ellington, San Francisco 49ers: Round 4 Pick 6 (106)- Ellington projects as a future slot receiver in the NFL. A dynamic athlete who played two sports in college, he has the intriguing physical traits that could make him a special player in two to three years. But Ellington will have his work cut out for him as a rookie amongst a crowded San Francisco receiving corps. Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Stevie Johnson figure to be the top 3 receivers. Ellington will likely battle third rounder from a year ago Quinton Patton for the #4 WR duties.
Dynasty/Keeper League Watch
18. Kevin Norwood, Seattle Seahawks: Round 4 Pick 23 (123)- Smart, tough player who runs precise routes but should be no more than the 4th or 5th receiver in a run-first attack.
19. Robert Herron, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Round 6 Pick 9 (185)- Should get a chance to win the slot role as Tampa Bay doesn't have much on the depth chart outside of Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans.
20. Devin Street, Dallas Cowboys: Round 5 Pick 6 (146)- With intriguing size and good hands in a high-powered offense, Street is worth a late round pick in dynasty leagues.
21. Jalen Saunders, New York Jets: Round 4 Pick 4 (104)- Will contribute on special teams immediately but will have to earn his snaps in the slot behind dependable receiver Jeremy Kerley.
22. Jared Abbrederis, Green Bay Packers: Round 5 Pick 36 (176)- Likely won't see the field much as a rookie, but in an offense led by Aaron Rodgers he is worth monitoring.
23. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals: Round 3 Pick 27 (91)- Similar to Saunders, a player with impressive speed who won't have much of an opportunity to contribute as more than a return man in year one.
24. T.J. Jones, Detroit Lions: Round 6 Pick 13 (189)- A reliable possession receiver who could produce in a pass-happy offense if given the opportunity.
25. Jeff Janis, Green Bay Packers: Round 7 Pick 21 (236)- Highly productive at the DII level but was one of three receivers drafted by Green Bay in a crowded, talented group of wideouts.