Every year of fantasy football brings the possibility of a game breaking rookie to the draft pool. Anyone who had RGIII in his rookie season was the proud owner of fantasy football’s biggest surprise. This past year Eddie Lacy was a shock as nobody expected him to finish as the sixth highest scoring RB. So who has the best shot to launch your team into championship levels? I’ve found six non-QBs to watch out for.
Sammy Watkins (6’1 205) Sure he didn’t break CJ2K’s 40 yard speed at the combine, but that doesn’t bother me. He ran well and looked very nice during the on the field drills, especially the gauntlet drill snagging nearly every ball with his hands and not his body while also showing that blazing speed. There is no doubt in my mind that Watkins is the single most talented pass catcher in this class. And although many see him going to the Raiders I think an ideal spot would be the Browns. They would remake that offense with Gordon, Cameron, Watkins, and either Ben Tate or another high value RB via free agency. Between their ferocious defense and a potentially remade offense Cleveland would become a team to fear after an offseason of turmoil and embarrassment.
Fantasy Draft Status: He won’t be a sleeper so if you want Watkins you’ll have to pay for him. He probably won’t be around after the sixth round of standard drafts. But if you have a solid core and are looking to gamble on a WR2 you could find worse options than Watkins.
Eric Ebron (6’4 245) I love getting great value at the TE spot in every fantasy league I’m in. Unfortunately while I think Ebron has a shot to finish in the top 10 for his position I think he will be well overdrafted. I doubt after his impressive showing of speed at the combine that he will be on the board for the Jets at 18. The Bills, Lions, and Titans at 9, 10 and 11 respectively could use the services of the standout TE. Wherever he ends up he will be one of the top two options in the passing game. But does he have any college basketball stats for me to look at and pretend to translate to the football field?
Fantasy Draft Status: Like Watkins he won’t be a bona fide sleeper but I’d feel safe nabbing him in the early teen rounds of my drafts. In most leagues he’ll be drafted early by overzealous owners so he might not be available come round 10 so I’m sticking with my strategy for drafting TEs – If I’m not getting Jimmy Graham I’m waiting until everyone else has their TE slot filled while i stock up on other positions.
Jace Amaro (6’6 260) After a disappointing combine performance Amaro will slip down draft boards. This means he could fall to a team that desperately needs a TE…the Seattle Seahawks. Which would be the perfect fit for him. A strong TE to help block for Lynch who is also a gigantic target in the redzone. If he does indeed fall to the final first round pick It’ll be the Seahawks creating an offense as physical and intimidating as their defense. However he has something HUGE working against him: no college basketball stats to be found. There’s also the chance he is snagged by the Patriots at the 29 spot in which case we’ll begin the same discussion we had with Zach Sudfeld a year ago.
Fantasy Draft Status: Amaro’s value will be determined on his preseason play. And will be a popular sleeper. Unless he catches fire in the preseason (entirely possible) he should be around in some of your final rounds.
Brandin Cooks (5’10 185) After a more than respectable showing at the combine Cooks is a true asset for teams looking to add a little speed to their WR corps. If everything goes well Cooks will find himself on a squad the desperately needs a slot WR. It would be a little bit of a surprise to see him fall all the way to the Panthers but no team would be a better fit for him as they lack a true slot guy as Steve Smith tends to play on the outside despite his stature. Add the possible signing of Hakeem Nicks as well and the Panthers have a complete passing attack. Maybe even enough for Cam Newton to dethrone Peyton or Drew Brees as fantasy’s number 2 QB.
Fantasy Draft Status: Purely a deep sleeper. There’s a possibility that Cooks doesn’t end up drafted, which works for owners who visit SAFF because I’ll tell you that he’s someone who should be on your watch list the moment your draft ends. Mark my words, he’ll have his weeks where he wins his owner’s matchups.
Carlos Hyde (6’0 236) Remember last year when no RB was taken in the first round? Well that might happen again. BUT remember how big of an impact the rookie RBs made in fantasy football last year? Well that’s not quite going to happen. I just don’t see this year’s crop of runners breaking out like last year. However, I can see Hyde finishing in the top 20, maybe even 15 but his real value is that right now he doesn’t have a crazy amount of hype surrounding him.
Fantasy Draft Status: As a solid pass blocker Hyde has the chance to see a lot of the field. However, as a possible late first round selection there’s no team that needs a bell cow back and that means I might stay away entirely. Should he fall to the early second round to the Jags or Titans I become intrigued and am even willing to go as early as 7th or 8th round depending on how reports are out of training camp.
Marquise Lee (6’0 192) Lee is a tweener between a slot receiver and an outside man. However, this works well for him as an adept offensive coordinator would love having Lee as a chess piece. If he’s on the board at 18 the Jets will almost surely nab him and he will become one of, if not THE focal point of the Jets passing attack. This is good as it means he will get targets, however, this is also bad as it means he will see other team’s top corners which if he’s on the Jets means he’ll see Aqib Talib twice a season. He’ll have ups and downs but I like his talent.
Fantasy Draft Status: As a Jets fan I feel that I should get this analysis of him done before he’s donning Green and White and I begin yelling about how he’s the second coming of Jerry Rice. That being said with a great training camp and preseason I’d be willing to spend an 11th or 12th round pick depending on how rankings shake out.
As the draft gets closer we will update and add to this list as well as breaking down the top QBs of the draft and ultimately where they should be on your fantasy teams. Don’t forget to sign up for offseason mock drafts at SundaysAreForFootball.com to hone your drafting strategies.