1.03 JAX – QB Blake Bortles
Bortles' selection ahead of a player that can generate a pass
rush from the all-important LEO spot in the Jags' defense like
Khalil Mack comes as a bit of a stunner. A bit like a young Ben
Roethlisberger, the Jags hitch their wagon to a player in Bortles
that OC Jedd Fisch hopes will morph into the second-best QB in
the AFC South by 2015. Bortles did not perform well statistically
against the best competition on Central Florida's schedule this
season and needs some seasoning, but he is the quarterback in
this draft that presents the highest upside with the highest floor.
Chad Henne should be under center in Week1, but it is a good bet
that Bortles will be the starter a month or two into the season.
When that happens, he has low-end fantasy QB2 potential.
1.04 BUF - WR Sammy Watkins
The best draft-eligible receiver in at least the last two years,
Watkins brings instant legitimacy to a Bills' receiving corps.
Watkins is one of the few college receivers that enters the league
as a "hands-catcher" and is dynamic after the catch,
meaning Buffalo should expect (and rightfully so) a huge jump
from EJ Manuel this season. The Clemson alum will begin 2014 as
a rock-solid fantasy WR3 candidate and, while Buffalo isn't the
greatest landing spot long term, it's not enough to bump him from
the top spot in dynasty drafts.
Evans is a Day 1 starter and a legit red
1.07 TB WR Mike Evans
Evans draws a lot of comparisons to future teammate Vincent Jackson
due to his size, but his game resembles Brandon Marshall's. He
is a fierce blocker that will presumably allow Doug Martin to
break off more long runs, but likely new QB Josh McCown will have
a combo to throw to in Tampa much like the one he left in Chicago.
Evans is a Day 1 starter that could conceivably enjoy more rookie-year
success than Sammy Watkins because he is already an absolute monster
in the red zone and should get solid quarterback play. He has
a realistic shot to produce at least 900 yards and 7-9 touchdowns
1.10 DET TE Eric Ebron
The Lions aren't messing around on offense. At the moment, Ebron
is a 250-pound slot receiver (and blocks like one) that should
quickly make defenses quickly rethink about ganging up on Calvin
Johnson. In all honestly, with Johnson-Ebron-Golden Tate-Reggie
Bush to throw to, Matthew Stafford has absolutely no reason not
to throw for 4,500 yards and 30-plus touchdowns for the next 4-5
years. Ebron's biggest issues are his below-average blocking skills
(or unwillingness to block every snap) and "focus drops".
However, as often as he makes the spectacular catch, the latter
problem should become less of a problem as he matures. Ebron is
very comparable to Vernon Davis with his ability to run and threaten
defenses downfield. It goes without saying that his speed coupled
with Stafford's arm should be a match made in fantasy heaven.
Even though most tight ends aren't fantasy TE1s in their rookie
season, Ebron should be the exception in this offense. In dynasty,
he's should be a rock-solid choice after Watkins and Evans are
off the board in rookie drafts.
1.12 NYG WR Odell Beckham
Beckham has drawn comparisons to Victor Cruz throughout the draft
process and now gets the chance to play opposite him while also
filling the void left behind by Hakeem Nicks and possibly keeping
Rueben Randle in the third spot. Beckham made his name as a deep
threat at LSU and could easily enjoy the same role in New York,
although he is extremely dynamic in the open field in the short
and intermediate passing game. He should contribute immediately
on special teams, although he should start ahead of Randle relatively
quickly. Beckham is in a great spot for immediate and future fantasy
value in new OC Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense and should be
no worse than a mid-range fantasy WR3 as a rookie; the drop from
Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans to Beckham is not all that great
- in reality or fantasy.
1.20 NO WR Brandin Cooks
If Cooks was about 2-3 inches taller and had about 10-15 more
pounds of muscle on his frame, it would be hard to find anything
to knock him on as a prospect. He should have no problem emerging
as one of the league's best deep threats in his first year, but
he is also among the best route-runners available in this draft.
The Oregon State standout profiles as a less physical Steve Smith
right now and may spend most of his first year in the slot, but
a smart play-caller will know to move him when he's on the outside
to avoid getting him squared up against a rocked-up cornerback.
Cooks may never be a consistent touchdown-scorer in the league,
but he should have little problem getting open in between the
20s. New Orleans has shown a tendency to be a receiver-by-committee
team after Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, but Cooks is a better
receiver than Kenny Stills and could bring that committee approach
to a stop by the end of his rookie year. (There's next to no chance
he will end up being another one of the Saints' designated deep
threats.) One other possibility: following the loss of Darren
Sproles, the Saints could use a player that has the ability to
make big plays on short passes like bubble/tunnel screens. Either
way, Cooks to New Orleans has a chance to be a fantasy jackpot.
His immediate fantasy slot is probably as one of the higher-upside
WR3s in 12-team leagues.
1.22 CLE QB Johnny Manziel
Manziel has generated an incredible amount of buzz for any number
of reasons and I still believe he has the most boom-bust potential
of any of the top four draft-eligible quarterbacks this year,
but Cleveland was one of the few spots in the NFL where he has
a shot to be a potential a potential fantasy stud because he is
falling into the right situation. New OC Kyle Shanahan has already
shown he can work with an "unorthodox" quarterback and
Josh Gordon gives Manziel the same big-receiver, deep-ball element
that Mike Evans did in college. Manziel's problem has never been
arm strength, but winning from the pocket. In Shanahan's offense,
it is a pretty good bet that he'll run a lot of bootleg and zone-read
plays that Robert Griffin III did for Shanahan in Washington.
With the Browns, Manziel has an outside shot at top-10 fantasy
quarterback value in redraft leagues because the offense will
be tailored to his running and deep-ball passing abilities. It's
hard to imagine another quarterback that will get drafted this
weekend will find a better fit than Manziel did here.
1.28 CAR - WR Kelvin Benjamin
It's hard to think of a better landing spot for Benjamin than
Carolina. He's almost certain to begin the season as the lead
receiver, has a phenomenal talent like Cam Newton throwing him
the ball and a player like Greg Olsen around to make sure he doesn't
feel the pressure to carry the receiving load by himself. It would
be borderline stunning if Benjamin isn't a yearly threat to score
6-8 times in the red zone alone. With that said, the Florida State
alum is plenty raw and comes with significant boom-bust potential
as a result, but fantasy owners need to recognize the 6-5, 240-pounder
takes a back seat to no receiver in this draft from a talent perspective.
Preseason action will play a large role in whether Benjamin should
be slotted as a low-end fantasy WR3 or high-end WR4, but if he
shows any kind of chemistry with Newton in July and August, the
former should be where owners rank him.
1.32 MIN QB Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater essentially fell from being the draft's consensus
top quarterback to the end of the first round for two reasons:
his slight frame and a less than stellar pro day. While he isn't
the prototypical Norv Turner quarterback in that he won't consistently
stretch the field with a big-time arm, Bridgewater should quickly
make a handful of teams regret letting him drop to the last pick
in the first round because he has very few weaknesses as a decision-maker.
The Louisville standout immediately steps into a great situation
in that Turner almost always supplies his quarterback with a solid
running game and will have players like TE Kyle Rudolph to pick
apart defenses in the short passing game and WR Cordarrelle Patterson
in the intermediate passing game. Bridgewater will probably start
out behind Matt Cassel, but like most of the other first-round
quarterbacks in this draft, it would be shocking if he werent
playing by midseason. When that happens, he should be a rock-solid
fantasy QB2. In dynasty, he probably falls right behind Manziel
in rookie drafts.
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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in
USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and
2011. He is also the host of USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff
fantasy football internet chat every Sunday. Doug regularly appears
as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy
Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C).
He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.