“Off the Matt” So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance? (Rookie QB/WR’s)
Before we get started breaking down the rookie class of quarterbacks and receivers, it is important to be aware of what their odds for *fantasy* success is.
A brief history full of numbers and statistics about rookie quarterbacks can be found in an article I wrote last year. If looking at numbers on a screen hurts your brain then I will spell it out for you in one simple sentence. Ready?
Don’t draft a rookie quarterback.
There that was easy. This will help put in perspective how rare it is for a rookie quarterback to have success. Last year, Jameis Winston was only the fourth rookie quarterback to surpass 3500 passing yards (4042) in the last decade. To go along with the impressive (by rookie standards) yardage total, he chipped in another 57 points on the ground. Even with the success through the air and on the ground Winston only managed to finish as the 14th rated fantasy quarterback.
Winston had a great season. He beat the odds to even finish inside the top 20. Going back to 2006 of the 26 rookie quarterbacks to play in at least 10 games, 17 finished 20th+.
Basically there is a 30% chance for any of these guys to crack the top 20 in regards to fantasy production. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on some leaked footage of Jared Goff after reading that stat.
Jared Goff – Rams
It is good to be Goff. He is the franchise quarterback in the football starved city of Los Angeles. Signing a multi-million dollar contract in the near future doesn’t hurt either.
Just like at Cal he will be expected to start from day one. He capped off his career at Cal by setting Pac-12 single season records for touchdowns and yards. His deep ball accuracy and touch are his strongest attributes as he completed 43% of his deep passes.
His eye-popping stats were aided by the air-raid offense that he operated at Cal. Goff took 99.8% of his snaps from either the pistol or shotgun this past season, so there could be an adjustment period to the footwork that will be required to go from under center.
Goff is landing in a good situation. He is going to a team that has arguably the most talented running back in the league. On the other side of the ball, the defense will keep the score down and prevent Goff from being asked to win shootouts.
Side Note: I know that there are examples of prospects that had less than stellar college win/loss records that went on to have great careers. (see: Elway, John) However, 14-23 in the Pac-12 is a bit alarming to me. I know it is more about projected talent, but being a “winner” should be not discounted. Speaking of winners…
Carson Wentz – Eagles
Hey! 1-AA still counts. I don’t care if it’s backyard football against the neighbor’s kids. Back to back championships = winner.
At 6’5” 237 he fits the mold of what an NFL quarterback should look like. He played in a pro-style offense that demanded NFL caliber throws. His mobility and ability to run the ball was impressive. It will be interesting to see how that translates from FCS to NFL.
Sam Bradford is currently pouting like a nine-year-old boy who just got picked last for a game of kickball in gym class. However, I do expect him to show up in June when mandatory mini-camp rolls around. As good as Wentz might be, Bradford gives them the best chance to win this season. A year or two on the bench learning the game wouldn’t be the worst thing for Wentz. For any of you gamblers out there, I am going to set the over/under on amount of times Sam Bradford is booed at 133.5…basically any time he throws an incomplete pass, takes a sack, throws an interception, or even steps on the field.
Paxton Lynch – Broncos
For being a giant, Lynch is surprisingly athletic. Although he was not much of a tuck and run quarterback, he used his mobility to extend plays. The fact that he only took 15 sacks on 477 drop-backs says a great deal about his feet.
In Memphis’s two biggest games last year, against SEC defenses Lynch was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
vs. Ole Miss: 39/53 – 384/3/1
Bowl Game vs. Auburn: 16/37 – 106/0/1
I might be alone in taking this line of thinking, but I really believe that Mark Sanchez is going to the quarterback for the Denver Broncos this year. They found the formula to win a Super Bowl last year, and like the saying goes, “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They just need a quarterback who can manage the game and not turn the ball over. Comparing Sanchez to Manning doesn’t hardly seem fair. However, what Manning did in the playoffs this year could be easily replicated by Sanchez. Don’t tell me that Sanchez can’t take a team deep into the playoffs. He took the Jets to the Conference Championship game back to back years in 2009 and 2010. Sure, he rode the coattails of the defense on that two-year stretch, but it wouldn’t any different in Denver. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would be by far the best receiving tandem he has ever worked with. Hey, you know what, I actually think Denver could make this work.
Christian Hackenberg – Jets
Fourth time’s a charm, or something like that.
This marks the fourth straight season that the Jets have drafted a quarterback. Hackenberg was ticketed for a future first overall draft selection after his impressive freshman season under the tutelage of Bill O’Brien. After O’Brien bolted for the NFL, Hackenberg regressed, then regressed some more. The potential is obviously there, but the Jets would be crazy if they don’t find a way to get a deal done with Fitzpatrick. Hackenberg intrigues me as a possible dynasty selection. If five years from now you told me that Hackenberg was having the most successful career from this quarterback class I would not be shocked.
Cody Kessler – Browns
Throwing 88 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions speaks to Kessler’s calling card, which is accuracy. He doesn’t have a big arm so it will be interesting to see how the southern California kid will handle the cold, windy Cleveland weather conditions.
The quarterback situation in Cleveland is crowded. One has to believe that it is RG3’s job to lose, but with his injury history the backup could be thrust into action anytime. It will be interesting to see if Kessler can win the job over McCown.
Jacoby Brissett – Patriots
The drafting of Brissett isn’t exactly a vote of confidence for the current backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Someone not named Tom Brady is going to have start the first four games of the season. I feel like I have seen this movie before. Who knows what will happen in Brady vs. Goodell part 3, but with a strong camp/preseason Brissett could be the Week 1 starter.
Connor Cook – Raiders
Even though quarterback was a position that was not a “need” for the Raiders, they could not pass up the value that Connor Cook presented in the fourth round. Derek Carr has had a promising start to his career, but having too many good quarterbacks on your team is like having too much money. It’s a good problem to have. Take a look at the Bengals last year. Andy Dalton goes down late in the year and A.J. McCarron steps in and leads them to a playoff win, if Jeremy Hill can hold on to the football. The comparisons to Kirk Cousins are endless. If Cook develops into that type of player the Raiders will have some premium trade bait.
What about rookie receivers? Oh yeah, there is a chance alright and I’m not just talking about this one in a million stuff either. Look no further than the 2014 season to see the type of immediate impact rookie receivers can have on both the real and fantasy game. In that season, we saw three rookie receivers surpass 1000 yards (Beckham, Evans, Benjamin) and another just miss out with 982 (Watkins). They also knew how to get in the end zone. Five receivers scored eight or more touchdowns. Obviously, this isn’t the norm and the 2014 class will likely go down as the most productive group in history.
Let’s take a look at what the 2016 crop has to offer.
Corey Coleman – Browns
Receivers who produce gaudy stats playing in high-flying, fast-tempo offenses like that of Baylor make me nervous transitioning to the pro game. However, having a 40.5 vertical jump and 4.37 speed quells those nerves a bit. If he had landed in a better offense I would be more excited about his prospects as a consistent fantasy contributor.
The Browns need at receiver trumped every other team’s need at any one position. Coleman will step in day one and give them a legitimate down field threat. He will need to expand and fine tune his route running, but the raw talent is there.
Will Fuller – Texans
Speed. Speed. Speed. Plain and simple, that is Fuller’s game. Almost 30% of his catches went for 25+ yards and he posted eight touchdowns of 45+ yards.
Playing on the other side of DeAndre Hopkins should create some favorable matchups for him. Also, having a quarterback with a big arm will benefit him. Ultimately, Fuller feels like a week to week boom or bust player. Many are drawing comparisons to Ted Ginn (drops included) and I think that is spot on.
Josh Doctson – Redskins
Doctson was probably the best receiver in this year’s class at being able to win the 50-50 balls. Being 6’2” with a 41 inch vertical jump doesn’t hurt your chances in those situations. Like Coleman, Doctson thrived in an uptempo quick strike offense. It will be interesting how he transitions to the NFL. I would be nervous to be a secondary coach in the NFC East. The Redskins have some serious weapons in their passing attack.
Laquon Treadwell – Vikings
This is the receiver who I believe should have been first off the board. If it wasn’t for his “slow” 40 time he probably would have been. The 4.63 he ran at his pro-day scared some scouts off. Guess who else ran a 4.63? Some of you may have heard of him, Larry Fitzgerald. At no point in Fitzgerald’s career have I came away thinking, “well if only he was faster.” Some guys play faster than what their 40 time says. I think Treadwell is that type of guy.
I wish he would have ended up in a better situation though. The Vikings are going to continue to be a run first team as long as Peterson is around. There won’t be a ton of targets for him, which will prevent him from posting an elite stat line. However, I would expect him to at least match the 720/4 that Diggs posted as a rookie last year.
Sterling Shepard – Giants
He was the fifth receiver to get drafted; but my gut is telling me that Shepard is going to be the first rookie receiver selected in the majority of fantasy leagues. This is a prime example of how the situation that a player lands in can be such an important factor. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many scouts touted him as the most polished NFL ready receiver in the draft. He will most likely be working out of the slot and should be a consistent producer, especially in PPR formats.
Michael Thomas – Saints
Thomas is another receiver that is landing in a great situation. He has the height, weight, and speed to be an elite talent. Having the opportunity to work with Drew Brees should maximize his potential. Willie Snead fell just 16 yards shy of posting a 1000 yard season as a rookie last year in this offense. No disrespect to Snead, but Thomas dwarfs him in potential. Assuming Thomas transitions well, he will have a chance to post some quality numbers.
Tyler Boyd – Bengals
Boyd should have a chance to contribute right away with the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. He was a one man army for Pitt, who was the first, second, and third option in the passing game. Boyd is a polished route runner who is not afraid to work in the middle of the field. His versatility should get him on the field from the start and he will work as a nice complement to A.J. Green in the Bengals passing attack.
Braxton Miller – Texans
Speaking of versatile, it takes a special kind of athlete to win conference offensive player of the year back to back years and then decide to change positions because it benefits the team. Not only does that say something about his athletic ability, but it also speaks volumes about his character. With just one year under his belt at receiver he will need to develop as a route runner. However, when he gets the ball in his hands he is electric. His game reminds me of the good Percy Harvin, you know the one that played for the Vikings.
Chris Moore – Ravens
Breshad Perriman was slated to take over the “Torrey Smith role.” but as you recall he never saw the field in 15′ due to a right knee injury on the first day of training camp. There is still some mystery surrounding if Perriman is fully recovered. The selection of Chris Moore is a nice insurance policy in case Perriman never develops into what the Ravens had hoped. Moore averaged over 22 yards per catch in his final two seasons at Cincinnati, and in his scouting report is described as a one-trick pony. With his trick being able to go get the deep ball landing in Baltimore with Joe Flacco as his quarterback will be a great fit. Moore won’t likely make an impact this season aside from a few splash plays, but Baltimore is a great fit for his skill-set.
Pharoe Cooper – Rams
Cooper is another guy who landed in the right spot. He will have a chance to play immediately due to the lack of quality receivers on the Rams roster. Although Cooper is only 5’11” and lacks elite speed at 4.63, he runs precise routes and is tenacious after the catch. He had no problem producing big time numbers facing a rugged SEC schedule. The Rams are viewing Cooper as a slot receiver. Keep an eye on him in camp to see if he is able to build a strong rapport with fellow rookie Goff.
Let 2014 serve as a reminder that receivers can step in and produce Pro-Bowl level numbers from the start of their careers. With that said let just about every other season serve as the reality that there might be one or two rookie receivers who can make a significant fantasy impact in their first year. Examining the receivers skill-set, along with the situation they are going to will go a long way in trying to predict if they will make an instant impact.
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Our guest this week is Eric Paulen. Eric Paulen is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner with significant experience leading large film/video production projects spanning all genres of television with A&E, ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, The Travel Channel, WWE Network, The NBA, NHL Productions, NFL Films, and NCAA.
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