“The Amateur Ward” Top 15 NFL Offensive Rookies; Pre-Draft
I hope everyone is enjoying the articles thus far on the site by all our new writers. Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone is eagerly watching free agency and wishing their teams would sign or would not have signed certain players. With free agency in full swing it reminds us that the 2014 NFL Draft is right around the corner, so we are all probably looking over the prospects and the bazillions of mocks that are out there. I’m not going to do a mock, as there are too many out there. What I’m doing is simply ranking the top 15 offensive rookies for the 2014 season, then providing some sleepers and busts. Enjoy!
This has to be one of the deepest WR draft classes in a few years, as there are a lot of top-tier prospects as well as some high-upside prospects. RB is harder to get a gauge on, as there are no stand out names, yet some diamonds in the rough to be had. Quarterback is top-heavy with some big name QBs, then some QBs that are injured but will end up being steals. Finally, this year’s TE is the best in years, with some exciting prospects that will make an immediate impact.
1) Sammy Watkins (WR1) – All this talk of Blake Bortles or Johnny Football being the best offensive player in this year’s draft, but neither is. Watkins is. Hands down. He may not be the calibre of Julio Jones or AJ Green, but he’s by far the best offensive prospect in this year’s draft. He absolutely tore it up at Clemson and in the right situation could be a WR1 or solid WR2 on most teams. Look for him to post 950 yards receiving and 9 TDs in his rookie season.
2) Blake Bortles (QB1) – Bortles burst onto the scene last season, and he is legit. He has Ben Roethlisberger size, and at times Brees’s accuracy, making him the ideal franchise QB. No, franchise QBs don’t always come from big name schools, and honestly, smaller name schools can produce better QBs due to less wear and tear. He’s a bit more of a project than some of the other QBs, but should he start from Day 1, he could be a solid investment.
3) Teddy Bridgewater (QB2) – Bridgewater is the most NFL ready QB, and is the best bet to start from Day 1. He isn’t the highest rated QB on the list because his zip on deep passes isn’t that great. Possessed with the best footwork and a quick release, Bridgewater should produce a 23 pass TD season, but will struggle at times.
4.) Derek Carr (QB3) – The biggest knock on him is that he played at Fresno State. As with Bortles, school name means nothing. Carr has the best arm of any QB in the draft, and probably the best accuracy. His upside may not be that of Bortles, but I see him starting this season with the potential to be a franchise QB
5.) Ka’Deem Carey (RB1) – I’m aware he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at the Combine, but watching his tape, the guy is tough as nails to bring down. Add that to a 1-cut, break away speed, and he could be the best RB in the batch. I see him as a starter this season, and in the right run-first offense he could produce around 950 yards and 5 TDs.
6.) Mike Evans (WR2) – Manziel’s favorite target had a monster compiling 12 TDs and 1394 receiving yards. Tall receivers in the NFL have value, especially in points per reception leagues. Don’t be surprised to see Evans put up 7-8 TDs in the right offense in his rookie season.
7.) Tre Mason (RB2) – This year’s crop of RBs may not be incredibly deep, but it is definitely top-heavy. Mason, aided by his offensive line, was an absolute beast at Auburn this past season, accounting for 24 TDs (23 rushing). The factor keeping him behind Carey is his playing in a fun heavy offense. Also, Carey is tougher between the tackles, but Mason has the opportunity to be a very effective back in his rookie season.
8.) Odell Beckham Jr. (WR3) – After Watkins, Beckham is by far the most explosive and dynamic WR in the draft. Great hands, breakaway speed, and instincts, Beckham could very easily be the second best rookie WR this season. His contribution in the return game is also a huge plus. Five receiving TDs his rookie season wouldn’t surprise me.
9.) Carlos Hyde (RB3) – Regarded as the top RB in the RB class, he isn’t for one simple reason: No second gear. Yes, he had a nice career at Ohio State and could be a starter, but with no acceleration he’ll have trouble creating separation. Could be a value pick in the late 2nd to early 3rd round.
10.) Bishop Sankey (RB4) – This guy has a tad of Ray Rice to him and could make for a very nice starter. If he could just improve a little in the after-contact game, he would make a steal of a 3rd round pick. He isn’t as fast as Hyde, but he has potential future starter written all over.
11.) Johnny “Football” Manziel (QB4) – No, I’m not imbibed. I just seriously doubt his ability to be a quality QB at the next level. Yes, his escapability and pension to make a play when there’s nothing there is elite, but all this body-surfing on players and throwing the ball blindly into the air hoping your receiver catches it won’t fly in the NFL. He’ll be drafted early in the NFL Draft and many dynasty leagues, but don’t be a fool and chase.
12.) Brandin Cooks (WR4) – Not as well-known as the receivers above him, Cooks went for a cool 1730 receiving yards and 16 TDs (Oregon State record) in 2013, and has all the making of a WR1. He consistently catches the ball at its high point and can breakaway from defenders for the big play. Draft him as your WR3, or flex play, and you will be rewarded.
13.) Eric Ebron (TE1) – Ebron is the best TE to come out of the college ranks for a few years now. He is also a man-child. Elite hands and tough to tackle, Ebron will make a huge impact in the red zone and between the 20s. Potential for top 10 TE status his rookie season.
14.)Marqise Lee (WR5) – Lee looks like Garçon. Great hands and ability to find the ball when it’s behind him. There’s no reason why he couldn’t be the best WR of this season’s stock not named Watkins. His upside is immense, and in dynasty leagues you may want to invest earlier rather than later.
15.) Jimmy Garoppolo (QB5) – Those of you looking for a QB who might be more of a project than the names above him, but has pinpoint accuracy, a great arm, and a great back shoulder pass, take a flier on Garoppolo. Another small named school QB (Eastern Illinois), but he has the toughness of Ben Roethlisberger and could start on a rebuilding team this season.
Zach Mettenberger (QB) – If he can prove he’s over his injury from last season and shortens up on his windup, he could be a very productive QB in the NFL.
Aaron Murray (QB) – The all-time leading passer in the SEC, Murray has a cannon, he just needs to show he’s recovered from his torn ACL. By the looks of it, one NFL team is going to get a helluva steal and a QB in Murray. Franchise material, but will rehab for a year.
Charles Sims (RB) – He likely won’t start much his rookie season, but when he’s given playing time, he will make plays. More of a shift-back than physical-back, Sims will need a season to bulk up a little, but his pass-catching ability and shiftiness make him an intriguing play at flex most weeks.
Allen Robinson (WR) – Potentially underrated in this deep WR draft class, Robinson has all the makings of a solid WR2. He has the ability to cut across the field (See: Penn State vs. Ohio State) , catch the ball at its apex, and some 2nd gear speed. He has the potential to be a serviceable WR3/flex play in his rookie season.
Jace Amaro (TE) – Not quite the same physical athlete Ebron is, Amaro is an inch taller (6′-5 3/8″, and also has great hands. As with Ebron, Amaro should be able to dominate in the red zone, and rack up some receptions and scores. He and Ebron will be forces for year to come.
Johnny Manziel (QB) – Mark my words, Manziel will not make a successful NFL QB. He won’t be an Epic Fail like Jamarcus Russell, as that takes talent, but Manziel won’t make a quality starter either. In his prime I see him as a 20 TD-17 INT guy. He’s not the special player he’s overhyped to be.
Jeremy Hill (RB) – Hill has the potential to be a steal in the draft due to off-field issues. When he’s on the field he is an explosive playmaker, but needs to make lifestyle adjustments. Until then, it will be hard to see him making an impact this season, outside of special teams.
DeAnthony Thomas (RB) – Thomas made a ton of noise in Oregon’s high-powered offense, but he seems to run too high and can be tackled more easily than ideal for an every down back. He’d make an effective change-of-pace back, but doesn’t currently possess the body type to be an every down back.
Donte Moncrief (WR)– Moncrief is a highly touted prospect by some. The issue is he shows up for some games, then disappears. This past season he disappeared versus Alabama, but resurfaced against LSU and Auburn. Outstanding athleticism and breakaway speed in the open field, he needs to work on his physicality, usage of hands to catch the ball (not his body) and his ability to be hit and gain more yards. Upside is a solid slot receiver, not a borderline WR1 as some see him.
Troy Niklas (TE) – Regarded as a top talent in this year’s TE draft class, his upside is Heath Miller-lite. Some think he could be better than Heath Miller, but I doubt it. Given his size, 6’7″, he’ll likely be used more in the blocking game than the pass game. However, that size is hard to miss in the red zone. Draft material, just don’t get too excited on him.
Since I know I’m higher on some RBs than others, I welcome comments, and would love to hear other views on this year’s draft class. Tune in next week for the defensive installment of the Top Draft Prospects, and as always, it’s great to be back!