Now that the draft dust has settled and mini-camps have started, we can start to get serious about rookie wide receiver and tight end contributions in fantasy football this year. The wide receiver class is full of studs; those who could potentially unseat the incumbents and make some serious noise. The tight end class is much weaker, as there are only a couple of names that could potentially see a significant amount of playing time.
Before we get too excited about some of these guys, I always consider the quarterback throwing them the ball first. We have all made mistakes in the past drafting high profile, high potential receivers (ahem, Larry Fitzgerald) with the hopes that they can miraculously make their quarterback’s smarter, or mechanics better. Be realistic here, and still stick with drafting wide receivers and tight ends who have proven passers.
Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccanneers
Mike Evans has the size and skills to make a major impact in his first year with the Bucs. On the opposite side of Vincent Jackson, Evans could draw some single coverage resulting in long gains in the middle of the field and fade pattern touchdowns. He reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress with his ability to win jump balls and score in the red zone. Expect Evans to rise to second on the depth chart ahead of names such as Chris Owusu, Louis Murphy, and Lavelle Hawkins quickly.
Odell Beckham Jr. - New York Giants
Drafting Beckham filled an immediate need for the Gmen as they were in search of another dynamic pass catcher to pair with Victor Cruz. Looking up, Beckham sees Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, and Rueben Randle towards the top of the depth chart. I see him leaping over Jernigan and Mannigham very quickly and eventually taking over the number two position within the first four weeks of the season. Randle has a lot to prove this year and I wonder if he is up to the challenge. If he isn’t, Beckham has the skills to warrant many more targets from Eli.
Brandin Cooks - New Orleans Saints
This was a fantastic pick here and by providing Drew Brees with another top notch weapon, the Saints passing offense is going to pick up where it left off from last year. Cooks is a speedy, extremely talented pass catcher that could easily leap over Robert Meachem and potentially Chris Givens on the Saints chart. We will have to keep a close eye on his targets for the first four or five weeks of the season to determine how fast he moves. I am still higher on Kenny Stills, Nick Toon, and Marques Colston here in the pre-season. Don’t be surprised if Cooks sees some of Darren Sproles‘ type looks this season too.
Marqise Lee - Jacksonville Jaguars
This was another great pick by a team in desperate need of adding another passing weapon. With the Justin Blackmon show likely coming to an end in Jacksonville, Lee could find himself easily as the second option for the third overall pick, Blake Bortles. Temper your expectations here though, we have no idea how Bortles will acclimate to the NFL. Also, we don’t know if Lee’s problems with dropping passes last year will carry over. If they don’t, and Bortles can get him the ball, watch out!
Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans - New York Jets
This is just a shot in the dark here, but these two rookies could see themselves in the middle of the action during this upcoming season. With the uncertainty surrounding Eric Decker as a number one receiver (and the massive amount of double teams he is sure to get), these two rookies could see some single coverage down the field. Their production also depends on the quarterback play of either Michael Vick or Geno Smith. I hope that Vick gets the job here as I believe that the Jets’ passing game will see some much needed improvement. Remember though, Vick never lasts a full season. These rookies also have to jump Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley to see some significant playing time.
Eric Ebron - Detroit Lions
This pick definitely surprised me as I thought Ebron would be a New Yorker, either with the Giants at 12 or the Jets at 18. Detroit added a nice potential weapon to their arsenal here as they went with a fast, strong, pass catching tight end. Ebron is already drawing some comparisons to Jimmy Graham as he has similar, wide receiver like skills. Eric could see himself leap over Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria within weeks. He is someone to keep an eye on for later rounds of your draft if he advances past these tight ends in the pre-season.
Jace Amaro - New York Jets
Already number one in some early season depth charts, Amaro plans to play an important role in the Jets’ offense. In order to get the start, Amaro needs to outperform Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld during the preseason. With the uncertainty of the quarterback situation in New York and the mediocre Geno Smith as the possible day one starter, I would hold off for a while. I would be more than willing to take a chance on Amaro if Vick takes over.