Now that the NFL Draft is over, we know where all of the rookie skill players are going to be playing this season. This was a loaded and well-stocked rookie class when it came to skill positions like wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks. Plenty will be big fantasy football contributors and this list will rank them in order (you can find Part 1 here). Some could be the difference between winning your league this year and losing it. These rankings will show you who to target and look for in drafts.
Tevin Coleman, RB (ATL) – Coleman comes to Atlanta after having a terrific season at Indiana in 2014 with 2036 yards rushing, 15 rushing touchdowns, 25 receptions and 141 yards receiving. Coleman slides into an offensive that vows to be more run-heavy with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who comes from previously serving in the same role in Cleveland. Cleveland ran the ball 47.2% of the time in 2014 (6th in the NFL), but that also is because of the putrid passing attack they had. Atlanta has one of the best wide receiver duos in football with Julio Jones and Roddy White, along with one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league with Matt Ryan. Atlanta will certainly run the ball more after running it only 36% of the time in 2014 (30th in the NFL), but expectations have to be moderate as Atlanta will certainly make throwing the ball their #1 option. Also going against Coleman is Devonta Freeman, a 2nd year running back out of Florida State. He has received a ton of praise from Shanahan and head coach Dan Quinn. You can expect in 2015 to see a true split in touches for Coleman and Freeman as both will be contributors in 2015, so we won’t see anywhere close to what Coleman produced at Indiana, but still have a solid rookie campaign. Projection: 181 rushing attempts, 797 yards rushing, 5 rushing TDs, 27 receptions, 192 yards receiving, 0 receiving TDs.
Jameis Winston, QB (TB) – The number one overall pick in the draft makes his debut at #10 on this list. Winston is coming off a relatively down season in 2014 at Florida State (3907 yards passing, 25 passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 65.3% completion percentage) but was still picked #1 overall due to his on-the-field leadership and impressive physical traits and terrific passing ability. Winston lands in a good spot in Tampa Bay, where they threw the ball 62.2% of the time (8th in the NFL) and have new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who comes from Atlanta which threw the ball a good amount in 2014 as mentioned above. Winston also has stud wide receiver Mike Evans, reliable veteran Vincent Jackson and developing but talented tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as pass-catchers. Winston is bound to have growing pains in the NFL, as he is dealing with a re-building offensive line that includes fellow rookies Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet on it presumably. Winston has all of the traits and tools to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL, but in 2015, he could be heading for an above-average season rather than elite one. Projection: 3990 yards passing, 31 passing TDs, 20 INT, 63.7 completion %, 121 yards rushing, 2 rushing TDs.
Marcus Mariota, QB (TEN) – Mariota is coming off a Heisman winning season at Oregon and was the 2nd overall pick in the draft, behind fellow quarterback Jameis Winston. Mariota lands in Tennessee, which moderately failed at producing solid fantasy football players in 2014 other than tight end Delanie Walker. Mariota brings a lot of much-needed talent to the quarterback position and that offense for the Titans as well. Mariota comes over from an offensive scheme in Oregon that was not huddle-based and is not identical to many NFL systems, so a learning curve will be expected here for Mariota, as he will try to adapt to an NFL offense. He certainly has the arm, legs, and targets to put up solid fantasy numbers in his rookie season though. With Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, and fellow rookies Dorial Green-Beckham and David Cobb, this offense could see a big bump in 2015. Mariota’s biggest concerns will be his lackluster offensive line and as mentioned above, learning an NFL playbook and actually taking snaps under center. Overall, we can expect a decent season from Mariota, but expectations have to be tempered for the highly-talented quarterback in his rookie season. Projection: 3792 yards passing, 26 passing TDs, 9 INT, 64.2 completion %, 379 yards rushing, 4 rushing TDs.
Ameer Abdullah, RB (DET) – Abdullah had a prolific career at Nebraska, compiling 4588 yards rushing, 39 rushing touchdowns, 73 receptions, 690 yards receiving, and seven receiving touchdowns. He heads into a decent destination in Detroit, where passing has dominated for so long there. Abdullah will be in a high-powered offense and that will be pass first (62.4% of plays were passing, 7th in NFL). Abdullah will also fight for touches with Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, and fellow rookie Zach Zenner (if he makes the team as an undrafted free agent). Abdullah could carve out a nice niche in Detroit, but with a pass happy offense and Abdullah facing stiff competition, don’t expect Abdullah to put up anything close to the numbers he had at Nebraska in his rookie season. Projection: 132 carries, 582 yards rushing, 4 rushing TDs, 22 receptions, 223 yards receiving, 2 receiving TDs.
Jaelan Strong, WR (HOU) – – Strong was at one point projected to be a 1st round pick in the NFL, but due to some deficiencies in his game and a certain wrist injury, Strong landed in a rather good spot with Houston in the 3rd round in terms of potential playing time. Strong had nice numbers in his two seasons as a starter for Arizona State, with 157 receptions, 2287 yards receiving, and 17 touchdowns. Strong will slide in as the #2/#3 wide receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins and possibility Cecil Shorts III as well. Unfortunately, a lack of proficient quarterback play and the fact that the Texans finished dead last in the NFL with 48% of their plays being passing plays puts a big damper on Strong for his rookie season. Expect him to put up decent numbers, but nothing close to prolific. Projection: 52 receptions, 708 yards receiving, 5 receiving TDs.
Maxx Williams, TE (BAL) – Williams was the first tight end selected in the draft, coming off the board in the 2nd round to the Ravens, who traded up to pick him. The Ravens are in some serious need at the tight end position after losing Owen Daniels in free agency, Dennis Pitta possibly having to retire due to multiple hip surgeries, and Crockett Gilmore underwhelming as a rookie. Williams was the best tight end in this draft and will come into a great spot with pass-friend offensive coordinator Marc Trestman going to utilize Williams to his potential. The tight end for Marc Trestman in 2014 was Martellus Bennett, who had 90 receptions and six touchdowns, so the fantasy outlook for Williams is positive. He will fight for targets from Steve Smith Sr., Breshad Perriman, and Justin Forsett, but could potentially put up a top 15 tight end season in fantasy in 2015. Projection: 48 receptions, 667 yards receiving, 5 receiving TDs.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (TEN) – The seventh wide receiver taken in the 2015 draft, Dorial Green-Beckham has incredible size at 6’6” and 225 lbs. to go along with superb speed (4.49 40 yard dash). He lands in Tennessee with fellow rookie Marcus Mariota, but Green-Beckham comes with a lot of question marks. Green-Beckham did not play in 2014 after transferring to Oklahoma from Missouri after being kicked off the Tigers’ squad. He was arrested twice during his college career for marijuana possession, was investigated for burglary & assault and also for allegedly pushing a female down a flight of stairs. Green-Beckham stayed out of trouble in 2014, but as mentioned above, he did not play in 2014. DGB comes with great measurable and showed prolific receiving skills while at Mizzou (59 receptions, 883 yards, 12 touchdowns in ’13) and has even been projected as the next Randy Moss by some. But, Green-Beckham comes to a Titans team with a rookie quarterback who needs to adjust to a NFL offense and DGB will fight for targets from Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker, and David Cobb. DGB could have a legendary career if he can stay out of trouble, but his rookie season will be a decent one most likely. Projection: 42 receptions, 597 yards receiving, 6 receiving TDs.
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