Whether you are new to fantasy football or a seasoned veteran, the key to a successful draft is figuring out how to balance risk and reward. It makes sense to take some risks as a fantasy owner, but taking too many risky players can leave you outside the playoffs looking in even if one or two of them pay off. One of the positions this is especially apparent is WR.
One of the ways to get high-risk, high-reward receivers is to take a gamble on rookies coming into the league. Based on their inexperience and lack of track record, there’s usually some inconsistency in their game and sometimes they can be disappointments. However, if you manage how much risk you have rolling the dice on a top receiver prospect can pay off big time.
Another advantage of taking a risk at WR is that there are always options that emerge on the waiver wire and you can get a replacement for a busted pick much easier than at running back, for example, where there is much less depth overall.
Last year, Keenan Allen and Cordarelle Patterson emerged as players with solid upside that could have been had either late in drafts or off the waiver wire. Who will emerge this year? Here are my top ten fantasy football rookie WR for 2014:
WR, Buffalo Bills
Watkins has the most upside of any rookie and should get the most looks since he’ll be the most dynamic receiver in an offense that looks to take a big step forward in Coach Doug Marrone’s second year. While Watkins is going to get throws his way, last year the Bills passing attack was pretty inconsistent so there’s still some pretty serious risk here. I’d target Watkins as my fourth WR in 10-team leagues but know he has the upside to be a top 20 option if he and E.J. Manuel can both continue to grow and mature.
WR, New Orleans Saints
Cooks won’t be the primary target for the Saints, but in this Drew Brees-led offense, he’ll still have plenty of upside. According to all reports, he’s been lighting up training camp and could provide instant sizzle to the Saints already well-stocked receiving corps. New Orleans did move on from Lance Moore and Darren Sproles this offseason, so there should be some targets for Cooks and he’s shown the play-making ability to be fantasy relevant very quickly. If you can get him as your fourth or fifth WR late in drafts pounce on this sleeper with upside to spare.
WR, Tampa Bay Bucaneers
The Bucs brought in Josh McCown to be their QB and added Evans from Texas A&M to complement Vincent Jackson. With these two tall, physical receivers, McCown will try and produce like he did last year with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Coming out of the SEC, Evans looks to be NFL ready and should be a nice red zone target for the Bucs. Look for him in the last few rounds of your drafts as a player with some nice potential.
WR, Carolina Panthers
Benjamin may get more targets than any rookie receiver based solely on the fact that the Panthers lack many other receiving options. Benjamin was a boom-or-bust draft pick for Carolina and will be the same in fantasy drafts this season. Don’t overpay for Benjamin since he may not be ready to produce and the Panthers’ offense may have some issues, but if you can get him late in your league’s drafts he’s worth taking a flier on.
WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Speaking of fliers, Lee is a wild card who wil be around at the end of most drafts and may be worth rolling the dice on. He should get plenty of looks as the starting second wide receiver in Jacksonville and has flashed potential to be a productive NFL receiver if he can be healthy. At the end of your draft if the receiver position is fairly picked through, Lee has some dark horse potential which could pay off at some point this season.
WR, Denver Broncos
Now we reach the upside-guys who have been impressive in camp but still have a ways to go before being guaranteed opportunities. The first of this second group is Cody Latimer. The Broncos drafted Latimer in the second round out of Indiana, and he’s been turning heads in camp so far this year. He’s in a great offense, but it’s also an offense that’s well-stocked at WR and he has a ways to climb up the depth chart. That said, Latimer isn’t bad as a late round flier to see if he can earn some throws from Peyton Manning since he has the size to be a red zone target and the speed to go deep. For more on him from Mile High Maniac, click here
WR, New York Giants
Beckham has been struggling with a hamstring issue and wasn’t able to play in the Giants’ opener last Sunday Night. He’s viewed as a potential threat on punt and kick returns, but will have to work his way into the offense. How good the Giants’ passing game will be depends on if Eli Manning can have a bounceback season, so even if Beckham can get on the field he may just be part of a struggling offense. He definitely has upside, but he also has a ways to go before becoming more than just a late-round deep sleeper.
WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are looking for a second receiving option opposite Antonio Brown. Most of their receiving corps lacks size, which is one of the main reasons they drafted Bryant out of Clemson. Bryant earned comparisons to Mike Wallace from Ike Taylor, so keep an eye on how the Steelers use the big but speedy rookie to start the season. Obviously, he’s high-risk coming out of the fourth round, but there is some serious upside as well.
WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews has earned some high praise coming into the preseason, and he could get some opportunities with Chip Kelly’s focus on getting the ball to playmakers as often as possible. Right now, Matthews is behind Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin, and Brad Smith at WR and Darren Sproles, Brent Celek, and Zach Ertz are sure to get plenty of targets as well. If he earns his way onto the field, Matthews will be worth knowing about, but he looks like more of a midseason pickup once that happens instead of someone you need to draft.
WR, Miami Dolphins
Landry has been impressive in camp, too, but also finds himself buried in the Dolphins receiving depth chart. Landry still has a ways to go and Ryan Tannehill isn’t an extremely reliable passer which raises his risk even a little bit more.