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2014 Fantasy Football: Rookie Preview
By Mike Jasko

Quarterbacks

Johnny Manziel – CLE       

Current Position on Depth Chart: 2

Manziel has undoubtedly been the most talked about rookie for quite some time, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to any fantasy value in 2014. He is still firmly planted behind Brian Hoyer on the Browns’ depth chart and few people remember, Hoyer showed some flashes in 2013 before tearing his ACL. He’s also a hometown guy, and will be given every chance to be the starter.

The Browns played their first preseason game Saturday night against the Lions in Detroit. Hoyer got the start aJohnny Manzielnd looked decent enough. He went 6-14 for 92 yards but when it came time for him to make deeper throws, they tended to sail on him. Manziel played most of the 2nd and 3rd quarter, and had a pretty solid outing for someone making their NFL debut. He was 7-11 (two of those four incompletions hit his receivers’ hands) for 63 yards. He also had 6 carries for 26 yards, showing off some nice footwork in the process. Manziel would be a highly speculative pick on your fantasy team, but if he does get solid playing time, I’d be surprised if he didn’t produce.

Teddy Bridgewater – MIN              

Current Position on Depth Chart: 2

While Manziel was the rookie QB getting the Lions’ share of attention this offseason, its Teddy Bridgewater who is in a better position to succeed as a rookie. If Bridgewater can earn the starting job over Matt Cassel, then he’s in a great position for a rookie QB, with Adrian Peterson lining up behind him. Cassel’s spot as the starter looks pretty secure after his preseason debut against Oakland; in just one drive, Cassel led the Vikings to a touchdown on 5-6 passing for 62 yards.

Bridgewater on the other hand was 6-13 for 41 yards, was sacked twice and coughed up a fumble. Bridgewater apparently still has a long way to go before prying the starting job away from Matt Cassel. Either player isn’t really a prudent pick during the draft, if for no other reason than the ample depth at Quarterback in the NFL these days. If however, you are obsessed with drafting a rookie quarterback onto your fantasy team, Bridgewater is slightly more likely to pay dividends.

Running Backs

Bishop Sankey – TEN                     

Current Position on Depth Chart: 3

Despite his provisional listing on the Titans’ depth chart, many are expecting Sankey to be perhaps the only rookie running back to be given the starting nod once Week 1 finally rolls around. He had a solid outing against Green Bay in the preseason opener, with 13 carries for 37 yards along with 3 receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. He looks well positioned to beat out Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster for the starting job and once he has said job, his versatility could very well have him contributing on fantasy teams this fall.

Terrance West - CLE                                  

Current Position on Depth Chart: 2

The Browns added a variety of weapons to their backfield during the offseason. In addition to obtaining Ben Tate from Houston, the Browns also drafted Terrance West out of Townsend. West will probably hold down the second spot behind Tate in the depth chart, but in today’s NFL that certainly doesn’t bar him from consistent fantasy production. He didn’t produce anything spectacular in his preseason opener (10 carries, 22 yards) but showed an ability to run between the tackles and pick up positive yards.

Jeremy Hill – CIN                            

Current Position on Depth Chart: 3

Hill will likely rise above Green-Ellis to become the back-up to Giovani Bernard. Bernard will get the majority of possessions, but Hill could become a valuable Handcuff/Insurance pick for drafters of Bernard. Hill could likely become a goal-line specialist, scoring the touchdowns that Bernard and the rest of the Bengals offense set up.

Charles Sims – TB                           

Current Position on Depth Chart: 3

Sims is a very capable back who could produce if he is able to slide his way up the depth chart. He will likely start the year as the #3 back in Tampa Bay, but if injury or other unforeseen events intervene, he would be a crafty pick-up

Wide Receivers

Sammy Watkins – BUF                   

Current Position on Depth Chart: 1

Watkins undoubtedly has the talent to become a top-flight wide receiver, but there are many variables when trying to discern his 2014 fantasy value. First on the list is his new quarterback E.J. Manuel. I’m still skeptical on his ability to be a starting QB in this league and as a result I’m quite wary on what effect that will have on Watkins’ rookie campaign. Add that to the run-heavy offense employed by the Bills and it makes Watkins a very speculative pick for 2014. He certainly has tremendous upside, but who knows how many chances he’ll truly get to make plays.

Mike Evans – TB                             

Current Position on Depth Chart: 1 (at WR2)

Johnny Manziel’s favorite college target is in great position to immediately contribute to his new team. He will be starting opposite Vincent Jackson, and being thrown to by a veteran Josh McCown, who came to Tampa Bay in the offseason as a Free Agent. I definitely like his chances to become a solid contributor to a fantasy team this season. His size will make him a great endzone target for McCown, and I expect him to end up with more fantasy points than Watkins at years’ end.

Brandin Cooks – NO                                   

Current Position on Depth Chart: 3

The Saints traded up with the expressed desire to draft Cooks at number 20 overall in this years’ draft. It is clear that they have a role in mind for him, and I would expect him to contribute almost immediately. He has big play potential, and I expect him to be used in a variety of ways by the Saints. 

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