NFL Draft First Round Analysis – Fantasy Value of Wide Receivers

The first round of the NFL draft is in the books, and there were plenty of skill position players for us to endlessly analyze until the season begins. Obviously in the world of fantasy football, we are mostly concerned with the offensive side of the ball. Three QBs, five WRs, and a TE were taken in the first round, and each one has a shot to make an impact quickly on their respective teams. Wide receivers, historically, don’t usually have breakout years during their rookie season. Teams this year, however, traded up and reached to get the guys they wanted to catch the ball, and with a deep WR class, I expect that some of these guys will have an immediate impact. Still, some of them will have some hurdles to go through that will hurt their fantasy value.

Sammy Watkins (Buffalo) – The Bills had to mortgage their future to get the guy that they think will be a great pair with EJ Manuel, trading away next year’s first and fourth round picks to the Browns. Obviously Watkins was the highest ranked WR coming into the draft, and is the most physically gifted. The only drawback is that he has EJ Manuel throwing to him. With how important a QB to the fantasy value of a WR, I have a hard time buying Watkins’ value this year. I think he will be overdrafted in many leagues, and will probably be avoiding him myself. Though I think the most important aspect here is the value of Stevie Johnson , which should be watching in the next couple days, since there is a very good chance that the Bills part ways with him to go with a younger duo in Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. UPDATE: Stevie Johnson was traded to the 49ers.

Mike Evans (Tampa Bay) – Here is a WR that could have some pretty good value. Lining up across from Vincent Jackson, Evans will have plenty of opportunities to catch the ball in single coverage. The problem is that the Buccaneers’ QB situation is still up in the air. They have Mike Glennon and Josh McCown on the roster already as potential starters, and head coach Lovie Smith says that Glennon is the “QB of the future” for the Bucs. Glennon started 13 games last year and has some questions to answer, but showed some good signs. I have no doubt that he can get the ball into the hands of Mike Evans, who paired with Vincent Jackson, give off a vibe similar to the Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery combo in Chicago.

Odell Beckham Jr (NY Giants) – Beckham is an interesting player to watch on the depth charts in New York this year. Obviously Eli Manning has been successful at spreading the ball around, and the departure of Hakeem Nicks gives room for WRs to move up. Obviously Victor Cruz is the #1 guy in New York, but Rueben Randle is another good young WR that Beckham will have to compete with. Randle was looking to have a breakout year this season, so the addition of Beckham could just mean that neither of them have much value. I wouldn’t hold out much hope for him to be fantasy relevant right away, and he definitely makes Randle’s value fall if he gets any significant play time.

Brandin Cooks (New Orleans) – The WR situation in New Orleans is pretty confusing right now, but Cooks could become a great slot guy. The Saints went up 7 picks, from 27 to 20, to get their guy, so you would think that he will get plenty of time on the field. Still, it is hard to trust any WR on the Saints. Drew Brees likes to spread the ball around, and Jimmy Graham is still the clear #1 on that team. Marques Colston has been pretty reliable for 1000 yards and 8 TDs the past 8 years or so, but saw a slight reduction in targets last year, which is a trend that could continue this year as he gets older. Kenny Still is a speedster who will stretch the field, and shouldn’t have an effect on Cooks’ value. With the departure of Darren Sproles, I could see Cooks taking on a similar role to his, while lining up in the slot more often instead of the backfield. He definitely has potential to be valuable in fantasy football, especially considering that the Saints appeared to really want him, but it is still hard to trust anyone on the Saints not named Drew Brees or Jimmy Graham to have great upside.

Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina) – Any WR drafted by the Panthers is almost guaranteed to have an immediate fantasy impact. Benjamin seemed like a bit of a reach at the end of the first round, but considering the Panthers’ WR situation, it makes sense for them to go for their favorite guy as soon as they can at the position. Benjamin is a big “go up and get it” kind of WR that the Panthers desperately need as a redzone threat to compliment TE Greg Olsen. Expect Benjamin to come out the gates as one of the most targeted rookie WRs, giving him plenty of opportunities to get you some fantasy points.