Second of a four-part series, publishing each Sunday, to prepare you for fantasy football season.
The 2014 wide receiver class was both elite top heavy and super deep, with a ton of fantasy impact (Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins and others). Another very talented receiver class is set to arrive.
In 2014, five receivers were selected in the first round of the NFL draft – this year there were six, filled with high-end rookie receivers who can make big plays.
If last season’s group said nothing else, it said this: Do not ignore rookies in your fantasy football draft. Here’s a breakdown, by position, of players to consider:
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Phillip Dorsett (Indianapolis): Dorsett has difference-making speed, and it will be tough for the Colts to keep him off the field. Dorsett averaged 24.2 yards per catch last season at Miami, the second-highest average of any of the 42 receivers selected in the first round over the past 10 years.
Breshad Perriman (Baltimore): Perriman was also above 20 yards per catch last season in college, and will replace Torrey Smith in the Ravens’ offense. Perriman, though, could be a slow starter.
DeVante Parker (Miami): Parker joins a crowded set of receivers with the Dolphins, but if and when he is healthy, Parker will easily be the best receiver on the team talent-wise (with star size and skills). Parker had surgery in early June to replace a screw in his foot, so he could be slow out of the gate.
Amari Cooper (Oakland): Cooper is the cream of the crop at receiver and a near flat-out, can’t-miss star for the Raiders. Don’t let him slide past the fourth round of your drafts.
Other key fantasy rookie receivers include Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia), who should start in an Eagles offense that includes a new quarterback and running backs; Dorial Green-Beckham (Tennessee), who didn’t play football last year and has a rookie quarterback; Kevin White (Chicago), who is injured but has a ton of physical talent and potential although he ran very simplistic routes in college.
The Panthers have Devin Funchess, who I like a lot given his lower average draft price (although probably not in Charlotte leagues).
Todd Gurley (St. Louis): Gurley has Adrian Peterson type of talent. Gurley, taken 10th overall, won’t play early in the season (ACL surgery) but nonetheless don’t be afraid to roll the dice. He was the first running back taken in the first round in three years.
Melvin Gordon (San Diego): Gordon joined Gurley in the top 15 and should be extremely busy, and effective, as the lead rusher for the Chargers. His 2,587 rushing yards last year were the second-most in FBS history, and he owns the FBS record career rushing average (7.79 yards per carry).
T.J. Yeldon (Jacksonville): Drafted in the second round, Yeldon should be all kinds of busy in Jacksonville.
Ameer Abdullah (Detroit): With tremendous vision and open-field moves (the first running back in Nebraska history to have three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons), Abdullah, drafted in the second round, is the guy you want in Detroit, not Joique Bell.
With 18 running backs drafted, several others will find roles. Javorius Allen (Baltimore) has great size and tremendous pass-catching skills (a perfect fit for a Marc Trestman offense). The Panthers also have a nice sleeper running back in Cameron Artis-Payne, who gets up to top speed quickly, can run through arm tackles and rarely fumbles.
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay): Winston, the draft’s No. 1 pick, could be special. He had a 26-1 record at Florida State and has elite size and arm strength, along with incredible accuracy. Winston will throw interceptions, but he is near alone in terms of yards per pass play in college history. He pushes the ball down the field (and will have great receivers to throw to in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson).
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee): Taken second overall, Mariota will add a lot to the fantasy bottom line with his legs, and there is a long list of “rushing quarterbacks” who had good rookie fantasy seasons.
Alan Satterlee is a co-owner and senior writer for DynastyFootballWarehouse.com, a comprehensive fantasy football strategy site.