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Fantasy Football Rookie Review of 2013 and 2014 Classes

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Fantasy Football players will have to wait to see if the players from the 2015 NFL Draft can make an impact.

We’ve already done our best job ranking the upcoming rookie running backs and wide receivers that are about to enter the pros.

But the “So-Called Fantasy Experts” also want to provide a look back at history.

What did the rookies classes of the past two years show us that can help us in 2015?

We present our 2013 & 2014 Fantasy Football Rookie Review to help you get an idea of what to expect from the current draft class.

2013 & 2014 Rookie Review

The 2013 Fantasy Football Season

Generally, running backs have an easier time producing Fantasy value in their first season than wide receivers. While a wide receiver has to adjust to more complex play calls and build a rapport with his new quarterback, a running back can essentially find himself plugged into familiar situations. With less barriers to success, rookie running backs are able to establish Fantasy value earlier than receivers.

For the 2013 Fantasy Football season, running backs led the way in terms of Fantasy Football production.

Eddie Lacy Rank: 6th
Le’Veon Bell Rank: 14th
Zac Stacy Rank: 17th
Giovani Bernard Rank: 18th

Even though Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson were each selected in Round 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft, third-round pick Keenan Allen was the only rookie to finish as a Top 20 receiver.

As far as quarterbacks are concerned, no one expected much from Geno Smith or first-round pick E.J. Manuel, but Smith finished as the 20th-highest scoring quarterback. That wouldn’t have helped you win too many Fantasy leagues, but he did score more Fantasy points than Eli Manning.

Hopkins seems to be the strongest candidate for the most Fantasy success among his fellow wide receivers, and Lacy and Bell appear to have great careers ahead of them. Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert and Travis Kelce were also early-round picks in 2013, but it can take a few years before tight ends become Fantasy relevant. Robert Woods, Aaron Dobson and Montee Ball have yet to live up to the hype, and each player has stiff competition at their respective positions.

Lacy, Bell and Bernard all had the Fantasy Football community drooling because of the lack of competition each back faced at the running back position, so Stacy was the biggest surprise out of the group. This running back class may have spoiled Fantasy Football players, but nothing compares to the rookie wide receiver class of 2014.

The 2014 Fantasy Football Season

While the 2013 Fantasy Football season was filled with rookie running back studs, the 2014 rookie wide receiver class was absolutely dominant.

Odell Beckham Jr. Rank: 5th
Mike Evans Rank: 11th
Kelvin Benjamin Rank: 16th

Many Fantasy Football players had high hopes for Sammy Watkins, but with an unstable quarterback situation, he finished as the 27th-highest scoring receiver. While not Fantasy relevant to start the season, Jordan Matthews and Jarvis Landry became viable options in daily games.

Jeremy Hill was the only rookie running back to crack to the Top 20, and out of the highly-publicized quarterback class of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel, Carr was the only rookie to finish as a Top 20 quarterback. I admit that I put a little too much faith into tight end Eric Ebron in his first year, and that came back to haunt me.

Rookie running backs were hot commodities in 2013, and the 2014 rookie wide receiver class set the bar very high. With this information, how can Fantasy Football players use it to start planning their 2015 Fantasy Football draft strategies?

Opporutiny + Talent = Fantasy Football Success

To gauge the success of a rookie, Fantasy Football players need to understand how a rookie will be used. Watkins may be the most talented receiver of the 2014 class, but if Kyle Orton can’t get him the ball, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, a rookie will need to wait for poor production or an injury to get a chance. I wrote an article last season where I discussed Hill being a better option than Carlos Hyde, because I believed Hill would have more opportunities to touch the ball.

If you look at the rookie seasons of Lacy, Bell, Stacy and Bernard, they had relatively little competition. That meant that with the amount of opportunities they were receiving, they ball was literally in their court to showcase their talents. I don’t think most people expected Beckham Jr. to make such a quick impact, but Evans and Benjamin were part of teams with limited options at the receiver position.

For the 2015 draft class, you need to review the scenario rookie players find themselves in. If Kevin White is drafted by the Cleveland Browns somehow and Jaelen Strong was selected by the Baltimore Ravens, I would take Strong over White. It doesn’t matter if White is the best receiver in the draft, if he doesn’t have a reliable quarterback situation, he can’t find Fantasy success.

For your 2015 Fantasy Football draft prep, review how quickly an offense will rely on a player. This is a big reason where rookie running backs can find success quickly, as they may touch the ball 15-20 times as early as Week 1. If a rookie is behind a veteran starter like Hyde was with Frank Gore, then an injury or performance issue will have to occur before that player is Fantasy relevant. It’s okay to take a few chances on rookies, but you can’t heavily rely on them, and you have to do your research to find the ones who can immediately help you win a Fantasy championship.

The 2015 NFL Draft is still a few weeks away, but check out the Fantasy Football impact of our So-Called Fantasy Experts’ Round 1 Mock Draft.

Mike Evans Photo Credit: Keith Allison

 

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