Adam Levitan

NFL Draft Recap

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Ranking the Rookies

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


11. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
Yes, I prefer Allen Robinson to Marqise Lee even though Robinson was selected 22 picks later. The Jags said they essentially had them tied on their wideout board. Robinson is bigger at 6’3/220 (see the Mike Evans entry for why that matters), healthier (see the Lee entry) and more explosive (best vertical of all WR prospects in this draft). He’s coming off a 97-1432-6 line playing in Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense at Penn State. In other words, Robinson looks the part of a No. 1 NFL receiver.

12. Davonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
Don’t write Davonta Freeman off as a change-of-pace or third-down back just because he’s 5-foot-8. This is a one-cut runner that is actually better between the tackles and is a force in pass protection. That last statement is especially vital in Dirk Koetter’s pass-first scheme. In short, the Falcons see Freeman as a player that possesses long-term feature back upside.  

“He has the ability to tote the rock as a lead back. He’s a strong guy. He runs with some authority and anger to his running style,” said GM Thomas Dimitroff.

“I think if you look at his size, the first thing that comes to your mind is he may be a change-of-pace back. That is not the case,” said coach Mike Smith.

Look for Freeman, who has drawn Ahmad Bradshaw comparisons, to quickly move ahead of Jacquizz Rodgers and begin to siphon off carries from Steven Jackson immediately. At age 30 with 2,552 career carries on his tires, S-Jax is no lock to stay healthy or carry a full workload.

13. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings
The Vikings aren’t going the Blake Bortles or Derek Carr route here, aka taking the pressure off Teddy Bridgewater by saying he’ll be eased in behind bridge quarterback Matt Cassel. They’re saying that there will be an open competition and the best man will be the Week 1 starter – and they’re hoping that man is Bridgewater. Considering Cassel went 3-3 as a starter last year with a respectable 60.2 completion percentage and 81.6 rating, I’d call it an even battle.

But if Bridgewater does win the job, he’d have some back-end QB2 appeal thanks to Norv Turner. This is an offensive coordinator that allowed the Browns (Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell) to lead the league in pass attempts last year and made Josh Gordon/Jordan Cameron into fantasy studs. Expect a balanced attack despite the presence of Adrian Peterson.

14. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
Is Marqise Lee’s knee right? He blamed a Grade 2 MCL sprain for part of his 2013 nightmare and TFY Draft Insider Tony Pauline reported that Lee slipped out of the first round because of medical red flags on it. The second issue here is competition for targets on a team that will be extremely run-heavy with Chad Henne/Toby Gerhart. I like Lee, but I like Allen Robinson and Cecil Shorts more.

15. Cody Latimer, WR, Broncos
The majority of these rookies are going to be late-round flier picks in fantasy drafts. With these low-risk selections, I love to look for the highest reward possible. So even though Latimer doesn’t have a direct path to targets in Denver’s crowded pass-catching totem pole, the potential if he does land a spot is massive. This is a 6’2/215 with 4.4 speed that doesn’t drop passes (ever) and racked up a 72-1096-9 line despite battling awful quarterback play at Indiana last season. Now he gets Peyton Manning.

Well, what about that path to snaps? Latimer should not have trouble beating out Andre Caldwell for the No. 4 role. And this tweet from CBS Denver’s Vic Lombardi at least gives us a little hope Latimer will get a shot at Emmanuel Sanders, even if it is just obvious coachspeak. Also, Wes Welker is one more concussion away from an extended stint on the sideline. The mere chance of Latimer getting significant snaps this season is worth a shot.

16. Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles
Chip Kelly seems far more concerned about replacing Jason Avant in the slot than DeSean Jackson on the outside. Enter No. 42 overall pick Jordan Matthews. Kelly has already confirmed that Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper will start on the outside, with Matthews as his new slot man and Zach Ertz seeing an expanded role as the “move” tight end.

Last year, Avant posted a useless 38-447-2 line. But there’s plenty of reason to believe Matthews can do much more with the job. Avant actually saw 76 targets, third-most on the team. DeSean Jackson and his 126 targets are now in Washington. And while Avant was among the slowest and least athletic receivers in the NFL, Matthews ran a 4.46 with an outstanding 10-foot broad jump. A far better talent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews eat into some of Riley Cooper’s outside snaps by the end of the season. Prior to that, he'll be excellent in the slot.

17. Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
The only thing settled in the Steelers’ receiving corps is 5-foot-10 Antonio Brown as the featured stud and Heath Miller as the check-down option. After that, it’s wide open. The Steelers added a piece they didn’t previously have in Martavis Bryant, whose 6-foot-4 frame dwarfs Markus Wheaton (5-foot-11) and Lance Moore (5-foot-9). Bryant, who combines that length with 4.42 speed, lasted until the fourth round because of shaky hands and a one-trick pony (vertical route) rap.

“I’m not going to say that he is going to start, but potentially he could. We feel like we got a guy to put opposite of Antonio Brown,” said Steelers WRs coach Richard Mann.

At worst, Bryant projects as an often-used situational deep threat. At best, he’ll beat out Wheaton to play an every-down No. 2 role, just like he did as Sammy Watkins’ caddy at Clemson.

18. Jace Amaro, TE, Jets
During the college season, I thought Amaro was a lock to go in the first round of the draft thanks in large part to the NFL’s increasingly tight-end dependent offenses. He goes 6’5/265, but was essentially an oversized wideout in Texas Tech’s spread offense (87.5 percent of snaps in slot). Amaro’s 2013 junior campaign was an eye-popping 106-1352-7.

The landing spot for Amaro is fine. Yes, there are quarterback concerns, but the Jets don’t have much of anything behind Eric Decker. Amaro should prove to be a more effective receiver than Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, Stephen Hill and Jeff Cumberland. During Dustin Keller’s first four years with the Jets, he averaged 53.2 catches for 639.7 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. And as the Fantasy Douche pointed out today, possible starter Geno Smith was actually effective throwing to his tight end last year. Amaro has back-end TE2 appeal.  

19. Tre Mason, RB, Rams
I don’t believe Zac Stacy has an ironclad strangle on feature back duties here. Stacy had a nice rookie year, but he averaged just 3.89 YPC despite running behind an average (at worst) offensive line. You can also read about the demise of second-year backs like Stacy here. It’s not that far-fetched to say that Mason, who ripped off 1,816 yards, 23 touchdowns and a 5.73 YPC in the SEC last year, is a better runner. The issue with Mason is that he’s woeful in pass protection, an obvious deal-breaker for many rookie backs. It’s a facet to watch closely through the preseason.

20. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns
I discussed the Browns impending offensive philosophy in the Terrance West entry. In short, they’re going to run, run it again and run it some more with a committee. We can’t rule UDFA Isaiah Crowell out of that committee because he was a former five-star Georgia recruit whose career has been sidetracked by off-field issues. There’s starting-caliber NFL talent here.


HONORABLE MENTION
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Bears – Locked in as Matt Forte’s backup with Michael Bush gone.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Bucs – Ideally the Martellus Bennett in the “basketball” offense.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers – GM Ted Thompson previously used second-round picks on Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Now he’s used one on Adams.
Charles Sims, RB, Bucs – Shouldn’t have trouble winning the backup job behind Doug Martin.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers – Marcus Lattimore still isn’t right and Hyde has more talent than Kendall Hunter. Is this the year 31-year-old Frank Gore finally breaks down?
James White, RB, Patriots – Not much upside, but we didn’t think LeGarrette Blount had much upside in New England either.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings – Ticketed for third-down duties already. Not convinced he’d carry the load if Adrian Peterson went down.
Tom Savage, QB, Texans – When only Ryan Fitzpatrick is ahead of you on the depth chart, you have a chance to start games.



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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan



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