You guys smell that? Football . . . it’s back. It’s a new fantasy season, and with a new season comes a new class of 2014 fantasy football rookies. These rookies go through some of the toughest and most grueling examinations that they will ever encounter. Scouts, GMs, and even the common folks have something to say about the incoming draft class; whether it is good or bad, we all have an opinion on how they will fair. So what I decided to do this year was take a page out of the automotive industry and tell you who I think will be the best player at his position and who I think will be the worst.

The criteria I looked for in Best of Class, was players who I thought would have some longevity and potentially have Hall of Fame careers. The criteria for Worst of Class, was the opposite, players who I think will last only a hand full of years and not make a fantasy impact at any point in their careers. Let’s begin.

The best and worst 2014 NFL rookies

QB – Best of Class

Blake Bortles

The first quarterback taken off the board in the 2014 NFL draft should end up having the best career out of all the quarterbacks drafted. He passes the eye test standing at 6’5”, 232 lbs.; which gives him the prototypical size you look for in a franchise quarterback. Some of the positive traits that he possess is the willingness to stand in the pocket while facing heavy pressure, throws a very catchable ball with good accuracy to drop it into tight windows, and has the mobility to move around in the pocket and buy time for his wide receivers to get open.

During his two years as a starter for The University of Central Florida he put up some very impressive numbers:

  • 6,600 passing yards
  • 56 passing touchdowns to 16 interceptions
  • Improved passing accuracy from 63% to 68% and QB rating from 144 to 163

He does have some flaws like any rookie quarterback has coming into the league, but I think he will overcome those issues and become the best quarterback out of this draft class. When it comes to drafting this guy in your dynasty league do not be afraid to pull the trigger. Bortles should be targeted in the first round and should be paying dividends in the next few years.

Honorable Mentions: Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo

QB – Worst of Class

Johnny Manziel

He was the most polarizing figure in college football the last two years and figures to be as well in the NFL. There are a lot of mixed reviews about Johnny Football on how good or bad he will be in the NFL, well I’m here to tell you it’s going to be BAD. I cannot argue how exciting of a football player he is to watch, turning what would be sack into a gain or even a touchdown, but exciting is not what wins football games. The negative on him is that he does not go through his progressions. He has one-read and if that guy is not open he will try to make a play with his feet. As soon as he feels pressure he leaves the pocket, he overthrows a lot of his receivers, and his accuracy is not as great as you would like in a starting NFL quarterback. He did not play under center much in college and tends to throw off his back foot when throwing the long ball. He is undersized listed at 5’11 ¾” and 207 lbs. and never had a playbook to learn while playing at Texas A&M.

I find several holes in Manziel’s game, which will be a problem in his career unless he improves (which I don’t think he will, that’s why he’s here). His fantasy outlook will be short-lived like another polarizing quarterback that came out of The University of Florida. I don’t believe he will be in the league for more than 5 years. Don’t be the sucker that falls for this fool’s gold and buys into the hype. Let him go by and try to build a deep roster at the other skill positions that offer a lot of talent.

RB – Best of Class

Carlos Hyde

Even though he wasn’t drafted in the first round, he will have the best career. At first glance, you notice he is big running back measuring in at 6’0”, 230 lbs. Then you put on his game tape and see a runner who isn’t afraid to lower his head and punish an oncoming tackler, always fighting for that extra yard and overall just a bruising power runner. I would go as far as to say, his play is reminiscent of another 49er running back, Frank Gore.

NFL rookie Carlos Hyde
Photo credit: Mike Pettigano

Out of all the running backs taken, Hyde fell into the best situation. First off, the style of runner he is fits well with the type of running scheme the 49ers employ; a power, physical, smash-mouth style of football. Second, he is learning from arguably one of the best running backs in the game, who will surely provide insight on what it takes to be successful at the next level. Thirdly, he has proven (albeit at the college level) that he can be a workhorse, compiling 2,500 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns in his final two years at Ohio State. I would target this Buckeye with a Top 3 pick in dynasty leagues.

Honorable Mentions: Bishop Sankey, Andre Williams, Terrance West

RB – Worst of Class

De’Anthony Thomas

I wasn’t impressed with his college career at Oregon, which I think is skewed because of the type of offensive scheme they run at Oregon. His physical make-up is not exactly what you look for in a starting NFL running back. Standing at 5’9” 174 lbs., by NFL standards this guy is tiny, smaller than Danny Woodhead. Because of his lack of size, he will never be an every-down player or even a guy that sees 10-12 carriers a game.

He has never been called upon to be the bell-cow of an offense, never carrying the ball more than 96 times in a season and only rushing for more than 600 yards once in college. Also there is something about Oregon Duck running backs that scare me (who was the last Oregon running back to make an imprint at the NFL level?). If you’re drafting in a dynasty league, use one of those late round picks on him and nothing sooner.

WR – Best of Class

Brandin Cooks

He is not the biggest, fastest or most imposing receiver, but I think he will be the cream of the crop when it’s all said and done. He has quick feet that help him get open and can turn a short pass into a long touchdown. He runs good routes and has good hands. What will help his transition to the NFL is that he played in a pro-style offense and was able to generate some great numbers in his final season at Oregon State; 128 receptions and 1,730 receiving yards, which led the FBS and set a Pac-12 single-season record in receptions and yards. He also had back-to-back 1,000 receiving yards and scored 21 receiving touchdowns in his last two years in college.

What should help speed his development also is the guy throwing him the ball, Drew Brees. When you have arguably one of the top 5 quarterbacks to ever play the game throwing you the ball, you can sure bet he is soaking in everything that is being said to him. He also has a veteran receiver, Marques Colston, who can help him adjust to the type of coverages he will be facing from defensive backs. He has all the tools to be successful and will make an immediate impact; do not be afraid to draft him with a top 5 pick in dynasty formats.

Honorable Mentions:

John Brown, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Cody Latimer, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins

WR – Worst of Class

Odell Beckham

He has the pedigree to be something special, but will never fulfill those expectations. When I see him on tape I see a guy who is fluid and fast and who has different gears to blow by defenders. But I also see a receiver who gets beat for jump balls, needs to improve on his route running, and a guy who gets jammed by bigger defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. He needs to bulk up as well being a little undersize at 5’11”, 198 lbs. Not exactly an intimidating presence on the field.

He didn’t put up gaudy numbers in college either, hauling in only 12 receiving touchdowns in three seasons and breaking 1,000 yards only once. Also, when he played against better competition he didn’t rise to the occasion and wasn’t a factor on the field.

I wish I could give a better endorsement for the guy, but something tells me he just will not cut it in the next level. I would not touch this guy until the middle rounds of dynasty leagues and pray that he proves people like me wrong.

TE – Best of Class

Eric Ebron

First thing you notice is his stature. Standing at 6’4”, 250 lbs, he has huge hands that he uses to secure any football thrown in his vicinity. Now you may think that someone this big must be slow, but he regularly beats linebackers in coverage and ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. He not only does it with speed but also with the routes he runs. His routes are some of the cleanest and crispest routes that I have seen a tight-end run and he has terrific balance and body control.

The knock I have against him is that he is not great at blocking and only scored 8 receiving touchdowns in college, but both should improve at the next level. He should be a fine addition to your fantasy squad in the next year or two and I would target him in the late second or early third round of dynasty leagues.

Honorable Mentions: Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TE – Worst of Class

Crocket Gilmore

You probably do not know who he is or that he was even drafted in the third round of the NFL draft, but don’t worry you’re not missing much. He doesn’t have much speed, is only an adequate blocker, and doesn’t have much upper-body strength. He gets beat by the bigger and stronger defensive ends which will be a problem going against the likes of the J.J. Watt’s and Robert Quinn’s of the NFL. He will never be a catch-passing tight end that we fantasy footballers like, so in that regard I wouldn’t give him much of a look in dynasty leagues.

Blake Bortles photo credit: Zennie Abraham

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