In fantasy football every year, there are rookies who can swing the title your way if players are able to identify them before their league mates do. As someone who rode the combination of Doug Martin and Alfred Morris to a league title during their inaugural seasons and frustrated his buddies by grabbing Zac Stacy and Le'Veon Bell first off the waiver wire, I'm here to share with you the guys to keep an eye on this upcoming season. Obviously, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham will already be on the radar, so they're not included.
- Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
He may not be a fast starter out of the gate and will be a sexy pick in the fantasy drafts. Marques Colston is starting to slow down and it's easy to make a case that the Saints will begin to phase Jimmy Graham out of the offense to prepare for his possible departure after the season. But after those two players, the only other receivers Cooks will be competing for touches with will be Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem. If he can be had for a late round selection or his original draftee gets impatient, jump on him with the quickness.
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
This is a choice by default. In a perfect world, Bejamin would have gone to a team with veteran receivers in place and been able to ease into a #2 or #3 role, using his size to feast on single coverage. In Carolina, he will be forced to become a #1 receiver overnight and while he may end up letting down Panthers fans, fantasy owners should end up pleased. He's the only home run threat currently on the roster and for a QB who struggles with accuracy like Cam Newton, his ability to win jump balls will be a boon.
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews is going to one of the league's premier offenses from a fantasy standpoint, playing Chip Kelly's uptempo style. It's unclear how much Jeremy Maclin will be able to offer, and Riley Cooper is inconsistent week to week. It's eminently feasible that Matthews becomes the de facto #1 wideout by season's end. At the very least, he's worth a mid round flyer, as he would seem to be the prime candidate to fill DeSean Jackson's role in the offense.
- Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The man they call ASJ was a consistent TD producer on the college level, scoring 21 times over his 3 seasons with the Washington Huskies. He's probably not someone you want to bet the farm with on Week 1, but as the season wears on, he could be 2014's version of Joseph Fauria, a guy who can swing a matchup your way with a timely scoring explosion. At 6'5" and 262 pounds, he'll be an inviting red zone target who could develop into a star. In a keeper league, he may be worthy of your draft choice.
- Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets
For a team with a paucity of offensive weapons outside of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, Amaro is a great sleeper pick. Another 6'5" tight end, I believe he will become a security blanket for the inaccurate Geno Smith and provide a go-to red zone option. With less players in his path who will take touches away from him, I'll be crossing my fingers that the Jets homers in my league don't spend an early selection on Amaro.
- Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans
Sankey is another player who will benefit from lack of competition. With only Shonn Greene on board as a serious threat, Sankey should have ample opportunities to display the game breaking talents he displayed at Washington. He undoubtedly reminded the Titans of a younger Chris Johnson and shows similar abilities to get to the edge and break off chunk yardage. He scored 37 TDs in his college career, breaking Napoleon Kaufman's school record. Sankey also showed nice hands out of the backfield, hauling in 28 passes for 304 yards and a TD last season. He could be this year's Doug Martin or Zac Stacy.
- Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams
With Zac Stacy already entrenched as the starter, I wouldn't recommend using a draft pick on Mason. But he is someone to keep an eye on as a touchdown vulture. Mason is also a proven kick returner who could find his way to the end zone that way. He scored 25 TDs last season in the nation's toughest conference and broke Auburn's school record for all purpose yards. Stacy is a straight ahead runner and a player who got nicked up down the stretch. Mason could very well find himself carrying the load in November and December. Plus, his father is De La Soul's Maseo, what's not to like?
- John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
A sleeper who many scouts have compared to Antonio Brown. Brown was overlooked by a lot of teams because he played for a Division II school. Brice Arians' proven eye for offensive talent and ability to put players in a position to succeed bodes well for Brown. While he's small at 5'10", he was a play maker in college, returning kicks for scores and putting up 10+ receiving TDs in three consecutive seasons. A player to keep an eye on, as he will draw single coverage in the slot playing next to Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Plus, we know Carson Palmer has never been shy about pushing the ball down the field.
- Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
It's doubtful there was a team more starved for talent at the RB position than the Falcons. Steven Jackson couldn't stay on the field last season and Jacquizz Rodgers is a complementary back, nothing more. This leaves the door wide open for Freeman to get the lion's share of the carries in Atlanta. He's been compared to Frank Gore, as he possesses a similar running style. Freeman is a downhill runner, a player who gets the tough yards and doesn't try to bounce plays outside. A very efficient player who stood out in a crowded backfield at Florida State, I believe he's the bell cow back sooner rather than later.
- Lache Seastrunk, RB, Washington Redskins
Definitely a player to watch for as a big play threat. At Baylor, he showed the ability to be a factor in both the run and the pass games. He was the first player in Baylor history to top 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and had a knack for the home run. 5 of his 19 TDs in college came on plays of 68 yards or longer. He's unlikely to supplant Alfred Morris as the main back, but could easily form a thunder and lightning tandem with him. Seastrunk has the talent to leapfrog Roy Helu and Evan Royster to become the Redskins' change of pace RB and could prove to be a valuable late season waiver wire addition.