The showcase that is the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is complete. And, I must say, there were a few surprises. But isn't that how the first round usually is? I'm really not here to talk about the NFL Draft itself. We have other dedicated writers for that, but I would like to talk about the fantasy football impact of the offensive players who were taken. This class was considered deep in quarterback and receiver talent. We saw that last night.
So without further adieu, lets take a look at the fantasy value of each offensive pick from Thursday night. Keep in mind that most of these players should be considered Dynasty options, especially the quarterbacks.
1.3 Jacksonville Jaguars select UCF QB Blake Bortles
After the Blaine Gabbert experiment failed again.....and again....., the Jaguars wasted no time in selecting their new franchise play caller. Many predicted Bortles to be a first-round pick, just not at No. 3. He had a strong 56:19 TD-to-INT in college, but is a bit erratic in this throws and footwork (Could he be the next Jake Locker)? He does show excellent scrambling ability, however, after rushing for 15 scores. The downside is that owners shouldn't expect much from him as the Jaguars continue to build their receiving unit that is expected to be without Justin Blackmon. Not to mention Bortles' lack of sound footwork in the pocket will likely allow Chad Henne to start Week One. Henne remaining the starter all season isn't a given though. It's actually more doubtful than anything. Even though Bortles was the first quarterback taken, his surroundings make him an iffy Dynasty prospect for Year One as other quarterbacks drafted last night have more talent around them, but he is still a top-10 pick for a quarterback-needy owner. Just remember that Toby Gerhart is going to run the ball A LOT if/when Bortles does start midway through the season.
1.4 Buffalo Bills select Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
The Bills paid a steep price by moving up to nab Watkins, but he is expected to be Buffalo's new No. 1 receiver with the rumors that Stevie Johnson is now expected to be on the trade block. Considered a hybrid running back/receiver, Watkins finished his three-year stint at Clemson with 30 all-purpose touchdowns and broke school records with 240 receptions and 3,391 receiving yards. The Bills needed to give second-year QB E.J. Manuel a true playmaker, and they did. I expect Watkins to be the immediate starter Week One, a top-five Dynasty pick and a low-pick option in most-to-all redraft leagues. He should start paying dividends immediately.
1.7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
Considered by many as the top receiver in this year's class, Evans falls into a much better situation than Watkins as he won't see as much defensive pressure with Vincent Jackson playing as the team's true No. 1 option. Blessed with natural ball skills and, close to, a 6'5 frame, Evans will make a big splash in 2014. In regards to his fantasy value; I see him going before Watkins in all league formats in the same way DeAndre Hopkins was drafted in leagues last year. The fact that he doesn't need to feel the pressure of being a No. 1 receiver in his offense will make a big difference. Evans should eventually come close to WR2 value in all formats if Josh McCown can continue to play like he did in 2013, but I like him as a WR3 for now.
1.10 Detroit Lions select North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
With Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and a re-signed Brandon Pettigrew already on Detroit's offense, I don't expect a lot of action from Ebron in his rookie season. That's not to say his Dynasty value isn't high. As a "move" tight end in the offense, Ebron should slowly start seeing more time on the field with Pettigrew coming in a as a blocker. Ebron is blessed with Vernon Davis type athleticism with his 33 1/4-inch arms and 10-foot broad jump. Pettigrew should remain on the team for 2014. But if the coaching staff likes what they see from Ebron in Year One, Pettigrew could be on the trade block. He's simply not an athletic tight end the Lions need for Matthew Stafford. Redrafters should avoid Ebron this year in their initial drafts.
1.12 New York Giants select LSU WR Odell Beckham, Jr.
If anything, this isn't good news for Dynasty/Keeper league owners who were depending on Rueben Randle to take over for Hakeem Nicks this season. Beckham is an explosive player as a receiver and a punt-return option after running two punts back for scores in college. His route running is already at the pro level, while also showing excellent separation skills. He's another receiver who should easily make some noise in 2014, especially in leagues that value return yards. Beckham will be in competition with Evans as the first redraft option and Dynasty option for teams who desperately need receiver help NOW and can't afford to wait on Watkins.
1.20 New Orleans Saints select Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
The 2013 Biletnikoff Award as the best college receiver, Cooks is a burner with 4.33 speed. However, I don't put much faith in him as a starting option in any league format this year due to Marques Colston and Kenny Stills playing ahead of him. He'll have a big game here and there, much like last year's Tavon Austin. But like Austin, he shouldn't be counted on as anything more than a Dynasty grab and stash. Cooks lack of size 5'10/189 won't do him any favors as a redzone option either. Redraft owners should pass and see what waiver wire value he holds in-season.
1.22 Cleveland Browns select Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Outside of the Texans, almost every team in the draft was linked to Manziel. Eventually, the Browns got a guy who will put butts in the seats and save (hopefully) a franchise that has gone through a terrible rough patch over the last year. Easily the most polarizing rookie in this year's class, Manziel will make noise in 2014 under the tutelage of Kyle Shanahan, who helped develop RG3 as the offensive coordinator in Washington. Manziel boasts strong passing accuracy and the ability to make plays with his legs, having averaged 6.29 YPC with 30 rushing scores at A&M. He has adequate arm strength, but he and Josh Gordon should develop chemistry quickly. These are all great things to think about if you are looking at picking up Manziel for your Dynasty team, just remember that there is a better than average chance Brian Hoyer will go into the season as the starter. HC Mike Pettine has already gone on record by saying he won't force Manziel into the starting lineup. But you better believe that once the losses start racking up, fans will be clamoring for Manziel. Manziel is clearly a Dynasty option only for 2014.
1.28 Carolina Panthers select Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
With Steve Smith in Baltimore and Brandon LaFell in New England, the Panthers were left with Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery as their top two receivers. That right there will give Benjamin immediate fantasy value and someone Cam Newton can grow with. A mid first round pick in Dynasty leagues and a later-round flier in redrafts, Benjamin does come with some red flags. He was drop prone in college, he showed up overweight at 242 pounds during the Seminoles' Pro Day and he just turned 23. Even though Avant and Cotchery aren't that good as your typical starters, Benjamin won't be handed the starting job in training camp. If he does win a starting job, there is plenty of upside. Although he is a boom-or-bust prospect.
1.32 Minnesota Vikings select Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Knowing that that Texans were also looking at Bridgewater with their first pick in the second round, the Vikings traded with the Seahawks and took a guy who was considered one of the top quarterbacks (even ahead of Manziel) earlier in the year. But like other rookie quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers included, Bridgewater's stock plummeted during the winter months. A pure pocket passer, Bridgewater ended his three years as the Louisville starter with a respectable 68.4% passing percentage and a 72:24 TD-to-INT ratio. Bridgewater has strong accuracy with short-to-intermediate passes, but really needs to work on his deep ball. He'll battle with incumbent Matt Cassel for the starting job, but has plenty of options in the offense with Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph. Most importantly, he'll have Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. I can see Bridgewater beating out Cassel for the starting job before camp or into the first couple weeks of the regular season, but he has a long way to go before he can be trusted as a fantasy option in all formats.