Be sure to check back next week for post-draft adjustments.
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; 5’11”, 207 lbs.
As Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor have recently proven, running QBs don’t even need to be able to throw to have fantasy value. JFF compiled 2,162 rushing yards and 30 rushing TDs over the last two seasons, and unlike the two aforementioned QBs, he can sling it. He’ll make plenty of mistakes, but his weekly upside is huge, and his running ability gives him a higher floor than you’d think.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; 6’2”, 214 lbs.
Easily my favorite real-life QB prospect in this class, Teddy lacks JFF’s sex appeal, but makes up for it in accuracy (including on the run), intelligence, consistency, underrated athleticism, and the pocket presence/movement of a 10-year veteran.
3. Blake Bortles, UCF; 6’5”, 232 lbs.
There’s a sizable drop-off for me after the first two signal callers, but Bortles has a stranglehold on the third spot. His prototypical size, athleticism and pocket poise are his hallmarks. However, he’s a project in terms of mechanics, so don’t expect returns on your investment before 2015 at the very earliest.
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State; 6’2”, 214 lbs.
Great arm talent and sneaky mobility, Carr’s fatal flaw is his sixth sense. As in, he sees ghosts. All the time. Cowering under (oftentimes imaginary) pressure has led to Blaine Gabbert comparisons, and his back-foot flailing too often reminds me of Bad Jay Cutler. Historically, this is a very difficult trait to correct.
5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU; 6’5”, 224 lbs.
So much of Mettenberger reminds me of Ryan Mallett: tall, cannon right arm, statuesque, and highly questionable character. He’s recovering from an ACL tear, and he failed his NFL Combine drug test due to a diluted (too much water) urine sample. Any way you slice it, the risk outweighs any potential reward.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia; 6’1”, 207 lbs.
Like Mettenberger, Murray’s coming off an ACL tear. Unlike Mettenberger, he’s on the small side but has it all together between the ears. Mechanically sound, Murray could perform well behind a great OL, but when things break down in front of him the play is over.
7. David Fales, San Jose State; 6’1”, 212 lbs.
Fales has everything you could possibly want in a QB in terms of intelligence and intangibles, but has severe physical limitations (arm strength).
8. Jimmy Garappolo, Eastern Illinois; 6’2”, 226 lbs.
Garappolo’s size, athleticism and overall physical skill set reminds me a lot of Christian Ponder. Which, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. However, his quick decision-making and snappy release appear to be a product of him sensing pressure that isn’t there (see: Derek Carr). If courage was a problem in the Ohio Valley Conference, he’ll be facing a steep uphill battle at the next level.
9. Brett Smith, Wyoming; 6’2”, 206 lbs.
Smith’s game is quirky, but effective. He’s accurate, and fast with both his arm and his legs, but he’s a project in terms of fundamentals.
10. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech; 6’6”, 248 lbs.
Here’s your lottery ticket. Thomas has Cam Newton-esque physical traits, but rocks for brains. He simply can’t read a defense. Currently, his odds of transitioning to TE are probably better than his odds of ever becoming a starting NFL QB.
Honorable Mentions: Bryn Renner, Keith Wenning and A.J. McCarron
1. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State; 6’0”, 230 lbs.
With his outstanding blend of size, power and soft hands, Hyde is built for fantasy production, pushing him to the top of a weak class of fantasy runners.
2. Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State; 5’11”, 224 lbs.
Crowell is probably the best pure talent of the RB class, but the former SEC Freshman of the Year (Georgia) comes with numerous red flags. He was kicked out of Georgia after his third weapons arrest, and while he stayed out of trouble at Alabama State, entitlement and maturity issues still linger.
3. Charles Sims, West Virginia; 6’0”, 214 lbs.
Sims is a solid-yet-unspectacular back with superb receiving ability. He could have some serious PPR potential depending on landing spot, though keep in mind that he’ll turn 24 already this September.
4. Devonta Freeman, Florida State; 5’8”, 206 lbs.
Freeman’s not the biggest or most gifted back, but he’s a compact sparkplug who runs like his ass is on fire.
5. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor; 5’9”, 201 lbs.
Both quick and fast, Seastrunk projects as a shifty big-play artist in an RBBC. He was never utilized as a pass catcher at Baylor, so his receiving ability is a question mark.
6. Tre Mason, Auburn; 5’8”, 207 lbs.
Mason’s a short, shifty runner whose low center of gravity and balance make him a bit of a poor man’s Ray Rice. Keep in mind that he benefited from a road-grading OL at Auburn, and he also needs to get better in the passing game.
7. Bishop Sankey, Washington; 5’9”, 209 lbs.
Sankey is a highly-productive, well-rounded back with a workhorse pedigree, but he projects as a rather ordinary talent at the next level. He’s a volume runner, and he’ll need to be drafted as such to move up in my post-draft rankings.
8. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona; 5’9”, 207 lbs.
Polished and productive, Carey is good at everything but great at nothing. Like Sankey, Carey’s physical traits make me wonder if he’s a standout college player who’s maxed out heading into the pros.
9. Marion Grice, ASU; 6’0”, 208 lbs.
Had Grice not missed the offseason portion of the draft process due to a late-season leg injury, I suspect he’d be garnering the same kind of buzz as Charles Sims. Like Sims, Grice is an excellent receiver with good height and versatility.
10. Jeremy Hill, LSU; 6’1”, 233 lbs.
Hill is a downhill runner with an impressive blend of size and quickness, but he falls short in most of the finer points of the RB position. He also comes with maturity and character concerns (two arrests).
Honorable Mentions: Storm Johnson, James Wilder Jr.
1. Mike Evans, Texas A&M; 6’5”, 231 lbs.
With a freakish catch radius that allows him to dominate jump balls at the catch point, Evans oozes touchdown potential. Remember what Alshon Jeffery did last season? Evans is 2” taller, 15 lbs. heavier, jumps 2.5” higher, and has 2” longer arms. The fact that he runs a 4.53 40 at that size just isn’t fair.
2. Sammy Watkins, Clemson; 6’1”, 211 lbs.
Watkins’ blend of talent, athleticism and polish are unrivaled in this class, making him the safest pick at 1.01. He’ll be a cornerstone of your dynasty roster for the next decade, and an immediate contributor. So, what can we expect in Year 1? Check out my Rookie Receiver Report, which includes data for all 306 WRs drafted over the last 10 years, to find out.
3. Odell Beckham, LSU; 5’11”, 198 lbs.
Watkins/Evans will go 1-2 in about 90% of rookie drafts, so the real intrigue begins at 1.03. Beckham is an ultra-versatile athlete with an enticing combination of speed, hands and YAC ability.
4. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; 5’10”, 189 lbs.
An undersized blazer (4.33 40), 2013 Biletnikoff winner Brandin Cooks broke Pac-12 records with 128 catches and a nation-best 1,730 yards last season. He wins in space, but he’s going to get out-muscled in close quarters.
5. Cody Latimer, Indiana; 6’2”, 215 lbs.
Latimer is big, fast (4.44 40), strong (Combine-best 23 reps), and he can jump out of the gym (39” vertical). He knows how to use his tools, and should be a red zone threat right out of the gate.
6. Marqise Lee, USC; 6’0”, 192 lbs.
Lee is a gifted playmaker who failed to develop his raw potential at USC, due in part to multiple injuries.
7. Kelvin Benjamin, FSU 6’5”, 240 lbs.
You’d like a lot more technical refinement out of a 23-year old rookie, but you simply can’t teach Benjamin’s size and length. Depending on where he lands, you could see him occasionally used in a receiving TE role.
8. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss; 6’2”, 221 lbs.
Because he’s still a work in progress, there will certainly be safer choices in the late-1st round of your rookie drafts (like the next two guys on the list), but they can’t touch Moncrief’s ceiling. He was a top-3 Combine performer in the 40 (4.40), vertical jump (39.5”) and broad jump (132”).
9. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; 6’3”, 212 lbs.
A highly productive collegiate, everything about Matthews profiles as a prototypical No. 2 WR at the next level. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just draft accordingly.
10. Davante Adams, Fresno State; 6’1”, 212 lbs.
I’d label Adams’ combination of size/speed/athleticism as “good enough,” but he lacks consistency and will have a fairly steep learning curve coming from a quick-screen offense that didn’t require him to round out his game.
11. Allen Robinson, Penn State; 6’2”, 220 lbs.
Robinson has mad hops and prototypical size, but he doesn’t do a great job of utilizing either yet. He’s an upside pick.
12. Martavis Bryant, Clemson; 6’4”, 211 lbs.
Bryant is a lanky height/speed (4.42 40) specimen who’s drawn Justin Hunter comparisons. He’s still very raw, both physically (skinny) and technically (routes/hands), but his length and leaping ability (39” vertical) should make him, at worst, a situational deep threat and red zone target.
13. Paul Richardson, Colorado; 6’0”, 175 lbs.
Richardson’s a smallish speed guy (4.40 40) in the vein of Brandin Cooks and DeSean Jackson. He has a 2012 ACL tear on his tab, but showed full recovery in 2013. He needs to add bulk some bulk.
14. Jarvis Landry, LSU; 5’11”, 205 lbs.
Landry profiles as a rugged, sticky-fingered slot man who will probably be a better NFL receiver than fantasy commodity (think Hines Ward).
15. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina; 5’9”, 197 lbs.
An exceptionally versatile athlete, Ellington (cousin of Andre) was also a starting point guard at South Carolina. He could be lethal as a moveable chess piece in the hands of a creative offensive coordinator.
Honorable Mentions: Jared Abbrederis, Kevin Norwood, Jeremy Gallon, Brandon Coleman
1. Colt Lyerla, Oregon; 6’4”, 242 lbs.
Lyerla’s talent/athleticism/versatility are tops in the class, but he’s such a disaster off the field that he may go undrafted. He’ll slide towards the bottom of this list in my post-draft update.
2. Eric Ebron, North Carolina; 6’4”, 250 lbs.
Ebron has all the physical/athletic assets to excel at the next level, but he’s yet to utilize said assets to their full extent. Still, he’ll be the first TE off the board Thursday night, possibly even in the top-10.
3. Jace Amaro, North Carolina; 6’5”, 265 lbs.
Amaro is basically a slowish, super-sized WR who comes with character/maturity red flags.
4. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington; 6’5”, 262 lbs.
ASJ has prototypical size, and his impressive 4.56 40 time in a private workout with the Jets turned heads. He doesn’t play that fast, however, and his off-field resume is less than spotless (maturity/foot injury).
5. Troy Niklas, Washington; 6’6”, 270 lbs.
Huge and strong, the former DE/OLB is still learning the nuances of the position. He profiles more as an all-around TE and plus blocker than a pass-catching fantasy force.