Fantasy Football: Who's the must-own player from NFL Draft Round 1?

      May 19, 2014 @ 13:12:30 PDT


WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the new "Dunkaneers"

It doesn't always work out that the first offensive player taken in the NFL Draft is the best fantasy option. Often, with rookies and just about everything else in fantasy football, opportunity matters just as much, if not more, than skill.

This year, are the big names worth your bidding confidence? Are those getting the big contracts in the same group that deserve to be fantasy stalwarts?

A fine Twitter query:

Consider it broughten.

I'm not intent on picking the quarterbacks, who are all better prospects for the long term than 2014. Though his legwork adds upside, Johnny Manziel losing Josh Gordon for any period is a significant setback to an already daunting task of resurrecting this aerial attack. Blake Bortles, close to an NFL project, will suffer because of Jacksonville's loyalty to Chad Henne and likely extended time without Justin Blackmon. Teddy Bridgewater -- with Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson in tow, and under Norv Turner's guidance -- has the best situation for immediate success among these Round 1 slingers and probably will be the cheapest.

No RBs easy. Moving on.

Eric Ebron could be the next big option at a position with a giant middle tier, but there are plenty of mouths to feed in Detroit. He's a TE2 who may not be much better than Austin Seferian-Jenkins or Jace Amaro.

Kelvin Benjamin's comfort level could be bigger than most think because he's slated to run many routes he mastered at Florida State. The red-zone threat is a justified, sneaky late pick, especially in non-PPR games, but he'll have a lot to carry in a passing offense that is obviously Priority 2, so he has plenty of obstacles keeping him from weekly relevance.

Brandin Cooks has similar big-play upside in a much better system. Though Sean Payton again has hinted that the New Orleans Saints are going to lean on the running game more, you only should start believing it when you see it. Cooks' Lance Moore traits could substitute for forward ground movement, but of course the Oregon State grad has neck-breaking speed to give him more versatility. He could see a mix of plays formerly called for Moore and even Darren Sproles.

Odell Beckham Jr. speculators should have slightly more confidence immediately; Eli Manning is more pass protection away from giving Beckham plenty of targets. The speedster should be a nice entry in Ben McAdoo's offense, which will resemble what he partook in with the Green Bay Packers. Beckham can line up in every spot and become a Lite version of Randall Cobb. It'll be between him and Cooks for the best bang-for-buck first-rounder for fantasy, but not necessarily in the vein of best overall producer.

Here comes a boring pair of answers in my preferences, but their situations justify going chalk. I'll lean toward No. 4 overall pick Sammy Watkins in point-per-reception games. I'm not yet a believer in EJ Manuel, and I don't think C.J. Spiller, Mike Williams and T.J. Graham can take enough attention off him. But Watkins will be targeted frequently, especially with the Buffalo Bills' desire to get the ball in his hands quickly and let him perform some tricks after the catch. That could play well in this system. Plus, they traded up at a big cost and will move to justify that as soon as possible.

In non-PPRs, I call on No. 7 overall grab, and second skills players, Mike Evans. Josh McCown will have plenty of familiarity with two big receivers. He chucked plenty of jump balls to the likes of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago; this will be a middle-class version of that duo with Evans and Vincent Jackson. Evans is a go-route guy with height, the type you want in fantasy games that base themselves on defense.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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