Don't overlook the 2015 rookie receivers in fantasy drafts
The 2015 fantasy football season seemed like the perfect storm for rookie wide receivers. The instant impact of 2014 rookies Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin, among several others, was fresh on our minds. The incoming 2015 rookie class was compared favorably to that 2014 class, and that was enough to get the hype rolling.
For all but a few rookie receivers, though, their end-of-season fantasy value didn’t come close to their ADP. Amari Cooper was the only high draft pick to return value, and by the end of draft season, he was off the board as early as the fourth round. Tyler Lockett and Stefon Diggs were success stories as well, but that was largely because they exceeded very modest expectations. After that, it was a bunch of relative failures, and for myriad reasons.
But not all the hype for last year’s rookie class was unfounded, and that means there are plenty of second-year receivers who will enter this draft season underrated and overlooked. My advice is to bypass the hot names from the 2016 rookie class, the first-year success stories and buzz guys from 2015. What you’ll be left with is a group of second-year receivers with a ton of upside to outperform their ADPs.
Let’s look at three tiers of second-year receiver options, ranging from guys who seem like prime candidates to improve down to guys who are long shots. Average draft position was collected from MFL data from May 1 to 18.
The de facto redshirt freshmen
Two of the most talented receivers from the 2015 class, both with proven quarterbacks, never saw the field in 2015. It’s already hard enough choosing between college players many fantasy owners have never seen; add in an injury and a year’s removal from any production at all and it becomes an even dicier proposition. This tier pinpoints those two players, as well as a couple of prospects from the later rounds who have seen their situations improve.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears
The former No. 7 overall pick has the build of an elite No. 1. At 6’3 and 215 pounds, he blazed a 4.35 40-yard dash with a 36.5-inch vertical at the combine a year ago. He also has huge hands and long arms, even by NFL standards. He missed the entire 2015 season with a shin injury, which has helped the memory of what he was able to accomplish in his final season at West Virginia fade.