Wally Spurlin
Dynasty Rookie Rankings

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It may have taken awhile to finally arrive but the 2014 NFL draft was well worth the wait. The weekend was full of twists, turns and the inevitable longer than expected waiting for certain names to be called. There were fewer early round trades than expected but enough to keep things interesting. It’s always a fascinating event to behold and this year’s version did not disappoint.

Grades will be assigned much too early to teams because…well… we love grades, dang it! I will allow folks much more invested in the college game to handle those assignments and stick to what I know best. Now that we know where the rookies will be plying their trade for the 2014 season we can begin to evaluate their fantasy value. For the sake of this article we will be looking at the dynasty value of this year's rookie class.

Some of these youngsters are poised to hit the ground running and pay immediate dividends for fantasy owners while others will require a bit of time to reach the potential shown in college. Injuries, offensive schemes and sometimes just plain old luck can factor in to a player getting the chance to shine and projecting when those opportunities will come to fruition can be a bit tricky.

That being said here is a first look at dynasty rankings for the top of the rookie class of 2014 from an offensive skill position standpoint.

QUARTERBACKS

1. Teddy Bridgewater, MINNESOTA: Bridgewater will beat out Matt Cassel for the starting gig and benefits from playing with the best RB in the league and a solid supporting cast. The QB of the future will also be the starting QB week one in 2014.

2. Blake Bortles, JACKSONVILLE: Forget the talk of sitting out a season as Bortles starts from week one. He’ll grow in the offense with fellow rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson along with veteran Cecil Shorts as his receiving corps.

3. Johnny Manziel, CLEVELAND: Manziel’s devil may care playing style doesn’t usually lend itself to a lengthy NFL career. He’ll be exciting as long as he is on the field but the concern over the lack of immediate receiving options and potential for injuries limit his long term value.

4. Derek Carr, OAKLAND: Carr will sit and learn the offense behind Matt Schaub for at least one season. In the meantime, the Raiders can upgrade the WR and TE positions before Carr takes the reins.

5. Zach Mettenberger, TENNESSEE: The Titans would love for Mettenberger to get completely healthy before taking over as the starting QB. Jake Locker ’s injury history tells us that he’ll have until about week eight to be ready.

6. Tom Savage, HOUSTON: Savage is raw and needs to work out some kinks in his game but has a huge arm. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer and this will be Savage’s team to lead by 2015.

7. A.J. McCarron, CINCINATTI: The leash is getting shorter for Andy Dalton by the year and McCarron is a proven winner. One more early playoff exit and the keys are turned over to the kid from Alabama.

8. Logan Thomas, ARIZONA: Bruce Arians is anxious to work some magic on this kid and Carson Palmer has about two good years left in him. Stashing Thomas on dynasty rosters could pay off huge in a couple of years.

9. Jimmy Garoppolo, NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady has to retire at some point. Garoppolo either inherits a Patriots offense that always finds ways to score or sits for a few years then gets traded to a team that wants him as their starter.

10. Brett Smith, TAMPA BAY: An undrafted free agent, Smith signs in a perfect situation with the Bucs. He has the tools to succeed at the next level and will be able to learn from QB guru Jeff Tedford while veteran Josh McCown leads the offense for a season or two.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Bishop Sankey, TENNESSEE: Shankey will step right in as the main replacement for the departed Chris Johnson and see a lot of action. This team has one of the best O-lines and loves to run the football and Sankey is a more versatile back than incumbent Shonn Greene .

2. Carlos Hyde, SAN FRANCISCO: Current starting RB Frank Gore will be 31 this season and Marcus Lattimore is a long shot to ever regain his pre-injury form. The crowded 49ers backfield could be much less so in the near future and when the dust settles Hyde will be in a nice fantasy situation moving forward.

3. Tre Mason, ST LOUIS: Mason is an immediate option to be the primary backup to Zac Stacy and could eventually be his replacement. Mason can shoulder a heavy workload in the run game but needs to improve his receiving and pass blocking skills to reach RB1 status down the road.

4. Jeremy Hill, CINCINNATI: Character issues are long-term concerns as suspensions could loom for the kid if he doesn’t get his head on straight. As a player he is ready to step in immediately as the replacement for BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the short-yardage early down back in the offense.

5. Ka'Deem Carey, CHICAGO: Carey lands in a very friendly fantasy environment with the opportunity to be the primary backup to 28-year-old Matt Forte . He is solid in pass protection, can catch the rock and runs hard every time he touches the ball.

6. Devonta Freeman, ATLANTA: Steven Jackson looks to be nearing the end of his career and Freeman is an explosive one-cut runner that can pass protect as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. Mainly a time-share RB in college Freeman has the chance to be the primary back for the Falcons sooner rather than later.

7. Andre Williams, NEW YORK GIANTS: If Williams could catch the ball at all then he may have rated higher here. A straight-ahead pound the rock style of runner, Williams put up over 2,000 yards last year. He has only the much traveled Rashad Jennings and iffy-to-return David Wilson to surpass on the depth chart.

8. Storm Johnson, JACKSONVILLE: Johnson has nifty footwork and runs with an aggressive style that will translate well into the NFL. He needs to work on pass protection as well as catching the ball but could emerge from training camp as the primary option to spell starter Toby Gerhart .

9. Charles Sims, TAMPA BAY: Sims is arguably the best pass-catching RB coming out of the draft and has the skill set to quickly grab the number two role behind Doug Martin. He runs with excellent quickness and acceleration while drawing comparisons to  Matt Forte .

10. Isaiah Crowell, CLEVELAND: Character issues led to Crowell being undrafted but he has landed in a very nice situation. Newly signed RB Ben Tate has struggled to stay healthy and Crowell is among the most talented backs in the 2014 class. He’s an explosive runner with the quickness to get the edge and if he can stay out of trouble he could find himself the No. 1 RB for the Browns down the line.

11. Lache Seastrunk, WASHINGTON: Seastrunk is excellent in space but an inability to catch the ball and struggles in pass protection keep him from a higher ranking. Alfred Morris is entrenched as the early down back that doesn’t catch the ball and Roy Helu is the third down option. Improving his skills in the passing game is imperative to raising his fantasy value.

12. Terrance West, CLEVELAND: West is a solid talent that will battle Dion Lewis and the aforementioned Isaiah Crowell for the chance to back up Ben Tate . He’s a patient runner with soft hands and a skill set that translates well to the pro game. Whichever RB wins the No. 2 role in Cleveland has sneaky good fantasy value behind the oft-injured Tate.

13. Jerick McKinnon, MINNESOTA: The current No. 2 RB for the Vikings is the limited Matt Asiata and while McKinnon will start out as a third down option he has a great chance to work his way into that role. Adrian Peterson is 29 years old and closer to the end of his career than the beginning. McKinnon needs to improve his skills in the passing game but has sneaky good fantasy value as things currently stand in Minnesota.

14. James White, NEW ENGLAND: White isn’t flashy or necessarily explosive but brings a solid overall skill set to his game. He’s used to playing in a time-share situation and more importantly protects the football (only two fumbles in four seasons). White could be one Stevan Ridley fumble away from a prominent role in the offense.

15. Lorenzo Taliaferro, BALTIMORE: The muddled RB situation in Baltimore makes Taliaferro an interesting player to watch. He’s not an explosive runner but hits the hole hard and is more than adequate in pass protection. Ray Rice looked worn down last season (and still faces league discipline) and Bernard Pierce underwhelmed with his opportunity to step up.



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