If you really think about fantasy football, the wide receivers are the spark plug to your fantasy football championship. Running backs are the fuel, the quarterback is the steady engine, but the wide receiving corps on your fantasy team is what kick starts a winning streak and a run to a championship. Think about last season – Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin were studs down the stretch and possibly helped you win a trophy and bragging rights in your league. This year’s crop is talented and can have the same kind of impact in 2015.
2015 Immediate Impact
#1 – Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
I would argue for taking him No. 1 overall in a dynasty league rookie draft. He is going to be that productive in his career. Derek Carr is an up-and-coming quarterback with lots of potential. Cooper is easily the No. 1 receiver on this roster and can line up anywhere with his smooth abilities as a pass catcher. Todd Gurley could be injury-prone, so for me, it’s a matchup of Melvin Gordon vs. Cooper as the top pick in dynasty league rookie drafts.
#2 – Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
In coach Chip Kelly’s offense, Agholor will produce big time with his skill set and versatility. When the Eagles picked him, it was a match made by the fantasy football gods, a spread team that is about quick reads with playmakers in space. Agholor is a great route runner, has solid hands and is hard to bring down in space with his shiftiness. Sam Bradford and the future Eagles quarterbacks will love his talent and find him all over the field.
#3 – Kevin White, Chicago Bears
He is No. 2 on the Bears roster as of right now, but could be No. 1 after Alshon Jeffery hits free agency this upcoming offseason. He is a big receiver who will demand attention from defenses with his speed, vertical skills and playmaking ability with the ball. If the Bears find their franchise quarterback in next year’s draft (Jay Cutler is gone after this year), that young arm will love White on the outside.
#4 – Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans
This may be a surprise to some, but the opportunity to be the No. 1 guy is no laughing matter. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are the only talent on that depth chart, and both have specific roles. Wright is the quick-twitch slot receiver and Hunter is the deep threat, which leaves a hole on the depth chart for a true No. 1 receiver. Enter Green-Beckham, who has the physical stature and tools to be the guy for the Titans and their young franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota.
#5 – Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens
A prospect who is extremely fast and will be a solid fit in this Ravens offense with Flacco’s big arm. He will be an immediate deep threat and will open up holes in the middle of the field for quarterback Joe Flacco and the slot receivers/tight ends. There was worry at the end of last season that they would have to change their identity on offense without a deep threat if Torrey Smith left in free agency. They handled that by drafting a player with a faster 40-yard dash time coming out of college. He is also a larger framed receiver who will see looks in the red zone.
#6 – DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
This may seem low for the No. 12 overall pick and No. 3 wide receiver off the board in this year’s draft, but it has nothing to do with his talent. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this passing offense with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and now Parker. Three young studs at wide receiver is great for the Dolphins and their future, but it’s hard on their fantasy football value. Parker will have big games and mediocre games in the early parts of his career based on the talent that he is sharing targets with in Miami.
#7 – Phillip Dorsett, Indianapolis Colts
The pick of Dorsett towards the end of the first round was a real head-scratcher by the Colts. They already have T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter on their roster heading into 2015. My thought process is that they are preparing for possibly saying goodbye to Hilton after this season when they will put their money into Andrew Luck’s new contract. This is the only logical answer I came up with when reflecting on this pick. Dorsett is a speedster who will stretch the defense even more this season. Defenses will have to be able to cover Hilton, Dorsett, Johnson, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Frank Gore. Good luck.
#8 – Jaelen Strong, Houston Texans
When they draft Christian Hackenburg in the 2016 NFL Draft (speculation, but is it really?), he will have two great young receivers to work with in DeAndre Hopkins and Strong. Strong will complement Hopkins because of his toughness over the middle while Hopkins is a true outside threat and red zone target. Strong will be the No. 2 on this roster and will see consistent targets and opportunities to produce. The issue will injuries which could take a toll on his career early.
#9 – Rashad Greene, Jacksonville Jaguars
I really liked this pick by the Jaguars. Quarterback Blake Bortles needed a go-to slot receiver and got a gem in Greene. He is smart, savvy and brings excellent hands. With question marks about Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns as true outside threats in the NFL, Bortles will find refuge in Greene from the slot.
#10 – Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
I didn’t like this pick on draft night, especially after they traded up for it, and still do not like it now. Now you have two huge receivers on the outside, but no speed to stretch the field. Also, the Panthers lack talent on their offensive and failed to address this need in the draft. Quarterback Cam Newton’s body will pay the price physically this season, again. If Newton is still standing midway through the season, Funchess will be a big target for him in this run-based offense.
#11 – Chris Conley, Kansas City Chiefs
He is this high because of the lack of talent on the Chiefs roster at wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin will be the No. 1 and see lots of targets, but coach Andy Reid drafted Conley to truly open up the offense. If Conley can prove to be a deep threat, this opens up the middle of the field for Travis Kelce, who they want to really be a presence this upcoming season. Conley is a pawn for this offense, but will see looks early in 2015 to prove himself as a potential downfield playmaker for this offense.
#12 – Kenny Bell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bell could be No. 2 on the depth chart in 2016. He will be a great complement to Mike Evans after Vincent Jackson is gone from Tampa Bay. He will battle for the No. 3 spot this season and have some looks but his true potential will come if Jackson leaves next season.
#13 – Justin Hardy, Atlanta Falcons
I compare Hardy to Hines Ward. Tough, gritty, good hands, a slot receiver who isn’t afraid to block somebody. He will fit very nicely as the slot receiver this season in Atlanta, but could turn into more if injuries occur or when Roddy White leaves.
#14 – Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
Lack of talent on the Minnesota roster at wide receiver leaves Diggs with a nice opportunity to prove himself. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has proven himself the future for Minnesota and will need weapons as he develops. Mike Wallace looks more like a stopgap and quick-fix as a deep threat and Charles Johnson could develop into a nice option. Diggs was highly recruited out of high school and may finally develop in the NFL.
#15 – Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
He is locked in as punt/kick returner for 2015, but has the talent to be much more in this offense. He has good hands, route-running ability and the toughness that Seattle covets in its receivers. He could compete this year for targets and looks and don’t be surprised by that, but my money is for 2016 when Seattle will lose some players to free agency and will need to devote money to the signing of Russell Wilson.
#16 – Devin Smith, New York Jets
Smith is a true deep threat that will spread the field for the Jets. The issue for him in 2015 is the lack of a true quarterback and the talented veterans who are locked in as the top targets. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker will see most of the looks for 2015. If injuries occur this season, Smith will fill the void, but he’ll need injuries in order to make a big impact in 2015.
#17 –DeAndre Smelter, San Francisco 49ers
Lack of talent and youth on the 49ers leads to a possible big opportunity for Smelter. He needs development, but could see the field as a starter as early as this year if injuries occur, but most likely 2016 at the earliest.
#18 – Vince Mayle, Cleveland Browns
Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins will be the guys in 2015, but Mayle may be the future. He has the physical tools, but needs development in the finer aspects of being a wide receiver in the NFL. We may see some of his potential this season, but the opportunity will truly develop next season.
Deep Sleeper Investments (For the Bold)
#19 – Dezmin Lewis, Buffalo Bills
Lewis generated a lot of buzz based on his impressive ball skills, but still needs development to reach his true potential. In 2016, he could be opposite of Sammy Watkins in this offense as the other outside receiver with Robert Woods in the slot.
#20 – Darren Waller, Baltimore Ravens
Lack of proven talent on the Ravens could result in playing time and opportunities for Waller. He is a big target who would be a great red zone target early on, but could develop into more with time and coaching in the NFL.
#21 – Jamison Crowder, Washington
A slot receiver usually doesn’t turn heads, but he could develop into a top target due to his knack for getting open along with his great hands. A changing of quarterback could be coming in Washington, which may change the offense, which means a viable option in the slot will be important. Coach Jay Gruden utilized the slot when he was in Cincinnati, but has tailored his offense for Robert Griffin III and his athletic ability.
#22 – Antwan Goodley, Dallas Cowboys
Lack of talent on the outside behind Dez Bryant is good news for Goodley as he is coming onto the Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted free agent. Keep an eye on him during training camp as an injury to Terrance Williams could open the door for Goodley and his skill set opposite of Dez Bryant.
#23 – Josh Harper, Oakland Raiders
Michael Crabtree is overrated, Andre Holmes has been a bust, and nobody else besides Amari Cooper has true potential. Harper was a great receiver at Fresno State and could recreate that success again with quarterback Derek Carr as they reunite in Oakland.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @Shep_Collins for analysis on the NFL Draft and Fantasy Football.