Top Six Sleeper Rookies That You Must Know For 2014
By Jake Ciely
Everyone knows about, or has at least heard the name, Sammy Watkins. They know about Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Evans, Bishop Sankey and even Eric Ebron, but what about the others?
What about the lesser-known players that might get overlooked in your league? Who are the rookie "sleepers" (bleh, just threw up in my mouth a bit… I hate that word – "underrated" is much better) that are worth a late-round pick? Here are the Top Six
sleeper underrated rookies for 2014.
Tre Mason, Rams
My good industry friend, Mike Clay, and I actually debated (shortly) Le'Veon Bell versus Zac Stacy for 2014 on Twitter. It started with a conversation about Trent Richardson, and Clay pointed out that Bell could have similar concerns over his being volume reliant. I agreed and said I have a similar concern for Stacy, as he was volume and touchdown reliant – Bell truly was with the touchdowns as well. In addition to those concerns, the debate was about backup threats to 2014 values, as I believe Tre Mason is more of a threat to Stacy than LeGarrette Blount is to Bell.
Looking at Stacy, he had a 3.9 yards per carry average that fell to 3.2 over the last five games. On the positive side of things, Stacy is quite good after contact, something I liked about him coming out of Vanderbilt. It's also something I like about Mason. Not only does Mason do a good job of falling forward and fighting through contact, he's also a quick, solid one-cut back. Mason has more talent than Stacy, and even though Stacy won't give up the job easily, a slow start or injury could open the door for a 2013 Stacy-like impact from Mason in 2014.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns
I said it before the draft, during, after and am still saying it. Crowell is/was the most talented running back in the draft. If not for his off-field concerns, Crowell would have been drafted and likely before Terrance West. As long as Crowell has his stuff together – and it seems he does – West won't be able to hold him off. Crowell checks in at 5'-11" 225, has good speed and plenty of power making him difficult to tackle. Crowell is also a good pass catcher, something a rookie (potential) quarterback needs as a safety valve. Ben Tate is far from the picture of health, meaning Crowell has a great shot to have Flex-to-RB2 value for a few weeks at worst.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals
When you hear that overused term "downhill runner," you can think of Hill. Once he's in gear, look out. Hill checks in at 6'-1" 233 and is another back on this list that fights for yardage and is a tough tackle. Hill is great at seeing and attacking the hole, which translates into grabbing first downs or punching it in the end zone. That is why Hill is a perfect compliment for Giovanni Bernard and is why BenJarvus Green-Ellis shouldn't be making any big purchases. I would be surprised if Hill doesn't unseat BJGE behind Bernard and put up very similar numbers to Green-Ellis' 2013 season with a better yards per carry (BJGE just 3.4). Those touchdowns alone make Hill a solid bye week bet and league stash.
Allen Robinson, Jaguars
I fully expect Robinson to be the better rookie over Marqise Lee. Robinson is primed to be a great possession receiver and has potential for more. Meanwhile, Lee has health and motivation/work ethic concerns. Too often, Lee relied on his ability rather than making the proper cuts or running precise routes. Robinson has good size (6'-3" 220) and plays faster than his 40 time suggests. He also adjusts to the ball well and hauls in plenty of passes with good hands. Less knowledgeable owners will draft Lee earlier. Don't get sucked in and instead wait and reap the value reward.
Davante Adams, Packers
Adams is playing for the Packers. That's about all you need to know. Okay, I'll give more because you asked nicely. The Packers saw James Jones leave for the sunnier skies of Oakland – it's certainly not a sunnier outlook. That leaves the No. 3 spot open for Jarrett Boykin or Adams. Boykin has the inside track, but Adams is more similar to Jones than Boykin is. Adams, like Jones, just does everything well, while not being elite in any area. While Adams is well rounded without an elite attribute, he also doesn't have any glaring holes to his game. If Adams beats out Boykin, you know he'll have value, as every Packers No. 3 always does.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers
One more time, in case you didn't read my pre-draft or post-draft reviews… It's Mar-ta-vis, not Mar-ta-vi-as or Mar-ta-vi-us. There is not a third "a" in his name. With that out of the way – hopefully, forever – Bryant has real potential as a rookie. Markus Wheaton is the first name up for the No. 2 role with Emmanuel Sanders now catching passes from Peyton Manning, but Wheaton failed to impress as a rookie. It's always tough for rookie wide receivers, so we can't call Wheaton a bust just yet. However, the Steelers need a weapon opposite of Antonio Brown, and Bryant has the speed and downfield ability to take the top off defenses. He also attacks the ball well and uses his hands to grab passes instead of letting the ball come to him. Bryant needs to put on some muscle, but there is real upside here, as many haven't seen the potential in Bryant with all of the focus on Watkins coming out of Clemson as well.