Buy, Sell, or Hold: Wide Receivers of the 2014 Draft Class

Leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, the wide receiver class was looked upon as one of the deepest in that year’s draft. Stunningly the actual production during many of their rookie seasons surpassed the immense expectations.  The quality and level of play from many of these rookies last season was astounding. As they enter year two, some look to maintain their year one success, others look to build upon it, and some look to be given an opportunity to make a name for themselves.  In terms of their fantasy value, now is an interesting time to evaluate whether you should be looking to buy, sell or hold them as they enter their second season. When looking to trade young players in fantasy, it is important to understand their present and possible future value in order to try to maximize their overall worth in your dynasty and devy leagues.

Buy

Davante Adams, Green Bay

While Adams only caught 38 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, he showed signs of development and his potential future value during the playoffs. As he enters year two, following an offseason which saw the Packers agree to a new contract with Randall Cobb, Adams is a player I would be looking to buy while his value is still relatively low. Many people do not realize that Jordy Nelson is already 30 years old and most of the guaranteed money in Cobb’s contract is in the first two years, therefore Adams has the potential to be a number one wide receiver sooner than some may think, in a high octane offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

John Brown, Arizona

Brown, who was drafted out of Pittsburgh State, put together a very solid rookie season catching 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. Of all the names on this list, he is the one I recommend buying the most, given the cost that it will take. With the return of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd still in the mix, now is the time to be aggressive and get Brown on your roster. Head coach Bruce Arians has compared him to TY Hilton and Antonio Brown, two former players similar in size to Brown, which Arians got the most out of. Within a year or two I believe Brown has the ability and talents to be a WR2 in terms of fantasy and a rising star in the NFL.

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

After not playing the first six games of the season, Bryant exploded onto the scene for the final 10 games, having a huge impact on the Steelers offense. While he was limited to just 26 receptions, he had 549 yards receiving, for an average of 21.1 yards per catch and an amazing nine touchdowns. He did most of this work playing a complementary role in the offense. As he enters year two, he is a recommended buy, as all reports are that he has looked great throughout the offseason, and will push Markus Wheaton into the complementary third wide receiver role. With the presence of Brown as their number one wide receiver, in addition to Bryant’s low reception total, some are concerned his numbers were a bit fluky last season.  With this mindset of some people in the fantasy community, now is the time to trade for him, because if Bryant plays 75 to 80 percent of the snaps this season, his value will sky rocket, as will the cost to land him.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans

With all of the great rookie seasons we saw from wide receivers last season, Cooks’ year seems to be forgotten because he ended the year on injured reserve with a thumb injury. Prior to that injury, Cooks played in 10 games, caught 53 receptions, for 550 yards and three touchdowns. If he had played all 16 games, he was on pace for 85 catches, just under a 1000 yards and six touchdowns. With the Saints trading away superstar tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Kenny Stills, and Marques Colston a year older, Cooks is being looked upon to be their number one wide receiver this upcoming season. Due to his shortened rookie season and since some still question, whether Cooks at 5’10”, 189 pounds can become an elite wide receiver, his cost in trades is still at a reasonable value. I believe the time to buy him is now, as he will become a consistent 90 to 100 catch receiver, for close to 1200 yards and six to eight touchdowns annually, making him a high end WR2 or low end WR1 in ppr leagues in the near future.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville

Similar to Cooks, Robinson saw his season cut short due to an injury as well. In 10 games during his rookie season, Robinson caught 48 passes, for 548 yards and two touchdowns. As he enters year two, I recommend buying him, because I believe his trade value is currently lower than it will be by years end. With the struggles of the Jaguars offense, including that of Blake Bortles, in addition to the signing of star tight end Julius Thomas, and a deep group of young wide receivers, some people are concerned that no skill player in Jacksonville can emerge to be a true impact fantasy performer. I disagree and believe that Robinson has the talents to develop into their number one wide receiver this season and lead the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. With the drafting of TJ Yeldon to be their featured back, and the expected growth of Bortles in year two, I am comfortable trading for Robinson at his current value and believe he can emerge into a reliable WR2 in fantasy in the near future. 

Hold

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

While Beckham put up one of the greatest rookie seasons for any wide receiver ever catching 91 passes, 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games, he is a recommended hold at this point. His value is so high right now, that trying to trade for him would not be worth it based on the compensation that it would cost. Some may argue that since his value is so high, now is the time to cash in and sell him, but I believe in his talents and do not believe last year was any kind of fluke. I believe he will be a top end fantasy WR1 for many years to come and will enjoy watching him develop into one of the league’s biggest stars.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay

If it was not for the excellence of Beckham, Evans would have most likely won the rookie of the year last season. He had an amazing first year, securing 68 passes for 1051 yards and 12 touchdowns. His size and presence in the red zone make him a strong candidate for double digit touchdowns every single year. With hopefully improved quarterback play this year, after the Bucs drafted Jameis Winston, there is no reason to expect Evans’ production to slip, but rather I expect it to even be slightly better. Since his current value is already so high, I would recommend holding on to Evans.  In order to get him via a trade, you would probably need to trade away one of the top five to seven wide receivers in fantasy football for him, and I would not see the benefit to doing that, until I see him prove himself for a few more seasons.

Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis

Moncrief had an up and down rookie season, catching 32 passes, for 444 and three touchdowns. When given a chance to play considerable snaps, he looked effective but struggled showing consistency and therefore his playing time suffered. Moncrief was never able to fully leap frog Hakeem Nicks or Reggie Wayne on the depth chart, therefore his overall impact in year one fluctuated from week to week. When the offseason started, most were very high on Moncrief and were expecting a breakout campaign this season playing alongside the best young quarterback in the game, Andrew Luck. Since then, the Colts have went out and signed Duron Carter, son of Chris Carter from the CFL, signed Andre Johnson as a free agent and then drafted in the first round, Phillip Dorsett. All of these acquisitions, have left the value of Moncrief in question, therefore I recommend holding onto him right now. With Johnson getting up there in age, Hilton entering a contract year, and the uncertainty surrounding Carter, it is still possible in a year or two, Moncrief becomes a long term starter playing with Luck for the duration of his career. It is also equally possible that the Colts invested so heavily in the wide receiver position this offseason because they are concerned that Moncrief will never fulfill the potential they once saw in him. Until this situation becomes clearer, it is best to take a wait and see approach before selling him to low or buying him to high.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo

Watkins was the first receiver taken in the 2014 draft, when the Bills paid a steep price, giving up two first round picks to acquire him. While his rookie season was not a disappointment, it left questions as to when he may reach his limitless potential. He caught 65 passes, for 982 yards and six touchdowns. His overall talent and skill set is not what worries many, but it is his overall surroundings. The Bills are a run first offense, especially after the hiring of Rex Ryan and trading for LeSean McCoy, who lack a franchise quarterback. At this point, Watkins is too talented to sell for market value, but to expensive based on name brand and overall talent to buy, given the uncertainty of when he may put together an elite fantasy season.

Sell

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

Benjamin had a very successful first year for the Panthers catching 73 passes, 1008 yards and nine touchdowns. As he enters year two, I would recommend trying to sell him if you get the right offer. Benjamin came into the league a few years older than many of the other top rookie wide receivers and is now already 24 years old. Last year, while his overall numbers look strong, he was not very efficient based on the number of targets. With the selection of wide receiver Devin Funchess early in this year’s draft, Benjamin many not get as many looks as last year when the focus was just on getting him and tight end Greg Olsen the ball. With less looks, his overall production could slip a little bit and he may settle in as more a low end WR2 or high end WR3 rather than a low end WR1 or high end WR2.

Jarvis Landry, Miami

Landry quietly had a very productive season during his rookie year catching 84 passes, for 758 yards, and five touchdowns. Entering year two though, I question if he has much more upside to improve upon those numbers in any significant way. The Dolphins predominantly used him in the slot as a possession type receiver. The low yards per reception concerns me moving forward, in addition to them trading for Stills, drafting DeVante Parker in round one, and also signing Greg Jennings and tight end Jordan Cameron. There seems to be a lot of mouths to feed with one football, especially considering offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wants to be a run first offense, even with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, showing good signs of growth last season.  Landry has much more value in PPR leagues than standard, but if someone is willing to offer value that is equal in return to a WR2, I think now is the time to sell him. I think Landry will be one of those players where his actual value to the Dolphins will be greater than his fantasy value will be.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia

Besides Beckham, Benjamin and Evans, no other wide receiver had a more productive rookie year than Matthews, who finished with 67 receptions, 872 yards and eight touchdowns. With the loss of Jeremy Maclin in free agency, many are expecting Matthews to continue to develop, into possibly an elite fantasy wide receiver. My reservations and why I recommend selling him if offered the right deal is because I believe his upside is limited. While I believe he can improve on his rookie year numbers, I question by just how much. I envision his best role as a big slot wide receiver in the Eagles spread offense, similar to how the Saints have historically used Colston throughout his career. With the Eagles looking to be even more run oriented this year after signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews in free agency, drafting wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round, and the continued development of tight end Zach Ertz, I would not feel comfortable expecting a true breakout season from Matthews. If someone is willing to give you value equivalent to a WR1, I would pull the trigger on the deal, as I believe Matthews’ value will remain solidly in the WR2 range for the foreseeable future.