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Fantasy Football 2014: Early Rankings for Rookies and Sleepers

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Fantasy Football 2014: Early Rankings for Rookies and Sleepers
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

After seven grueling rounds of the 2014 NFL draft and a frenzy of undrafted free-agent activity, we're left with just one thing on our minds: Fantasy football.

This is the time of year when we want the scoop on what's expected from the league's newest members. Will a rookie start right away? Will he get many snaps? Will he take playing time away from a veteran?

All of these are viable questions.

Until we get into the heart of training camp and the preseason, it's difficult to know exactly what to expect from these first-year players. Right now, we can simply look at their college production, schematic fits and expected roles in the NFL.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some rookies who may be flying under the radar but are certainly worth a late-round gamble in your fantasy football draft.

 

Top Fantasy Football Rookie Sleepers

2014 Top Fantasy Football Rookie Sleepers
Player Position Team Round Drafted
De'Anthony Thomas RB Chiefs 4
Jeremy Hill RB Bengals 2
Ka'Deem Carey RB Bears 4
Dri Archer RB Steelers 3
Donte Moncrief WR Colts 3
Jordan Matthews WR Eagles 2
Jarvis Landry WR Dolphins 2
Allen Robinson WR Jaguars 2
Troy Niklas TE Cardinals 2
C.J. Fiedorowicz TE Texans 3
Richard Rodgers TE Packers 3
Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Buccaneers 2
Zach Mettenberger QB Titans 6
Tom Savage QB Texans 4
Tajh Boyd QB Jets 6

Sean O'Donnell's Sleepers

 

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals selected Hill in the second round of this year's draft. Hill joins a backfield consisting of last year's rookie sensation Giovani Bernard and veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

As of now, it's rather unclear what the Bengals intend to do with this crowded backfield; however, given Hill's downhill style of running, it could be speculated a possible Green-Ellis trade could be coming in the near future.

Solomon Wilcots of NFL Network tweeted his thoughts on Hill:

If that's the case, Hill will see plenty of early work as a complement to Bernard.

Although Bernard was fantastic last season, his smallish build won't make him an every-down back. Green-Ellis received 220 carries last season to Bernard's 170. If Hill comes in and takes over Green-Ellis' role, he'll certainly be worthy of a look in fantasy drafts.

After all, Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey told Paul Dehner Jr. of Cincinnati.com exactly why the team liked Hill in Round 2:

The way he played in his offense at LSU, and the pro-style offense they had and what they asked him to do. He stepped up and was going against a tough SEC, downhill, the stuff that we like to do. And when it came to pass protection, he actually stepped in there. He was coached to do that and he looked really tough, not that the others guys didn't. He really just stepped above that when it came to being a complete player and the type of runner we're looking for as well, and playing against the competition he played.

It sure sounds like the Bengals are intrigued to see what Hill can offer sooner rather than later.

 

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

According to NFL.com, Matthews is the cousin of Jerry Rice, so what more needs to be said?

At 6'3" and 212 pounds, Matthews is a tall, slender receiver with soft, reliable hands. He's not a burner and more of a possession receiver; however, that's not a bad thing considering Philadelphia's West Coast offense.

Looking at the Eagles wide receivers corps, it's very easy to speculate Matthews will see some playing time early and often this season.

It appears as though Matthews is ready, as Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com tweeted a very interesting piece of information regarding the wide receiver's visit with the Eagles:

He'll probably begin as the team's slot receiver with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin on the outside. But, we all know Maclin continues to be a big risk to miss time due to injury—since joining the league in 2009, he's only played one full 16-game season.

Matthews could even find playing time early in the season depending on how he develops during training camp. Of course, this all depends on how well Maclin is responding to his repaired ACL.

Regardless of Maclin's availability this season, Matthews is certainly a rookie who figures to see the field early. He is worthy of a late-round pick in fantasy drafts.

 

Richard Rodgers, TE, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers may not be Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, but he has something those two highly regarded rookies don't: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.

The tight end position as always been a big part of the offensive scheme in Green Bay. After Jermichael Finley's injury last season, his absence on the field was felt in a big way. Andrew Quarless stepped in to fill his shoes, but being more of a blocking tight end, he didn't have near as much of an impact.

The 6'4", 257-pound Rodgers fluctuated between wide receiver and tight end while at California. He is a reliable receiver on short-to-intermediate routes and is comfortable shifting out to play from the slot.

Shane P. Hallam of DraftTV.com tweeted a very familiar comparison for Rodgers:

Even though Rodgers didn't have a stellar career at California, his receiving skill set was on display. He has a big chance to flourish in Green Bay's system, and the team could allow him to do so early in his rookie campaign due to a slight lack of offensive weapons currently on hand.

 

Tom Savage, QB, Houston Texans

Savage is seen as a bit of a developmental quarterback. Although, with a lack of talent at the position in Houston, his number could certainly be called this season.

Last season with Pittsburgh, Savage showed glimpses of his ability to be an accurate, dependable quarterback. During a press conference with Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com, head coach Bill O'Brien spoke of his thoughts on the rookie signal-caller:

What stood out to us was during the process, when we watched his tape, obviously we felt like he was a guy that was an accurate passer. We felt like he was a guy that stood in the pocket and took some hits and delivered the football. When we went there, to Pittsburgh, we met with him and we watched him and we were able to sit down and talk to him and kind of be eye ball to eye ball with him, we liked what we saw.

The coaching staff is certainly on board with Savage, and it can be speculated he'll get a shot to compete for the starting job during training camp.

According to his tweet, ESPN insider Adam Schefter thinks O'Brien and Savage make a good match:

Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is slated as the team's starting quarterback at the moment; however, that could be subject to change. It was the quarterback position that held this team back last season, and O'Brien and Co. will do everything to ensure that won't be the case again.

If Fitzpatrick falters, Savage could be the next guy in line to secure the starting job. With a solid offensive line and some very talented receivers, this rookie could surprise us all in 2014.

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