Placing the No. 1 rookie wide receiver on this list isn't a function of disagreeing with scouts. We agree, Sammy Watkins is a legit burgeoning receiving star. It is the supporting cast we have to question going into the season, along with the hype that ups Watkins' draft position in fantasy.
Buffalo was just one of the most unfortunate places for Watkins to get drafted to this May. So, while you can love Watkins, just not here, not now and not in fantasy.
The Buffalo Bills made an aggressive draft-day trade to get Watkins on their roster, and it might pay off in the long run, but this is an egg-before-the-chicken scenario for us. Rookie wide receivers need a productive veteran quarterback to be an instant success. The top rookie wideout from a year ago was the relatively unheralded Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers. He wound up topping the rookies because Philip Rivers is an aggressive, veteran, downfield passer.
In EJ Manuel, the Bills have a shaky second-year signal caller who has started just 10 games in his career...mostly nonspectacularly.
Watkins is going to be drafted among the top 30-40 fantasy wideouts like the St. Louis Rams' Tavon Austin was a year ago. Austin, last year's first receiver picked in the NFL draft, might not be in Watkins' class of receiving talent, but he was in a similar situation on a team without a productive veteran quarterback. Sam Bradford struggled to establish himself and ultimately was injured.
Both production and potential injury have to worry you with Manuel, especially if you are a prospective Watkins fantasy owner. Still, they won't be enough to stop someone drooling over Watkins' physical tools and picking him before his situation warrants in fantasy drafts.
Like Austin a year ago, there are other rookie wideouts in better situations who will be more affordable in fantasy drafts. The New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., New Orleans Saints' Brandin Cooks and even Carolina Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin immediately come to mind. Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Cam Newton are productive veteran quarterbacks, even if those receivers will open further down their depth charts than Watkins in Buffalo.
Granted, Watkins is going to trump Austin's first-year bust numbers of 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns—Austin added 151 yards and a touchdown rushing—but we suggest you avoid Watkins at his draft position. He will be a disappointment at that price.
Watkins is currently ranked No. 38 among fantasy wideouts in FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings, and that's even with my projecting him to go in the top 30. Clearly, fantasy pundits agree he won't be the instant hit everyone in Buffalo is hoping he could be.
You need to let Watkins fall to being a reserve receiver on fantasy rosters for the price to be right. We just don't see that happening this summer.