2014 Fantasy Football: Exposing Rookie Busts to Avoid in Drafts

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2014

Tennessee Titans running back Bishop Sankey practices during NFL football training camp Saturday, July 26, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Let's face it, 2014 is a horrible year for fantasy football rookies.

Last year, we were spoiled. Eddie Lacy bullied his way to production even without Aaron Rodgers. Le'Veon Bell was as violent as advertised. Giovani Bernard produced on land and through the air despite being No. 2 on the depth chart. Montee Ball flirted with sound production.

The point is, 2014 was never going to be able to match. To make matters worse, only one rookie back is assured a starter's amount of totes. Several of the top wideouts come with performance or locale issues. Tight ends and quarterbacks are annual no-nos.

There are rookies worth a gamble, but there are even more with deceptive qualities. Below, let's examine a few big-name rookies to avoid on draft day.


Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

The No. 20 overall pick could not have landed in a better situation, right?

An elite, versatile weapon, owners can be forgiven for perceiving Cooks as one of the best rookies to draft. After all, his stat sheet from his collegiate days is noticeable, to say the least:


Now mix in a little Drew Brees and a pass-happy offense, and Cooks certainly appears to be a top rookie producer.

Except for one problem—owners have no confirmation that the Oregon State product will play a major role in his inaugural pro year.

Jul 28, 2014; White Sulpher Springs, WV, USA;  New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) carries the ball during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are gone, yes, which means a 90-reception void is just asking to be filled. But a rather large chunk of that production will go to second-year wideout Kenny Stills, who even coach Sean Payton said has to player a bigger role next year.

“He’s someone that after looking at him last year, we have to find a way to get him the ball more,” said head coach Sean Payton, per ESPN's Mike Triplett.

Cooks is versatile and may even get some carries, but Brees may defer to weapons such as Stills, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham before trusting a rookie. With an average draft position of 8.10, there is little reason that he should be getting selected over players such as Dwayne Bowe, DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts and even Stills himself.

Too many targets in the offense and rookie status leave entirely too much room for Stills to disappoint in standard leagues.


Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

There is more upside than production and polish to Kelvin Benjamin's game, which is a horrific ratio for a rookie in normal leagues.

First about Benjamin himself. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, everything is there for the No. 28 overall pick to absolutely abuse smaller defensive backs, especially in the red zone.

Here comes the but...part of the package—he cannot catch the ball. Joe Redemann of Number Fire breaks down this strange, but alarmingly true, situation:

Now, is it possible that Kelvin Benjamin will turn his catching woes around? Certainly. Is it likely? A 4.07% chance seems to say otherwise, especially when most of the receivers who did correct their catching problems are considered the best in the game (including the likes of Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, and DeSean Jackson). Folks, Benjamin’s college career catch rate was a paltry 59.6%. Calvin Johnson had a 48.1% catch rate, but he is the exception to all rules. The only other near-great receiver who was worse in college was Julio Jones (51.8%).

In other words, unless Benjamin is a once-in-a-lifetime player or one that is darn well close to the classification, all signs point toward owners wanting to steer clear.

That is especially the case in Carolina, a team that ran the ball the seventh-most times last year with 483 totes. And while it is great many consider Benjamin to be the No. 1 wideout, he is flanked by three sure-handed, proven targets in Greg Olsen, Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery.

So while measurements and buzz surround Benjamin, understand that there are red flags. He is certainly a wait-and-see-type player, as it all has to translate once he dons the pads. If it does not, brave gamblers will be quite disappointed.


Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

The lone rookie back with a legit shot to take the majority of the carries in his offense, even that is not guaranteed for Bishop Sankey in Tennessee with Chris Johnson out of the way. 

In a perfect world, Sankey is the savior at running back all owners covet. We deserve at least one starter rookie back each year, right?

Sorry, but those days in the NFL are long gone.

Sankey seems to be the favorite for most carries in a committee approach that also features Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews and Leon Washington. But there is no guarantee that comes to fruition, as coach Ken Whisenhunt told ESPN's Paul Kuharsky:

Those in the know around the league seem to think Sankey is not a feature back, as illustrated by ESPN's Adam Caplan:

So the jury is out, both in regards to how Sankey fits in the pros and how the team plans on using him. Meanwhile, his ADP at 4.05 means owners are passing on a wealth of talent to grab him, such as Larry Fitzgerald, Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Ray Rice and more.

Mired in a mediocre offense and a stable of backs with no direction, just because Sankey's the shiny new back on the block does not mean owners should invest.


Honorable Mentions

Johnny ManzielQBCleveland BrownsJoe Namath and Cleveland don't mix.
Carlos HydeRBSan Francisco 49ersFrank Gore's 259+ carries the past three years say "hi."
Jordan MatthewsWRPhiladelphia EaglesWe'll see if Nick Foles can produce without DeSean Jackson.
Devonta FreemanRBAtlanta FalconsNo. 3 on depth chart on a pass-first team.


All average draft positions courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com. All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues.

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