While other fantasy football owners are focusing all of their efforts on unearthing this year's rookie gems in their draft, you might be better off waiting it out and scouring the waiver wire.
Drafting rookies is always a bit tricky. You don't have any NFL evidence off which to base any conclusions aside from preseason games. You're taking a major leap of faith by drafting any player, but that's exponentially true with rookies.
In order to somewhat mitigate your risk, you might be better off avoiding reaching for the top newcomers and instead giving it a few weeks and seeing which guys are actually playing well in the regular season. Zac Stacy and Terrance Williams went undrafted in most leagues but became somewhat steady fantasy producers by year's end.
The four players below aren't guaranteed to be top performers in 2014, but they should be sitting on the waiver wire after draft day and warrant some tracking once the regular season begins.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
Would anybody be surprised if the Oakland Raiders bench Matt Schaub midway through the season and start Derek Carr? Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks that that could happen as soon as Week 5:
Again, not reacting to JUST that last play, but it's pretty clear Derek Carr is going to be the Raiders' starting QB soon enough. Week 5? 6?— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) August 16, 2014
At this point in the season, Carr doesn't warrant much attention. During the regular season, he could be a nice addition to provide depth and a possible matchup disadvantage here or there.
Heck, Matt McGloin had three weeks last year where he looked like a viable QB1 in standard fantasy leagues. Why can't it happen for Carr?
Through Oakland's first two preseason games, he's had some moments that make you think he can be a better rookie QB than anybody last year. But with Carr, you know that there will be a learning curve.
The former Fresno State star shouldn't be valued ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, but if all of those guys are off the board and you're dying to get a rookie QB, you might want to look at Carr as an emergency signing.
Dri Archer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dri Archer is almost the furthest you can possibly get from your typical Pittsburgh Steelers running back. And that may be his best asset. His speed and athleticism allow him to become a nice situational option for head coach Mike Tomlin.
As Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar pointed out, the Steelers are already utilizing Archer's receiving skills out of the backfield. In Pittsburgh's two preseason games, the Kent State product has four catches for 94 yards:
Steelers have had 7 receptions of 40+ yards by a RB since 1998. Dri Archer has one in each of his first two preseason games. @EdBouchette— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) August 17, 2014
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah highlighted Archer's ability to move quickly and challenge how defenders usually pursue the ball-carrier:
Dri Archer is going to be a nice package player in this PIT offense. He destroys pursuit angles.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 17, 2014
In standard leagues, Archer might not have much value at all in 2014. With Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in the Pittsburgh backfield, carries might be hard to come by. The rookie might be worth keeping on your radar in points-per-reception leagues, though.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
As long as Aaron Rodgers is under center for the Green Bay Packers, guys like Davante Adams will remain strong fantasy sleepers. How many owners had Jarrett Boykin becoming a fantasy target going into the 2013 season?
The Packers wouldn't have drafted Adams in the second round if they planned on leaving him on the bench in 2014. While not the most fleet of foot, the 21-year-old is physical in going up for the ball and adept at using his body to box out defenders.
Adams isn't the kind of wideout who, like say A.J. Green, Josh Gordon or Calvin Johnson, can elevate his quarterback, which makes it so perfect that he's playing with a QB as good as Rodgers, who can bring out the best in Adams:
I don't think Davante Adams could've gone to a much better situation than Green Bay. He was a top 15 overall prospect for me this past draft— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) August 16, 2014
If you're looking for a WR3 or flex option midway through the regular season, this rookie could fill the void.
Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets
Jace Amaro's not having the best preseason.
"Tight end Jace Amaro has dropped passes as if it were a job requirement," wrote Brian Costello of the New York Post.
"Give him tapes of Mike Ditka or something and say, 'This is how we want you to play'" said Ryan. "Recognize you're a big guy. You need to be a bully out there. When that ball's thrown up, you've got to go catch it. I don't care where it is."
None of that is really encouraging.
After Eric Ebron, this year's rookie class is pretty much a crap shoot at tight end, though. If Amaro can make some improvements over the rest of the preseason, he should get enough targets to become a possible backup TE option late in the regular season.