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Published: May 12, 2014 at 12:35 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2014 at 01:21 p.m.

Top 20 Fantasy Rookies

If we have learned anything in recent seasons, it's that rookies can come in and make an instant impact both in the stat sheets and in fantasy football. Owners who drafted Robert Griffin III, Eddie Lacy or Keenan Allen (to name a few) over the last couple of years can attest to that. So, who are the first-year players with the most potential for the 2014 campaign? Here's a look at 20 rookies you should target.

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  • 20. Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers 20

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    20. Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Bryant fell to the No. 118 overall selection in the draft, but he landed in a favorable spot from a fantasy perspective. The Steelers lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Denver Broncos, leaving the No. 2 spot on the depth chart up for grabs. Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore are the likely favorites to open camp second and third at the position, but Bryant is a player to watch for owners in both re-draft and dynasty formats.

  • 19. Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets 19

    LM Otero/AP Photo

    19. Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets

    Amaro posted over 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns in his final season at Texas Tech and brings the Jets a talented pass-catching tight end. In fact, he'll have a chance to be the starter right out of the gate. The problem, though, is that rookie tight ends rarely make a significant fantasy impact even in a pass-driven league. That leaves Amaro as more of a No. 2 option in most re-drafts, but he's a dynasty jewel.

  • 18. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars 18

    John Raoux/AP Photo

    18. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Bortles, who has drawn more than his share of comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger due to his size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), was the first quarterback selected in the 2014 draft. He's no lock to start in Week 1, however ... in fact, Chad Henne will likely get the call and give Bortles some time to learn the pro game. The Jags also have some offensive line issues, so Bortles will be hard-pressed to have re-draft appeal.

  • 17. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers 17

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    17. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

    Hyde was considered one of the most talented runners in the 2014 class, but he landed in a terrible spot for his re-draft value. The Ohio State product joins a crowded backfield, with veteran starter Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Marcus Lattimore all in the mix for carries. Hyde would have more value if he earns the second spot on the depth chart behind Gore, but overall he's a better choice in dynasty leagues.

  • 16. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints 16

    Tony Avelar/AP Photo

    16. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

    Any time a wide receiver has a superstar quarterback like Drew Brees under center, he's going to have some value in fantasy land., Enter Cooks, who won the 2013 Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top wideout. A dynamic playmaker who will use his speed to his advantage on the fast track of the Superdome, Cooks could come in an make an impact in the vertical pass attack. He'll be pick in re-drafts and dynasty formats.

  • 15. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings 15

    Charles Krupa/AP Photo

    15. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

    Bridgewater isn't considered the favorite to start in Week 1, but he will be allowed every chance to surpass Matt Cassel for the top spot on the depth chart in training camp. He's entering a great position, as the Vikings have some talented young players in their pass attack and a future Hall of Famer in the backfield in Adrian Peterson. Should he win the No. 1 spot, Bridgewater's stock will rise to QB2 heights.

  • 14. Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles 14

    Elise Amendola/AP Photo

    14. Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    The SEC's all-time leader in receptions (262) and receiving yards (3,759), Matthews is an intelligent and athletic wide receiver who happens to be Jerry Rice's cousin. That's not a bad bloodline. With DeSean Jackson (Redskins) and Jason Avant (Panthers) out of the mix, the rookie out of Vanderbilt would have to falter in camp to not open the season third on the depth chart behind Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper.

  • 13. Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

    Jim Cowsert/AP Photo

    13. Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Sims, who will be an older rookie at the age of 24, is joining a crowded backfield in Tampa Bay and has no chance to start with Doug Martin back from an injured shoulder. With that said, he will push Mike James and Bobby Rainey during camp and would be a viable handcuff for Martin should he open the season as his clear backup. If nothing else, Sims' depth-chart spot is something to monitor in the summer months.

  • 12. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals 12

    Butch Dill/AP Photo

    12. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    Hill is a player fantasy owners need to monitor in the summer months. He's entering a crowded backfield with Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ahead of him on the depth chart, but an impressive camp could push him ahead of the Law Firm for some short-yardage and goal-line work. If that happens, he'll have some late-round appeal in re-drafts. Hill is no threat to Bernard, who should break out in 2014.

  • 11. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Chicago Bears 11

    Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

    11. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Chicago Bears

    Carey has no chance to unseat fantasy star Matt Forte, but he became Forte's preferred handcuff the second the Bears selected him. Remember, the team decided to let go of Michael Bush in the offseason. A versatile runner who has good hands out of the backfield, Carey could be the future of the Chicago backfield once Forte's time is over. Until then, though, consider the Arizona product a late-round re-draft option.

  • 10. Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams 10

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    10. Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams

    Mason was a superstar at the collegiate level, breaking out as a junior with an Auburn-record 1,816 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He's an immediate threat to Benny Cunningham and could become a valuable fantasy handcuff for owners who draft Zac Stacy. Mason has little chance to pass him on the depth chart, though, as he lacks pass-protection skills and isn't much of a pass catcher out of the backfield either.

  • 9. Odell Beckham, WR, New York Giants 9

    Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

    9. Odell Beckham, WR, New York Giants

    The Giants don't appear to be sold on Rueben Randle's ability to replace Hakeem Nicks (Colts) in the pass attack, thus the selection of Beckham with the No. 12 overall pick in the draft. Compared to the likes of Antonio Brown, the LSU product will have a chance to start right out of camp if he's able to pass Randle on the depth chart. Beckham is a wideout to watch and could fetch late-round fantasy value.

  • 8. Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns 8

    Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

    8. Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns

    West, a collegiate star at Towson, rushed for over 4,800 yards and 84 touchdowns as an FCS runner. While Ben Tate is the unquestioned starter for the Browns, he has had his share of injuries at the NFL level. Since West is the favorite to emerge past the likes of Chris Ogbonnaya and Dion Lewis, he'll be a viable handcuff in the late rounds for owners who land Tate. He'll hold some low-end, deep-sleeper appeal.

  • 7. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions 7

    Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

    7. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions

    Rookie tight ends almost never make a big statistical impact, but it's tough to look past what Ebron brings to the table. A Vernon Davis clone, he could be used in a similar role to that of Jimmy Graham. Remember, new Lions OC Joe Lombardi was a former assistant with the New Orleans Saints. While I don't expect Ebron to become a No. 1 fantasy tight end overnight, he's going to be picked as a TE2 in re-drafts.

  • 6. Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars 6

    Chris Carlson/AP Photo

    6. Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

    I have never been a fan of USC wide receivers because of their trend of busting at the pro level, but I have to mention Lee because he has the potential to start as a rookie. With Justin Blackmon expected to miss the season due to suspension, Lee will have every chance to earn a prominent role for coach Gus Bradley. He's not a player to reach for in drafts, but Lee does have some late-round appeal in re-drafts.

  • 5. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers 5

    Bob Leverone/AP Photo

    5. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

    No rookie wideout entered a better situation than Benjamin, who was a favorite to start the second he was selected. The Panthers have to love his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), which will no doubt benefit him as a red-zone threat for Cam Newton. With that said, the Florida State product is a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect who wouldn't have as much fantasy appeal elsewhere. He'll clearly be on the late-round radar.

  • 4. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4

    David J. Phillip/AP Photo

    4. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    A physical wideout with good size, Evans has drawn comparisons to his new teammate, Vincent Jackson. Not only can he make plays with the football, but he's also a strong run blocker who has the potential to be a No. 1 NFL receiver as his career progresses. Evans isn't likely to make a massive impact as a rookie, though, so fantasy owners shouldn't reach for him in re-drafts. Consider him a No. 4 option in 2014.

  • 3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns 3

    Beth Hall/AP Photo

    3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns

    There are few things I like in fantasy football more than a playmaking quarterback who can run with the football. Enter Manziel, who rushed for over 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in two collegiate seasons at Texas A&M, and you have a surefire fantasy sleeper. He will lose some of his appeal because of the looming Josh Gordon suspension, but Manziel's running skills are going to make him a viable QB2 in drafts.

  • 2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills 2

    Phil Sears/AP Photo

    2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

    The most talented wideout in the 2014 rookie class, Watkins is in a great position to succeed right out of the gate. The Bills traded Steve Johnson (49ers), so he's the clear-cut No. 1 wideout for quarterback EJ Manuel. That makes Watkins the favorite to be this season's edition of Keenan Allen from a statistical perspective. He's best served as a borderline No. 3 or 4 fantasy wideout in most re-drafts.

  • 1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans 1

    Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

    1. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans

    Sankey, who was the top-rated rookie runner of NFL Media draft guru Mike Mayock, has landed in a perfect spot to make a big statistical impact. The Titans have a vacant spot atop their depth chart after the release of Chris Johnson (Jets), and Sankey has to be considered the favorite to grab it ahead of Shonn Greene and his problematic right knee. Sankey has flex-starter potential in re-drafts across the board.

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