Welcome to the 2015 Footballguys Discussion series, where we get a few staff members and toss them an open-ended question. Check out their answers.
From a dynasty perspective, name a player who is unlikely to contribute much at all this year but could be a fantasy starter later in his career.
Scott Bischoff: A player that is a perfect candidate here is Tennessee Titans wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. He steps into a situation as a rookie with a rookie quarterback, and there is a very high likelihood that the Titans offense struggles at times this year. Green-Beckham is also a year removed from actually playing (although it sounds like he dominated Oklahoma's practices last year) and is going to be a bit behind, likelier more behind than a typical rookie wide receiver. While I don't see him having a strong rookie campaign, I do see him becoming a fairly dominant player down the road. He is a massive receiver with the ability to run and he is incredibly competitive when the ball is in the air.
Some receivers enter the league as passive players looking to rely on their quickness and speed, and they really struggle to make plays among the bigger, faster players in the secondaries of the NFL. Green-Beckham is not one of those players. He is a ferocious competitor, will fight for the ball and he uses his body really well to shield defenders and box them out. I fully expect the Titans to try to keep quarterback Marcus Mariota in a rhythm by getting the ball out quickly, and that's not necessarily Green-Beckham's game (with the exception of the slant pass). I expect Green-Beckham to make big plays this year, but not enough to be fantasy relevant, but his upside is tremendous. Clearly, he will need to make good decisions off the field as well, but as a talent on the field, he might be one of the better receivers from this class in a few years.
Andy Hicks: I continue to be amazed at the run of Steelers wide receivers drafted between Round 3 and Round 6 in the last six years:
- 2009 - Mike Wallace - R3-84
- 2010 - Emmanuel Sanders - R3-82
- 2010 - Antonio Brown - R6-195
- 2013 - Markus Wheaton - R3-49
- 2014 - Martavis Bryant - R4-118
- 2015 - Sammie Coates Jr - R3-87
If Markus Wheaton is your bust, then you are doing better than any other franchise in the NFL, especially considering there are no 1st or 2nd rounders here. Wheaton recorded 53-644-2 and still has a chance for improvement, but with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates Jr around he may need to move to another franchise to truly excel, just like Emmanuel Sanders.
Who knows what Martavis Bryant could be, but 8 touchdowns off only 26 catches and a yards per catch of 21.1 is a brilliant start.
Anyhow to the question at hand, I said this of Martavis Bryant last year and he exceeded expectations. This year Sammie Coates Jr is in the perfect position for long term success. Due to the options ahead of him the coaching staff will be able to work out the flaws in his game this year and if the previous record is any indication line him up for a bigger role in year 2 and 3. Not much was expected of Antonio Brown and after a 16 catch for 167 yards rookie season he registered 1108 yards in year 2. It wasn't until year 4 though that he truly became an elite receiver.
The Steelers have been truly proactive at one of the key skill positions in the NFL and continue to draft talent that other franchises pass on. I'll trust their ability to do this and take Sammie Coates Jr wherever I can in dynasty leagues.
Daniel Simpkins: Devin Funchess promises to be a guy that contributes little this year, but becomes a fantasy starter down the line. There’s a lot to like about him from a long-term dynasty prospective. He was selected in the second round, so draft pedigree will work in his favor. Owners always like to hear about those prospects that have other sports in their background. Funchess played basketball and ran track in high school. Funchess is a big-bodied guy and a better than average athlete. While he clearly needs to develop his route running, blocking, and doing the little things that create separation, he is only 21 years old. Even if he takes a while to develop, he’ll have plenty of time left ahead of him in which to have a nice career. He also enters a passing game that has plenty of room for meaningful work. With questions about Benjamin’s work ethic (he came into camp overweight) looming and Funchess arguably being a more physically imposing prospect than Benjamin, it might just be that the two flip-flop in the pecking order of the Panthers’ offense in the future.
Chad Parsons: DeAndre Smelter is a player without much fanfare. He was a fourth round NFL Draft pick despite an ACL injury in 2014 at Georgia Tech. Smelter possesses prototypical size, massive hands, and a quality athleticism profile. In addition to his innate upside, the 49ers depth chart is ripe for a rising talent in 2016. Torrey Smith has shown nothing towards becoming anything more than a deep target and Anquan Boldin is approach the end (right?). Smelter is likely to have a very slow start in 2015, but one of the most intriguing talents with depth chart upside for 2016.
Dan Hindery: I want to mention a trio of rookie running backs taken in the mid-rounds of the NFL draft that all find themselves stuck behind established starters in 2015, but have a real opportunity to step into the starting role within a season or two.
Matt Jones was a little bit of a surprise pick when he went in the 3rd round (ahead of some more highly touted runners) to the Washington Redskins. Jones has almost everything you look for physically with great size, decent speed and quick feet. Perhaps most intriguing for his fantasy future is Jones' exceptional ability as a receiver out of the backfield for a guy his size. A big reason Jones was so under the radar entering the draft (and has remained so to some extent) is that he never had a chance to truly show what he could do in college due to the complete dysfunction of the Florida Gators' offense during his three years in Gainesville. Jones has impressed early in his NFL career and already taken hold of the backup RB position behind Alfred Morris heading into 2015. But part of the intrigue with Jones is that Morris is set to hit free agency after the season. Morris will already be 27-years old by next spring and will hit the open market looking for a relatively big deal. Morris' lack of pass catching ability makes him less attractive to Washington with Jay Gruden as head coach and they could let him walk, which would open the door in a big way for Jones who has a great shot to be the Week 1 starter in 2016.
Jeremy Langford went near the top of the 4th round to the Bears after a strong senior season at Michigan State. He too looks like he will establish himself as the backup RB in 2015, behind Matt Forte. Forte has been a stalwart for the Bears but he turns 30-years old this season and is entering his final year under contract with the Bears. Forte has made clear his desire for an extension, but the Bears have refused to make him a long-term contract offer and it would be unsurprising if the Bears do not pursue Forte very aggressively next March. Langford has a unique running style and some question whether he can be a full-time lead back, but he proved at Michigan State that he can handle a heavy load and could get the first crack at replacing Forte sometime in the near future. The former WR has great hands and could be an impact fantasy back in PPR leagues.
Javorius Allen was a 4th round pick by the Ravens after a big final season at USC. He is a physical, inside runner but like Matt Jones, Allen is also a highly talented pass catcher. And it is that skill set that makes Allen a player worth watching closely as the Ravens offense under new OC Marc Trestman should throw the ball to the RBs as much as any team in the NFL. Allen should emerge as the top backup in 2015. While starting RB Justin Forsett is under contract for the next three seasons, Forsett does turn 30-years old soon and will likely see his play deteriorate to the point Baltimore will be looking for a new starter sometime in the next two seasons. Allen could be that guy and if he does earn the starting job, should be an impact fantasy player (especially in PPR leagues).
Jason Wood: Hindery hits on one of my favorites, Allen. I actually think he could make an impact this year if Justin Forsett falters, but certainly given Forsett's age and pedigree, the Ravens will be looking for a new lead back in 2016 or 2017 at the latest.
Let's not forget about non-rookies. Cody Latimer and Davante Adams aren't expected to contribute much this year. Gary Kubiak's offense rarely uses 3-receiver sets and Latimer won't see much time unless Thomas or Sanders get hurt. But Latimer can be an elite starter as soon as he's given the chance. The same is true for Adams. The Packers never seem short on receiving talent, but he only needs the nod to become a star.
Getting back to the rookie class, I don't know that Phillip Dorsett is going to play much this year with Hilton, Johnson and Moncrief ahead of him, but the Colts used a 1st round pick on the speedster and have big plans in the future. Dorsett could pair with Hilton to be a potent 1-2 tandem in 2016 or 2017. A deeper sleeper to remember is Jamison Crowder. I believe he's got the talent to step into Washington's lineup in a season or two. Depending on the quarterback situation (has Robert Griffin III figured it out?), Crowder could be a PPR-impact player.