Roundtable: Which rookie receiver will have the best sophomore season?
There were rumors that the 2014 rookie wide receivers were good, but no one could have predicted they were THIS good, especially given the steep learning curve in the NFL. Fantasy owners who gambled on drafting or picking up a rookie wide receiver are being rewarded for their decision, as this receiver is making a case to be the best ever.
Now that we're more than halfway through the season, let's look into the crystal ball at next year. Which receiver will avoid the sophomore slump and continue on an upward trajectory? SI.com's fantasy experts discuss.
Michael Beller: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- There's no shortage of possibilities here, with five rookies among the top-20 receivers in points per game through Week 10. Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham will be, at worst, WR2s entering 2015, but for my money, the best sophomore season will belong to Mike Evans. The Texas A&M product has brought all his size (6-foot-5, 231 pounds) to bear this season. He has shown a keen ability to make plays down the field and sniff out the end zone (13 catches for at least 20 yards and five touchdowns in eight games). Evans is also just 21 years old, and has only played organized football for four years. He’s only going to keep getting better, and can be a true WR1 next season.
Kevin Casey: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants -- If his pregame catch routine -- shades of Larry Fitzgerald -- doesn’t impress you, just watch him during competition. From his first start, Beckham has been a game changer for an otherwise sleepy Giants offense. Richard Sherman, he of little praise, showered the receiver with compliments just five games into his career. There’s plenty of potential from this class, but by 2015 Sammy Watkins will likely still be stuck in a disastrous quarterback situation and Mike Evans will remain far from fully developed (ditto for Kelvin Benjamin). Jarvis Landry might be a dark horse in this battle, but Beckham is both the most polished receiver from this class and the one with the most upside. That combination has already manifested itself quickly and should accelerate in Year Two.
Ben Eagle: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants -- Look at what he's done the last two weeks: 15 catches, 264 yards. All this after missing the entire preseason and the first four weeks of the season. This rookie class could be one of the best of all-time, and you could make a strong case for several players (Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans). It's scary, though, to think what Beckham could do once he develops even more chemistry with Eli Manning.
David Gonos: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- It’s scary to think what Kelvin Benjamin will do once he’s no longer a “project," and Brandin Cooks has the support of Saints offense and his quarterback. But a sleeper here is Mike Evans, who has done a lot with a little at quarterback, much like Sammy Watkins. The Buccaneers will likely draft a quarterback with their top-five pick, so I’m going to pick Evans as the best sophomore for 2015, once that rookie quarterback gets settled in. Evans is just a monster in the end zone.
Bette Marston: Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints -- Cooks has been an every-other-week player -- literally. He got 77 receiving yards and a touchdown in his first game compared to just 17 receiving yards in his second game, and that trend has continued through the season. Cooks hasn't hit the 100-yard receiving mark yet, but he's knocking on the door after racking up 90 receiving yards or more twice in the last three weeks (on par with his on-off trend, of course). The most convincing factor is that he has one of the league's top quarterbacks throwing to him; Watkins and Evans don't quite have that stability. Cooks should be able to make his way up the Saints' depth chart to become a true WR1 in 2015.
Eric Single: Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles -- It took Matthews nine games to overtake Riley Cooper as the Eagles' No. 2 receiver, and by next fall the gap between the two will be even more pronounced. He can't keep up with the true burners in this year's rookie class like Odell Beckham Jr., John Brown or Brandin Cooks, but Matthews' 6-foot-3 frame and reliable hands should turn him into a dream pick in PPR leagues, even if he doesn't graduate from his current role as a short and intermediate route specialist. If the Eagles somehow fail to re-sign Jeremy Maclin, Matthews could see double-digit targets on a consistent basis in 2015.