A Look at the 2014 Rookie Recievers


Over the course of the 2014 draft season, many touted the 2014 wide receiver class to be the best in recent memory, and possibly one of the best of all-time. Not only were there star players at the top, like Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham Jr., but there was an unbelievable surplus of talented mid-round receivers. As a result of the depth, a handful of 2nd and 3rd round talents fell to the 5th round and beyond. The class, in its entirety, was truly special.

Of course, results are to be expected from such a highly anticipated class. To no surprise, the rookie receiver class has taken over the NFL rather quickly. Thus far, seven rookie wide receivers have 400-plus yards on the year, nine have at least 25 receptions, and seven have at least four touchdowns. Even beyond those thresholds, there have been a plethora of rookie receivers contributing on a lighter level, and many of them barely missed some of those set thresholds.

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Through nine weeks, a few of the receivers from this deep 2014 class have separated themselves from the others, even if only doing so quite recently. That honorable handful is Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Allen Robinson, and Jordan Matthews.

There is absolutely nothing surprising about what Sammy Watkins has done. Statistically speaking, Watkins is the best receiver, and it shows on the field. His quickness, his speed, and his physicality; all on display for teams to fear and question how they will slow him down.

Watkins has a rare ability to “take over” games as a receiver (as much as a receiver can, anyway) and force teams to pay more attention to him. If Watkins had better quarterbacks throwing him the ball, there would be no limit as to what he could do.

Brandin Cooks, my No.3 receiver in the class, has taken over the Lance Moore role in New Orleans and thrived there. Sean Payton has used him as a piece to stretch the field, both laterally and vertically, and let him work in space, specifically underneath. Cooks has even seen snaps as a gadget piece as he recently rushed for a touchdown on a sweep vs the Green Bay Packers. Though not entirely the same player, Cooks may become what we always wanted to see Percy Harvin consistently be.

It was not until last week that Mike Evans had a breakout performance, but he had been a reliable target until last week, as well. Though, his performances had been nothing special, thus he was not receiving the immediate attention many thought he would. Evans was drafted to be a big, physical target across from a similar player in Vincent Jackson, much like head coach Lovie Smith had tried to have in Chicago.

Evans has a basketball player like ability to shield off defenders from the ball and gain the edge, thus allowing him to make tough catches. Evans may now have the confidence that a rookie needs to sustain a high level of play.

More so than any other player in the 2014 draft, Kelvin Benjamin has proved me wrong early on. I felt he was too poor of a route runner and had too inconsistent of hands to be able to win at the NFL level, but he’s done nothing but win. With a generally poor team to work with, Cam Newton has leaned on Benjamin to come through in crucial situations, and he has.

Benjamin has been a red zone menace, as well as a daunting vertical threat. He still needs work in what he is able to do over the middle of the field (such as running better routes), but he has far exceeded the expectations that should have been set for him.

Allen Robinson, though raw as a prospect, was underrated throughout the draft process. It was evident that he needed to be more disciplined in his routes more often and that he needed to catch more properly, but his physical tools and flashes of greatness were clear as day. Halfway through his rookie season, the “good” Allen Robinson has shown his face more often than the “bad” Allen Robinson.

He has been able to win not only by creating space, but by making tough catches. Granted, Robinson’s teammate has also had a stellar year, but his production seemed to be a bit more of the product of splash plays as opposed to consistency. We may see Robinson further develop and become one of the best receivers in the league.

Being another receiver I was relatively low on, Jordan Matthews has outpaced my expectations for him. I was not sure that he would be any better than Harry Douglas is, but once he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, it was tough to continue to say that he would not thrive. Chip Kelly needed a smart, fluid space player, and Matthews was that guy. Matthews has taken to his role quite well and been the presence that Philadelphia needed over the middle of the field.

I am still unsure that Matthews will ever be a true No.1, but so long as he is allowed to work the space between the numbers, he will be productive for a long time.

As stated before, those honorary six are not the only rookie receivers that have been assets for their teams. Jarvis Landry is coming on strong for the Miami Dolphins, and others such as Davante Adams, John Brown, Taylor Gabriel, Donte Moncfrief, and Martavis Byrant have been stellar complimentary pieces for their respective teams. As if this list of talented players was not long enough, guys like Jared Abbrederis, Michael Campanaro, and Cody Latimer are primed to be effective players in due time.

Few position group classes have ever been as hyped as the 2014 receiver class and they have done anything but disappoint. For so many of them to be as productive as they are this early is terrifying, let alone what some of them may become in a couple of years. Truly, this class was special and will have a strong league-wide impact for the next decade.