1. Jay Cutler QB/Chicago Bears
Preseason Week 1: 9/13 85 yards, 1 touchdown
In week one of the preseason, Cutler showed why many analysts are pegging him as a sleeper to win the NFL’s most valuable player award this season. Going into his second offseason with head coach Mark Trestman, Cutler is primed for a breakout campaign. The Bears offense is loaded, equipped with a wide receiving corps that could be confused for a starting NBA front line. They also have one of the NFL’s best all-around running backs in Matt Forte. With another offseason with offensive-mastermind Mark Trestman, Cutler will hopefully show better control of the offense, leading to better decision-making.
Cutler currently has an average draft position between rounds 9-10. This kind of value could be considered absolute thievery. Being the leader of one of the NFC’s premier offenses, Cutler has the weapons around him to reach top-5 QB potential approach QB1 value, and could be the steal of the draft for his position.
Value: Mid QB1/High QB 2
2. Cordarrelle Patterson WR/Minnesota Vikings
Preseason Week 1: 3 Rec/38 yds, 4 targets
Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson established himself as one of the premier playmakers in the NFL during his rookie season. Patterson led the NFL in with 32.7 yards per kickoff return, and proved a threat to score whenever he got his hands on the ball. Coming into the NFL, Patterson was thought of as a receiver who needed to refine his route-running, and show a better work ethic if he wants to establish himself as one of the best young receivers in the NFL.
During the Vikings first preseason game, it was evident that the Vikings plan to use Patterson in a different way than last season. Patterson had three catches in week 1, a 17-yard in route, a 10-yard curl, and a 10-yard crossing route. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner made it known that he plans to use Patterson much like he used Josh Gordon in Cleveland.
Patterson has elite play-making ability, and has shown to be a threat to score no matter where he gets the ball. Patterson may not have the same value in PPR leagues that he does in standard leagues, but he has the potential to be one of the best playmakers in the league. If Patterson can show consistency, he has a chance to flirt with low WR1 value.
ADP: 4-5th round
Value: Mid-High WR2
3. Brandin Cooks WR/New Orleans Saints
Preseason Week 1: 5 Receptions for 55 yards
The hope in New Orleans is first round draft pick Brandin Cooks will be able to fill the void left by scat back Darren Sproles, who signed with the Eagles in free agency. The 2013 Biletnikoff Award Winner, awarded to the top receiver in college football, is going to a system that will maximize his unique skill set. Standing at 5’6”, Cooks makes up for his small stature with elite speed (4.34 40-yard dash), and the ability to line-up in several different positions on offense.
Since the start of training camp, reports out of Saints camp have drawn massive praise to Cooks. The most impressive compliments have come from Saints starting quarterback Drew Brees. “Yeah, you can say they're (some players) straight-line fast but not real quick or they have long strides, or short-area quickness but not long speed," Brees said of Cooks earlier in training camp. "This guy has it all. He's got short-area quickness, great transition ability and phenomenal straight-line speed."
Going into the season Cooks will be the Saints slot receiver, and will also see snaps out of the backfield. For fantasy purposes, Cooks should not be a guy fantasy owners depend on as one of their top two receivers. However, with the Saints pass-happy offense and lack of playmaking ability from their running backs, Cooks could be asked to play the role of 3rd down running back. If you are in PPR league, Cooks is a definite flex target, and could establish WR2 value as his playing time increases.
ADP: Late 6th-Early 7th round
Value: Flex/High WR3/Low WR4
4. Kelvin Benjamin WR/Carolina Panthers
Preseason Week 1: 1 Receptions for 29 yards, one touchdown
With the departure of veteran wide receivers Steve Smith to Baltimore, Brandon LaFell to the Patriots, and Ted Ginn Jr. to the Cardinals, there were major concerns who quarterback Cam Newton would be throwing the football to. With the lack of experience in front of him, rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has a chance to be the focal point of the Panthers passing game.
Standing at an imposing 6’5” and 230 lbs., Benjamin is a physical mismatch for nearly all cornerbacks in the NFL. At this moment, Benjamin’s fantasy value is contingent on his ability to develop into more than a red-zone threat and become the possession receiver the Panthers envision him as. During his junior season at Florida State, Benjamin battled inconsistencies catching the football. Of the top-9 draft eligible wide receivers, Benjamin had the second worst drop percentage (9.68%), only behind Jacksonville wide out Marqise Lee (12.31%).
Reports out of Panthers have been nearly all positive for the rookie wide receiver, Panthers ESPN correspondent David Newton went as far to say have been “the star of training camp”. If Benjamin can show that he is more than a red-zone threat, and develop strong chemistry with Cam Newton, Benjamin could be a candidate to lead rookie receivers in yards this season.
ADP: Mid 9th round
Value: Mid WR3-High WR