NFL 2015: 10 wide receivers with something to prove this season
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By BRANDON MARIANNE LEE
As the NFL moves into training camp, players need to earn their respective roster spots. But let's be honest, some players have more of an uphill battle than others. There are certain players who will definitely survive the final roster cuts at the end of preseason, but they must demonstrate their worth to not only gain a larger on-field role, but to also prove they can be a top player in the league at wide receiver.
Here are some wide receivers who are entering the 2015 NFL season with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Should one of them be on your FanDuel team in Week 1 for the $1 Million NFL Rush? Let's find out.
Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers
Keenan Allen came into the league in a big way in 2013. Unfortunately, his yardage in 2014 decreased from 1,046 to 783 and his touchdown production went from eight to four. What happened? You might be surprised to know Allen's receptions actually went from 71 to 77 in his second year, despite playing one less game. Another positive is he only dropped one pass throughout the entire 2014 season. The big difference was the return of fellow wide receiver, Malcom Floyd. Floyd took over deep ball duties and averaged 16.5 yards per catch. Allen was relegated to intermediate routes and shared targets in that part of the field with tight end Antonio Gates. With Gates facing a four-game suspension to start the season, look for Allen to fill that void and outperform his predicted fantasy football value.
Sammy Watkins – Buffalo Bills
Watkins put up respectable rookie numbers (65-982-6), but there was trouble in the water. He technically played all 16 games, but seven of those ended up with less than 40 yards receiving and no touchdowns. A nagging hip injury also hindered his performance quite a bit. He had hip surgery over the offseason, a labrum cleanup, and now Watkins claims his "body feels great." Injuries are always troubling, but even more concerning is the nightmare quarterback battle in Buffalo. No matter how you slice or dice it, E.J. Manuel, Matt Cassell or Tyrod Taylor will be the man making the throws.
Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
Opportunity begets FanDuel points. There is no greater example of that mantra than Kelvin Benjamin. As a rookie, he was basically the only receiver in Carolina, and they used him plenty. He saw 145 targets, which ranked sixth in the NFL last season, but he only caught 73 of them. That's a 50.3 percent catch rate. Not good. I'm not going to place the blame solely on Benjamin's shoulders. Some of Cam Newton's "targets" were barely in his zip code. Regardless, the Panthers need Benjamin to prove his numbers are more than just a reflection of volume and convert more than 20% of his red-zone targets.
Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
Odell doesn't need to prove anything, but I'm not one of the crazies declaring he's already the greatest receiver of all-time. People are over the top in love with this young, talented player, and why wouldn't they be? He made one of the most spectacular catches of all time (watch it again). Despite missing four games to start the season, he still pulled in 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
It's hard to believe he's only 22 years old, but this has been a rather tumultuous offseason. Possible Madden curse aside, Beckham battled tightness in his right hamstring and couldn't partake in minicamp. Considering he missed his entire rookie offseason and the start of the regular season due to a left hamstring issue, this isn't good. Then, there was some alleged tension with teammates with regard to his sitting out. Now he's battling rumors about dating model Amber Rose. Over and over again, he talks about how "the catch" was a blessing and a curse. OBJ's talent is not in question, but he's certainly under an insane amount of pressure, so just throwing him into your $1 Million NFL Rush lineup for Week 1 shouldn't be a total no-brainer right now.
Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts
Johnson goes from a miserable quarterback situation in Houston to signal-caller heaven in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck is a dream come true, but at the age of 34, the wide-out must earn his keep on a team that already has a strong top WR target in T.Y. Hilton, along with two hopeful up-and-comers in Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett. Even under signal-caller distress, Johnson managed to catch 85 passes for 936 yards, but only three touchdowns. Look for his touchdowns to increase, but there are a lot of mouths to feed on this offense. Johnson expressed he's in Indianapolis to win a Super Bowl so if that means less yardage, so be it.
Kendall Wright – Tennessee Titans
No one looks to the Tennessee Titans receiving corps for gaudy receiving numbers, but Kendall Wright showed some promise in 2013 by catching over 90 passes for 1,000-plus yards. Unfortunately, he only saw 93 targets and averaged 51.1 yards per game in 2014, making him a major FanDuel bust. Of those targets, Football Outsiders charts say 30 of them were uncatchable. This year, rookie QB Marcus Mariota will most likely be throwing the passes. Mariota will inevitably experience some rookie highs and lows, but both Wright and Tennessee fans hope he'll fare better than last year's quarterback carousel.
Mike Wallace – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings brought in Mike Wallace over the offseason to give Norv Turner the deep threat he loves so much. With running back Adrian Peterson back in the fold and QB Teddy Bridgewater poised to improve upon an already impressive rookie season, it's time for Mike Wallace to show what he is made of. After four promising seasons in Pittsburgh, Wallace never went over 1,000 yards in Miami. The chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Wallace never seemed to materialize, but on Day 2 of training camp Wallace expressed his desire to "be a better person" to the press. Will that equal more FanDuel points? We'll have to wait and see.
Marvin Jones – Cincinnati Bengals
Jones sat out the entire 2014 season with foot and ankle injuries, but according to Pro Football Focus, he ranked 14th among wide receivers in 2013. He played all 16 games two years ago, which included 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Supposedly, Jones looked healthy and fit at minicamp, and he's slated for the WR2 position on a team that must improve in the air to finally win a playoff game. The Bengals need him to return to and eventually exceed his 2013 numbers. After missing a year, Jones is a wild card, but he's certainly a gamble that the Bengals and FanDuel owners are more than willing to take.
Marqise Lee – Jacksonville Jaguars
Injuries, injuries, injuries. There were high hopes for Lee upon entering the league last year, but nagging hamstring and ankle injuries hindered his performance. Then, it got worse over the offseason when he hurt his knee and sat out of minicamp. Right now, Lee is the WR3 behind two other sophomore receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Sure, Lee's college tape was encouraging, but it's difficult to get excited about a player who only put up 422 yards and one touchdown in 13 games, with or without the injuries. If he wants substantial playing time and to be owned on a weekly basis in FanDuel contests like the $1 Million NFL Rush, he needs to step up in a huge way.
Brian Quick – St. Louis Rams
After two disappointing seasons, it looked like 2014 would be Quick's big breakout year. Over the first four games, he averaged 5.25 catches, 80.5 yards and .75 touchdowns per game. A couple ho-hum outings followed before his season was suddenly cut short by a severe shoulder injury. Since October, Quick has been on the mend and it appears he's on track to be for Week 1. If newly-acquired QB, Nick Foles, can stay healthy and Quick bounces back to his production level prior to last year's injury, they could be the biggest sleeper QB/WR stack in the league. If Quick still needs time to nurse his injury and/or Foles crumbles under the inferior St. Louis Rams offensive line, it could be a long season for St. Louis.
Which wide receivers do you think need to step up to the plate in 2015?