Fantasy Football: Four rookies who could make an impact in 2015


Fantasy Football: Four rookies who could make an impact in 2015

2014 saw an absurd number of rookies make an early impact in the NFL. 

From Odell Beckham Jr. to Mike Evans to Teddy Bridgewater, fantasy owners who took risks on rookies were mostly rewarded for their gamble (except for you, Bishop Sankey owners). 

Could we see another outburst of impact rookies in 2015? And could the success of the 2014 class cause fantasy owners to reach for some of the highly-rated rookies in the 2015 class?

We may not know some of those answers until training camp but looking at the some of the teams and situations the top playmakers in the 2015 NFL Draft ended up in got us excited for the fall.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

So here's a list of some rookies that should make an impact this fall if healthy:

1. Amari Cooper, WR, OAK

Of course Cooper is a rookie to watch in Fantasy Football this year. He was the fourth pick, after all. But there are plenty of reasons to believe Cooper will be a Fantasy stud in his rookie season. He's one of the most polished receivers we've seen in a long while and his game is pro-ready from Day 1. Cooper enters a great situation in Oakland where he should be the No. 1 option in the passing game immediately with up-and-comer Derek Carr at quarterback. Rookie wide receivers were a vital part of the 2014 Fantasy season and Cooper should lead the way for first-year wideouts in 2015. - Tony Andracki

[MORE: Four guys whose stock is falling after free agency, NFL Draft]

2. Maxx Williams, TE, BAL

There may not have been a more perfect match than Maxx Williams and the Baltimore Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft, and the fact that the Ravens were able to grab the former Gopher at No. 55 and steal him from their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers was just further icing on the cake. Williams, the No. 1 tight end in this year's draft, instantly adds a dynamic to the Ravens roster that they were previously missing. With Dennis Pitta's future in doubt, it's likely that Williams will be the starter in Baltimore this season. Williams possesses tremendous straight-line speed and has the ability to beat linebackers and safeties down the middle of the field. We saw what Joe Flacco could do with an aging Owen Daniels in 2014, just imagine the production he will get out of a player as talented as Williams. Another added bonus for Williams is new Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. During Trestman's two years in Chicago, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett hauled in 155 passes on 225 targets, making Bennett one of the league's top fantasy options at the tight end position. I know Williams is a rookie, but he's a must-target in the later rounds this year. A player with his upside should not be sitting on the wire in Week 1. - Scott Krinch

[RELATED: Four guys whose stock is on the rise after free agency, NFL Draft]

3. Tevin Coleman, RB, ATL

With most rookies, their first year success depends on two conditions: talent and depth chart. Coleman can check both of those boxes in Atlanta. The Falcons don't have a workhorse in the backfield with only Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith slated on the roster, immediately pushing Coleman towards the top of the depth chart. Third-down snaps may be harder to come by for Coleman because Freeman and Smith thrive catching balls out of the backfield but the former Hoosier is a strong enough back that he could be the Falcons' goal line runner and pick up major fantasy points that way. He's also in a division that lacks stout defenses (outside of the Panthers). With talent on the outside such as Julio Jones and Roddy White, Coleman is exactly the kind of offensive weapon the Falcons need to take their team to the next level and the kind of FLEX option that could put your fantasy team over the top. - John "The Professor" Paschall

4. Jameis Winston, QB, TB

Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers felt comfortable enough about Jameis Winston off the field, he became a no-brainer choice for the No. 1 overall pick. That’s because he’s the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, a savvy quarterback mind and a gritty competitor. Pardon the John Gruden-isms there at the end, but Famous Jameis is that good. If he keeps his head on straight (I think he will) I see no reason why he can’t be a top-10 fantasy quarterback this season. He’s got two 1,000-yard wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, some talent in the backfield – expect a bounce-back year from Doug Martin, while one of Bobby Rainey, Mike James or Charles Sims should hold value. Tampa Bay allowed the third most sacks last season, but they invested in some protection by spending second-round picks on OT Donovan Smith and C Ali Marpet. The Bucs are invested in keeping Winston upright, and with a pair of 6-foot-5 targets to throw to I expect him to have a monster rookie year. I’m not sure it’ll result in Tampa Bay victories but the front office has put him in position to succeed from the jump. It’s too risky to bank on him being your No. 1 quarterback in fantasy leagues, but I’d absolutely use a mid-round pick on Winston. You’ll reap the rewards later. - Mark Strotman

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018  because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise wildcard candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.