With QBs and RBs in the rear view mirror here on the blog, time to take a look at some of the notable rookie receivers to watch for in this year’s fantasy season. It’s a little early to be talking draft strategy, but remember not to reach for these guys. Professional routes, the different speed of the game… it sometimes takes young receivers time to develop. Don’t try to outsmart your friends and show off your draft prowess just by trying to get the hot rookie. None of these guys are worth early selections, but most of the big names should be contributors on bye weeks at the minimum. Obviously, circumstances are subject to change. Remember, this is written with an eye towards one year re-draft leagues.
Darius Heyward-Bey, 7th overall, Oakland – A disaster of a pick. The speed is great, obviously, or else Al Davis wouldn’t have taken him, but there were so many other needs for the Raiders right now. One of them might be the quarterback position. Weak offensive line, little skill talent outside of Darren McFadden and Zach Miller… sounds like a receiver ticket for a 10th – 12th round fantasy pick. Probably a 4th or 5th best receiver on rosters, at least to start the year.
Michael Crabtree, 10th overall, San Francisco – The man who should have been the first receiver off the board falls to a rough spot for next season. He’ll be the top receiving option, but the only question is this: can Shaun Hill, or whoever is throwing the ball, get him the rock on a regular basis? Crabtree instantly becomes the most talented vertical threat the Niners have, so I’d expect to see him double teamed in the early going. He’s a newly minted #1 receiver, warranting him a mid round pick, but I’d temper expectations given the lack of weapons around him.
Jeremy Maclin, 19th overall, Philadelphia – With Kevin Curtis having undergone a second groin procedure over the offseason, Maclin could wind up being the most productive rookie receiver when it’s all set and done. The slot has generated a lot of targets over the last couple of years in Philly, and with Brian Westbrook being the focal point of opposing defenses, Maclin will benefit. He and DeSean Jackson could turn into one heck of a duo in a couple of years. Worthy of being taken somewhere in the 8th – 10th round range.
Percy Harvin, 22nd overall, Minnesota – Called a Reggie Bush-esque player by some because of his versatility, Harvin gives pizzaz to a weak receiving core in the Vikings, and he can also line up in the backfield, which would allow him to take advantage of the Vikes’ vaunted offensive line, provided its health is up to snuff. Like Maclin, worth an 8th – 10th round pick.
Hakeem Nicks, 29th overall, Giants – See what I said about Maclin? Well, that’s more conjecture on my part since the Eagles offense was really missing a beat last year with Kevin Curtis on the shelf. It’s no secret that Nicks is being brought in to fill the shoes of Plaxico Burress, and that means plenty to targets. At 6′1, he might not be a great option on those goal line fade routes, but he could be in line for an immediately big season. Don’t reach, but you can make a case for him being the first rookie receiver off the board given the players he’ll have around him, specifically Eli Manning throwing. The goal line target might be New York’s 3rd round pick, Ramses Barden, who stands 6′6.
Best of the Rest: Monitor the Braylon Edwards situation. If he goes, 2nd round picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi become instant rookies to watch in training camp…First rounder Kenny Britt is in a situation begging for a breakout receiver in Tennessee, but with the Titans’ smash-mouth style, big fantasy numbers might be tough to come by… Juaquin Iglesias doesn’t have much talent in front of him on Chicago’s depth chart, and Jay Cutler’s game is all about the downfield attack. Keep an eye on his development