Sometimes it takes rookie wide receivers a little bit of time to acclimate themselves to the NFL game. Does that mean that they should be ignored on draft day? Of course not, it just makes them riskier selections, but they certainly have the potential to produce plenty of fantasy appeal. Let’s take a look at the best of the class for 2010:
1. Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
He may have been the second wide receiver off the board (24th pick overall), but he finds himself in an offense that could allow him to produce immediately. Many thought he had the most talent of any receiver in the draft and now has Tony Romo trying to get him the ball. While he’s set to open the season behind Roy Williams and Miles Austin on the depth chart, it is very possible that he ultimately grabs a starting role by midseason. With the situation he’s in, he clearly has the most upside of any other rookie receiver in the league.
2. Arrelious Benn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are in need of wide receiver help, which is why they drafted both Benn and Mike Williams. Williams, however, has huge character issues surrounding him after being suspended at Syracuse. While he has the potential, it seems more likely that Benn, a second round pick, makes a more immediate impact. He likely steps into a starting role and, at 6’1″, has the size to make catches over defensive backs and the speed to run by them. The Buccaneers don’t have a dominant running game, meaning they may allow Josh Freeman and company to throw the ball a lot. That gives Benn an opportunity to make a huge impact for fantasy owners.
3. Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
With Brandon Marshall jettisoned to Miami, the Denver Broncos drafted his potential replacement with the #22 pick of the draft, making him the first receiver off the board. He has as much upside as anyone, but it is expected that it takes him a little bit longer to fully acclimate himself to the NFL game. A lot of people question his route running ability which, when coupled with the lack of a stud quarterback throwing him the ball, will likely lead to a lack of big-time production in 2010.
4. Brandon LeFell – Carolina Panthers
The injury to Steve Smith may have opened up a huge opportunity for LeFell. While Smith is supposed to be ready for the beginning of the season, his absence in training camp will allow both LeFell and Dwayne Jarrett to work with the first team offense. That extra work, and more familiarity with fellow rookie Jimmy Claussen (or Matt Moore), is going to go a long way. The question surrounding LeFell is his ability to stretch the defense deep, but if he can catch the ball in traffic and keep the chains moving, the team is going to be thrilled. Jarrett has never been able to add that to the offense, with a career high of just 17 catches. The idea of LeFell making an instant impact should not be a surprising one.
5. Mardy Gilyard – St. Louis Rams
The Rams are a team that is clearly building for the future. While Steven Jackson will be the feature of the offense, Sam Bradford and company should have an opportunity to make some noise in the passing game. The team clearly needed some help on the outside and Gilyard has as good a shot as anyone to emerge as the starter at some point in 2010.
Other Rookie WR to watch:
Golden Tate – Seattle Seahawks
Tate joins Pete Carroll in Seattle, but does he fill a need or is he too similar to the other wide receivers on the roster? That’s going to make it hard to imagine him making a major impact in his rookie campaign.
Damian Williams – Tennessee Titans
The Titans showed last year that in any given week, any one of their wide receivers could emerge as the go to guy. That puts him right into the mix, but the team focuses on the run and has too many other options at play to make him a major threat early in the season.
Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As we said when discussing Benn, the Buccaneers need significant help at wide receiver. Despite the character issues, would it surprise anyone if he was a starter before the end of the year?
What are your thoughts on the rookie wide receiver class? Who has the most potential to produce? Who are you targeting on draft day?
Make sure to check out our recent rookie rankings:
Also, don’t forget about our other rankings: