It is often said that wide receivers breakout in their third season, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be productive before that. Who in this year’s rookie class has the potential to produce immediately? Let’s take a look:
1) Tayvon Austin – St. Louis Rams
The Rams have long been on the lookout for a dependable weapon for Sam Bradford and it finally appears like they have filled the void (Danny Amendola was too injury prone). Austin is a playmaker, threatening to go the distance every time he touches the football.
Last season he scored 17 TD, with 12 receiving, 3 rushing and 2 on returns. He has 8+ receiving TD in three straight seasons and 100+ catches in straight at West Virginia. He is a dynamic talent, something the Rams and Bradford have desperately needed.
With both Amendola and Steven Jackson gone, Austin could easily be the centerpiece of the offense because the team has little else that it can depend on. That should plant him squarely as a fantasy option from Week 1.
2) DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
He isn’t a burner, but he will hopefully give the team a dependable receiver across from Andre Johnson (something they have long been on the search for). With defenses focusing on stopping Johnson and shutting down Arian Foster, that at least should give Hopkins ample opportunities to make plays.
He picked up 18 TD this past season, showing that he can be a threat. However, recent reports have him behind other young receivers in Houston. Here’s a quote from Larry Kirksey, the team’s receiver’s coach, courtesy of nfl.com (click here for the article):
“The (second-year guys) have come a long way from last year, and now DeAndre’s got to go through the same learning process,” Kirksey told Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s a talented young man, and we have very high expectations for him. But these second-year guys are ahead of him right now. They’re competing; they’re not just going to let him have the job.”
He should overtake them, but we’ll have to continue to monitor the situation.
3) Cordarrelle Patterson – Minnesota Vikings
Granted, the team added Greg Jennings to replace the departed Percy Harvin, but Patterson should have a pretty clear path to starting across from him (over players like Jerome Simpson).
Jennings is no spring chicken, though, and he doesn’t offer a skill set similar to Percy Harvin’s. Patterson, however, could. In his lone season at Tennessee (he was a JUCO transfer), he had 5 receiving TD, 3 rushing TD and 2 return TD.
That’s not to say that there aren’t concerns about his game, however. According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (click here for the article):
“Toward the end of the year, they started to go away from running Patterson down the field on routes and gave him the ball on reverses and screens, even as a halfback at times. That starts to put a question mark in your head. Why?
“Well, there’s reasons, and it’s just not being as proficient with his route-running and not having the ability to make adjustments during the game.”
4) Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers
Many believed that he could’ve been a first round pick had it not been for a knee injury and disappointing workout. That said, there is no doubting the ability when healthy. The Chargers receiving corps leaves little to be desired, so if Allen can prove the issue is behind him he will quickly get an opportunity to produce.
5) Aaron Dobson – New England Patriots
He would’ve been discounted, but with the troubles swirling around the team’s tight ends Dobson suddenly could emerge as a vital part of the offense. He could actually start opposite Danny Amendola and, at 6’3″, provides good size. If you are starting and have Tom Brady throwing you the ball, you immediately have to be on radars.
6) Robert Woods – Buffalo Bills
Woods took a step back in his junior season, but let’s not forget that he is the same player who scored 15 TD as a junior and has 26 TD over the past two years. Outside of Stevie Johnson, is there really a sure bet in the receiving corps (though the offense should run through C.J. Spiller)?
7) Justin Hunter – Tennessee Titans
One of the problems, from a fantasy perspective, is that we never know who the lead receiver in Tennessee is going to be. It always seems like a revolving door and the addition of Hunter just complicates things that much more. He may have to wait a year or two, but without clear cut depth chart (unless Kenny Britt has recovered), Hunter could earn an opportunity.
8) Quinton Patton – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers do have depth, but the loss of Michael Crabtree could force Patton into a larger role than expected (if he can beat out last year’s first round pick, A.J. Jenkins). Out of Louisiana Tech, Patton is coming off a season where he had 104 receptions and 13 TD. On a team that proved last year that they will not shy away from putting the best talent on the field, that should put Patton firmly on our radars.
9) Markus Wheaton – Pittsburgh Steelers
With Mike Wallace in Miami, there are some targets that need to be distributed to the rest of the receiving corps. He could be be the new big play threat, augmenting Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Of course, “big play” receivers are extremely volatile, but with Ben Roethlisberger at QB he could quickly find a niche
10) Stedman Bailey – St. Louis Rams
Tavon Austin’s college teammate, he should help fill the Rams’ desperate need for receivers.
Make sure to check out all of our 2013 Rookie Rankings: