The start of the NFL season may still be months away, but it is never too early for fantasy footballers to start thinking about who they want on their team.
Rookie wide receivers have the reputation of failing to produce in their first year, but recent years have proven that to be false. They may not produce like a top-10 wide receiver, but they are at least productive enough to warrant a spot on your roster.
Here is how I see this year's crop of rookie receivers producing this season.
Brian Quick wasn’t the first wide receiver taken in last month’s draft. Or the second. Or the third. He wasn’t even picked in the first round. Still, it is not too outlandish to predict that the newest St. Louis Rams wideout will have a more productive season than some of the receivers drafted higher than him.
Of all the receivers taken in this year’s draft, Quick may have ended up in the best situation to contribute immediately as a rookie. He has the best chance to earn the No. 1 spot thanks in no small part to the ineptitude of the rest of the Rams' other receivers.
What really gives Quick the best chance to succeed early, however, is that he actually has a quarterback that can get him the ball. Sam Bradford may have regressed during his sophomore campaign, but there is no denying his talent. With an improved supporting cast, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bradford saw an uptick in yards and touchdowns.
And Quick has the best chance of benefiting from that increased production.
Projection: 70 catches, 950 yards, 7 touchdowns
Justin Blackmon gets the nod here as the second rookie wide receiver to nab in your fantasy drafts because he has a solid combination of talent and opportunity working in his favor.
Not only was he arguably the most talented receiver of this deep draft class, but he also landed on a Jacksonville Jaguars team devoid of any true playmakers at the position. He instantly becomes the team’s go-to receiver starting Week 1.
The reason I have him ranked lower than Brian Quick, however, is because of his quarterback situation. When Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are competing to be the team’s starting quarterback, you know it is going to be a rough season for the offense. Neither seem to be starting-quarterback-caliber talents.
But on the rare occasion that one of them does complete a pass, it will likely be to Blackmon. He should have a solid, if not spectacular, rookie season. Draft him as your team’s No. 3 receiver.
Projection: 65 catches, 850 yards, 8 touchdowns
Much like Brian Quick, Alshon Jeffery wasn’t a first-round selection, but he landed in an ideal position.
The Chicago Bears have a crowded wide receiver group that consists of Brandon Marshall, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Jeffery to quickly work his way up the depth chart and into the No. 2 position. With Jay Cutler as your quarterback, that position can prove to be very productive.
Defenses will likely double up on Brandon Marshall, leaving Jeffery in favorable coverage more often than not. That should translate to solid yardage totals. He also has the size to make for a productive red zone threat.
He may take some time to get acclimated to playing in the big leagues, but Jeffery’s talent and opportunity are enough to earn him a spot on this list.
Projection: 50 catches, 800 yards, 5 touchdowns
The draft’s second-highest-rated wide receiver earns the fourth spot on my rookie fantasy rankings.
Yes, Floyd has the requisite talent to succeed in the NFL, but he took a tumble down this list due to forces out of his control.
The first—much like with Blackmon—is that he doesn’t have a quarterback to get him the ball on a consistent basis. In fact, it isn’t even a certainty who will be the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
Kevin Kolb is the favorite, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if John Skelton played a few games this season as well. In either case, I wouldn’t trust either of them to support more than one fantasy wide receiver over the course of a season.
Which leads us to the second knock against Floyd: He will be playing next to Larry Fitzgerald. That means that when Kolb or Skelton do decide to throw the ball, they will likely be throwing Fitzgerald’s way. That leaves Floyd fighting for scraps with the rest of the wide receivers.
I wouldn’t count on him as a weekly starter, but he is worth a look during the later rounds of your draft.
Projection: 45 catches, 750 yards, 4 touchdowns
Rueben Randle was one of those players who surprised me when he fell a little bit in the draft. All things considered, however, landing with the New York Giants was one of the best places for Randle to end up.
With Mario Manningham now playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Randle has a prime opportunity to nab the No. 3 receiver role for the Giants. That may not seem very high on the depth chart, but Eli Manning has proven that he can support up to three fantasy wide receivers.
I would take Randle as your last reserve wide receiver with the hopes that he can fill in for one of your studs on a bye week.
Projection: 45 catches, 700 yards, 4 touchdowns