Fantasy Football: Who Will Be This Season's Victor Cruz?
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz entered last season as a nobody. Sure, he had flashed some potential in the preseason, however, in the NFL, potential does not always translate into on-field success. Cruz entered his 2011 campaign just hoping to secure a roster spot, and he came out of the season with the Giants all-time record for most receiving yards, not to mention a Super Bowl ring.
While it may be unreasonable to expect another undrafted free agent to break out in the electrifying manner that Cruz did, there will undoubtedly be a few players who exceed even their highest preseason projections.
Let's take a look at five young, undervalued wide receivers that may put up big numbers in this upcoming season.
St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brian Quick.
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As a guy who was widely overlooked in this years NFL draft, Brian Quick has the potential to put on a show in his rookie season.
Not only is Quick a talented wide receiver in an offense that has few good options to catch the ball, but Quick's 6'4", 220-pound frame could make him Sam Bradford's new favorite target in 2012. Furthermore, the departure of Danario Alexander only improves Quick's fantasy stock.
Last season at Appalachian State, Quick averaged a staggering 21.6 yards per reception. Obviously, the NFL will be a big step-up in competition, but Quick has proven that his elite size does not inhibit his ability to be a down field threat. His versatility will undoubtedly ease his transition into the NFL.
As a guy who will start right off the bat and has the chance to become a number one wide receiver from the early goings, Quick is worth risking a late-round pick on. If Sam Bradford can find a way to get him the ball, Brian Quick could have a breakout rookie campaign.
Chicago Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery.
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Alshon Jeffery is going to have every opportunity to succeed as a member of the Chicago Bears. With Brandon Marshall on the other side of him, defenses will allow Jeffery every opportunity to make plays against one-on-one coverage.
Furthermore, Jeffery has a quarterback in Jay Cutler, who even without viable options at wideout, has always put up solid fantasy numbers.
Jeffery will be the Bears number two wideout right off the bat. With his 6'3", 216-pound frame, along with his elite ability to catch in traffic, Jeffery is going to be a tough matchup for any team's second best cornerback. His size alone will make him a formidable red-zone threat, which should give him a heightened fantasy value as the season progresses.
Don't go crazy and take this guy too early, because he has noted character concerns, along with questions about his fitness. However, Alshon Jeffrey possesses the potential to be the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL this season. His role within the offense, immense talent, and strong-armed quarterback will put Jeffery in position to be a viable fantasy option as the year progresses.
Oakland Raiders wideout Denarius Moore.
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In 13 games a year ago, Moore caught 33 passes, for a total of 618 yards and five touchdowns. That's an average of 18.7 yards per completion. He has an uncanny ability to get down the field, and runs well with the ball after the catch.
Moore's stock has fallen drastically this preseason due to a hamstring injury. He has missed every preseason game, but figures to be on the field for Week 1.
However, not only does Moore have Carson Palmer throwing him the ball this year, but if he can finally stay healthy, Moore should see more targets in 2012. While Moore's small frame does not make him much of a red-zone threat, his speed gives him big play ability, similar to Victor Cruz.
That said, Moore needs to improve his route running ability, along with increased explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. He tends to get jammed by good press corners, which causes him to disappear during portions of some games.
All things considered, Denarius Moore is worth reaching for in your fantasy draft. If healthy, his statistics should see a significant increase in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs wideout Jon Baldwin.
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With Dwayne Bowe on the outside, Kansas City Chiefs wideout John Baldwin is going to have several opportunities to make plays over the middle of the field in 2012. As a rookie last season, he caught 21 balls for 254 yards in 11 games.
With Baldwin's electrifying skill set, and a year of experience under his belt, he could develop into a valuable fantasy commodity this season.
Similar to Denarius Moore, Baldwin also needs to improve his route running and ability to explode off the line of scrimmage. Due to his large frame and raw talent level, Baldwin has issues getting in and out of his breaks, which inhibits his ability to to open down the field.
However, NFL coaches can not teach height. Jon Baldwin's 6'4" frame will make him a tough matchup for any team. If his game matures like many around the league expect it too, Jon Baldwin has the talent to have a serious break out season.
Detroit Lions wideout Titus Young.
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Out of all the aforementioned young wideouts, Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young fits the Victor Cruz mold the best. Not only does he play in a high octane, pass heavy offense, but he plays alongside a strong, athletic receiver in Calvin Johnson.
Furthermore, Young has elite speed and separation ability. Not only can he get down the field in the blink of an eye, but he also gets in and out of his breaks quickly. He's a nightmare to cover one-on-one, which is normally how opponents are forced to play him.
While Young still has some obvious deficiencies in terms of size, and blocking ability, those attributes will have little effect on his fantasy value. Although he will undoubtedly be the second option in the Lions aerial attack, the Lions throw the ball more than any other team in the league.
If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, Titus Young could become a devastating weapon in an already potent offense. He will be worth reaching for in fantasy drafts.