Taking a Look at the Rookie Wide Receivers

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IAugust 30, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 17:  Hakeem Nicks #18 of the New York Giants can't come up with the catch as he is defended by Dante Wesley #21 of the Carolina Panthers on August 17, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Panthers 24-17.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

This is the third part of a weekly series that will analyze the fantasy football impact of the 2009 rookie class. This week, we’re going to examine the notable freshmen Wide Receivers.

This year’s NFL Draft was definitely the Year of the Wide Receiver as six WRs were drafted in the first round. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at mkamke@brunoboys.net.

Darrius Heyward-Bey -First Round, Seventh Overall - Oakland Raiders

Scouting Report: Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Heyward-Bey is probably the fastest WR in this draft class. He ran a Combine best 4.3 40 yard dash and, in watching him at Maryland, that speed is evident on the field. In addition to gamebreaking speed, DHB (at 6-2, 210 lbs.) is also a big WR.

Heyward-Bey hast tremendous leaping ability and can definitely be labeled explosive. With size and speed, Heyward-Bey definitely has the physical tools to become a top notch NFL WR. He does have some question marks, however. DHB is raw and has below average hands.

His route running and blocking skills also leave quite a bit to be desired. That being said, he was the first WR drafted this season because of his physical gifts and potential.

I had a difficult time understanding why everyone was so surprised on Draft Day when the Raiders took DHB and not Michael Crabtree with the seventh overall pick. Al Davis treasures speed above all else, and Heyward-Bey has speed to burn.

2009 Fantasy Outlook: Despite being in Oakland, Heyward-Bey actually finds himself in a decent situation. He’s probably going to be a starter from Day One and, since expectations are low in Oakland for the foreseeable future, DHB won’t have to deal with a ton of pressure as he learns the ropes.

Heyward-Bey is also joining an up and coming offense featuring two other incredibly talented, high first round draft picks in JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden. That being said, it is incredibly difficult for WRs to make an impact as rookies. Heyward-Bey will have the opportunity to make an impact this season, but it’s probably going to be a roller coaster.

Despite that, I still think DHB has quite a bit of value this season. He’s not the first rookie WR I’d draft this year, but he’s not far behind. Definitely a late round pick with upside.

Keeper League Outlook: I am actually quite high on Heyward-Bey and, though it kills me to say it, I think Al Davis may have got this one right. Heyward-Bey wasn’t a monster in college like Crabtree, but there are a slew of elite WRs in the NFL right now who didn’t put up eye-popping numbers in college.

I’m not convinced that Heyward-Bey will be the best WR from this draft class, but he’s definitely on the short list of possibilities. With Russell, McFadden, and now Heyward-Bey, the future actually looks quite promising in Oakland. DHB should play a prominent role in that future. He’s definitely worth a look in nearly every keeper and dynasty league.

Michael Crabtree - First Round, 10th Overall - San Francisco 49ers

Scouting Report: Crabtree was widely considered to be the best overall and most polished WR in this draft class. Conversely, he’s also the biggest diva and head case. At 6-1, 212 lbs., Crabtree is slightly above average from a size perspective. He’s not exceptionally fast (4.55 40 yard dash in workouts) and he’s not an explosive WR.

He is, however, better after the catch than most people give him credit for and he excels at catching the ball in traffic. Crabtree posted gaudy numbers at Texas Tech, but many people credit the system more than the personnel. Crabtree is a prototypical possession receiver with attitude and baggage. In short, he’s Keyshawn Johnson.

2009 Fantasy Outlook: This is where things get a bit fuzzy. In addition to coming off a major foot injury, Crabtree remains unsigned and missing from 49ers Training Camp.

Apparently, the two sides aren’t even remotely close to a deal and Crabtree has even mentioned the possibility of sitting out the season and re-entering the NFL Draft next year. While I don’t think that’s going to happen, my gut tells me that Crabtree will not yet be signed when San Francisco opens the regular season at Arizona on September 13.

It is difficult enough for rookie WRs to make an impact when they’re in camp on time. With this prolonged holdout, it will be nearly impossible for Crabtree to be a fantasy football factor this season.

Keeper League Outlook: Needless to say, I am far from sold on Crabtree. He is simply a possession receiver and comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald are ridiculous to say the least.

Keyshawn Johnson
is the best comparison, though Cris Carter would be a good one as well. Crabtree definitely has value in keeper and dynasty leagues because (if he ever signs) he will be the go to guy in San Fran.

His skill set will make him particularly valuable in PPR leagues and leagues where yardage is insignificant in comparison to touchdowns. I just don’t think his ability matches his hype. In other words, his ego is writing checks his skills can’t cash.

Jeremy Maclin - First Round, 19th Overall - Philadelphia Eagles

Scouting Report: Andy Reid absolutely loves Maclin and traded up two spots in the first round to draft him. At 6 ft., 197 lbs., Maclin has average size and slightly above average speed (4.48 40 yard dash at The Combine). Despite that, Maclin is a very talented and well rounded WR.

He’s probably the most physical WR in this draft class and has displayed explosiveness off the line and after the catch. Maclin is tough and excellent when catching the ball in traffic. He has great hands, though he’s not the best route runner. He’s a dynamic, natural pass catcher with the potential to be an elite WR in the near future.

2009 Fantasy Outlook: Maclin should see action this season as Philadelphia’s No. 3 WR behind DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. Andy Reid’s offense is well known for being an aerial focused attack that utilizes numerous receivers.

This is both good and bad for fantasy football owners as more receivers get a piece of the action, but very few put up substantial numbers.

The offense is also quite complex so it may take Maclin longer to make an impact than some other WRs in this draft class. So, Maclin’s upside is a bit limited this season, but he’s definitely worth a late round pick in most leagues.

Keeper League Outlook: Maclin has the potential to be an elite WR in the NFL. He’s in a tremendous situation in Philadelphia’s pass friendly offense and has a strong supporting cast. The only long term question for Maclin is who he will be catching passes from in a few seasons. Maclin has a lot of long term upside and is definitely worth a keeper and dynasty league roster spot.



Taking a LOOK at The ROOKIE Wide Receivers