NFL Power Rankings: 7 Best Rookie Receivers
The NFL lockout was supposed to provide a hindrance to rookies, but that's a lost theory on a group of emerging wide receivers in their first seasons.
An alarming amount of wide receiver busts in early rounds of recent drafts has prompted all eyes to be on top-10 picks Julio Jones and A.J. Green. So far, they are proving to be exceptions to this "bust rule."
What's more significant, however, is that 2011 provided the NFL with a class of quality wideouts that goes much deeper than the aforementioned marquee names. In no particular order, here are seven rookie wide receivers that have already left their mark on the league.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Drafting receivers is a difficult assessment in the NFL, but the Atlanta Falcons were confident in Julio Jones. If they weren't, they wouldn't have traded five draft picks in order to get him.
So far, their assessment is proving to be a correct one. Jones is coming off back-to-back 100-yard outings, including an 11-catch performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3.
Currently, Jones ranks 11th in the NFL in both receptions and yards. With all the athleticism that Jones brings to the table, it wouldn't be to the surprise of anyone if he continues to ascend the rankings.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green didn't have the same athleticism that Julio Jones displayed coming out of college, but his sure-handedness and 6'4" frame forced team scouts to put him near the top of their draft boards.
The Cincinnati Bengals pulled the trigger on the gifted Georgia product with the fourth overall pick, and early indications suggest they made the right decision. Green has two 100-yard games and two touchdowns to his credit in his first four games as a pro.
With all the promise that Andy Dalton brings to the table, "Dalton to Green" could be a household phrase for years to come.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Smaller, speedy receivers have been rocketing up the draft boards in recent years, and Randall Cobb is a textbook example of why.
Cobb's lived up to his reputation so far by averaging over 20 yards per catch and posing a home run threat in the return game. He is averaging over 40 yards per kick return and brought one back for a touchdown in his NFL debut.
Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback that doesn't need an abundance of weapons to succeed. However, having a viable deep threat with Cobb's wiggle and burst upgrades the Packers offense from dangerous to deadly.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
Call me crazy, but I think Al Davis likes drafting speedy players...
That's exactly what he got in fifth-round selection Denarius Moore. Moore logged a 4.37 40-yard dash time at the combine but has more importantly provided some logic behind Davis' "speed kills" philosophy.
Since his first start in Week 2, Moore has scored a touchdown in each game he's played. Two of those came on big plays, including a 23-yard run and a 50-yard catch.
With Jacoby Ford back in action, Moore may see less time on the field. He's made a strong case to remain in an expanded role, and if utilized more, the two could provide a staggering one-two punch for a blindingly fast offense.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Torrey Smith made a showstopping entrance into the NFL in Week 3. He became the 12th player in NFL history to catch three touchdown passes in one quarter, and he was the first rookie to accomplish this feat.
Smith finished the game with five catches for 152 yards en route to another Ravens victory. More importantly, he has given the Ravens a formidable deep threat that defenses will be forced to respect.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
Greg Little hasn't done anything flashy yet, but he's earning the trust of second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. The importance of that aspect cannot be understated for a young offense.
Through the first quarter of the season, Little has 14 receptions for the Browns and has played more snaps than any other receiver on the team.
Little was sought by many to be a surefire first-round pick until he was suspended for the 2010 season for receiving improper benefits. Despite having character concerns, the Browns opted to select Little with a second-round pick.
Character issues or not, the talent is far from invisible. With a hulking 6'3" and 230-pound frame, Little could be a dependable option for the Browns offense when they need to move the chains.
Titus Young, Detroit Lions
When the Detroit Lions drafted Titus Young with the 44th overall selection, they were hoping to get a long-term option opposite Calvin Johnson. So far, the Lions' front office has to be optimistic about their selection.
Since Young's 89-yard performance in a 48-3 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs, he has become a steady contributor to the Lions offense. He's averaging over 15 yards per catch, and he could emerge as a terrorizing downfield threat for Matthew Stafford by season's end.
That would be a sigh of relief for a quarterback whose most viable option is double and triple-covered routinely (not that it matters).
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