Ranking the NFL's Best Rookie WRs of Season's 1st Half
Rookie receivers were all the talk during the first half of the 2011 NFL season, and seeing players like Julio Jones and A.J. Green come into the league and immediately make an impact thoroughly impressed me.
These guys came out of the draft with a flurry of hype and experts knew they had the talent needed to transition to the highest level.
But for others, like Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks, success has come at a much tougher rate. All 32 teams passed on Baldwin in the draft and he used this as motivation, turning in dazzling displays during the first half of his rookie year.
Just goes to show that it doesn't matter if you are a first rounder or an undrafted rookie, making the most of your opportunities will certainly get you the recognition you deserve.
Here I have ranked the top 10 rookie wideouts from the first half of the season.
10. Dane Sanzenbacher, Chicago Bears
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Sanzenbacher was signed out of Ohio State after going undrafted, and was brought to a Chicago team not known for having big-name wide receivers.
The rookie wideout has been quiet the last few weeks but was a steady option for Jay Cutler for a large part of this first half. His catches and yards are a bit lower than others, but those three touchdowns show the confidence Cutler has in the kid near the red zone.
If the Bears keep playing well and give their quarterback protection, I predict Sanzenbacher will get more touches and become as effective as he was in the first half.
9. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
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As the Super Bowl champs, a rookie might find difficult to immediately jump into an already explosive Green Bay offense.
While Randall Cobb has been an excellent kick returner so far, he has had some solid moments as a receiver as well. His hands are shaky at times, but he is taking coaching points seriously and will naturally improve as he gets used to the rhythm of the game.
And with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson all serving as examples, Cobb should be alright as the season moves on.
8. Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams have been hit with ill luck the majority of the first half, as injuries and poor play have riddled the team that looked so promising just a year before.
One positive that can be taken out of the first part of the season is the rise of Greg Salas, the rookie wide receiver out of Hawaii. Going into the second half, Salas leads his team in receptions and looks to be a promising future option to complement Sam Bradford.
The terrible news of Salas’ broken leg means he will be sidelined for much of the second half, but based on his first half production, the former Rainbow Warrior deserves a place on this list.
7. Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders are notorious for drafting busts, but they seem to have gotten the formula right on occasion and rookie Denarius Moore looks to be the real deal.
Moore is a multi-tool player who is equally adept in the return game as he is flanked out wide. He has been up for weekly awards and has been spectacular in tough situations.
With the health of Darren McFadden still a major concern for Oakland, they will need Moore to continue to develop and provide an ample option for Carson Palmer going into the second half.
6. Titus Young, Detroit Lions
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It is hard to imagine Matthew Stafford throwing it to anyone besides Calvin Johnson, but when he does decide to spray to ball around, rookie Titus Young has been a solid option.
A Boise State product, Young has been steady in providing balance for the Lions’ young pass-heavy offense. His biggest performance of the first half came against the Denver Broncos, in which he accumulated almost 70 yards of receiving and got into the end zone for first time in his career.
The Lions have been knocked around as of late, but they are too talented to stay down on themselves, and the rookie wideout should look to better his totals as the season progresses.
5. Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns are once again struggling to get results, but rookie Greg Little is quickly becoming a standout player on this team.
Little averages about 10 yards a catch, and that is impressive considering he hasn’t had the quality throws. He is also responsible for 21 first down receptions and looks to have big-time abilities similar to a teammate of his, Josh Cribbs.
The Browns have nothing but a spoiler role to play heading into the second half. Little can greatly increase his numbers and make the starting wide receiver position all his own if he continues to shine.
4. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
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Torrey Smith came out of nowhere on a Baltimore offense loaded with talent, and more often than not Joe Flacco is getting bailed out not by neither Anquan Boldin or Ray Rice, but by the rookie out of Maryland.
Smith has been one of the most consistent performers on his team and has highlight catches to back it up. His 26-yard grab against the Pittsburgh Steelers was about as clutch as they came in the first half, and he looks to have plenty more where that came from.
If Rice continues to do what he does and Boldin draws the attention of the defense, life for Smith the rest of the way may be a lot easier than he expected.
3. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
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Another undrafted rookie, Doug Baldwin was hated on pretty hard upon entering the league.
The only effect that had on the Stanford grad was a positive one; he recently surpassed his teammate Sidney Rice as Seattle’s leading receiver. And while Baldwin is busy catching balls, people are wondering what the organization’s $41 million will get out of Rice.
Rice is clearly a great receiver in his own right, but he needs to use the competition from Baldwin to form a tandem. But for now, Baldwin’s story is inspiring and he will keep hushing up critics the remainder of the year.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
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Of all the rookie receivers, Julio Jones came with the biggest hype and expectations because of how well-touted he was coming into the league.
He didn’t settle as quickly as everyone expected, but Jones has slowly showed us why the Falcons drafted him sixth overall. His upside is ridiculous and the ‘Bama alum is going to get plenty of looks down the stretch.
Atlanta is looking to surge and the play of Jones is crucial to their playoff push. Plus, he reminds me so much of Roddy White it’s scary…
1. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
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I knew A.J. Green was a phenomenal receiver while at Georgia, but I never expected him to introduce himself to the league in such fine fashion.
The Cincinnati Bengals underwent a lot of changes and they eventually decided to go with a lot of young and unproven players heading into this season. The rookie receiver is statistically a top 15 receiver in this league, and his chemistry with fellow rookie Andy Dalton has been nothing but successful.
The Bengals are 6-3 and looking right down the back of the division-leading Pittsburgh Steelers. Green is on pace to set some pretty impressive numbers, and he will have extra incentive the second half as Cincinnati hopes for the postseason.