After yet another unplanned hiatus, the Den returns with a monster installment ranking all the Rookie Wide Receivers. That’s right, all of them. Once again I feel it necessary to point out that WR is not a position that I personally make any dynasty selections from. I would rather exhaust my entire RB list and most of the QB list before looking here. That may be because the teams that I have are blessed with a decent WR core, or it may be that some of the inherited dynasty teams that I now have are completely bare at RB. In any case, that’s just me.
Which is not to say that you should go in the same direction. If you are picking in the middle of the first round of your draft, the top RBs and QBs are gone and your team needs a WR and all the Great White Sharks listed here are available, by all means you take one. Every team is different, every league is different, every situation is different. You always do what is best for your team. My motto has always been to “Win now but keep an eye on the future.”
Anyway, now that we’ve got that drivel out of the way, here’s how I rank this year’s rookie WR class. Four players are in the coveted Great White Shark category, which means you can expect fantasy production out of them right away in 2004. Here’s a recap of the ranking categories:
Great White – Guys that have value in both the short (redraft) and long (dynasty) term
Hammerhead – Guys that may have short term value, but do have long term value
Blue – Guys that have an outside chance at helping in the short term, could have long term value
Leopard – Virtually no short term value, slight chance of having some long term value
Sand – No short term value, little to no long term value
As always, don’t miss out on the chance to call me a fool: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great White Sharks
The cream of this year’s WR crop, and it was a bountiful one indeed. These guys could step right in and put some some solid fantasy numbers right out of the gate.
Reggie Williams, Jacksonville (1, 9, Washington)
Many will think that I put the wrong Williams up here, but sometimes you have to look past where a player is selected in the rookie draft to determine who is going to be the better fantasy player. Yes, Reggie was the 3rd WR taken in the draft, which may or may not mean he is the third best skilled WR. What we are more interested in here is how are these players going to stack up against each other from a fantasy production point of view. Reggie Williams will enter camp as the clear cut #2 guy on the depth chart in Jacksonville. Within a year or two, he should be able to supplant Jimmy Smith as the #1 guy. Couple that with the fact that he will have Byron Leftwich to grow with and in my book this is the #1 WR to take from a fantasy perspective from the 2004 NFL Rookie Draft.
Rashaun Woods, San Francisco (1, 31, Oklahoma State)
In keeping with the theme above, Woods is another guy that I project to be the #2 guy this year with the path for him to become the #1 guy not a difficult one. Just take a look at the corps that the 49ers are working with at WR this year and you will see exactly what I mean, hardly a recognizable name in the entire bunch. San Francisco was hoping to land Michael Clayton and when they couldn’t get him, they traded down until they took Woods.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (1, 3 Pittsburgh)
Ok, so here lands the “top WR” taken in the NFL Draft. While I have Reggie Williams as my clear #1 rookie WR, I had a hard time coming up with #2, eventually settlnig on Woods. Fitzgerald is very close in my rankings, in fact only separated by a hair. I would not be adverse to anyone taking Fitzgerald over Woods since I project both as having very productive fantasy careers. Perhaps Fitzgerald gets hurt by being on the Cardinals. Yes, I know that there is a new sheriff in town and that sheriff (Dennis Green) has wanted Fitzgerald on his team since he as a very wee lad. All things being equal, wouldn’t you also pick the player from the 49ers over the Cardinals?
Roy Williams, Detroit (1, 7, Texas)
Perhaps a little bit of a “low” ranking for Williams here, but I think it is justified. Sure, Detroit had a great draft this year, no disagreement here with that statement. The slight problem I have with Roy Williams is that he may never have the opportunity to be the #1 guy on the Lions. Let’s not forget about Charles Rogers, which means that Williams will be in a dogfight for #1 that he may never be able to win. Don’t get me wrong, it is conceivable for there to be WR1 and WR1A on a team, but for my money, I’ll take the guys above that have a chance to be clear cut #1 guys.
In my other rankings, there was a pretty clear cut line that could be drawn between the Great Whites and the Hammerheads. For the WR position, I’m not so sure that is the case. The four guys that I have listed here are a step below the guys above, but it’s not that big of a step. These guys are more than likely to start off the season as WR3 and have the potential to get on the field this year, with WR2 likely in their near future. For some teams, WR3 is a position that might put up some fantasy numbers, but probably not that many. However, being WR3 means you are ready to step in should WR1 or WR2 become injured so don’t be afraid to dip into the Hammerheads once the Great Whites have disappeared.
Michael Jenkins, Atlanta (1, 29, Ohio State)
The real key to a Falcon WR putting up any fantasy numbers this year is the health of Michael Vick. Many thought that Peerless Price was due for a breakout season after being traded to Atlanta, but without anyone to throw the ball to him, his numbers suffered. If Vick stays healthy, then Price will get his, and probably so will Brian Finneran. Jenkins will likely sit behind those two guys this year, but look for him to at least be WR2 next season.
Lee Evans, Buffalo (1, 13, Wisconsin)
Drew Bledsoe has come out and said that Lee Evans reminds him of a young Terry Glenn. I can’t tell if that is or isn’t a compliment. We do know that Glenn went on to have a stellar rookie season, then he pretty much disappeared. Like Jenkins above, Evans will probably end up WR3 this year with the potential to move up quickly in the coming years.
Keary Colbert, Carolina (2, 62, USC)
Colbert had a great college season, despite being overshadowed by Mike Williams. Don’t be fooled, Colbert was the guy. Anytime you can be WR3 on a team with Muhsin Muhammed ahead of you on the depth chart almost guarantees a lot of playing time. Muhammed hasn’t been a picture of stellar health any time that I can recall, so Colbert has a shot at seeing the field. Clear #3 entering camp, #2 in his near future probably in 2005.
Bernard Berrian, Chicago (3, 78, Fresno State)
Perhaps a bit of a surprise to see a guy drafted so “low” to be ranked so “high”? Again, this ranking a reflection of Berrian’s potential fantasy output due to the team he is on. The Bears are another team that has squat at WR. He may even be the top guy on the Bears once the season gets going. Normally a guy that is going to step in and play right away warrants a Great White ranking, but I just can’t do it here. While he may put up some decent fantasy numbers this year, I don’t really like his long term prospects as far as becoming a WR stud, that’s why he ends up here.
Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay (1, 15, LSU)
Clayton barely makes it into the Hammerhead ranking here, simply because of the numbers game he’ll have to fight thru. McCardell, Galloway, Charles Lee, even Joe Jurevicius pose roadblocks to his success in 2004. That being said, Clayton was a much sought after commoddity on draft day which earned his 15th overall selection. However, if you are looking for a WR in 2005 and beyond, Clayton is an excellent selection in that regard.
Starting to get into the level where you really should be considering deep sleepers at other positions (RB) before taking anyone here. These guys are looking at 2005 or 2006, if even at all for fantasy production. Even then, I don’t think you’re talking about anyone that will be a stud in the NFL.
Darius Watts, Denver (2, 54, Marshall)
Small school WR that had a very productive college career, but a bit of a reach on draft day for the second round. Then again, perhaps the Broncos saw something in him that no one else did? After all, I seem to recall that Jerry Rice came from a small school and he turned out pretty well. Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie should be entrenched as the go to guys in Denver, and they don’t usually run a lot of three WR sets so Watts will have to earn his time so be patient with this guy.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans (2, 50, LSU)
Henderson is a raw talent at WR, having only caught 77 balls in college, but can he ever run. Speed is his game, and he’ll probably get duty returning kicks as well. With his speed, would likely even get a carry or two in the course of the game so his potential for getting his hands on the ball 8-10 times a game is very good. Will need to improve his catching skills in order to cement a strong future.
Derrick Hamilton, San Francisco (3, 77, Clemson)
Having a dire need at WR, the Niners have another guy that could help them down the road. Like most guys taken in the third round, Hamilton isn’t polished, but he possesses tremendous speed. Not likely to produce in 2004 unless he can move up the depth chart, but a bright future.
Samie Parker, Kansas City (4, 105, Oregon)
The named Eddie Kennison and Johnnie Morton don’t exactly give you the warm fuzzies so Parker will likely bide his time in 2004 and be a decent future prospect. He could also return kicks, except that the Chiefs also have a guy named Dante Hall.
Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets (4, 108, North Carolina State)
Many thought that Cotchery would go higher in the NFL draft, but for whatever reason he was one of those guys that slipped on draft day. Not likely to make an impact in 2004, he’s a possession type WR that I could see starting along side Santana Moss in 2005 and beyond.
PK Sam, New England (5, 164, Florida State)
Not your typical pick for the Patriots, generally they like guys that haven’t been in trouble and stay in school. Perhaps Belichick thinks he can knock some sense into him. In either case, not much hope for 2004 or even 2005 fantasy production but if he stays out of trouble, could be worth holding onto for a couple of years.
Devard Darling, Baltimore (3, 82, Washington State)
The Ravens have never really been the home of productive fantasy WRs. While they don’t really have any studs, there is a conglomerate of decent talent that Darling will be behind in 2004. Darling bounced around in college though when he did play, he played well. Decent prospect for 2005 or beyond.
Carlos Francis, Oakland (4, 99, Texas Tech)
Not flashy, but certainly speedy, Francis will be buried pretty deep on the Raider depth chart at the start of 2004. That said, guys like Jerry Rice and Tim Brown aren’t getting any younger. Not to mention, there probably isn’t a pair of guys to better learn the position from. Look for him to emerge in 2006.
Getting down and dirty here, could there be a diamond in the rough within this group? While it is possible, I recommend looking to other positions (RB, QB) if you have to even consider drafting any of these Leopards.
DJ Hackett, Seattle (5, 157, Colorado)
Hackett has some skills and will probably someday be a productive WR in this league. However, playing behind Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson and a slew of other guys, unlikely to see much action in 2004.
Johnnie Morant, Oakland (5, 134, Syracuse)
A disappointing college career for the former top high school prospect. Morant unlikely to have any fantasy impact in 2004 and probably even 2005. Though Oakland is a good place to learn a few things. If he can hang around, might be worth something in 2 or 3 years.
Maurice Mann, Cincinnati (5, 149, Nevada)
A bit of a questionmark on draft day where he should have ended up, I thought he would have gone a little sooner than he did. With Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick, not likely that Mann will have any fantasy impact in the near future.
Ernest Wilford, Jacksonville (4, 120, Virginia Tech)
Wilford has good size, but beyond that a bit of a reach to have any fantasy impact within the next couple of years.
Jamaar Taylor, New York (6, 168, Texas A&M)
Taylor is coming off an ACL injury that knocked him down in the draft. Performed well for the Aggies and is worth a late look in your rookie draft if you can hold onto him and wait a couple of years to see what happens.
Let’s be honest, these guys have their work cut out for them if they want to play in the NFL. Not really much to write about these guys so they won’t even get their own write up. Many are guys that were hurt and saw their stock drop very low. A few are simply speed guys that need to learn the craft. Others (Kraus) aren’t even projected to be WRs in the NFL. Not sure this is a group of players worthy of being selected in any rookie dynasty draft. Keep them on your deep radar to see if they make the team heading into 2004 and consider a $1 FA bid on them at that time.
Drew Carter, Carolina (5, 163, Ohio State)
Sloan Thomas, Houston (7, 211, Texas)
Clarence Moore, Baltimore (6, 199, Northern Arizona)
Mark Jones, Tampa Bay (7, 206, Tennessee)
Patrick Crayton, Dallas (7, 216, NW Oklahoma State)
Derek Abney, Baltimore (7, 244, Kentucky)
Triandos Luke, Denver (6, 171, Alabama)
Jeris McIntyre, Kansas City (6, 195, Auburn)
Jonathan Smith, Buffalo (7, 214, Georgia Tech)
Ryan Krause, San Diego (6, 169, Nebraska Omaha)