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Rookie WideOut Report


Michael Crabtree:


Crabtree is an elite talent who will gradually climb fantasy ranks in the years to come. Being drafted by

San Francisco
has its positives and negatives.


It has been drilled into fantasy culture: “don’t draft rookie receivers!” The virgin seasons of
Eddie Royal
,
DeSean Jackson
and even
Donnie Avery
have us questioning what has been thought to be fantasy law. The so called
“three-year learning curve” philosophy has come into question. But buyer beware for there are still the
James Hardy
‘s, the
Limas Sweed
‘s and the
Devin Thomas
‘ of the world.


Unlike rookie running backs, rookie wide receivers appear to benefit from coming into a system where they are not the number one focal point of the passing attack. It has been said that the learning curve for wideouts is longer than that of runners. I don’t believe in the three-year theory (look to article archive) but I do think the pro game is harder to pick up for wideouts. Rookie route runners usually benefit from other producers at the position to ease the pressure as they learn the pro game.

In

San Francisco
, Crabtree instantly becomes the focal point of the passing attack, with a supporting cast of
Josh Morgan
and
Isaac Bruce
. Morgan should mature as he rebounds from an injury-plagued season. Bruce should provide Crabtree with some mentoring and guidance as a successful seasoned vet. The question is, are these players good enough to keep coverages honest and from rolling towards Crabtree? I’m gonna have to say no. Also, the quarterback situation for the 49ers is shaky. The battle between
Shaun Hill
and
Alex Smith
will play itself out in camp, but I don’t see either of them piecing together an above-average fantasy season. With the addition of Crabtree and the strong running of
Frank Gore
, I believe that the San Fran offense will improve. Crabtree definitely fits the bill for wide outs standing at 6-2, 215 lbs., but also has the pre-Madonna/super ego factor as well. Coach Mike Singletary is a no-nonsense type of guy and should keep Crabtree in check. If Mike Martz was the coordinator I would be more excited, but Singletary is more of a conservative-minded coach who loves to run the ball.

Crabtree is currently being drafted in the early seventh round, where I think he should fall. His name alone carries weight, and he is most likely going to be drafted ahead of where he should. Overall, Crabtree is going to be a great NFL receiver. He can be a reception machine, but also has big-play potential. Crabtree has great dynasty potential as he should mature into an elite receiver in the years to come. As for this year I’m thinking along the lines of 60-70 grabs, 800-900 yards and 5-6 touchdowns.


The Other Rookie Receivers:


The “too small for the NFL” speedsters, with the dual threat as return men, were the ones who were making a splash in ‘08. I look for Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin to produce for they have more versatility in the return game and potential in a “wildcat-like” style of offense.

Maclin was projected as a Top 10 talent, and was slotted to go to either the Oakland Raiders at No. 7 or the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 8. Maclin was the No. 2 wideout on the majority of draft boards, but he still managed to fall to the Eagles at No. 19. Maclin and
DeSean Jackson
provide the team with serious speed both on the offensive side of the ball and on special teams. Keep an eye on Eagles camp to see who will end up with return duties. If your league rewards for return yardage and touchdowns, this player should get a bump in your ranks.

Percy Harvin’s knock coming into the draft was that he was not a “true wideout.” But that is what

Minnesota
was drawn to. Harvin’s experience returning kicks, running the ball, while still having the skill set to run accurate routes and good hands, provides you a player that can line up all over the field. I look for the Vikings to get creative on how they use Harvin, with specially designed plays to get the ball in his hands.

Hakeem Nicks was thought to be the patching up of the bullet hole left in the Giants offense by the departure of
Plaxico Burress
. But the wound appears to still be bleeding, and reports out of Giants camp is that Nicks is not a shoe in for the starting lineup. Amani Toomer is too old. Steve Smith is more of a slot guy and Domenik Hixon is a No. 2, not a No. 1. Keep a third eye on

New York
to see who solidifies themselves in the starting rotation.

I like the wideout trio of
Kenny Britt
,
Nate Washington
 and
Justin Gage
in

Tennessee
. Although the Titans are a run-first offense, I expect the passing attack to improve.
Kerry Collins
is an underrated quarterback, and I believe that all three of the Titans receivers could out produce their draft position, but there are only a limited amount of targets to be spread around.


ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz Sleeper?


Juaquin Iglesias out of

Oklahoma
who was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Iglesias’ value comes more from where he was drafted than individual talent. The Bears are super thin at wideout, with Devin Hester currently topping the depth chart. Igesias may have a chance to step right into playing time. He is not afraid to go over the middle and has displayed toughness and good hands in his college years. You can let this guy sleep because most of your league has probably never heard of him, but he may be worth a late-round flier, or early year waiver wire pickup.

I also like
Brian Robiskie
– the OSU boy, staying in state, playing for the Browns. Robiskie projects to be a solid possession receiver with good football intelligence. Many have categorized him as a low-ceiling, high-floor type guy, who has the opportunity to step right in and play with the legal concerns of Donte’ Stallworth. His speed is average, but his knowledge of the position and good work ethic is what makes him succeed.


Potential Bust:


Darrius Heyward-Bey. Speed, speed, speed. But

Oakland
is the black hole of talent.
JaMarcus Russell
is on the fast track to bust status. Heyward-Bey should be able to stretch the field, giving Russell a deep threat, and providing the Raiders backfield with a little more runner room.

Oakland
can’t help but improve from last year, but other than Darren McFadden and Zack Miller, no other Raiders will be on my board. Side note: Al Davis is a disgrace to football.


Top 10 Rookie Ranks:


1)
Michael Crabtree
, 2)
Percy Harvin
, 3)
Jeremy Maclin
, 4) Brian Robiskie, 5)
Hakeem Nicks
, 6)
Kenny Britt
, 7) Darius Heyward-Bey, 8)
Juaquin Iglesias
, 9)
Pat White
, 10)
Deon Butler
.


Disclaimer

: Remember – all rookie wideouts come with risk. Pay attention to camp battles and preseason performances to see who is impressing their way into the starting lineup. Although I don’t agree with the “three-year theory,”  rookie receivers often experience growing pains in their first year as pros. Only a handful of pass catchers have made rookie year splashes. Could anyone from the ‘09 class be one of them?

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