May 7, 2010
With the 2010 NFL Draft in the books it’s time for the Bruno Boys to take a look at the skill position players who were drafted and analyze their potential fantasy football impact during their rookie season. In the third installment of this series, it’s time to take a look at the wide receiver slot. Last season, we saw plenty of rookie receivers make a big time impact (Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, and Austin Collie) at various points in the season. This year’s rookie wide receiver class may not pop like 2009’s did, but there is still a lot of talent stepping in to some very good situations. Let’s see in who should be on your radar now that we know what uniform they will be putting on every Sunday.
1. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: While this may not look like a great situation with Miles Austin and Roy Williams being the starters, Bryant is so good that it will be tough to keep him off the field. It would not be surprising to see Dallas bench the struggling Williams in favor of the rookie Bryant. If that happens, look out because Bryant will be the best first year wide receiver and a big time fantasy option.
What’s great about Bryant is that on the field there really aren’t any weaknesses in his game. He has top end speed, quickness, agility, elusiveness, size, and can run terrific routes. The only question marks surround his character and maturity. While those things can keep him off the field, fantasy owners do not need to necessarily worry themselves over it. Instead focus on his playing time because if he gets on the field, you will want to get him on your team (and Tony Romo too, whose production would increase). Those in keeper leagues need to snatch Bryant up quickly because he is going to be something special!
2. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos: Once the Denver Broncos traded away wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins, it was almost certain that the team was going to add one of the premier talents in the draft at wide out. While Dez Bryant has the best skills of any receiver, Denver didn’t want to have to deal with another Marshall type attitude. So, instead they added Thomas, a great character guy.
The great thing about Thomas is that he will get the opportunity to come into minicamp, training camp, and Week 1 as the number one pass catcher for the Denver Broncos. The team lacks a top target now that Marshall is gone, and as long as Thomas can improve his route running, there is no reason for this playmaker to come off the field. He has a great combination of size and speed, which should translate into big fantasy totals. One of the best receivers in this draft enters a perfect situation, which means fantasy owners may want to jump on this guy early if they want him on their team.
3. Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Being the second wide receiver chosen by the Buccaneers makes it tough to see Williams having a big time impact right away (Benn is the greater pure talent). However, Tampa Bay does not have any real stud on their team at receiver, and Williams has the ability to step in as a number two with the possibility of being a number one wide out if Benn falters. **UPDATE 9/3 - Williams had a great training camp and will enter the regular season as the No.1 receiver in Tampa Bay**
4. Brandon LaFell, WR, Carolina Panthers: Talk about things going perfect for the Carolina Panthers on draft day. First, it was Jimmy Clausen falling to the second round, and then a solid pass catcher like LaFell slipping into the third round to pair the two for a number of years to come. There is no reason why LaFell couldn’t have an impact in his rookie season. The Panthers have been in need of a number two wide receiver to Steve Smith for years, and Dwayne Jarrett has not been the answer. Expect LaFell to beat Jarrett out in training camp and be a starter from Week 1 on.
The only real question around LaFell is his top end speed and whether he can run deep routes. The great thing is that Smith has that ability to go deep, meaning LaFell can do what he does best and that is catching the ball in traffic. He has soft hands and nice height, meaning not only will he make touch catches over the middle, but he will also make plays in the red zone. That could lead to solid fantasy production (especially in PPR leagues) even in a run oriented offense.
5. Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Thomas may have found the best situation, but Benn comes in at a close second. The Illinois product fell to the second round where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scooped up the wide out to be the main target for their young quarterback, Josh Freeman. His size and speed are tough to deal with, and he possesses solid hands, allowing him to make just about any catch.
In the world of fantasy, he should be a stud. In fact, an argument could be made that Benn will have the biggest impact in this wide receiver class because he goes to a team who will likely pass more and take more chances downfield, which could mean more touchdowns with huge yardage totals. As long as Benn can prove he belongs on the field by working on his route running, there is reason to believe he will be a solid fantasy option at what could be a below market price in most drafts. **UPDATE 9/3 - Benn has struggled to adapt to the speed of the NFL game and is currently running with the second string**
6. Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Tate’s descent into the bottom of the second round helped Seattle get a good talent at great value. The biggest question though is whether he can play opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Housh is a guy who goes over the middle and catches 7 or 8 balls for 100 yards. Tate is the same kind of player. The Seahawks still need a deep threat to open things up underneath, and with Deion Branch still being on the Seahawks, it’s hard to say how many targets Tate gets in his first season. However, he could be a solid pick in keeper leagues when his role gets carved out.
7. Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams: It was surprising to see Gilyard slip to the fourth round, but the Rams couldn’t be happier! They desperately needed a big time target for rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, and these two can grow together and become a solid tandem. It may take some time for the speedster to adjust to NFL corners, but the Rams don’t have many options at wide receiver, giving Gilyard an excellent opportunity to be an impact player from day one.
8. Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos: Decker is one guy that is really intriguing. He is a tough physical player who can make tough catches over the middle and has a lot of athleticism. The keys will be if he can stay healthy and whether he will get the chance to overtake Eddie Royal in making plays over the middle. If both answers are yes, Decker is a good candidate to do well in fantasy (especially in PPR leagues) as a rookie due to the offense ran in Denver.
9. Damian Williams, WR, Tennessee Titans: After not addressing the wide receiver position for years, the Titans chose a good one for a second straight year at good value. Williams will get the chance to be an over the middle receiver. and with his solid route running/breakaway speed, there is a good chance he can be an impact player (especially in PPR leagues). Remember this though, the Titans are a run based team and likely won’t throw enough to make Williams a great play every week.
10. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers & Jordan Shipley, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Both of these players are stepping into a situation where at best they will be a number three wide receiver. They can both go over the middle and make plays, but due to the lack of targets and NFL seasoning, their fantasy impact will be minimal in year one. They may have some keeper league value, but it will be a few years before they get out from their number three role.
With all of these wide receivers, it is all about landing in the right situation and finding a way to get on the field in order to be an impact player. Usually those players tend to be the guys drafted early, but there are times when a later round or undrafted wide receiver does well as a rookie (i.e. Marques Colston). The above mentioned players are the guys to follow through the mini/training camps with a couple players likely playing well for their team and our fantasy teams from day one. But, remember to never look past any other wide receiver not named, as one injury could open things up for a number of players.