Overlooked by many, but the rookie wide receivers from 2011 were one of the best groups in the past few years, from a Fantasy Football perspective. So these 2012 Fantasy Rookie WR Rankings should elicit some attention by all owners. Obviously, there are the superstars to think about as possible mid-round picks, but there are a handful of rookie receivers that have a chance to surprise from a Fantasy Freshmen sleeper standpoint.
Learning from the Past
How excited should we be for this incoming class? Well, last year’s first-year wide receivers produced great numbers that I think were hidden a bit by the numbers produced by veteran receivers. Look at the top three rookies from 2011 – A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Torrey Smith – compared to the other top rookies from the past decade.
(Only the wide receivers with at least 70 catches OR 1,000 yards or 7 touchdown catches are shown.)
- A.J. Green, CIN – 65 catches-1,057 yards-7 TDs
- Julio Jones, WR, ATL – 54-959-8
- Torrey Smith, BAL – 50-841-7
- Mike Williams, TB – 65-964-11
- Austin Collie, IND – 60-676-7
- Eddie Royal, DEN – 91-980-5
- Dwayne Bowe, KC – 70-995-5
- Marques Colston, NO – 70-1,038-8
- Michael Clayton, TB – 80-1,193-7
- Larry Fitzgerald, ARI – 58-780-8
- Roy Williams, DET – 54-817-8
- Lee Evans, BUF – 48-843-9
- Anquan Boldin, BAL – 101-1,377-8
- Donte Stallworth, NO – 74-894-2
As you can see, the only receivers in the past 10 years to make all three marks in one year were Colston, Clayton and Boldin. Despite the recent explosion in NFL passing games, none of this year’s wide receivers should be expected to reach that trifecta mark.
And really, it would be surprising to see more than one or two receivers come close to any of those marks. Even with the addition of Baylor WR Josh Gordon to Cleveland in the recent supplemental draft. At least he helped bolster the middle of this year’s Fantasy Rookie WR Rankings.
2012 Rookie Wide Receivers Preview
Most of this new crop of pass-catchers are just entering tricky situations. For instance, the top wide receiver in the NFL Draft, Justin Blackmon, joins a Jaguars team that has a mess of a passing game. No team passed for fewer yards per game than the Jaguars (136.2 yards per game), and rookie Blaine Gabberthas a lot to prove in Year 2.
Blackmon is also considered a little bit of a headcase, getting two DUI arrests in the past two years. [Dude, hire a driver.] His current ADP is about Round 9 or 10, which is after about 35-40 other wide receivers have been drafted. As much as I’m down on the Jaguars, and rookie wide receivers – I feel like this might be a little too low.
In Tennessee, Kendall Wright will have either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker throwing to him, and he also has some talent on the opposite side of the field, with Kenny Britt lining up. Chris Johnson plays at tailback, though, and he’ll receive most of the touches, with Britt getting most passes through the air. Wright is probably the best option to explode from this group in Year 2, as Locker develops with him.
Michael Floyd enters an interesting situation in Arizona, too. The quarterback position is a question mark, but that didn’t seem to hurt Larry Fitzgerald’s production. Don’t expect Boldin numbers, but working opposite Fitzgerald is a great thing for talented receivers.
I’m a big fan of what Alshon Jeffery might be able to do in Chicago. Jay Cutler will focus his passing game toward Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, but Jeffery has a chance at about 45 catches.
Gordon, who cost the Browns a pick in the second round in 2013, has been away from football for a year now after getting bumped from the Baylor football team for drug use. Football isn’t kind to those that miss an entire year of instruction and drills without being injured. Let someone else roll the dice on Gordon – you concentrate on getting Greg Little, who had a solid season despite issues at quarterback and running back, as well as a few too many dropped passes.
In the rankings below, I’m unable to insert Gordon’s name into the tool, but you should consider him one of the Tier 3 Rookie Wide Receivers.
2012 Rookies: Top 30 Overall | QB | RB | WR | TE
2012 Fantasy Rookie WR Rankings
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David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.