The journey into the legend of the 3rd year wide receiver breakout began with a look at some of the best 3rd year wide receiver seasons of recent memory, from a number of the best wideouts of our generation. A list of 15 large seasons from the likes of Cris Carter in 1989, right through to Braylon Edwards in 2007 and as recent as Dez Bryant’s dominant stretch drive performance a year ago.
This 3rd year receiver series will touch on 2013’s top 3rd year wide receiver fantasy options, 3rd year wide receiver breakouts and 3rd year wide receiver busts and we’ll also take a peek back at the 2011 NFL Draft and see if the order those receivers were selected in should be shuffled up a bit in hindsight.
The 2011 NFL Draft saw two SEC wide receivers selected with picks 4 and 6 and A.J. Green and Julio Jones have become 2 of the most dangerous wideouts in the NFL. They are two-thirds of the big three 3rd year wide receivers, but the third member definitely isn’t the next WR off the board from the 2011 NFL Draft Jonathan Baldwin out of Pittsburgh.
2013 Top 3rd Year WRs | 2013 3rd Year WR Breakouts
2013 3rd Year WR Bust | 2011 Draft Revisited
3rd Year Wide Receiver
2013’s Big Three
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green headed to a top Georgia program, which ran a pro offense, as a top recruit and has been posting big numbers on a major stage since his freshman season in 2008. He has erased any character concerns associated with his jersey selling scandal in 2010 and is set to build on a monster 2012 sophomore NFL season where he was a top 5 fantasy wide receiver.
The early comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald have proven to be more than legit. Green has both the size and hands to not only make the spectacular catches, but also runs crisp routes and shows his big play ability with great after the catch explosiveness.
Green’s rookie season in 2011 was solid, he hauled in 65 passes, for over 1000 yards and scored 7 times, but 2013 was huge. After week 1, Green scored in 9 straight games and solidified himself as one of the best real and fake receivers in football.
His skills have been on display for 2 seasons, but more importantly, Green enters his 3rd season as a polished player who has turned into one of the best red zone targets in football. Even better, he is also a reliable possession receiver and big play threat who enters 2013 as a lock to go in the top 15 picks in fake football drafts.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
The debates and comparisons between Jones and Green will go on for years, but who cares really? We’re talking about 2 elite young talents who are going to be impact real and fake players for the next decade. Jones’ only real disadvantage head-to-head with Green is that he starts opposite another elite receiver in Roddy White, whereas Green is the show in Bengal Town.
Jones was good in college, but didn’t have a great season until his Junior (3rd) season and final year for the Crimson Tide. Throughout his collegiate career and thus far in the NFL, Jones has proven to be a rare-breed among his WR peers as he is a class act on and off the field.
Unfortunately, Jones has been a victim of nagging injuries as a Bulldog and Falcon, which likely has impacted his numbers. Furthermore, it is a similar situation in Atlanta for Jones as Reggie Wayne faced as a young player in Indianapolis with Marvin Harrison eating into his production, but Jones is fresh off a top 10 fantasy season in 2012.
Jones makes the spectacular catches and is a consistent big play threat, but is also prone to drops, which has haunted him since his time at Georgia. Regardless, he enters 2013 as a major piece of a top offense and is entering that magical 3rd season as the current 5th ranked WR.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Unlike his peers listed above, who went high in the 2011 draft after monster collegiate careers, Cobb entered the NFL as primarily a special teams player first and had to slowly earn his playing time. Interestingly, Cobb was a duel threat and played some “Wildcat” quarterback during his time at Kentucky.
Of his 122 attempted passes in 3 seasons for the Wildcats, 99 of them came in his freshman season, as Cobb didn’t really fully emerge as a receiving threat until his 3rd and final college season. In his Junior season Cobb went good for 1017 yards, on 84 receptions and 7 touchdowns.
Cobb has transitioned smoothly to the NFL as a major play-maker. He may also have even more punch to pack, if he gets involved in the running game a little like he did in college and like we’ve seen from a similarly skilled Percy Harvin.
The inexperience as a full-time receiver and his lack of ideal wide receiver size and speed have been noted, but Cobb went above and beyond expectations in 2012. So, with another year to master the playbook, refine his route running and develop his role and chemistry within the Packers offense, you’ve got an ideal high-end #2 fantasy wide receiver to target in all formats.
These 3 players aren’t going to be hot commodities just because they’re entering their 3rd season of course, as all 3 have already had huge fake seasons.
Green and Jones have 2 productive years in the books and will look to build on them and given their current top 20 ADP rankings, owners are expecting the same. Cobb’s ADP, on the other hand, is currently 36, making him a prime target at the 2nd/3rd round turn for those owners who selected early in the 1st.
All three are set for big fake seasons and owners who invest early are hoping to be rewarded with one of those legendary 3rd year wide receiver seasons we’ve come to covet and target during draft season.
I’m a Loyal Leafs, Cubs, and Cowboys fan for decades. I wear the C for The Fake Hockey, in addition to contributing to The Fake Baseball and The Fake Football in more of a Timmy Try Hard role. You can also find my weekly fantasy baseball preview here at davidgonos.com and can reach me on Twitter @naparker77.