As fantasy football owners, we often tend to drool over the possibility of the next big thing. Every season, a new crop of rookie talent provides a ton of excitement, causing fantasy players to wonder what their prospects for their inaugural season will look like. Of course, it’s rare to have the amount of dominant rookies like we saw in 2012, but like I said, every year there are a handful of guys who warrant fantasy attention.
But should they?
At least, not the rookie receivers. I found this stat to be pretty remarkable. Since 2007, only one wide receiver posted a 1,000-yard season in their rookie campaign. That, my friends, was A.J. Green. Clearly, we don’t see too many Greens come around very often, which is one of the reasons why I won’t be too confident in any of the rookie wide receivers this season. Over the years, some of the best wide receivers in the game today struggled during their rookie campaigns. And whether you believe it or not, receivers typically mature and breakout during either their second or third year in the league. Here are some big name wideouts who weren’t very fantasy relevant during their first year:
Calvin Johnson is a prime example of the progression aspect of wide receivers in the league. As you can see above, Megatron was only a prototype at the time, posting a very mediocre stat line, which resulted in 111 fantasy points (35th among receivers). However, obviously, from year two and so on, he has firmly established himself as the best receiver in football. Sure, every player is different, but Calvin was a top-two draft pick, who obviously has always had the talent and potential to be great. None of the rookies this year are even remotely close to the level of Johnson’s. And like I said, A.J. Green is the only receiver to post 1,000 yards during his rookie season since the 2007 season. Breakout, dominant rookie receivers clearly don’t come around very often, and considering no rookie receivers out of this year’s draft class come anywhere close to the talent of Green, I don’t see why people should expect guys like Tavon Austin or Cordarrelle Patterson to be fantasy superstars.
Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams: Austin is by far the most explosive receiver among the 2013 rookies, but does that necessarily make him the best for fantasy? Sure, you see his blazing 4.25 speed and lightning fast cuts, as well as his versatility, and you immediately drool over the fantasy potential. However, there are still some questions about his immediate fantasy outlook. For instance, quarterback Sam Bradford seems to be targeting Chris Givens a ton, and speaking of Bradford, he has yet to establish himself as a true former number one overall pick. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t the style of receiver that is going to catch a ton of passes or eclipse 1,000 yards. He’ll be a slot guy for the Rams, and will also carry the ball every now and then. Personally, I think people are hyping up Austin a bit too much as we approach the season. For 2013, at least, he’ll be a much better real life player than a fantasy one.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings: Sure, Patterson is also very fast and versatile, but he’s raw. He lacks top notch ball skills, and his route-running needs some work. Patterson is more of a project or dynasty fantasy pick, and fantasy owners shouldn’t expect him to produce during his rookie year. Quarterback Christian Ponder is average at best, and really struggles with the deep ball. During the final five games of the 2012 season, he was so poor in that regard that he only tossed 12 passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air. Patterson is definitely more of a dynasty investment.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans: I think if any of these rookies has the chance to post 1,000 yards, it’s Hopkins. I know, Houston runs the ball so much, but with Arian Foster ailing with injuries, perhaps they pump the brakes on the ground attack a tad. Hopkins is a lot like veteran wideout Roddy White. He has good size (6’1″), strong play and terrific hands, and with Andre Johnson getting all of the defense’s attention, Hopkins will get plenty of single coverage looks. Still, I don’t think he’ll get there, simply because we have literally never seen a productive receiver opposite of Johnson. Hopkins is definitely the best they’ve ever had, however, and will certainly be there wideout of the future.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.