Top 10 rookie wide receivers for fantasy football
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The learning curve for wide receivers (and all players, for that matter) has shortened in the NFL. Perhaps it's due to all of the money rookies earn and the need for them to produce early. Or maybe it's due to the nearly year-round off-season workouts and mini-camps.
In either case, many fantasy owners no longer need to wait for the third season to witness a "breakout year" for a wide receiver.
Here are my top ten rookie wide receivers for 2010:
1. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: Due to his size, athletic ability and alma mater, the Georgia Tech product has been sometimes compared to Detroit's Calvin Johnson. With the Broncos trading Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins, there will be plenty of opportunities for Thomas to make an impact.
2. Dez Bryant, Cowboys: Bryant, who was viewed as the most talented receiver in the draft, was a draft-day bargain as the 24th overall pick for the Cowboys. From a fantasy perspective, the major difference between Bryant and the other receivers at the top of this list is the competition for targets. The Cowboys already have one of the league's top receivers (Miles Austin), one of the league's top tight ends (Jason Witten) and a guy that should be producing a lot more than he already does (Roy Williams), which likely means less targets for Bryant than his talent warrants.
3. Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers: Heading into the NFL Draft, the Buccaneers had one of the league's worst receiving corps. Arguably they still do. But Benn, who was the 39th overall draft pick, should get an opportunity to play right away and often. In fact, the Bucs traded up a few spots to nab Benn. One bit of caution is Benn's drop in production last year -- 38 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns -- at Illinois as a junior.
4. Golden Tate, Seahawks: As a former running back, Tate is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Although he's under six-feet, Tate was highly productive at Notre Dame. Over the past two seasons, Tate caught 151 passes for 2,576 yards and 25 touchdowns. Last season, he finished with at least seven receptions and 113 yards in nine of his 12 games.
5. Mike Williams, Buccaneers: It wasn't talent that caused Williams to last until the 101st overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Despite his off-the-field concerns, Williams finds himself in a similar boat as fellow rookie Benn. The team lacks talent at the position and Williams will get a chance to make a big impact as a rookie. In fact, former scout Daniel Jeremiah tweeted that Williams is a "sleeper rookie of the year candidate."
6. Mardy Gilyard, Rams: The good news and bad news for Gilyard's fantasy stock is that he plays for the Rams. Even if he is third on the team's depth chart at receiver behind Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson, Gilyard should see plenty of action on Sundays. That said, there is a good chance that quarterback Sam Bradford, the top overall pick, won't see the field until mid-season and, when he does, he's likely to experience the ups and downs typical of a rookie quarterback.
7. Brandon LaFell, Panthers: With a top-flight running game, Steve Smith drawing double teams and the lack of development from the team's other receivers, there is a reasonable chance that LaFell opens the season as the team's No. 2 receiver and to become the recipient of a fair amount of targets. That said, LaFell, who is a big target (6-foot-2, 211 pounds), saw his production decline in his senior season (57-792-11) from his junior campaign (63-929-8) at LSU.
8. Jordan Shipley, Bengals: Shipley was on the six-year plan (due to a few injuries) at Texas. Although he lacks top-end speed, Shipley is quick, runs routes well, has good hands and isn't afraid to go across the middle. He leaves college with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns in each of his past two seasons.
9. Eric Decker, Broncos: Like his fellow rookie teammate (Demaryius Thomas), Decker is a big receiver (6-foot-3, 217 pounds). Although he missed the final five games of the season due to a foot injury, Decker had four 100-yard performances in his first five games last year. During that span, he caught 43 balls for 639 yards and five touchdowns.
10. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers: With Santonio Holmes traded to the Jets, Sanders should be the team's third receiver behind Hines Ward and Mike Wallace. In last year's offense, Wallace posted solid numbers in that spot. Sanders ran a 4.41 forty (tied for second-fastest for WRs) and had a 39.5 vertical jump (fifth among WRs) at the NFL Scouting Combine.