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Rookie Meter: Best rookie receivers not WRs

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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By Kevin Fishbain

Percy Harvin was the first wide receiver since 2003 (Anquan Boldin) to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2009. In fact, only four wide receivers have won the award since 1986. Through three weeks this season, it's unlikely we'll see back-to-back receivers win the award.

Except for the prime few, it's rare for a wide receiver to come out of college and be a team's No. 1 guy. Unlike a starting running back who is getting a majority of the carries, a No. 2 or No. 3 WR option might only get five looks a game.

Looking at this year's top 10 rookies based on receiving yards, the top two are a tight end (Aaron Hernandez) and a running back (Jahvid Best). TEs Tony Moeaki and Jermaine Gresham are seventh and eighth, respectively. Hernandez and Best are the only ones with gaudy numbers (211 and 183 receiving yards).

The only "No. 1" receiver on the list is Tampa Bay's Mike Williams, someone we pointed out as a sleeper heading into the season. Williams has two TDs but also plays in a weak Buccaneers offense.

The surprise on this list is Bengals WR Jordan Shipley. Shipley is third among rookies with 161 receiving yards this season. Playing alongside Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, the Texas grad is an unlikely choice to already be a factor in the team's offense.

But receivers looking to take home the hardware should not fret. Harvin had just 12 receptions for 138 yards through three games in 2009. Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Cowboys WR Dez Bryant are the other top WR candidates, but right now, the tight ends have a better shot of winning than the big-name receivers.

1. Lions RB Jahvid Best (first round, 30th overall)
Last week's ranking: 1

Best came into Week Three leading the league in overall touchdowns but had to leave Sunday's game early with a turf-toe injury. Assuming the injury will not nag him during the season, Lions fans shouldn't be concerned. He only had 26 yards rushing and 13 yards receiving before leaving the game, but Best still leads all rookies in receptions (16) and rushing yards (124) through three games.

2. Rams QB Sam Bradford (1, 1)
Last week's ranking: 3

The No. 1 overall pick showed some moxie in Week Three. After losing starting RB Steven Jackson for the game in the second quarter, Bradford led the Rams to a surprising 30-16 victory over the Redskins. He was 23-of-37 through the air for 235 yards with a TD and an INT. Bradford made five completions on the Rams' drive that led to a Kenneth Darby TD run that gave them the lead in the third quarter.

3. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 2

Suh had a quieter game in Week Three, recording three tackles and a QB hit. Unfortunately, his hand-to-the-helmet on Brett Favre cost the Lions an opportunity to recover a fumble. While the penalty hurt, it was just another example of Suh's power up the middle; he just needs to keep his hands down and remember how well QBs are protected by the rules in the NFL.

4. Buccaneers WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 5

Despite going up against the Steelers' vaunted defense, Williams still put together a nice game with five catches for 55 yards on six targets in the Bucs' Week Two loss. Williams is in a three-way tie for the rookie lead with two receiving TDs. The Bucs have some shaky defenses ahead on their schedule, and Williams is still QB Josh Freeman's top option.

5. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (1, 12)
Last week's ranking: 4

Mathews missed the Chargers' Week Two loss to the Seahawks with an ankle injury and is questionable for Week Three, but we'll keep him on this meter as long as he's not out for an extended period of time. He is still second to Best with 104 yards rushing but is averaging almost a yard more per carry than Best. When Mathews is back and healthy, he will get the touches and produce the yards.

6. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Last week's ranking: 9

Hernandez leads all rookies with 211 yards receiving through three games. He had six grabs for 65 yards on seven targets in the Patriots' 38-30 victory over the Bills on Sunday. The biggest thing going against Hernandez is that Tom Brady tends to give the touchdowns to fellow rookie TE Rob Gronkowski. Two of Gronkowski's five receptions this season have been TDs. But even with Wes Welker and Randy Moss, Brady is finding ways to get Hernandez the ball.

7. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki (3, 93)
Last week's ranking: 10

Moeaki had a highlight-reel TD catch in the Chiefs' big 31-10 victory over the 49ers, making them one of just three teams in the NFL that are undefeated through three games. Moeaki had four catches for 44 yards and was targeted five times, giving him the most targets on the Chiefs for the third consecutive week. Moeaki is tied for the rookie lead with two receiving TDs, and without a star receiver, QB Matt Cassel is continuing to go to the former Hawkeye.

8. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: 7

Bryant had four catches for 50 yards and was targeted by QB Tony Romo six times in Week Three. He had just one punt return for 12 yards. WR Roy Williams took the TDs away from Bryant, and if Williams has truly returned to form, that could take some downfield and red-zone targets away from Bryant, so keep an eye on that. For now, Bryant is still one of the more electric rookie receivers and returners.

9. Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)
Last week's ranking: NR

Thomas finally makes the list with a huge game in Sunday's Week Three win over the Chargers. The rookie out of Texas had two picks, six tackles, and one QB hit. Thomas read Chargers QB Philip Rivers perfectly on the last play of the game, hauling in a game-clinching interception. Thomas has four passes defended on the season and is third among rookies with 21 tackles.

10. Chiefs WR-RS Dexter McCluster (2, 36)
Last week's ranking: NR

McCluster returns to the Meter after a week's absence having scored a TD in Week Three. The electric rookie who is giving Kansas City fans flashbacks of Dante Hall had three catches for 69 yards and a TD. He also ran for a first down out of the "Wildcat" formation. McCluster was held in check on punt returns with just two for 12 yards, but he showed again that he can rack up lots of all-purpose yards this season as a big weapon for the 3-0 Chiefs.

On the cusp (listed alphabetically)

Bills RB C.J. Spiller (1, 9)
Browns FS T.J. Ward (2, 38)
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas (1, 22)
Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham (1, 21)
Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Bengals WR Jordan Shipley (3, 84)
Rams OLT Rodger Saffold (2, 33)
Jaguars DT Tyson Alualu (1, 10)
Raiders MLB Rolando McClain (1, 8)
Falcons OLB Sean Witherspoon (1, 19)

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