Around Fantasyland: WR up-and-comers, rookies
Posted By William Del Pilar
In the era of high-octane, pass-first offenses, young players and rookies are now expected to contribute sooner than later. The 2012 NFL draft was one of the deepest in receivers in recent memory. Add the maturing, young wideouts already in the league, and I feel this will be one of the most high-scoring fantasy seasons ever. Staying up to date is imperative if any fantasy owner wants a legitimate opportunity to dominate his league.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Heyward-Bey was a “bad boy” and was arrested and charged with DUI. He’ll plead not guilty, and if he gets probation from the courts, he's looking at a potential one-game suspension. Heyward-Bey proved himself the team’s best wideout last year and, entering his fourth season, is primed to break out after showing dramatic improvement in 2011. He raises questions, playing in a new offense this year, and will fight for targets with unproven yet talented receivers, but he’s the team’s most complete receiver right now. He makes a quality lower-middle-round pick.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Broncos
Both Thomas and Decker are on the fantasy radar for 2012 as players ready to take their production to the next level. Decker was the first wideout to work with QB Peyton Manning this offseason and has developed some early chemistry with the veteran. The team plans on using Decker on 35-40 pass routes per game while moving him around. Thomas showed in 2011 that, when healthy, he’s the team’s most talented wideout. He plans on playing this season lighter than before — approximately 10 pounds lighter is his goal. If Manning is on his game, without any neck issues, both wide receivers are legitimate weekly fantasy starters.
Titus Young, Lions
Young is currently barred from practicing with the club or being at the team facilities by Lions head coach Jim Schwartz after sucker-punching Louis Delmas. With skirmishes commonplace, it would appear even Schwartz agrees a cheap shot is not how you treat a teammate. Young is the team's future at wide receiver but needs to mature and learn the nuances of how to play in the NFL. He’ll return well before training camp but will remain the No. 3 option at receiver, making him a bye-week and injury fill-in. Nate Burleson will remain the starter, at least going into the season.
Greg Little, Browns
Last season reports began circulating the team did not believe Little was a true No. 1 receiver as much as a No. 2, and perhaps that affected Little. He showed up at OTAs much leaner and in shape, showing an obvious dedication to his body during the offseason. Little did not have quality quarterback play but also showed the typical problems young receivers have. Dropped passes, not working the middle of the field well and not showing the playmaking talent the team believes he has. Little is not playing in a proficient offense, and this West Coast offense will be built around RB Trent Richardson. Look toward Little in the later rounds of your draft if you want him.
Jerome Simpson, Vikings
With only a three-game suspension Simpson will have a chance to show the Vikings he can be the No. 2 wideout they’re looking for. Working on a one-year deal worth $2 million, Simpson is playing for a long-term contract. He’s someone you can pick up after the middle rounds, and he is already familiar with the West Coast offense. Let’s hope after receiving 2½ pounds of marijuana in the mail, the munchies don’t make him fat and lazy!
- With Dwayne Bowe not taking part in OTAs, second-year player Jonathan Baldwin of the Chiefs saw time as a starter. That is the eventual role the team sees him in, with Steve Breaston as the No. 3. Right now as the No. 3, his value is limited.
- Raiders QB Carson Palmer states Denarius Moore can become a complete player in only his second this year. Moore has to be more than a vertical threat in a West Coast offense that needs precise route running. His fantasy value is in the late middle rounds.
- Look for the Panthers to make Brandon LaFell their No. 2 option this year after making him work for it in 2011. The team believes he could break out, and he makes a late-round flier. Remember, he will only be the third receiving option behind Steve Smith and TE Greg Olsen.
Rookie quick hits
- With Hakeem Nicks (foot) out for around 12 weeks, it gives Rueben Randle an opportunity to prove what the team stated about him, that he was NFL-ready to play. With more reps he could win greater playing time as the No. 3 with or without Nicks in the lineup.
- Head coach Jeff Fisher states that both Brian Quick and Chris Givens will have the opportunity to see a lot of playing time on the field. Look for both to start as it's a young, rebuilding team with a new coaching staff.
- We’re going to have to wait for training camp as Bengals rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones battle veterans Brandon Tate and Armon Ginns for the No. 2 WR spot. However, logic dictates the future is Sanu and Jones, with Sanu the early favorite to win a starting role.
- Despite only being 5-11 and 188 pounds, T.J. Graham can be the outside receiver the Bills need, the team believes. I’m dubious, and right now Donald Jones will fill that role. Graham has minimal fantasy value entering 2012.
- At 6-5, 219 pounds, the Ravens love Tommy Streeter’s size, and he could be in line to see some red-zone packages to take advantage of his size.
- A.J. Jenkins showed up at the 49ers’ OTAs fat and out of shape, per reports. Look for him to be brought along slowly as it’s now a deep group of receivers. Right now he has minimal fantasy value.
- The Jets drafted Stephen Hill to be a starter, and in the first OTAs he showed his explosiveness and ability to make highlight-reel catches. At 6-4, 215 pounds, he makes a great complement to Santonio Holmes but, on a run-first team, has minimal fantasy value right now. He’s a late-round flier.
- The Jaguars coaches are raving about Justin Blackmon, and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski states the rookie is ahead of schedule. One player went so far as to call him a stud. Regardless, this is a run-first offense built around Maurice Jones-Drew, and Blackmon’s value is in dynasty and keeper leagues.
- The Colts' website states they expect or see T.Y. Hilton playing in the slot, and it’s the perfect position for the 5-9, 183-pound speedster. His 2012 value is in return leagues, and he will be a sleeper in that format. But outside that, dynasty and keeper leagues hold his 2012 value.
- Devin Hester is listed as a Bears’ starter alongside Brandon Marshall, but Hester has proven not to be capable, so it will be shocking if Alshon Jeffery is not starting sooner than later. Jeffery makes a solid late-round flier because he’s in a great position but is a young rookie who has to learn to play in the NFL.
- Cris Carter on "NFL Live" stated that Cardinals WR Michael Floyd will attend Larry Fitzgerald’s summer camp. If that comes to pass, move Floyd up your boards as Fitzgerald does not just have God-given talent, he has the mental discipline to be on top of his game. If Floyd can learn that from him, he could make an immediate impact in their offense.
- It’s an open battle in Cleveland for the slot receiver role with rookies Josh Cooper, who played with QB Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State, and Travis Benjamin trying to challenge Jordan Norwood and Joshua Cribbs for the role. However, it doesn’t matter who wins that job as the Nos. 1 and 2 receivers will have minimum fantasy value, much less the slot receiver in 2012.
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