Maybe we were spoiled last season by the exceptional rookie performances by A.J. Green and Julio Jones, but this year’s rookie WR class is off to an extremely slow start.
The highest-drafted rookie receiver, Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon, has struggled to get going, and it doesn’t help being in a subpar passing offense in Jacksonville — though Blackmon finally put up decent numbers in Week Four, leading his team with six catches for 48 yards. Fellow first-rounder Michael Floyd is buried on the depth chart in Arizona and A.J. Jenkins could be inactive all season for the 49ers.
Rams WR Brian Quick has been slow to get involved in the Rams’ offense — he finally had his first catch in Week Four. After a big Week One, Jets WR Stephen Hill has been a nonfactor. Other rookie wideouts such as Titans WR Kendall Wright, Bills WR T.J. Graham and Colts WR T.Y. Hilton are beginning to make an impact.
Green had 1,057 receiving yards in 15 games last season and Jones gained 959 in 13 games. This year’s group is not anywhere near that pace. In fact, Bears WR Alshon Jeffery is the leading rookie wide receiver through four weeks with 164 yards, putting him on pace for 656 receiving yards, which would be the lowest total for the leading rookie wide receiver since 2005.
Here’s a look at the wide receivers in the past 20 seasons who finished with the most receiving yards among rookies, but couldn’t manage at least 800 yards (listed from least yards to most):
1. Broncos WR Arthur Marshall / 1992 / 493 receiving yards — Marshall caught only 26 passes, but gained 19.0 yards per catch. That was the best season of his five-year career.
2. Panthers WR Rae Carruth / 1997 / 545 — As a rookie, Carruth played in 15 games with 14 starts and led the Panthers’ receivers in yards. However, Carruth played in only seven NFL games following that season after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder of his baby’s mother so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. He was sent to jail in 2001, where he is still serving time.
3. Eagles WR Reggie Brown / 2005 / 571 — Six wide receivers were taken in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft, including Braylon Edwards and Roddy White. But it was Brown, who had 43 catches and started 11 games, who led them all. He played five NFL seasons, all with the Eagles, peaking in ’06 with 46-816-8 with 15 starts.
4. Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson / 2000 / 713 — Jackson led all rookies in receptions (53), yards (713) and receiving touchdowns (six) in 2000. He had a very productive career, recording three 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Seahawks and retiring with 51 TD catches.
5. Cowboys WR Antonio Bryant / 2002 / 733 — The leading rookie receiver in 2002 was Giants TE Jeremy Shockey (74-894-2), but Bryant’s 733 receiving yards led the rookie wideouts. Bryant, who gained 16.7 yards per catch that season, the second-highest of his career, had a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2005 and ’08. He unsuccessfully tried to make a comeback with the Seahawks this past preseason.
6. Raiders WR James Jett / 1993 / 771 — Dolphins RB Terry Kirby led all rookies in receptions and receiving yards, but Jett topped rookie wideouts in receiving, thanks to a whopping 23.4-yards-per-catch average. In 10 NFL seasons, all with the Raiders, Jett topped that year’s total two times, but never eclipsed 900 yards receiving. He had 12 TD catches in 1997.
7. Vikings WR Percy Harvin and Giants WR Hakeem Nicks / 2009 / 790 — The ’09 class of rookie wideouts was strong, featuring Austin Collie, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Kenny Britt, but no rookie receiver could top the 790 yards receiving that Harvin and Nicks both totaled. Nicks did it in 13 fewer catches, but Harvin (who added 135 rushing yards) won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.