With the increased sophistication at college programs and the emphasis on the pass in the NFL, rookie wide receivers receive more opportunities and get them earlier than they used to. Those who make good on them must possess an ability to create separation or have an array of skills and an environment that aids them in overcoming a lack of it.
Few wideouts have the combination of elements needed to be successful fantasy football players right away. Owners, particularly those in dynasty leagues, must filter over-hyped NFL freshmen from the legit contenders and be aware of potentially overlooked assets.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
Has the Wright stuff
The Jags moved up a couple of spots to draft the consensus top wideout available, but he wasn't without detractors. Blackmon's lack of initial burst might be a problem if he weren't so physical and didn't possess an advanced ability to deceive defenders. He gets vertical with ease, too. All these attributes allow him to play bigger than his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame.
Blackmon has drawn some comparisons to Anquan Boldin for his toughness and capacity to line up anywhere. He seems to have a little Terrell Owens in him, too, though. How he handles potential frustration in J-ville, with wild-card signal caller Blaine Gabbert, will be telling. He tends to shy away from contact when he doesn't initiate it, too.
Blackmon has plenty of upside, but it's likelier to hit (or at least be more predictable) in 2013 or beyond. In the sleeper rounds of a redrafter, he's probably not worth a reach.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
The Notre Dame product earns above-average grades in nearly every category. His college teammates have to shoulder some of the blame for one of the few knocks on him - his lack of consistency. His breaks in routes aren't sharp, either, but his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, physical style and instincts will minimize the impact of that one.
Uncertainty and incoherent play at quarterback will affect the rookie's production far more than it will Larry Fitzgerald's. Nevertheless, there's no better receiver in the NFL to learn from than Arizona's stud. Floyd could almost certainly start opposite Fitz immediately, but that arrangement wouldn't mesh with Ken Whisenhunt's historical tendencies.
Floyd has better surroundings but will probably have less of an opportunity to contribute initially than Blackmon. Andre Roberts should eventually shift to the slot in 2012, at which point Floyd could be more of a points-earner for the rest of the season, however.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Did this 5-foot-10, 196-pounder who may have merely ridden Robert Griffin III's coattails warrant a first-round pick? Wright's size helps to eliminate certain routes from his playbook, but his compact frame and incredible burst will allow him to get open with relative ease. He's dangerous at any depth and with the ball in his hands. His feet are beyond quick.
Nate Washington can lay claim to a starting spot, so the status of Kenny Britt (multiple knee operations) will have some effect on Wright's opportunities. Many have mistakenly labeled the rookie a slot receiver, but he's a threat on the outside as well. The Titans have a tenuous situation under center; Wright's game seems to fit Jake Locker's style more so than Matt Hasselbeck's, but the first-year wideout will get his looks.
In training camp, Wright should be fully recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered in minicamp. He may receive little attention in 2012 drafts, and that'd be a mistake, especially if one or two things go his way.
A.J. Jenkins, Brian Quick, more
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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