Feel Free to Gamble on Rookie Receivers

The predominant school of thought surrounding young receivers has been to temper expectations from a fantasy perspective until they are entering at least their third year in the pros. While this certainly has been the case for some wideouts over the years, most recently with Sidney Rice and Mike Sims-Walker in 2009, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. In fact, fantasy owners who ignore rookie wide receivers will miss the boat on some guys.

Last season, rookies such as Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Percy Harvin all became well-worthy starters on most fantasy rosters by midseason. Other receivers to splash onto the fantasy map as rookies include Marques Colston in 2006, Dwayne Bowe in 2007 and DeSean Jackson in 2008, when he caught 62 passes for 912 yards. No, none of these rookie seasons consisted of eye-popping statistics, but all offered consistent fantasy value and likely were drafted at a bargain spot, if drafted at all.
Undoubtedly, there will be some bargains to be had again this season at the deepest position in fantasy leagues. Here are some rookie possibilities.
Mike Williams, Bucs. He will be one of the few players who is fantasy relevant on a bad offense this season. Williams has turned heads from the beginning of offseason workouts, and in the meantime he has managed to build a strong rapport with second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. If Williams isn’t a Pro Bowler this season, he will be by the end of 2011.
Dexter McCluster, Chiefs. “Dex” will be used in multiple creative play sets that are designed specifically to get the ball in his hands. He has electrifying speed and the ability to take any play to the house from anywhere on the field. Although he might tend to be a bit of a boom-or-bust guy, the weeks he booms could win you some matchups.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys. I don’t think Bryant is the next Jerry Rice like a lot of people believe, although he is extremely talented. I simply think the Dallas offense could look like the Saints’ last season, which means a lot of touchdowns and a lot of passing plays. If there were no Miles Austin, I’d say Bryant could be a top-10 receiver right out of the gate, but he will still be Tony Romo’s second WR option on most passing plays. That makes him a viable starting option most weeks.

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