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The Weekly Gut Check Vol. 155 - Rookie Impact Series: WR

  Posted 6/7 by Matt Waldman, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

The Weekly Gut Check examines the players, strategies and guidelines fantasy football owners use to make personnel decisions.

Impact Wide Receivers

Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson, and to a lesser extent, Donnie Avery, were three rookie receivers in 2008 who used their short, quick, and agile statures to beat their veteran opponents for big plays. They are part of the growing evidence that first-year pass catchers can produce immediately. Historically, it's rare for a rookie receiver to produce like a consistent fantasy starter, but if you temper your expectations on draft day, a rookie can help your team during the season.

For every Anquan Boldin, Michael Clayton, Randy Moss, and Terry Glenn that took the league by storm, there have been over 1,500 rookie receivers in the history of the game who couldn't. This includes great receivers like Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. There are only six receivers since 1988 that posted 1,000-yard season as rookies and only 12 since 1958. A total of 120 fantasy points generally places a receiver within the Top 24 at his position. There are a total of 41 receivers that reached the 120-point total since 1958.

Player
RookYr
Team
Gms
Rec
Yards
TDs
FPts
Randy Moss
1998
min
16
69
1313
17
233.3
Bill Groman
1960
oti
14
72
1473
12
219.3
Anquan Boldin
2003
crd
16
101
1377
8
185.7
Bob Hayes
1965
dal
13
46
1003
12
178.3
John Jefferson
1978
sdg
14
56
1001
13
178.1
Michael Clayton
2004
tam
16
80
1193
7
161.3
Billy Brooks
1986
clt
16
65
1131
8
161.1
Joey Galloway
1995
sea
16
67
1039
7
151.9
Marques Colston
2006
nor
14
70
1038
8
151.8
Sammy White
1976
min
14
51
906
10
150.6
Terry Glenn
1996
nwe
15
90
1132
6
149.2
Cris Collinsworth
1981
cin
16
67
1009
8
148.9
Kevin Johnson
1999
cle
16
66
986
8
146.6
Eddie Kennison
1996
ram
15
54
924
9
146.4
Paul Warfield
1964
cle
14
52
920
9
146.0
Louis Lipps
1984
pit
14
45
860
9
146.0
Eddie Brown
1985
cin
16
53
942
8
142.2
Charley Taylor
1964
was
14
53
814
5
141.4
Randy Vataha
1971
nwe
14
51
872
9
141.2
Bucky Pope
1964
ram
14
25
786
10
138.6
Isaac Curtis
1973
cin
14
45
843
9
138.3
Lee Evans
2004
buf
16
48
843
9
138.3
Chris Sanders
1995
oti
16
35
823
9
136.3
Jimmy Orr
1958
pit
12
33
910
7
133.0
Keyshawn Johnson
1996
nyj
14
63
844
8
132.4
Marvin Harrison
1996
clt
16
64
836
8
131.6
Willie Gault
1983
chi
16
40
836
8
131.6
Daryl Turner
1984
sea
16
35
715
10
131.5
Chris Chambers
2001
mia
16
48
883
7
130.3
Ernest Givins
1986
oti
15
61
1062
3
130.2
Anthony Carter
1985
min
16
43
821
8
130.1
Roy Williams
2004
det
14
54
817
8
129.7
Dwayne Bowe
2007
kan
16
70
995
5
129.5
Eddie Royal
2008
den
15
91
980
5
128.0
Larry Fitzgerald
2004
crd
16
58
780
8
126.0
Elbert Dubenion
1960
buf
14
42
752
7
123.2
Gary Clark
1985
was
16
72
926
5
122.6
Andre Johnson
2003
htx
16
66
976
4
121.6
Bobby Johnson
1984
nyg
16
48
795
7
121.5
Jim Colclough
1960
nwe
14
49
666
9
120.6
Fred Barnett
1990
phi
16
36
721
8
120.1

Breaking down the data, 10 of the receivers reached 120 fantasy points during the 2000s; nine in the 1990s; 11 in the 1980s; four in 1970s; and seven from 1958-1969. From first glance, it doesn't appear that there is a significant, upward trend of rookie receivers making a starter-worthy impact in terms of two-WR lineups. It's noteworthy that there are just as many big names on this list as players who never fulfilled the promise of their great rookie season. For every Moss, Boldin, Jefferson, Hayes, and Galloway there are enough Michael Claytons, Kevin Johnsons, Chris Sanders, and Bobby Johnsons for dynasty owners to temper their excitement about the future.

For three-WR lineups, 100 fantasy points is a pretty good baseline to qualify as a top-36 receiver for the last 10 years. When you factor these players into the equation, it nearly doubles the list with another 36 players bringing the total to 75 players with starter-worthy production in fantasy leagues for the last 50 years.

Player
RookYr
Team
GMs
Rec
Yards
TDs
FPts
Dave Parks
1964
sfo
14
36
703
8
118.3
James Lofton
1978
gnb
16
46
818
6
117.8
Charlie Brown
1982
was
9
32
690
8
117.0
Jerry Rice
1985
sfo
16
49
927
3
116.7
Darnay Scott
1994
cin
16
46
866
5
116.6
Brian Blades
1988
sea
16
40
682
8
116.2
Al Frazier
1961
den
14
47
799
6
115.9
Torry Holt
1999
ram
16
52
788
6
114.8
Calvin Williams
1990
phi
16
37
602
9
114.2
Oronde Gadsden
1998
MIA
16
48
713
7
113.3
Alfred Jenkins
1975
atl
14
38
767
6
112.7
Paul Flatley
1963
min
14
51
867
4
110.7
Ken Burrow
1971
atl
14
33
741
6
110.1
HartLee Dykes
1989
nwe
16
49
795
5
109.5
Antonio Bryant
2002
dal
16
44
733
6
109.3
DeSean Jackson
2008
phi
16
62
912
2
109.2
Chris Burford
1960
kan
14
46
789
5
108.9
Tim Brown
1988
rai
16
43
725
5
108.5
Charlie Hennigan
1960
oti
11
44
722
6
108.2
Danny Abramowicz
1967
nor
14
50
721
6
108.1
Donte Stallworth
2002
nor
13
42
594
8
107.4
Jerry Butler
1979
buf
13
48
834
4
107.4
Darrell Jackson
2000
sea
16
53
713
6
107.3
Ron Sellers
1969
nwe
12
27
705
6
106.5
Mac Haik
1968
oti
14
32
584
8
106.4
Andre Rison
1989
clt
16
52
820
4
106.0
Lawrence Dawsey
1991
tam
16
55
818
3
105.8
Calvin Johnson
2007
det
15
48
756
4
105.6
Keary Colbert
2004
car
15
47
754
5
105.4
Rob Moore
1990
nyj
15
44
692
6
105.2
Mike Sherrard
1986
dal
16
41
744
5
104.4
Shawn Collins
1989
atl
16
58
862
3
104.2
Ricky Proehl
1990
crd
16
56
802
4
104.2
Troy Edwards
1999
pit
16
61
714
5
101.4
Willie Green
1991
det
16
39
592
7
101.2
Frank Sanders
1995
crd
16
52
883
2
100.3

There are some great players who began their careers with low-end starter production, including future HOFers James Lofton, Jerry Rice, Torry Holt, and Tim Brown. This isn't a boom-bust list, either. Calvin Williams, Willie Green, Frank Sanders, Andre Rison, Alfred Jenkins, and Darnay Scott are among the names of receivers with decent careers. A receiver with at least 30 receptions, 700 yards and six scores can be a valuable, although inconsistent, fantasy performer in most leagues. The first list had 21 percent its players from the 2000s; this was nearly identical, with 19 percent coming from this current decade and the other years following suit with a similar make up.

When combining the two lists and sorting the data by rookie year, it's worth noting that the longest period where a rookie didn't produce these numbers out of the gate was two seasons. That tells me you should feel pretty confident that a rookie makes a fantasy impact every year; they just don't achieve super-stud status very often. The fun, and critical, part is determining who these players will be.

What do these players have in common, if anything? Keyshawn Johnson and Marvin Harrison were vastly different receivers in terms of dimensions and speed, but they were drafted the same year and had almost identical production as rookies. Ernest Givins and Anthony Carter were vastly different players than Roy Williams and Dwayne Bowe. Givens and Carter also had better quarterbacks throwing them the ball than Williams and Bowe. No one would mistake the taller, slower, and late-round pick, Marques Colston with the shorter, speed-burning, first-day pick, Joey Galloway but they had nearly identical production.

Determining a statistical profile for a rookie breakout receiver will likely yield some sort of height-weight-speed requirement and a more sophisticated one might even discuss the best environment for that rookie to land, but I also believe it would have also told you to seek players like Robert Meachem and Buster Davis. I prefer just to give you the skinny on what I know about these players in terms of what they demonstrated in college and how they can potentially fit with their pro team.

I will be basing my impact analysis of these players on the intensive film study I do and which team signed the player. For more detailed information on any of these players, I highly recommend two resources: my 2009 Rookie Scouting Portfolio and Draftguys.com. I can personally attest that the information you get from both places is based on film study of the players in action and you'll get accurate depictions of how these prospects played in college. My impact analysis is ranked by who I think will have the best year, but I will also provide my takes on their career outlook.

Full-time Redraft Targets

Expect yardage in the 600-1000 range and up to 8 scores

Hakeem Nicks, Giants

Skills: With Plaxico Burress doing his best imitation of Cheddar from the movie 8 Mile and subsequently released, the Giants found a receiver with comparable skills and then some. Hakeem Nicks is a big, strong, hands-catching receiver who does subtle things to get separation as a route runner. Nicks has a chance to develop into an upgrade for the Giants because he also runs well after the catch and is more consistent making receptions anywhere on the field than Burress or recently departed, Amani Toomer. Nicks is a high-effort player and I expect him to become one of Eli Manning's favorite targets quickly. He should also see time on the field because he is a strong blocker in the run game and showed the capability to turn and move a defender off the line of scrimmage or away from the direction of a run.

Obstacles: Although Nicks is a physical player corners in college generally played off him rather than engaged him at the line of scrimmage. Nicks, like most of the players on this list, will need to refine his separation skills against press coverage. He's not a classic deep threat, but he has enough speed to be successful because he also functions well in tight coverage. The greatest obstacle he'll face as a rookie besides learning a more complex offense and facing savvier opposition will be making sure he is first, fully recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained at the combine, and second, that he can get in good enough shape to prove to Tom Coughlin and the Giants' coaching staff that he can contribute. So far, he's impressed the staff with his speed on deep routes, consistency catching the football, and overall effort.

Outlook: When it comes to rookie impact, it's about talent and opportunity. Nicks might not be the most talented of the receivers on this list, but he has the opportunity be a starter on a team with no established starters at receiver, a strong running game, a good quarterback, and a strong defense. Which rookies have this plum of a situation? By my count just one.

Percy Harvin, Vikings

Skills: Harvin is one of the best athletes at his position in this draft class. He has excellent speed, but what makes him special is his strength and toughness for a man of his 5-foot-11, 195-pound, frame. Harvin understands how to run tough and break tackles anywhere on the field. This skill was most apparent at Florida where he was arguably their best runner in the offense. Unlike former first-round draft pick Peter Warrick, who was used as a gimmick runner at Florida State, Harvin wasn't just a player used on the end-around or reverses. The versatile receiver/runner carried the ball between the tackles with good pad level, decisiveness, and finished runs well. What people don't realize about Harvin is that he is truly a receiver and he demonstrated skill running intermediate routes and catching the ball during his pro day workout that wasn't apparent during games at Florida. This isn't because Harvin didn't catch the ball well or ran poor routes and Florida and got more practice doing it during his pre-workout training ala Robert Meachem (I know, I'm picking on him but he was a great example of an athlete people overvalued when his skill deficiencies were available to see on tape in just about every game). This is a case where the Florida offense simply didn't have Harvin - or its other receivers - consistently run pro style routes because Tim Tebow lacked this type of skill set as a passer to do this as well as he does other things in the offense. Harvin also demonstrated his toughness in the National Championship game by playing with an ankle injury that would have kept a lot of players on the bench and performing well. From strictly the standpoint of skills, Harvin is one of the best skill position players in this draft.

Obstacles: Harvin is his own greatest obstacle to success. Although never arrested, it has been well documented leading up to the draft that he was the most-cited character concern among NFL GMs. Failed drug tests putting you at risk for future suspension with another slip-up doesn't help, either. As far as competition for a starting spot is concerned, Bobby Wade is a reliable stopgap who will probably be on two more NFL teams before his career ends as quietly as it began and Sidney Rice is another in a long line of Robert Meachems in the NFL.

Outlook: While the first name rolling off every fantasy owner's tongue is Michael Crabtree when they discuss impact rookie receivers, I believe Percy Harvin will make a very strong argument that his should have been the first name mentioned. It's not that Harvin is a better route runner or catcher of the football. Crabtree is also a decent runner after the catch in his own right. None of those factors really come into play. The real deal is the fact that Minnesota is a great fit for Harvin from a skills standpoint. Brad Childress should be able to use Harvin both in the backfield, in the slot, and split wide with great effectiveness. Harvin is explosive enough to get deep on NFL corners, but also strong enough to break tackles and take short passes for big gains. This is why ESPN's draft day analysts compared him favorably to Carolina's Steve Smith. Harvin is also unique as a wide receiver that runs the football because he actually runs with good, downhill technique. If the Vikings decide to use their own version of the Wildcat with Peterson and Harvin, this could be highly effective in certain situations because Harvin has no problem bursting through small creases without dancing beforehand. Sage Rosenfels may not be the long-term answer in Minnesota, but he is a definite upgrade to Tarvaris Jackson and possibly Gus Frerotte. Either way, they should have a quarterback who is capable of scanning more than just one quadrant of the field on a pass play and Harvin's addition will help the deep passing game with Bernard Berrian and the intermediate and short routes for Bobby Wade and Visanthe Shiancoe. As long as Harvin stays healthy, clean, and walking a reasonably straight line, I think he's the most likely rookie to approach 800-1,200 total yards as a receiver with rushing skills. I think Harvin's dynasty potential is what you would get if you did a mash-up of Laveranues Coles (pre-chronic toe injury) speed and routes with Hines Ward's rushing skills and toughness - and that's an exciting combination. The hope is that he gets a dose of both of these players when it comes to behaving like a professional.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers

Skills: Michael Crabtree is not the next Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, or Anquan Boldin. He's the only two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, but put Moss or Fitzgerald in the same college situation and I think it would have been impossible not to have two, three-time Biletnikoff recipients. Even so, I find it difficult to say Crabtree is over-hyped. He is an excellent route runner and catcher of the football who also demonstrates decent after the catch skills because of his balance, agility, and power. He's an aggressive player when the ball is in the air and has no problem getting physical with cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage or in his breaks. He reminds me more of Sterling Sharpe or Michael Irvin; big, physical guys who simply find a way to make the play.

Obstacles: Crabtree's game isn't speed and he won't be the best athlete on his depth chart - Josh Morgan is bigger and faster and Jason Hill has can give Crabtree a run for his money due to his speed and hands - and Isaac Bruce is a better technician. Crabtree should be the favorite to at least split time as a starter, but he'll still have to contend with a passing game that lacks a consistent presence at quarterback. It was also rumored 49ers head coach Mike Singletary wasn't behind the pick of Crabtree. Considering the 49ers just scrapped Mike Martz and his passing offense for a more conservative, run-based attack to complement the skills of Frank Gore, I can see the truth to the speculation. Despite the desire to grind it out on offense, the defense will need to improve upon its 2008 season for the Niners not get forced into throwing the ball. Most of their lower scoring games were against divisional opponents with their own offensive struggles (Seattle and St. Louis) or non-divisional opponents lacking firepower. Another question that puts him behind Harvin is the surgically repaired toe that forced him to miss mini camp. Harvin may have missed mini camp in Minnesota, but I would argue Hill and Morgan would start over the current Vikings receivers competing with Harvin.

Outlook: I don't think Crabtree is remotely a bust, but his injury and the 49ers offense give me enough doubts about his opportunity to do more than gain 500-700 yards in 2009. He has 1,000-yard skills, but I'm not convinced he has 1,000-yard "opportunity" as a rookie. Within a few seasons, I expect Crabtree to be the most productive receiver in this class, but that means San Francisco will have a better signal caller passing him the football. His situation is a little like Carolina RB Jonathan Stewart's, the depth chart has enough talent on top and combined with Crabtree's injury, there might be a bit more enthusiasm for a great rookie year than warranted. But if he proves he's healthy early in training camp, he could compete for a starting job. This makes Crabtree probably the most fluid rookie receiver in terms of where you rank him for impact. I can see him as low as the fifth for sixth guy on this list because he could start slow but if everything comes together, he has the best skills among his brethren.

Part-time Shifts

Expect up to 600 yards and a handful of quality games

Brian Robiskie, Browns

Skills: The former anchorman of the Ohio State 4x100m relay that placed second in the Big Ten and qualified for the NCAAs has more speed and quickness than credited, but what he does best is run crisp routes and catch the football. At 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, Robiskie has the raw physical build to develop into an all-around threat. He adjusts very well to the ball and has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to make diving catches on passes thrown over his head or outside his range of stride. The son of career NFL assistant coach Terry Robiskie, Brian Robiskie is an Arthur Ashe Award nominee and very solid academic performer. The Browns got both a good, young receiver with a professional approach to the game and a good citizen off the field.

Obstacles: Although Robiskie is faster than some people characterize, the reason he isn't credited has to do with his technique to defeat press coverage off the line of scrimmage. At Ohio State, Robiskie used a footwork-oriented approach to avoiding the jam at the line by take a step back with his front foot before taking steps towards the inside shoulder of the defensive back and then driving to the outside. Although Robiskie would routinely prevent any contact early in his route, he allowed the defensive back to maintain his balance, turn, and run. Robiskie would only get a half a step to a step on his opponent with this technique. Combine this with two quarterbacks who routinely threw the deep ball late, which forces the receiver to slow down and the defender to catch up, and Robiskie was seen at the end of highlight tape trying to make a lot of contested receptions on deep balls. Robiskie will never be mistaken for Randy Moss, but 4x100m anchormen aren't slowpokes. If Robiskie can learn to use his hands more effectively to initiate contact with a defensive back and rip him to the side at the line of scrimmage, he can then use his speed to get an extra step or two on deep routes. As of the time of this writing, the Browns are still looking for takers to deal primary target Braylon Edwards. After that it's between Robiskie, oft-injured underachiever Donte Stallworth, journeymen David Patten and Mike Furrey, young athletes Josh Cribbs and Paul Hubbard, and fellow rookie Mohamed Massaquoi. Furrey and Patten will force Robiskie to be on top of his game in terms of knowing the playbook, catching the football consistently, and running good routes. Stallworth, Hubbard, and Cribbs are as good if not better athletes than the OSU product. Then there's the quarterback situation. Will be Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, or newcomer Brett Ratliff?

Outlook: Expecting Robiskie to win the starting role right away is too optimistic. I can see him carving out a role where he earns some situational playing time and grows into a bigger role, but he'll need to have a great preseason to earn anything more than spot in the slot.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles

Skills: The Missouri receiver is quick, fast, and an excellent open field runner after the catch. He is very effective on drag routes, screens, some slants, and streaks. He didn't have to do it much in college, but he flashed the ability to make catches in traffic.

Obstacles: I think the way people mischaracterize Percy Harvin's game is an accurate depiction of Maclin's. His routes need a lot more work for him to earn time at a position other than the slot. This is because he rounds off his routes and he relies too much on his athleticism to get to the ball. He needs to practice using more pacing as he runs his routes and better lateral movement and cutting technique with his breaks to make more efficient plays against NFL corners and safeties. Although the Eagles have lacked a player with Maclin's upside since Terrell Owens, the rookie needs to refine his game to be a clear cut starter over cast of vets Philadelphia currently has on its roster.

Outlook: Maclin should see time as a return specialist and in specific offensive packages as a slot receiver. I would expect the Eagles to try to get him the ball on slot screens, bubble screens, drags, slants, and deep routes off double moves. If Donovan McNabb can make fantasy owners temporarily salivate over Hank Baskett, I'm sure there will be weeks where he'll have us in a temporary frenzy with Maclin.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders

Skills: Heyward-Bey has more upside than any receiver in this draft. As a prep star, he ran the seventh fastest 200m in the world and at Maryland he thrilled fans and teammates alike with big plays. It's not just his speed that makes him capable of taking a pass or run the distance from anywhere on the field. Heyward-Bey has a good stiff arm and enough power in his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame to hit a small crease and run through glancing blows to gain extra yards. He catches passes away from his body, especially balls thrown over his head, and he's tough enough to make the reception after taking a hard shot. He's often the aggressor when the ball is in the air. These are all good signs that the Raiders actually picked a good football player in the first round regardless of their judgment with the place they got him.

Obstacles: For a Top 10 pick, never breaking 800 yards in a season and totaling 13 touchdown receptions in a three-year college career won't do much to inspire confidence in those who see him as a potential bust. Although the rookie does show the ability to sink his hips and make his breaks with explosion, he still needs to become more consistent with his routes, attacking the football out of his break, and catching the football. He seems to do a better job catching the ball on tough plays than he does the routine passes and routes. If Heyward-Bey can focus on mastering the details of his position, he could become a superstar, but there's a lot of work to be done. Heyward-Bey might be the best athlete at the position on the Raiders roster, but Johnnie Lee Higgins has enough explosives and growing reliability to hold off the rookie and Chaz Schilens has better technique as a route runner and receiver. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell is expected to take another step in his development but based on reports I've read, his accuracy still is an issue and I believe it stems from the footwork Russell brought with him from LSU that the Raiders coaching staff either hasn't addressed or Russell has ignored them.

Outlook: The Raiders will try to pound the ball, get ahead, and play an aggressive style of defense, but the passing game will need to deliver some big plays for the offensive philosophy to work. JaMarcus Russell has the cannon, but If Jeff Garcia finds his way into the lineup, Heyward-Bey could find himself in a decent situation because they should be able to establish decent timing on streak routes - something Garcia was able to do with Joey Galloway in Tampa. He opened mini camp practicing with the starters, but coach Tom Cable, who, according to ESPN, praised the receivers intelligence and quick study, but also remarked, "too bad you can't redshirt here." That should give you the indication that the likelihood of Heyward-Bey accumulating more than 500-700 yards isn't very high, even if Al Davis forces Cable to give Heyward-Bey the starting gig in Oakland. If you're a dynasty owner, think of Heyward-Bey as a receiver with the upside of a star like Jimmy Smith if he puts it all together. I'd elevate him as a dynasty league prospect above at least Maclin and Robiskie because of his upside.

Kenny Britt, Titans

Skills: Britt reminds some people of Terrell Owens due to his size and timed speed. When he gets into the open field, Britt is a tough receiver to bring to the turf because of his 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame. Britt is one of the better run-blocking receivers I have seen this draft class and that to factor into some of his appeal to the Titans, who boast one of the better ground games in the business. I like that he breaks back to the quarterback on intermediate routes. He reminds me of a player whose physical talents are better than a Keyshawn Johnson, but not as dynamic as Dwayne Bowe, Anquan Boldin, or Terrell Owens.

Obstacles: Britt's hands and route stills are where he needs to improve the most. The former Rutgers star tends to trap the ball into this body and this prevents him from catching the ball cleanly. This will hamper his productivity in the NFL against tight coverage and deeper passes that require more velocity will be more likely to bounce away from him. Britt is also more of a straight-line guy in terms of his speed and he demonstrated difficulty getting open on deeper routes. Some of this might be attributed to his quarterback, but I didn't see a lot of balls thrown late. Britt also seemed to lack the flexibility to sink his hips into his breaks and when you're a wide receiver that has significant weaknesses with hands and route techniques you're not likely to be a productive starter immediately. The Titans aren't a team that will consistently challenge you vertically and their modus operandi is the pound the rock and play solid defense. The receiving talent for the most part is raw once you look past starters Justin Gage and Nate Washington, both players very much cast in the same mold as Britt: athletic, but not elite physically and not excellent route technicians.

Outlook: Like Darius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt has enough promise to develop into a starting receiver and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher has already said he's liked enough about what he's seen from Britt that she should see significant time in the offense if he continues play as expected. His actual quote according to Tim Collette of the Seahawks 12th man blog, Britt is "the player who has been missing in our passing game...He picked things up quickly, he showed he is an accomplished route runner. Very competitive. Happy to be there. He's got a chance to play sooner than later." So you can listen to what I saw from Britt or you can trust Jeff Fisher. Personally, I'd trust Jeff Fisher. But there is one caveat to consider. Britt was playing in shorts and not full pads and the games haven't started. I'm cautiously optimistic, but not ready to leapfrog him over Maclin and Heyward-Bey just yet.

Sleepers

Expect a few glimpses of their talent and potential to shine if there's an injury to a starter

Jarrett Dillard, Jaguars

Skills: Dillard is probably one of the more polished players in this draft class. It's well profiled that Dillard runs crisp routes, has excellent leaping ability, and catches the ball with his hands as any receiver profiled on this list. If you're looking for a future technician who is capable of becoming an 80-catch player if given the opportunity, you're reading the right part of this article.

Obstacles: Dillard isn't stopwatch fast, and he lacks the prototypical build. He will likely begin his career in Jacksonville behind Torry Holt and Mike Walker and compete with Dennis Northcutt and fellow rookies Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood for time in the slot.

Outlook: This is really a nice place for a young receiver will good technique to land, because Jacksonville just cleared their roster of the dead weight at the position - big, elite athletes who didn't run great routes and caught flak much better than they did the football. Torry Holt will be a terrific player for Dillard to study in practice and learn from in the film room and neither Holt nor Walker have been durable lately, so Dillard could be a surprise contributor much sooner than later. If you're looking for a name that could conceivably out-produce the future studs further up this list, Dillard's is one to remember.

Sammie Stroughter, Buccaneers

Skills: I thought Stroughter was at worst a second- or third-round talent when I first evaluated him in 2007. He catches the ball very well with his hands, has no problem going across the middle, and he has enough speed and quickness to get deep. Stroughter is also a fine punt return specialist and he's a threat in the open field however he gets the ball into his hands. He knows how to get separation from his breaks and he has a playmaker's mentality.

Obstacles: The rookie does have a tendency to gear down a little before his breaks, but this can be corrected. He'll also need to work on using his hands to defeat press coverage. Stroughter comes to a Buccaneers passing offense that lost an excellent offensive mind in former head coach Jon Gruden and a solid veteran presence at quarterback when Jeff Garcia went to the Raiders. The unit will now be looking to one of four quarterbacks to step up and take the job. At wide receiver, the only sure thing is Antonio Bryant. Michael Clayton hopes to return to his rookie form, but it's easy to have doubts. Former golden domer Maurice Stovall has the physical skills but was a raw prospect when drafted and this trend continued with the selection of speedster Dexter Jackson. The reason Stroughter dropped in the NFL draft to the seventh round may have been the fact he was given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after he was diagnosed with clinical depression when two family members and a coach passed away in the same period of time.

Outlook: Stroughter made a huge first impression on the Bucs with his mini camp performance and coach Raheem Morris even said that the Oregon State product was a player his scouts said was rated as a first round talent and they could see him in the competition to start in the slot as a rookie. I think he is one of the most consistent receivers in this class. If Tampa gets solid quarterback play, Stroughter has a chance a bright future that could begin as soon as this year.

Mike Thomas, Jaguars

Skills: Thomas' build, speed, leaping ability, and after the catch skills are eerily similar to Carolina's Steve Smith. The all-time leading Pac Ten receiver is a dynamic playmaker whose skills were often covered up by a less than stellar Arizona offense. He should make an immediate impact as a return specialist and if used in the slot, he's capable of churning out big plays after the catch because of his balance and acceleration. He's a reliable receiver capable of producing downfield if a quarterback has the accuracy and trust to put the ball up for Thomas to bring down. Although short, he is strong enough to beat press coverage.

Obstacles: Thomas is only 5-foot-8 and he'll have to be on fire at training camp to earn an opportunity beyond time in the slot. He does have the tendency to body-catch some passes, and he was primarily used as a perimeter player.

Outlook: Thomas has much more upside than his stature might indicate, but this year he and Dillard will be competing for time and waiting for an opportunity to prove they have a future as starters in Jacksonville.

Austin Collie, Colts

Skills: This is the last of my four favorite mid-round dynasty picks and redraft, rookie sleepers. Collie has terrific hands and tracks the deep ball extremely well. He can make very difficult catches look easy. He was one of the quickest receivers in this draft when timed at the combine and he's known for getting on top of defensive backs early in routes, which helps him generate good separation down field. Collie loves the game and works very hard at his craft, routinely meeting up with his fellow BYU QB Max Hall to workout in the evenings. Colts GM Bill Polian said Collie reminds him a lot of Manning's one-time favorite target, Brandon Stokley.

Obstacles: Collie could get the chance to compete with Anthony Gonzalez, but he'll have to demonstrate he can defeat press coverage before he poses a serious threat. The rookie didn't see much press coverage at BYU so expect a learning curve. Speaking of learning, Collie will also need to get accustomed to a more complex offense and developing timing with QB Peyton Manning; not a small task.

Outlook: If one of the Colts receivers gets hurt, Collie has a great chance to have a huge year for a rookie if he shows enough in camp. Otherwise, I think he'll still earn some time in the slot and impress the team with his reliability - especially in the red zone where he had a number of highlight plays catching passes thrown over his head in tight coverage for scores. Manning loves to throw these over the shoulder routes to receivers this close to the end zone and Collie will fit hand in glove.

Slots

Skill or opportunity is there for some production this year, but not enough to count on

Deon Butler, Seahawks

Skills: Butler is a terrific open field runner, he adjusts well to the ball in the air, and he gets good separation in his routes. He has enough speed and quickness to be a viable threat for an NFL quarterback.

Obstacles: He lacks the size to defeat press coverage without developing excellent technique. At Penn State he was in a basic offense and he mostly ran perimeter routes. The Seahawks have enough receiving talent on their roster that if they stay healthy, Butler will have difficulty seeing the field right away.

Outlook: I think he has a good opportunity to earn time in the slot and become a favorite of Matt Hasselbeck because he is a smart, high-effort player capable of making big plays. Down the line, I think he could develop into the player that the Seahawks hoped they got when the landed Deion Branch from the Patriots.

Derrick Williams, Lions

Skills: Butler's running mate in Happy Valley was the more heralded prospect and he has similar open field skills, speed, and quickness. He has a pretty good catch radius and strong hands. He is also an adequate blocker in the run game.

Obstacles: Williams has a bad habit of leaving his feet unnecessarily to catch footballs. He also needs work on setting up his routes and defeating press coverage. Williams reminds me a lot of Ted Ginn, but where Ginn is a better runner Williams is the more natural receiver.

Outlook: Detroit has Williams pegged initially as a slot receiver, which is a good call. This is a spot where Williams could shine in Detroit. His best opportunity to produce immediately is in the return game.

Juaquin Iglesias, Bears

Skills: The Oklahoma star is a smart, tough player who makes things happen over the middle and has reliable hands. He is a willing down field blocker and he is a patient runner in the open field.

Obstacles: I thought Iglesias was stiff with his routes and lacks topnotch athleticism to be a big-time open field threat after the catch in the NFL. He didn't appear comfortable with contact as a football player unless he was dishing it out. He mainly ran short, spread formation routes at Oklahoma and he'll need to prove he can perform in an NFL offense in the intermediate and deep passing game to be more than a Josh Reed-type of slot receiver.

Outlook: He could compete for time in the slot and become a reliable player for Jay Cutler's short-yardage check-downs, but expect Greg Olsen, Earl Bennett, and Devin Hester to be ahead of Iglesias on the route tree in 2009.

Temp To Perm?

Expect maybe 200-300 yards as a rookie

Brandon Tate, Patriots

Skills: Tate has enough ability to be among the top five receivers in this rookie class. He's a slick runner after the catch who can make defenders miss in the open field because of his ability to see the field and act decisively like a topflight punt return specialist. He's an excellent vertical and at North Carolina Tate repeatedly demonstrated the ability to get on top of coverage quickly for his quarterback to make a well-time throw. It was Tate, not Hakeem Nicks, who was regarded as the better pro prospect heading into the 2008 college football season.

Obstacles: He tore his ACL and MCL to begin the 2008 season. He might be in good enough shape to participate in training camp, but don't expect him to look like the same athlete until 2010. The good news is Michael Irvin and Reggie Wayne suffered similar injuries and had long, successful careers. Once he does make a complete recovery, Tate will need to work on beat press coverage. He will also need to demonstrate that he's gained enough maturity that he'll make better choices with what he does with his recreational time to comply with the league's drug policy.

Outlook: If he works hard, lays off the marijuana, and regains the stability and strength in the knee Brandon Tate has enough talent to be an adequate heir apparent to Randy Moss in New England. He has much greater value in deep dynasty leagues than he does in re-drafts because fantasy owners have the opportunity to exhibit patience.

Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns

Skills: Massaquoi has all the physical talent and skills to be a primary threat in the NFL. He is fast enough to get deep separation and also tough enough to make the catch and take the hit in tight coverage over the middle. As a freshman at the University of Georgia, Massaquoi looked like the next big thing at receiver. If he puts it all together he has the build and skills to be as good as former Kansas City Chief and New Orleans Saint Joe Horn.

Obstacles: A freshman year does not make a career, and Massaquoi had some serious issues with dropping the football that was not apparent in year one. I'm not sure what happened, but he never took his play to the next level and his inconsistency was maddening. He could make two game-changing, negative plays one moment and later, make three that ultimately made up for it. The problem with his tendency is in the NFL there is much less room for error and a mistake tends to get exploited much more often than it does in college football. It has been rumored that he is not a hard worker and pointed the finger at his teammates for his failings.

Outlook: Massaquoi has as much ability, if not more, than Brian Robiskie but he needs to make a commitment to being his best. If he turns the corner in this respect, the Browns could wind up with a steal but it's not likely. He should tease fans and fantasy owners with his occasional big plays and eventually frustrate with his conspicuous absence when he's needed in the pivotal moment of a game.

Patrick Turner, Dolphins

Skills: Turner has the size and hands to be the next incarnation of Keyshawn Johnson for a Bill Parcells-influence offense. He can adjust his body to the ball, catch passes with his hands, and take a hit.

Obstacles: He's not a big-time deep threat although capable. Like Massaquoi, he never took his game to the next level. He lacks the same upside, but has more consistency. He doesn't use his big body to his advantage as a runner after the catch or as a blocker. Ted Ginn was good enough to buy another year of time as the starter and Davone Bess could be a surprise playmaker in the slot. Along with TE Anthony Fasano and the receiving talents of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Turner will need to impress to earn more looks.

Outlook: Turner fills the void of a chain-moving, big receiver for Chad Pennington but in this run-heavy, offense expect the rookie to have more impact for the team than fantasy owners as a rookie.

Ramses Barden, Giants

Skills: The tall, muscular Barden has good speed and adjusts well to the football in the air. He's very good at high-pointing the football and he can also avoid contact after the catch.

Obstacles: His routes are raw and he needs to improve in nearly every facet: releases, breaks, footwork, etc. He didn't see him make the tough catches over the middle where he held onto the ball after contact.

Outlook: Barden is a raw prospect, but he could see time as a one-dimensional, perimeter-red zone option in the Giants offense due the turnover in their receiving corps. I don't think its likely, but New York's receiving corps doesn't inspire much confidence in me once you get past Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks.