In a day and age when the NFL has become a passing league, wide receivers have become more valuable in fantasy leagues across the board. That includes the rookies, who, like the veterans, have benefitted from new rules that make it easier to get open and make plays. Case in point, the 2011 season saw a pair of rookie wideouts in A.J. Green and Julio Jones make a nice statistical impact. In fact, both finished in the top 20 in fantasy points at the position -- and neither of them played in a full 16 games. Looking ahead to 2013, there are at least one or two wideouts who can make some noise.
Here's a look at the five wide receivers (based on NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock's pre-combine rankings) you should remember in the 2013 NFL Draft - and when it's time to draft your fantasy teams.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (40-yard dash - 4.42, vertical leap - 37.0, broad jump - 10'7"): Mayock considers Patterson a raw talent after spending just one season at the Division-I level, but his skill set has drawn comparisons to that of Dez Bryant and Julio Jones. The Tennessee product is an explosive playmaker who can make the difficult catch, though he did have a bit of an inconsistent showing at the Combine. Still, Patterson is a good bet to end up as the first player at his position taken in April's draft. If he lands with a team that allows him a chance to start in Week 1, Patterson will be worth a late-round look in seasonal drafts.
Keenan Allen, California (40-yard dash - DNP, vertical leap - DNP, broad jump - DNP): Allen wasn't able to participate in Combine drills as he continues to recover from a torn PCL in his left knee. He did check in at 6-foot-2 and 206 pounds, and is now expected to hold a Pro Day on April 9. A possession receiver with good run-after-catch skills, the California product averaged over 100 yards and found the end zone six times in his final seven collegiate contests. A potential first-rounder as long as he has no setbacks with his knee, Allen will be a coveted asset. From a fantasy perspective, he could be worth a late-round flier in seasonal leagues.
Terrance Williams, Baylor (40-yard dash - 4.52, vertical leap - 32.5, broad jump - 9'9"): Despite the loss of Robert Griffin III to the NFL, Williams still put up tremendous numbers in his final collegiate season. Not only did he catch a very impressive 97 passes, but he also found the end zone 12 times and led the nation with 1,832 receiving yards. While he has major skills as a vertical threat and proved to be a good blocker at Baylor, Williams does need to work on his route running. He also didn't make an enormous impact at the Combine. Comparable to Torrey Smith for his skills and tools, he'll be a Day 2 selection in April's draft.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia (40-yard dash - 4.34, vertical leap - 32.0, broad jump - 10'0"): Austin ran the second-best 40-time among all players at the 2013 Combine, so his stock is now on the rise. In fact, some scouts see the West Virginia product as a potential first-round selection in April's draft. Compared to DeSean Jackson and Randall Cobb, Austin is a burner who possesses amazing burst and straight-line long speed. He also proved to be a versatile athlete at the collegiate level, Austin played well as a slot receiver, running back and returner. His home-run hitter skills will make him draftable in seasonal fantasy formats.
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (40-yard dash - 4.53, vertical leap - 33.0, broad jump - 9'8"): Patton, who has drawn comparisons to veteran wideout and fantasy star Reggie Wayne, was a first-team All-WAC selection in each of his final two seasons at Louisiana Tech. During his time with the Bulldogs, he accumulated 2,544 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. While scouts believe he needs to get a little tougher, Patton is a confident and talented kid who could emerge into a nice NFL starter down the line. Whether or not he has seasonal value in fantasy leagues remains to be seen, but Patton is a player to watch when it comes time for the draft.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!