A number of rookie wide receivers have had great training camps and are playing well in the preseason. Could this be the Year of the Rookie Receiver?
Not this year
The fact that most rookie wide receivers don't produce big numbers won't change this season. As good as Keenan Allen was in 2013, most of his first-year compadres didn't produce consistent numbers in the stat sheets. Do I like Brandin Cooks? Well, it's hard not to like him based on what he's done in camp and the preseason. However, I'm still not drafting him as more than a No. 4 wideout for my fantasy football team. Same goes for Sammy Watkins. As for Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin, well, those guys aren't more than No. 5s in my rankings. Call me a glass-half empty guy here, but this trend isn't likely to change in 2014.
Not yet, but soon
I'm not buying the hype for this to be the "Year of the Rookie Receiever" just yet. However, I am taking notice of all of these guys in the preseason. Whether or not I draft them remains to be seen, and could have a lot to do with how they all perform in Week 3 of the preseason, when they get their longest action against No. 1 defenses in as close to a regular season game as we'll see prior to NFL Kickoff on Sept. 4. For now, I'm still more likely to draft second-year breakout candidates like DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Hunter, Terrance Williams or Robert Woods at the tail end of my draft as opposed to rookies. But that, like everything in fantasy football, is not set in stone.
It's bound to happen eventually
I would be surprised if we see any rookie wideout land in the top 10 at his position once the season is over, but I do expect that this class of pass-catchers will provide more overall value than we're used to seeing. Between Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews and John Brown, just to name a few, this crop of first-year receivers seems to have acclimated to the professional game a little faster than their predecessors.
And honestly, why can't it happen? Once upon a time, it was third-year receivers that tended to break out. Now we're talking about second-year wideouts who could take off. It stands to reason that eventually we'll have a group of rookies who will catch on (pun intended) right away.
Recognize the evolution
If defenders are going to be flagged for merely glaring at receivers, then we're going to see a huge outbreak in numbers. While it's important to not get too excited about rookie receivers because of past history, you have to realize the game has evolved in recent years and we're going to see more rookies break through like Keenan Allen did last year. That said, we could get some guys like Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin produce immediately this season.