ROOKIE WIDE RECEIVER REAL ESTATE
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
Those are the three most important aspects in real estate and may also parallel the production of rookie wide receivers. Sure, we can look at all their measurables and combine numbers, yet these numbers may not be as indicative of their future production as where they landed in the league.
The production of the rookie wide receiver in 2014 may have been somewhat of an anomaly, as we saw five of them end up in the top 25 at the position. In the previous 20 seasons, only 22 wide outs ranked in the top 25, and only two of them ranked in the top 10. The first five receivers selected in the 2014 NFL draft averaged 70 catches, 979 yards, and 8 TD. While replicating these numbers seems like a far-fetched idea for rookie wide receivers to match, there are some players you should be targeting in your drafts that can meet that threshold.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
The first wide out to be selected in the 2015 draft was Amari Cooper, and deservingly so. The Biletnikoff Award winner did not ‘wow’ scouts with his combine numbers like Kevin White, who was drafted a few spots later. While his 4.42 40-yard dash time, and 33 inch vertical were nothing to go crazy about, they were not a disappointment either. Coming out of Alabama, out-of-the-gate he broke Julio Jones freshman receiving records, where he finished his career being the only player in the NCAA with 100 plus catches, 1,500 yards, and 14 touchdowns. All these feats were done in the nasty SEC conference, which is touted to be the strongest conference in college football, especially on the defensive side of the ball. While Cooper doesn’t have the size of Mike Evans or the speed of Sammy Watkins (two former top-ten rookie WR’s) it is hard to find any holes in Cooper’s game. He has excellent quickness and balance, which often leads him to a clean release on press coverage. Whether it was A.J McCarron or Blake Sims under center, his ability to accelerate quickly while running crisp routes offered his quarterbacks an open space to find him. Cooper’s open field quickness and elusiveness lead to a myriad of big plays while blowing by or dodging would be tacklers. Scouts say that although he does have spectacular hand-eye coordination, he does have to work on his drop rate. Amari had what seemed like a devastating drop in the Iron Bowl against Auburn, on what would have been a go-ahead touchdown, only to then come back and score a record breaking 99-yard touchdown.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The 6-foot-1, 205 pound Alabama star was drafted by the Oakland Raiders to be second year quarterback Derek Carr’s go-to-guy for years to come. Although offensive players drafted into this organization are usually a place where NFL dreams come to end, there are some numbers that can indicate possible individual production. Nevertheless, these numbers come by the nature of the overall team not fairing so well.
Looking at some of the Raiders 2014 offensive stats, most of their passing stats were near the bottom of the league, 282.2 yards per game (32nd in the league), and 204.7 passing yards per game (26th in the league). One statistic, that stood out in the top third of the NFL were their pass attempts, at 599 (10th in the league). This number would not be subject to change, as their overall roster does not seem to be one to garner very many leads or victories, where garbage time passing stats will be accumulated. Learning and understanding the playbook should not be too much of a detriment to Cooper’s progress, as the offense ran by Lane Kiffin at Alabama is similar to that of the offense ran by Bill Musgrave in Oakland.
When projecting these rookies production, one must take into account the additions and subtractions to the team they are joining. Oakland opted not to re-sign their leading receiver of 2014, James Jones. Jones’ 2014 stat line was 73 receptions, 666 yards, 9.1 yards per catch, and 6 touchdowns. With the loss of Jones, came the addition of Michael Crabtree who is coming off a down year in San Francisco nagged by injuries. When healthy, Crabtree can be an explosive possession receiver who can rack up yards after the catch. But if there was one roster move that hinges on the Raiders success, it would most definitely have to be the loss of Darren McFadden’s skeleton. Jerry Jones finally got his guy after all the years of fantasy disappointment, yet Joseph Randle might steal his spot, and then his girdle, literally.
Overall Cooper was drafted to be the Raiders number one receiver for his first season and years to come. If Carr can stay off the ground, unlike his brother, and develop his game during his sophomore season, Cooper should see a ton of targets and have an opportunity to surpass his current average draft position at WR which is hovering around 26.
LOCATION GRADE: C+
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
What do you know? Chip Kelly takes another player from the PAC-12 to fit into his master plan, whatever that may be. Agholor is an average sized WR standing at 6-foot-0, 198 pounds. While he does not possess blazing speed, he draws similarities to Cooper’s game in that he is a polished route runner who knows how to get open. If you want to talk about sure-fire hands, look no further than Agholor, who only dropped four passes out of 117 targets last year at USC. While Agholor played mostly outside his first two years at USC, he really thrived his junior year when he moved into the slot, after Sarkisian took over the coaching position. Sarkisian’s offense was predicated around a more up-tempo, no-huddle system, which schematically parallels Chip’s ideology of trying to get the next play off before the ball is even set.
Looking at some of the statistics of the 2014 Eagles offense, there are numbers that indicate there will be plenty of yards, many of them passing. The offense from 2014
averaged 396.8 yards per game (5th in the league), and 272.2 passing yards per game (6th in the league). Digging deeper into how those yards were broken up last year, here are some stat lines from their three leading WR’s from 2014, in order: Jeremy Maclin, 85 catches, 1,318 yards, 15.5 yards per catch, 10 touchdowns, Jordan Matthews (former rookie) 67 catches, 872 yards, 13.0 yards per catch, 8 touchdowns, and Riley Cooper, 55 catches, 577 yards, 10.5 yards per catch, 3 touchdowns. Last year’s quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles averaged to complete the long ball (passes over 15 yards) at a rate of 23% which is approximately 10th best in the league. If these numbers stay relatively the same, things may bode well for Agholor, as he averaged 18.9 and 16.4 yards per catch as a freshman and sophomore.
Oddly enough some scouts had compared Agholor to Jeremy Maclin, who departed and rejoined forces with Andy Reid in Kansas City. This is leaving nearly 90 catches, 1,300 yards, and 10 touchdowns on the table for the Philly wide receiving corps to make up. Although Chip’s master plan will always be a cloudy one to decipher, there are thoughts out of training camp that Jordan Matthews will move outside, and Agholor will slide into the slot where Matthews took most of his snaps last year. It shouldn’t be difficult for Agholor to beat out newly acquired, my hamstring has 100,000 Miles on it, Austin or getting Riley behind a fence Cooper. One question that will help determine playing time and in turn counting stats will be who plays the other outside receiver in two wide formations? But thanks to versatility and need, the one constant should be Agholor. If you play in a league that counts punt return stats, you may look to move this guy up a couple slots from his 44th ranked current ADP for WR’s, as he is a very dangerous punt returner, as shown in his time at USC averaging 18.5 yards per return.
Just as Amari’s production lies in the hands of Carr’s development, Nelson Agholor has some quarterback questions of his own. Last year it was Nick Foles, and Mark Sanchez after Foles went down. Chip’s master plan then sent Foles to St. Louis getting in return Sam Bradford. Let’s not forget this is the same master plan that brought in Tim Tebow. All hopes are in the making of Bradford’s paper mache ACL. The last time Bradford played a whole season was in 2012, in which he put up 3,702 yards, with 21 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, and a 60% completion rate. If Bradford can stay healthy, and that is a big IF, there are reasons to be excited about Philadelphia’s up-tempo offense, and the possibility of WR2 type numbers from Agholor. Even if Bradford were to go down, Sanchez, who played half of the season last year, can put up competent numbers and make at least 2 WR’s in the offense fantasy relevant.
LOCATION GRADE: A-
Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens
The WR out of UCF has athleticism to impress all the scouts. Due to a hamstring injury, Perriman was forced to miss the combine, but at his pro-day he clocked a 4.24 and 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. Standing at 6’2”, 212 pounds, he has the size and speed to go up and win jump balls. He should be able to blow the top off defenses and get open for Flacco over the top. He had some issues with drops in college, but those drops can be worked on with the new coaching staff of Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who loves to throw the ball. His 20.9 yards per catch at UCF is a solid indicator that he possess the threat of getting down field, much like Alshon Jeffery did in Trestman’s offense. Perriman presents huge upside as an immediate starter in the Ravens’ offense.
Steve Smith had 79 catches, 1065 yards, 13.5 yards per catch, and 6 touchdowns. Yet, their second receiver, Torrey Smith who has moved onto San Francisco, had a stat line of 49 catches, 767 yards, 15.7 yards per catch, and 11 touchdowns. It’s speculation that Perriman will step right into Torrey’s role as the deep threat for Flacco. Perriman is a little raw as a route runner, but you don’t need to be polished to run a streak or fade. The route tree can be worked on under the wing of veterans Steve Smith and Joe Flacco. Joe Flacco loved to throw to his tight-ends, and the addition of Maxx Williams in the second round out of Minnesota may open up the middle of the field for Perriman, but also taking away a few targets.
Breshad Perriman ended the season tied for 27th in receiving yards, 26th in receiving touchdowns, and wasn’t even close to top 100 in total receptions. The fact that he managed so much production from so few opportunities proves his ability to be the burner that the Ravens are looking for, but he won’t be playing against terrible college cornerbacks next year. You must give him the caveat that he produced without great quarterback play. The little production he had at UCF may be due to their heavy running game, and not so much on what Perriman did not do. Yes, he had some drops in College, but he also high pointed the ball against ECU on a hail-mary with no time left. His athleticism cannot be taught as he has good bloodlines, his father Brett had a ten-year NFL career as a wide receiver, so it is kind of ironic to not have steady hands after having a father with sure hands. His current ADP for WR’s is 47, and that may be fair as his play may be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, much like Torrey Smith, but he does present as much upside as any of the rookie WR taken in the first round, due to his size and speed.
LOCATION GRADE: B
Overall, Cooper and Agholor are pretty sure bets to see consistent production and be fantasy relevant right off the get go. Perriman has the ability and landed in a situation where he can see immediate production, but may not be to the level of the other two WR right away. Cooper and Agholor should get consideration as WR3 on your fantasy teams, with upside to snag a WR2 role later in the season. Perriman should be looked at as a WR4 to start the year, and if he proves he can produce on a consistent basis in the Raven’s offense he can gain a hold of one of your starting WR spots. Do not expect to see anything to the level of Odell Beckham Jr. or Mike Evans, nevertheless, we can see a possibility of Kelvin Benjamin or Jordan Matthew type numbers.
Stay tuned for next weeks article and find out other rookie WR’s that can make an immediate impact on your fantasy squads.
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