The 2009 NFL Draft has two wide receivers who are expected to make an immediate impact for the team that drafts them.
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, 6” 3”, 214 pounds
Crabtree possesses the skills and tools to be an elite NFL wide receiver for many years.
He has ideal size, and amazing hands. He runs good routes and knows how to get open. He will go up and fight for the ball, and is not afraid to go over the middle.
Although he lacks blazing speed, his forty time has been projected at 4.5 seconds. That makes him fast enough to be more than just a possession receiver, giving him the potential to make the big play at the next level.
He accumulated an astounding 231 receptions, 3,127 receiving yards, and 41 touchdowns in just two years with The Red Raiders. In 2008, he scored at least one touchdown in 11 of 13 games, and multiple scores in six of those games.
With one second left in the game, Crabtree caught the game winning 28 yard TD reception versus arch rival Texas. This knocked Texas out of the number one BCS ranking, and spoiled their national title chances.
This reception displayed Crabtree’s competitiveness and desire for the football when the game is on the line, which is a very important intangible at the NFL level.
In fantasy football, however, I always advise using caution when drafting rookie wide receivers.
While I plan on targeting Crabtree in 2009, I would not draft him before the tenth round in a 12 team, re-draft league. As much as I like him, it is always better to take a well established, consistently performing veteran over a rookie brimming with potential.
He has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. This gives you an idea of the potential Crabtree possesses to be an elite player. As dominating as Fitzgerald and Johnson have become, check out their rookie statistics:
Fitzgerald: (16 games) 58 receptions, 780 yards, 8 touchdowns
Johnson: (15 games) 48 receptions, 756 yards, 5 touchdowns (1 rushing)
These numbers are good, but not if you drafted either of them in the early rounds of a fantasy draft.
My advice, Crabtree should be an early pick in all keeper drafts, and should be taken in double digit rounds of all re-draft leagues.
Projection: Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft.
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri, 6’ 1”, 200 pounds
Maclin had a stellar 2008 season with 102 receptions, 1,260 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. This followed an impressive rookie season of 80 catches, 1059 yards and nine touchdowns.
He is a versatile threat, in that he can catch the ball, run the ball, and is adept at returning punts and kickoffs. He led the nation in all-purpose yards with an average of 203.5 yards per game.
In two years, he rushed 91 times for 668 yards (7.3 per rush) and scored six times. On special teams, he added five touchdowns in the return game during that span.
Maclin will be targeted by many NFL teams for his athleticism and speed. He may be a valuable asset to teams that like to run from the Wildcat formation, and for teams that are looking for help in the return game.
In fantasy drafts, he is worth a late round flier in re-draft leagues. He should be targeted in all keeper league formats.
Projection: first round draft pick in the NFL Draft.
After Crabtree and Maclin, there are about a dozen talented receivers who have potential if given an opportunity in the right situation. Invariably, there is always a wide receiver drafted in the later rounds who shines in the NFL.
Here are some to keep your eye on:
Juaquin Iglesias, Oaklahoma, 6’ 0”, 204 pounds
Had an impressive Senior Bowl, leading all receivers with six receptions for 90 yards. He finished off a solid career with The Sooners with 74 catches, 1,150 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns in 2008.
He is a good route runner, and reads defenses nicely. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with his quickness off the line.
He does not possess ideal speed, however. He may need to add some muscle to his frame, for he is believed to be susceptible to bump-and-run coverage.
Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina, 6’ 1”, 215 pounds
Nicks had a huge performance in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl with eight receptions, 217 yards receiving, and three touchdowns. He set school records in 2008 with his 1,222 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
He is an excellent route runner, with very good hands. He has the strength to take on physical cornerbacks, and the quickness to get off the line of scrimmage.
He is destined to be more of a possession receiver, since he lacks speed to beat defenders deep at the NFL level. He also needs to work on protecting the ball after the catch.
Percy Harvin, Florida, 5’ 11”, 195 pounds
A smallish receiver with blazing speed. A play-maker who can go the distance every time he touches the ball. His electrifying style of play has been compared to Reggie Bush. He accumulated impressive statistics for The Gators.
The past two seasons he had 99 receptions, 1,502 receiving yards, and 11 receiving touchdowns. He also rushed 153 times for 1,423 yards (9.3 per rush) and 16 touchdowns.
Harvin has a long history of injury problems, however. His toughness was also questioned when he missed two games in 2007 because of the flu.
If he can withstand the pounding of the NFL, Harvin’s abilities and versatility can make him a star.
Kenny Britt, Rutgers, 6’ 4”, 215 pounds
In just 34 career games, Britt is the all time Big East leader in receiving yards. He finished the year with an impressive 6 reception, 119 yards receiving, and one touchdown performance in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
He has ideal size, runs good routes, and has decent speed. An aggressive player, not afraid to make plays in the middle of the field.
He must improve concentration to eliminate dropped passes. He also needs to improve getting off the line against press coverage.