The Sports Cannon prides themselves every year in making the best fantasy football rookie rankings so that you are prepared for success each season.
This season we have checked the schedules, the training camp competition and the overall abilities of each rookie to determine which rookie, if any, will be a breakout star.
Whether you are in a PPR league or not, the value of a good No. 2 and flex wide receiver is becoming more and more crucial to taking home the prize.
Drafting a rookie wide receiver is risky.
Percy Harvin’s 2009 rookie campaign is the best in recent memory, but the rook ended the year ranked 18th in fantasy. That isn’t terrible, but it means more often than not he was in a debate on who to start as your flex option.
In 2003, fantasy football saw its first top-10 rookie receiver since Randy Moss. That year Anquan Boldin was the shocking rookie.
Boldin went undrafted in almost all fantasy leagues that season, so sometimes you just need to know the names and know when to strike.
Here is a tentative ranking for rookie fantasy receivers, but this is an area we at the Sports Cannon take very seriously (were still proud we called Miles Austin in 2008 and Brandon Lloyd in 2009).
1. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
He is probably the best athlete to come out of college this year and will walk in to the main role on the Bengals’ offense. The Bengals’ receiving corps isn’t as bad as a you would expect, considering they will lose two Pro Bowlers at that position this offseason.
Still, Green will be the main target for Cincy making him worth a look early on in PPR league drafts. His production this season is still tied directly to his quarterback (likely rookie Andy Dalton) and how his first time offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, fairs in the pros.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons mortgaged their future on Julio Jones in hopes that he will help them win it all this season. Jones is a very good possession receiver and will give Roddy White his first real compliment at the position in his career.
Jones will be one name in a group of talented veterans that all need their fair share of love Matt Ryan. We love Jones’ abilities, but consider him to be Matt Ryan’s third or even fourth option.
3. Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
While Julio Jones may be stuck playing second fiddle to wily veterans, Greg Little walks in to the most wide open receiving corps of any other rookie. Little should start the season as the Brown’s best pass catching option.
The Mohammad Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie experiments haven’t brought the return the Browns’ staff had hoped for and Little is the best athlete at the position since Braylon Edwards. The Little-Edwards comparison isn’t a bad measuring stick for his rookie season.
Much like Edwards, Little will start as the best option in a shallow group with a subpar quarterback (no offense to Colt McCoy, but Braylon actually had it easier with Trent Dilfer as his quarterback).
Braylon’s rookie year saw the Browns receiver end up as the 38th best receiver in fantasy. That sounds about right for Little.
4. Jonathan Baldwin, Kansas City Chiefs
He is the second receiving option on a run first team, so there is no reason to believe that Baldwin will be anything more than a waiver wire pickup this season.
It is shocking that the Chiefs used their first round pick on Baldwin considering they had more pressing needs on defense. Some would say that means the Chiefs have big plans for Baldwin.
We still think he will average five targets per game this season, were just not sure how many he will be able to catch.
5. Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins
If we could give you or favorite rookie to break out this early in the offseason, we would say it is Leonard Hankerson. Last season, despite all of the quarterback issues that happened in DC, Santana Moss still had a decent season in Washington.
Anthony Armstrong was a delightful surprise on occasion last season, but the team is lacking a consistent possession receiver to go along with Moss’ speed. It should be an interesting dogfight between Hankerson and Armstrong, but we like Hankerson’s chances.
6. Austin Pettis, St. Louis Rams
The Rams had a carousel at the receiver position last season. Every day a new receiver would step up, as another went down with an injury. Pettis will be at a disadvantage if the lockout continues much longer, but his red zone upside make him worth keeping an eye on.
Sam Bradford proved he is going to be a good quarterback in this league because of his decision making, if Pettis can continue his savvy route running in the pros, he could become Bradford’s favorite clutch target.
7. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens hoped that Donte’ Stallworth could bring them the speed they were missing at the receiver position last season. They didn’t get much return on their investment.
Stallworth will be gone and Smith will be given a chance to compete for the No. 2 receiver spot. Despite his age we still think Derrick Mason wins that battle, but starting off as a speedy No. 3 worked out for another AFC North receiver named Mike Wallace.
8. Titus Young, Detroit Lions
It’s unclear whether Titus Young will be used as an actual No. 3 receiver, or if his speed will be used mostly to divert attention away from Calvin Johnson.
Young will play primarily when the Lions are spreading out the opposing defense, but he has the potential to be a serious burner. For now, we still think he will be used mostly as a decoy on offense.
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