The latest wide receiver dynasty rankings show only three rookies in the top 40. These three were also, not coincidentally, drafted in the first round. The logic is if real NFL teams thought this highly of them, dynasty leagues should too. Let’s take a look.
- Tavon Austin (STL) – The eight overall pick from West Virginia comes in with the most hype and the most intrigue. After Austin ran a 4.34 40 at the combine and St. Louis trading their 1st, 2nd, 3rd (getting a 3rd in return), and 7th round pick in a Madden-like move, reports indicated coach Jeff Fisher planned to use Austin all over the place. Even in the backfield a la Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb! He’s got a good, young quarterback throwing him the ball in Sam Bradford and, at the moment, is the man. On paper, it looked like everything was coming up Milhouse. But look a little closer and there are some concerns. First, the height. Of the top 20 receivers in yardage last year, none were the same as Austin’s 5′ 8″ and only two were 5′ 9″. The rest were 5′ 10″ and above with more than half 6′ or more. It’s extremely difficult to win match ups if you’re the shortest guy on the field. Secondly, the latest reports has St. Louis using a ‘spread the wealth‘ system a la the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees has averaged 620 pass attempts while completing 67% of his passes since getting to New Orleans in 2007. To date, the most passes Bradford has attempted has been 590 and the best percentage he had was 60%. By Brees’ third full season in the league, he was up to 65%. Furthermore, the best receiving season that was a product of the ‘spread the wealth’ system in New Orleans was Jimmy Graham and his ridiculous 99/1310/11 2012 season which, one could argue, is a result of his freakish 6′ 7″ frame and the matchup problems that ensue. For the record, 1,310 yards would have been good for 11th in the league last year. And this is the ceiling. The bottom line is Austin will be a good pick and has tremendous upside potential (TUP – it’s a thing, look it up). But exercise caution at Austin’s limitations. If you’re able to draft him early in your rookie dynasty drafts, I think you should. He’s definitely worth more than any of the quarterbacks and possibly most of the running backs out there simply because he’s a receiver in an offense that’s committed to him. But don’t mortgage the farm and give up proven assets. Austin is currently ranked 24th in our dynasty wide receiver ranks.
- DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – My personal favorite from this first batch is Hopkins who was drafted 27th overall by Houston. Hopkins is just the 4th offense player drafted in the first round by the Texans and the first receiver since the man he’s been groomed to replace, Andre Johnson. At 32, Johnson seemed to be on the downslope of his career but bounced back with a 112/1598/4 line last year. Houston surely doesn’t expect Johnson to keep that up heading into his mid-30’s so neither should dynasty leaguers. Thus the pick of Hopkins. It’s hard to find a negative report about Hopkins after running with the first team in OTA’s, being compared to Rod Smith (and his 8-1,000 yard seasons), and being labeled as ‘special. The only drawback is the level of passing we can expect from Houston. Per TeamRankings.com, they ranked 24th last year in percentage of pass plays and 31st the year before. Of course, those could change on a dime as evidenced by Houston ranking 11th in pass plays percentage in 2010 and 9th in 2009. Worst-case scenario is Hopkins finally gives Houston a second option in the pass game while they tap the break on the run plays. Best case is he develops into the next Andre Johnson and learns from the man himself. While Austin may edge Hopkins out because of the immediate impact, I wouldn’t lose sleep if I ended up with Hopkins. Hopkins is 30th in our wide receiver ranks.
- Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN) – Patterson is the most raw of the bunch after spending one season in D-1. Minnesota ended up trading a Tavon Austin-style package (2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th) to New England to get him. Build-wise he stands at 6′ 2″ and 220 pounds and put on quite a show at the combine with a 4.42 40-time and 37″ vertical. The potential is sky high but that’s all we have at this point. Luckily, Minnesota does plan on easing Patterson into the system so there’s time for Patterson to pick it up. He also gets to learn from one of the game’s best route runners in Greg Jennings and have the best running back in the game to take the attention off. It’s a great situation for such a raw talent like Patterson. Now the downside. His quarterback is Christian Ponder who might, or might not, be around for the long term will need to step it up for Minnesota to get Patterson’s full potential. No more 18/12 TD:INT seasons. Either Ponder improves or Minnesota drafts or signs an upgrade but the status quo won’t work. Of course, this could all be for not and Patterson could be a giant bust. For dynasty purposes, I wouldn’t spend a first round pick on Patterson but would much rather get a runner or even a tight end like Tyler Eifert. I might even consider linebackers if you’re in a dynasty IDP league. But don’t sleep on Patterson if he starts to slip. He sits at 32 in our rankings.