It used to be that rookie wide receivers had little to no fantasy value. It was a widely held view that most young receivers needed three years in the league before they would adjust to the speed of the game. Clearly, there wasn't much use in having a rookie wideout on your fantasy roster.
That may not be the case this year, as it's likely we'll see rookie wide receivers become the focal point of more than one offense. Who could help out your fantasy squad?
1. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams
There may be no rookie this season with more fantasy value than Tavon Austin. His biggest strength is his versatility. Not only should be provide some serious big play potential as a receiver, but he also will rack up fantasy points rushing the ball. That's something few other rookie wideouts can offer.
Another plus for Austin? It's clear that he was the player the Rams wanted to come away from the draft with. Team's don't make such bold moves up to secure a player without having a clear plan in mind for him. There's no doubt that Austin will be seeing a ton of action in 2013, and that will bode well for his fantasy owners.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
The Texans have been in desperate need of adding a receiving threat to line up opposite of Andre Johnson for years. They've finally found it with DeAndre Hopkins, and with Houston seemingly on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance, the Texans should waste no time in making sure Hopkins gets plenty of looks.
Hopkins will obviously be playing second-fiddle to Johnson, but that's not all bad news. Opposing defenses will also be focused on Johnson first, meaning Hopkins should get chances to make plays in one on one coverage. With an offense that's already ready ranked in the top ten, those opportunities should be plentiful.
3. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Once we're a few years removed from this draft, it's quite likely that we'll look back and label Keenan Allen as the steal of the class. Once considered to be a top 20 talent, a slow healing knee injury pushed him all the way down to the third round. Assuming that knee is healthy, there's little reason to think that Allen isn't as at least as equally talented as the rest of the Chargers' receiving corps, if not more so.
The collection of players like Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates, and Danario Alexander is far more impressive on paper than it is on the field. Once he's back at full speed it's tough to imagine him not quickly rising to top of the depth chart and receiving a high number of targets from Phillip Rivers throughout the season.
4. Cordarelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
If only Cordarelle Patterson were a little more polished on the field and the film room, there's no question that he'd be at the top of this list. His combination of size and skill is truly unique to this class and in spite of the many question marks surrounding him, he provides an upside that might be unrivaled in this group.
He's a player that can be used in a role similar to Percy Harvin, in the passing and rushing attacks as well as on special teams. If he fulfills his potential he could end up having a bigger fantasy player than any other rookie. However, the bust potential is just too high to put him any higher on this list.
5. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
Robert Woods doesn't have the upside of Patterson or Austin due to some physical limitations, but he might be the safest bet to have a productive season in his first year. Woods isn't going to be the first option in Buffalo's offense, but the polished route runner won't have quite the learning curve that other rookie wide receivers have to deal with.
Woods should immediately be the #2 option at wide receiver, and playing time shouldn't be an issue here. If anything, the main concern for Wood's potential owners is that quarterback situation may not be ideal in Buffalo. Woods won't have trouble getting to where he's supposed to be on the field, but can his quarterback get the him the ball?
6. Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
Aaron Dobson found himself in a dream situation when he was drafted by New England. Not only is he on a very good team and working with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he's also clearly one of Tom Brady's best options moving forward.
7. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh needed to find a replacement for the departed Mike Wallace, and they ended up with the closest thing to Wallace in the draft, Markus Wheaton. It's a perfect fit, and as the Steelers know exactly how to use a talent like Wheaton, he should be able to contribute early.
8. Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
Much like Austin in St. Louis, Justin Hunter is a player the Titans' coaching staff fell in love with and clearly has plans for early on. Tennessee didn't give up a third round pick to let him sit on the bench in 2013. He's going to be given plenty of opportunities, but can Jake Locker hold up his end of the bargain?
9. Quinton Patton, San Francisco 49ers
Out of all the receivers on the second half of this list, Quinton Patton may be the best “sleeper” pick. He's already won the coaching staff over, and had the talent to be a first round selection. It's not out of the question that he could explode in 2013, but at least on paper he's been put in an offense with a ton of playmakers and only so many touches available.
10. Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams
Austin isn't the only rookie in St. Louis that will be catching passes this fall. Stedman Bailey didn't make headlines like his teammate did at West Virginia, but he was a big part of Geno Smith's success and will likely get to play a similar role for the Rams.