Rookie wide receiver learning curves.
Ranking rookie receivers used to be the easiest thing in the world for the pundits. Ignore, ignore, ignore. For every Randy Moss, you'd get countless Kevin Dysons. Come back and reevaluate in Year 2 or Year 3.
Time to throw that maxim in the shredder. The Wideout Class of 2014 has stormed the NFL and showed it's ready for prime time. Here were are now, entertain me.
Seven rookie receivers are in the Top 50 at their position in Yahoo points per game, and the list swells to nine if we include the small samples of Martavis Bryant and Odell Beckham. Forget draft and develop, these guys are plug and play..
I suppose this shift was inevitable, given how college and pro offenses move closer and closer together in the modern game. But what's happened this year also speaks to just how talented this group of receivers is.
We asked out friends at Automated Insights to offer some perspective on the rookie explosion. Here are some of the fun tidbits they returned to us. (All data examined is from the merger to today, 1970-onward, and only receiving stats were considered).
-- The best rookie WR seasons of all time are Randy Moss (1,313 yards + 17 TDs = 233.3 pts), Anquan Boldin (1,377 yards + 8 TDs = 185.7 pts), and John Jefferson (1,001 yards + 13 TDs = 178.1 pts). Sammy Watkins (1,180.4 yards + 10.0 TDs = 178.1 pts) is on pace to tie Jefferson for third-best all-time.
-- Kelvin Benjamin (1046.8 yards + 8.9 TDs = 158.0 pts) is on pace to overtake Keenan Allen (1,046 yards + 8 TDs = 152.6 pts), pushing Allen down to 10th place overall.
-- Mike Evans (985.6 yards + 8.6 TDs = 150.0 pts) is projected to surpass a couple of Bengals (and three players with Ohio ties) - A.J. Green (1,057 yards + 7 TDs = 147.7 pts), Cris Collinsworth (1,009 yards + 8 TDs = 148.9 pts), and Terry Glenn (985.6 yards + 8.6 TDs = 150.0 pts) for 13th best overall.
-- Jacksonville’s rookie duo of Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are on pace for 244.3 combined standard fantasy points (Hurns might have dropped another 200, but that's beside the point). That total would outpace the two best rookies, regardless of team, from 2001 (Chambers and Gardner, 228.4 total pts), 2002 (Bryant and Stallworth, 216.7 pts), 2007 (Bowe and Megatron, 229.1 pts), 2008 (Royal and Jackson, 231.2 pts), and 2009 (Harvin and Nicks, 230 pts), among others.
-- No rookie class has ever had six Top 100 wide receivers.
-- Currently, only five WRs have ever caught 10+ TDs in their rookie season. Bryant and Watkins are on pace to join them.
-- Notables who weren’t able to reach 8+ TDs in their rookie year: A.J. Green (7), T.Y. Hilton, (7), Torry Holt (6), Dez Bryant (6), Josh Gordon (5), Tim Brown (5), Andre Johnson (4, no shock there), Calvin Johnson (4), Andre Reed (4), Steve Largent (4), Jerry Rice (3), Art Monk (3), Greg Jennings (3), DeSean Jackson (2), Santonio Holmes (2).
And just for fun, here are a few nuggets from the desk of Pianow.
-- Watkins's four-game run since Kyle Orton became the starter: 21 catches, 393 yards, three touchdowns. He was fantasy's No. 5 receiver in October.
-- Bryant has five touchdowns on 88 NFL snaps.
-- Glenn was the last Patriots wideout taken in the first round (1996, seventh overall).
-- The Jets picked Shaq Evans with the 115th selection in 2014's draft. Bryant went three picks later. (Shades of the Stephen Hill/Alshon Jeffery link from 2012.)
-- Taylor Gabriel is second in the league in yards per reception (19.2), only training DeSean Jackson. Hurns is 13th, Watkins 20th, Benjamin 25th, Beckham 29th.
-- Rookie tight ends haven't cracked the code yet. Only Jace Amaro (21st) is among the Top 33 in Yahoo scoring.
-- Cooks was the top WR target in Yahoo drafts (36th off the board at his position), followed by Watkins (37th), Evans (38th), Benjamin (44th), Cody Latimer (62nd) and Jordan Matthews (65th). Just about everyone else was free, whenever you decided to take a chance on them.
The kids are alright. Hope they're scoring for your roster. The rules of ranking are forever changed.