2009 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers
By Russ Bliss

There’s a lot of hype surrounding this year’s WR draft class. The top 6 are being hyped like they’re going to come in provide immediate dividends to the NFL teams that draft them. I’m dubious myself since it’s rare that a rookie WR comes in and makes a huge impact in the NFL , let alone be more than just a mediocre fantasy WR. When creating NFL fantasy football rankings and cheat sheets, too many place rookie WR’s higher than they historically deserve. Last year, only 2 of the rookie WR’s provided any type of fantasy football help throughout the season and neither was really reliable week to week. An even bigger surprise was that instead of them being the bigger WR’s I tend to prefer myself, both were smaller speedy guys (DeSean Jackson and Donnie Avery). This year, there appears to be a clear cut top 6 and how the other 30 or so (as usually 30-40 WR’s are drafted every year) fall into the draft is a crapshoot.

1) Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech. Crabtree is receiving a lot of hype and while he possesses good size (6’1”, 215 lbs) and has outstanding college production (231 receptions, 3,127 yards, 41 TD’s in only 2 seasons), I have my doubts. Not because of a foot injury he had surgery on, but because his college production is inflated by the system he played in, and he lacks speed. He makes up for it by being very sure-handed and competitive, but I just don’t buy all the hype of him being the next great WR in the mold of a Larry Fitzgerald (whom many have unfairly to both compared him to). Crabtree could boom or bust in the NFL but either way going to be a decent pick in this years fantasy football draft.

2) Jeremy Maclin, Missouri. Possessing decent size (6’0”, 198 lbs) and great speed, Maclin is an athletic playmaking type of WR who can change games both as a WR and as a kick returner. Catches most everything thrown his way and knows how to maneuver thru defenders after the catch. However, Maclin is not fearless, shying away from contact and not always going after the ball in traffic. Route running will need work, but his speed and big play ability make him a sure bet to be drafted in the top half of round 1.

3) Percy Harvin, Florida. Smaller than ideal (5’11”, 192 lbs), but muscular, Harvin is very fast and sure-handed. He works hard at making his game better and is also adept at rushing with the football. Not afraid of taking a hit, Harvin will fight for the tough catch. Two knocks on Harvin though are that his route running needs work and there are questions about his character. His big play ability cannot be denied though and although shorter than the prototype looked for, he could blossom ala Steve Smith in Carolina.

4) Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland. Explosive speed is Heyward-Bey’s trademark trait. If not pressed he blows by defenders. Has good size (just about 6’1”, 210 lbs) but is not physical and doesn’t break many tackles. Has suspect hands and tends to body catch leading to easy drops. Not a polished route runner, but with coaching will definitely get better as he played in a primarily run first offense in college. Rare speed and gamebreaking ability is likely to get him drafted in round 1.

5) Kenny Britt, Rutgers. Has size (6’3”, 218 lbs) that teams drool for at the position. Strong enough to beat the press and has great leaping ability. Good hands and loves to compete. His two knocks are that he only has average speed (4.56 in the 40) and can get lazy if not heavily involved in the game plan. Has the makeup of a great possession WR but could surprise and be a true #1.

6) Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina. Excellent hands and is strong running after making the catch. Runs good routes and not afraid when going over the middle. Fights for the ball in the air and determined enough to win most battles. Lacks speed though and easily packs on extra pounds (gained 16 lbs between the NFL combine and his pro day workout, but lost it all back before taking part in private workouts). Has good enough size (6’1”, 212 lbs) and the attitude of a #1 WR.

Others to keep an eye on:

Derrick Williams, Penn State. Lacks desirable size and speed, but runs great routes and is fearless going after the catch over the middle. Has return capabilities.

Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma. Good sized WR with great hands and a willingness to go over the middle, but lacks speed.

Brian Robiskee, Ohio State. Excellent hands and route running ability. Tall, but thinly built (6’3”, 209 lbs). Not fast or elusive after the catch. Mohamed Massaquoi, Georgia. Good character and leader who runs great routes. Drops too many easy passes though.

Should be a great NFL Fantasy Draft for wide receivers this year and be sure to check  back as I prepare for the upcoming fantasy football season.