The wide receivers taken in the first round of the NFL Draft last year will go down as one of the best collections of talent in recent memory. With the help of the advanced statistics of ProFootballFocus.com, we will breakdown each of these players for you.
|1||7||Darrius Heyward-Bey||WR||Maryland||Oakland Raiders|
|1||10||Michael Crabtree||WR||Texas Tech||San Francisco 49ers|
|1||19||Jeremy Maclin||WR||Missouri||Philadelphia Eagles|
|1||22||Percy Harvin||WR||Florida||Minnesota Vikings|
|1||29||Hakeem Nicks||WR||North Carolina||New York Giants|
|1||30||Kenny Britt||WR||Rutgers||Tennessee Titans|
9 rec, 124 yards, 1 TD
The first wide receiver selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, Darrius Heyward-Bey struggled as a rookie for the Oakland Raiders. It was shocking that Heyward-Bey was the first receiver taken over Michael Crabtree, even though he was regarded as a first round pick leading up to the draft.
Heyward-Bey started the first 11 games for the Raiders at split end and then a foot injury sidelined him for the final five games of the season. The early end to his season may not have been the worst thing to happen to him; Heyward-Bey struggled with confidence issues, concentration lapses, poor quarterback play, and a historically bad catch percentage (9 receptions on 38 targets, 23.70%).
Heyward-Bey was not a fantasy option in 2009. Although Heyward-Bey was not the first ever receiver to struggle as a rookie, there are reasons to be concerned about his future prospects. The early camp reports this offseason indicate that he has turned a corner with his focus and conditioning, however, Heyward-Bey must improve his hands and route running to be successful.
48 rec, 625 yards, 2 TD
The consensus top wide receiver in the 2009 NFL Draft did not have to wait long to hear his name called on draft day. Michael Crabtree held out for the first five games of the season, and he made his San Fransisco debut in Week 7 against the Houston Texans.
Despite missing all of training camp, Crabtree started every game at split end and quickly became the most targeted 49ers wide receiver. He was targeted almost eight times per game, and had at least three catches in every start. Crabtree only scored two touchdowns in his rookie season, although the cause was the stellar play of tight end Vernon Davis and his record-tying 13 touchdowns.
Crabtree has the makings of a top-flight wide receiver in the NFL. He runs excellent routes and gets open despite not having élite speed. His strong hands were on display often catching errant Alex Smith throws, and he proved to be tough to take down in the open field as evident by his 9 tackles eluded/broken in just 11 games.
55 rec, 762 yards, 4 TD
Jeremy Maclin was expected to spend his rookie season in a reserve role; however, he was installed into the starting lineup in Week 2 to replace the injured Kevin Curtis. Maclin proved to be an excellent compliment to DeSean Jackson, helping draw away attention on deep routes.
Maclin picked up Andy Reid’s complex west coast offense quickly, and he still has plenty of room to grow after his successful rookie campaign. Maclin had a huge Wild Card performance with 7 receptions 146 yards receiving and a touchdown after there were concerns that he hit a rookie wall late in the season. Maclin only had 2 broken tackles all season and he has an opportunity to become a better weapon if he can create more yardage on shorter patterns.
Maclin was highly coveted during the NFL Draft and he flashed enough big play ability to lead us to believe that he will be a top fantasy wide receiver for many years to come.
60 rec, 790 yards, 6 TD
What makes Percy Harvin’s Rookie of the Year season even more impressive is that he was the #3 wide receiver for the Vikings. Harvin worked exclusively from the slot and he was a fantasy contributor from the start scoring a touchdown in his first two games.
Harvin is a flat-out play-maker in all facets of the game. Harvin lead the league in broken tackles and he was a threat to score every time he had the football in his hands. The character concerns that caused Harvin to slide in the draft did not surface, and Harvin was one of the hardest working players on the team.
Harvin erased any doubts about his ability to adapt to the wide receiver at the next level. Harvin will form an impressive tandem with Sidney Rice for the near future, even if Brett Favre only plays one more season. Players like Wes Welker have shown that they can be a productive fantasy option on a strong passing team despite playing from the slot position. It is hard not to root for a player like Harvin that fights for every yard on the football field.
47 rec, 790 yards, 6 TD
Hakeem Nicks put his big-play ability on display as a rookie and eased any concerns that the Giants had when they missed out on Jeremy Maclin in the draft. Nicks was the other receiver from North Carolina for most of his college career, and his strong junior season propelled him into the first round of the NFL Draft. Nicks missed two games with a foot injury and made up for lost time when he returned with four touchdowns over 50 yards for the season.
Nicks inherited the starting flanker position from Mario Manningham by mid-season and put his strong hands and tough running after the catch ability on display. Nicks led the league in yards after catch per reception, and broke nine tackles along the way.
Nicks is a legitimate #1 wide receiver and he will take that role this season from Steve Smith. Nicks is fearless going over the middle, tough to bring down in the open field, and already has some of the best hands in the league. Nicks will be a mainstay in the top-10 for many years to come.
42 rec, 701 yards, 3 TD
The last wide receiver selected in the first round, Kenny Britt went on to lead the Titans in receiving despite not starting until Week 10. The Titans struggled out of the gate with a 0-6 record and a strong commitment to getting Chris Johnson to the 2,000 yard rushing mark. Britt proved to be a more effective player than Justin Gage, and Vince Young relied on him in big moments down the stretch. Britt caught the game-winning touchdown in Week 12 versus Arizona in the final seconds of the game. Britt utilized his big-frame to get open against tough coverage and broke nine tackles in the open field.
Kenny Britt is an interesting player. He was productive at the college level despite concerns about this work ethic and maturity. Those concerns have resurfaced again this off-season, Britt showed up to organized team activities out of shape and unprepared to take the next step as a professional.
Tennessee will remain committed to the ground game for the foreseeable future, so it is hard to envision Britt as a top flight fantasy option. Although Britt makes the most of his few opportunities each game, he may never become a weekly must-start option in his career. Britt remains a top-30 option in redraft and dynasty leagues.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is the lone question mark of the six wide receivers taken in the first round last year. Each of the remaining players could be considered top-30 options in just their second seasons, which is an impressive feat to say the least.
Michael Crabtree and Hakeem Nicks have shown they can be legitimate No. 1 wide receivers for their respective teams, and both have top-10 fantasy upside.
Jeremy Maclin has room to grow as a player. If he continues to refine his route-running and knowledge of the game, Maclin could develop into a Reggie Wayne type of wide receiver for new franchise QB Kevin Kolb.
Percy Harvin will continue to keep opposing defensive coordinators up late at night with his ability to score from anywhere on the field.
Kenny Britt will be a solid professional in the mold of a Mushin Muhammad. Britt will be a top-30 option for most of his career and will have a few top-10 seasons like Muhammad did.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is in danger of becoming the next Troy Williamson. He needs to build on his positive reports this off-season and put his impressive speed to work with new quarterback Jason Campbell.
2009 First Round Wide Receivers by the Numbers:
|Missed Tackles Per Game|
|Targets Per Game|
Fantasy Points Per/Game
|FP/G||% in Top 24|
|**11.83 Per Game (WR24)|
All Statistics courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com