Perhaps you've already seen:
Or read about the Bills' highly routed rookie receiver from Clemson, who has become arguably the most talked about rookie who hasn't posted an Instagram video of himself talking on a phone made of money. Fantasy footballers who are following the buzz surrounding Watkins may be talking themselves into spending an top draft choice on him. Beware the rookie receiver, however. Every year, a highly drafted rookie goes early in everyone's draft only to take his time becoming a consistent performer, maddening owners in the process. Before you become too enamored with Watkins, let's take a look at some of the big WR names that have recently entered the league.
I was on board the Tavon Austin bandwagon. Word out of training camp that the Rams were going to use him like Minnesota would use Percy Harvin only served to stoke anticipation. Visions of 3 TD Sundays danced through our heads, as we all envisioned him running, receiving and returning his way into our hearts. Alas, this was not to be.
Austin struggled to find his niche in the Rams' offense and lost Sam Bradford to an ACL injury in Week 7. He produced 6 TDs for the entire season, 4 of them coming over the course of 2 games. Hardly all his fault, but still a cautionary tale.
The logic surrounding Hopkins' ascension to the top of many fantasy boards was simple: talented rookie, playing across from Andre Johnson, surely, he'll put up some good numbers, right? This logic did not include the possibility of the Texans' season going down in flames behind Matt Schaub's almost mythical ability to create more touchdowns for the opposing team.
Hopkins finished the season with a respectable 800 yards, but a paltry 2 TDs and only one game over 100 yards as the Texans sputtered to a 2-14 record.
Essentially the sleeper version of Tavon Austin, Patterson was a fashionable draft pick last season, considered a threat to score from anywhere on the field. While he did occasionally dazzle and finished the season with 9 touchdowns (4 receiving, 3 rushing, 2 returns), he did not produce a receiving or rushing score until Week 9.
Patterson came on strong late, scoring 6 times over the last 5 games of the 2013 campaign, although it's hard to envision his original drafter having had the patience to wait that long.
With his 6'4" frame, fans talked themselves into Hunter becoming Jake Locker's favorite red zone target and piling up numbers. Hunter had a disappointing rookie campaign, finishing with a 18-354-4 line, with 10 catches, 215 yards and 2 TDs coming during two late season outbursts.
Woods was considered a steal for the Bills in the 2nd round, and it was predicted he could usurp the #1 receiver role from Stevie Johnson by season's end. Woods did show flashes of brilliance, but it's hard for fantasy owners to get too excited about a guy who finished with 587 yards and 3 TDs.
Clearly, the Bills see him as a complementary receiver, as well, judging from their aggressiveness in acquiring Mike Williams & Watkins to beef up their WR corps
It was thought by several that he would produce the biggest numbers of the 2013 receiver class, by virtue of having Tom Brady to throw to him. Dobson struggled to stay on the field, missing four games, and regularly vanished from contests he suited up for. Outside of a 130 yard, 2 TD explosion against Pittsburgh in Week 8, there were no more 100 yard games from Dobson and just two scores.
Williams tantalized fantasy football owners with a midseason run of 5 TDs in 6 games. Outside of that, he was largely unreliable, held under 100 years in every contest, save for Week 5's 51-48 shootout with Denver that resembled a drunken Madden contest.
Now we get to the receiver everyone should have drafted last year. With Philip Rivers delivering a comeback season under the tutelage of Mike McCoy, Allen put up over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns, after a rocky beginning to the season that saw him tally a mere 30 yards over Weeks 1 and 2. Numerous teams are still kicking themselves for letting him slide into the 3rd round. Numerous owners are still kicking themselves for cutting the cord too fast.
Lest you think this is a mere trend, in 2012, Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd struggled early, despite their status as top 10 "can't miss" selections. Who ended up producing the biggest numbers in their rookie season from this draft? Another 3rd rounder, T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, while Chris Givens, a Rams 4th round selection, was not far behind.
While 2011 saw the arrival of A.J. Green and Julio Jones, 2010's leading rookie receiver was not Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas. Tampa Bay's Mike Williams, a relatively unheralded 4th round selection, exploded onto the scene with 964 yards and 11 scores, finishing second in AP Offensive Rookie Of The Year voting.
There are lessons to be taken from this. The first one would be to scour the waiver wire for buzzworthy rookie receivers who've recently been cut, as someone who released Justin Blackmon before his epic 236 yard effort during his rookie season, I know this all too well.
Don't use your high draft choices on other teams' high draft choices. History suggests you're better off researching a team's QB situation before investing a valuable pick. What did Hilton and Allen have in common? They both had a quality QB to produce scoring opportunities. If you're in a keeper league, by all means, invest in highly drafted players. While players like Thomas and Floyd did not provide a huge rookie year return, they both may end up as the top receivers from their class.
So how does Sammy Watkins stack up?
While Watkins seemingly has the chops to step in and be an immediate big play threat, owners should bear in mind that his QB situation is tenuous at best. EJ Manuel had an uneven rookie campaign, as he completed less than 60 percent of his passes in over half his starts last season. If you are an EJ Manuel believer, then you're also banking on him staying healthy for the duration of the 2014 season, a tall order for a player who missed 6 starts in 2013.
If you must scratch that rookie receiver itch, use a late round choice on a later draft pick who is an advantageous situation. A 2nd round pick, such as Denver's Cody Latimer, who will be given the opportunity to help fill Eric Decker's shoes, or a 3rd rounder like Philadelphia's Josh Huff, an Oregon product who should be able to assimilate quickly due to his familiarity with Chip Kelly's offense, could be this year's breakout talents.
Watkins is one of the most tantalizing gambles in this year's draft. No one wants to miss out on the next A.J. Green or Percy Harvin. Your best bet is to let someone else take that bet and vigilantly monitor the waiver wire for Watkins or prospects of his ilk that frustrated owners are letting go.