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NFL Rookie WR’s Making Impacts Across The League

This year’s rookie class of wide receivers has been exceptional.

Tony Lopez

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During the draft process, prognosticators were all abuzz about how deep this year’s draft class was at the wide receiver position. Through the mid way point of the season, that class of rookie receivers are proving draft-niks everywhere right with the impact they are producing for their teams.

The impressive early showings from this year’s rookie class is clearly better than the production produced by last year’s crop of rookie receivers and may rival some of the best classes in NFL draft history. Just look at how many rookie receivers are playing significant roles on their teams right now.

The production hasn’t been just coming from the first round picks either, there have been major contributions coming from second day picks and undrafted free agents.

Some of these youngsters have been what they were expected to be, others have been surprisingly ready to contribute earlier than anticipated, and a few where nothing was expected of them and were just a camp body when the off-season program began.

In Jacksonville, the Jaguars have three rookie receivers in their rotation, mostly out of necessity, but all three have shown flashes of being productive players in this league. While two of them were high draft picks and had expectations, only Allen Robinson and undrafted free agent Allen Hurns are the two who have had moments of brilliance.

Robinson leads his team in receiving yards and receptions and has outplayed the Jaguars highest pick this year at the position, Marqise Lee. Menawhile Hurns, the undrafted rookie beating the odds, leads the team in touchdowns.

First round picks such as Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Kelvin Benjamin, & Brandin Cooks have been exactly what their respective teams were looking for when they were drafted.

Watkins leads his team in receptions, yards and touchdowns, providing the Buffalo Bills with a bonafide No. 1 receiving option who’s torched teams and even proved his salt by catching a game winner.

“To make the last play to win the game in Buffalo, it’s the best feeling ever,” said Watkins after his game winner against Minnesota a few weeks ago.

Benjamin leads his team in yards and touchdowns and while he has been plagued by drops, he’s shown more than enough to prove he’s capable of being a force on the outside for the Carolina Panthers as he’s on pace for a 1000-yard season.

Mike Evans is second on his team in receptions and yards while tied for the lead in touchdowns, complimenting lead receiver Vincent Jackson as intended, but unfortunately the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are struggling as a team and his production is going mostly unnoticed.

Odell Beckham has fought back from nagging injuries to rank second on the New York Giants in touchdown receptions and with Victor Cruz going down for the year, more is going to be put on Beckham’s plate. If how he’s performed coming back injury is any indication to the caliber of player he is, then the increased work load should only speed up his development.

Brandin Cooks, has been a dynamic slot option for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Second on his team in receptions behind Jimmy Graham and third on the team in yards and touchdowns, Cooks is flourishing in his role coach Sean Payton tailored for him.

Like Allen Robinson, fellow second round picks Jarvis Landry and Devonte Adams are making good on their pedigree. Recently promoted to the starting line up, Landry ranks second in receptions and yards on the Miami Dolphins. “Juice” also provides impact on special teams, recently being named the NFL’s Special Teams Player of the Month for October as he is leading the NFL in kickoff return average. What makes him special is the hunger he plays with, always running with determination and never satisfied.

“It’s definitely a tremendous honor,” Landry said after being recognized for the player of the month award. “But it’s not time to celebrate, it’s not time to pat myself on the back or anything. It’s about the 10 guys, it’s about this team, it’s about the special teams unit. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about my name being recognized.”

Adams got his opportunity to move up the depth chart when Jarrett Boykin got dinged up, but he’s made the most of it, turning in big plays and displaying a level of reliability that has made him third on the Packers in receiving yards, catches, and touchdowns.

Third-round pick John Brown, the little dynamo from a small school, has provided the Arizona Cardinals with a true deep threat, currently ranking third on the team in yards and catches while leading the Cards in touchdowns, with his biggest coming on a 75-yard touchdown play that helped the Cardinals stun the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20.

“A Willie Mays catch,” coach Bruce Arians said when asked about the rookie’s touchdown that proved to be the deciding points in the Cards victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“He’s so young and so raw and so fast and so explosive,” Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said of the rookie from Pittsburg State. “I mean, for him to pull away from everybody like that, I’m not surprised and I expected him to do what he did.”

As is customary with most draft classes, there will also be late bloomers, receivers that develop in their second or third years. The instant production out of this year’s rookie class has been exceptional and will probably only get stronger as the class develops as a whole.

Tony Lopez is a Part-Time Jedi and Full-Time Football Insider who has used the force to cover the NFL since 2009. Formerly a radio intern for "The Fabulous Sports Babe" and then co-host to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, Lopez took his talents to South Beach where he's contributed to the FanSided Network and Bleacher Report over the years.

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