League Of Their Own

By Zack Cimini

A team?s ultimate priority heading into the off-season is to improve their best through free agency and the NFL Draft. Usually the draft concludes with more project players that are filled with expectation, but that wasn?t the case this year. All over the board players have contributed in great fashion to their teams. Out of all positions though the wide receiver position excelled on a great level.

On a good year you?ll be lucky to see one or two rookie wide receivers have a quality season. The reason why is because the transition from a dominant college receiver to professional is hard adjustment. Cornerbacks are stronger, more physical, and faster than a receiver is use to. On top of that the receiver is trying to learn a new playbook and develop a chemistry with a new quarterback. So a solid season for a rookie receiver is usually considered an average NFL tight end?s numbers. With around four to five hundred yards receiving and three to four touchdowns. So how did five rookie receivers end up averaging veteran numbers with around 800 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns? Here is a breakdown of those five stars and how they did it.

1. Michael Clayton, 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns
The Buccaneers didn?t get much accomplished this season, but this rookie opened eyes with his play. Due to the early injuries to Joe Jurevicious and Joey Galloway, Clayton was forced to step in and produce. Now he has not only made it easier for the Buccaneers to part ways with their veterans, but now they know they have a career receiver to build around.

2. Lee Evans, 850 yards and 9 touchdowns
Lets hope that Evans success isn?t ala Peerless Price?s when he was opposite Eric Moulds. Moulds doesn?t get the credit he deserves for drawing attention, but Evans year had a lot more to do with his play than Moulds. Evans consistently burned cornerbacks for big plays. That suits Drew Bledsoe?s style perfectly, as he has always been a threat with the deep ball. Evans didn?t come on strong until the second half of the season, and that was exactly when the Bills started winning. Buffalo is one of the more dedicated teams in the league at focusing on the run, so it may be hard for Evans to duplicate his touchdown total.

3. Roy Williams, 817 yards and 8 touchdowns
Did anyone make more phenomenal catches this season? He is a highlight reel in the making every time he attempts a catch, and will only get better. If Joey Harrington can settle down and be consistent, than the Lions could jump atop the NFC in one year. With Williams as their number one receiver, Charles Rogers second, Az Hakim (League?s scariest third receiver with Rams), and Kevin Jones the Lions should have one of the league?s best offenses.

4. Larry Fitzgerald, 780 yards and 8 touchdowns
Besides Randy Moss there may not be a better receiver at being able to jump up and get the football. He soars in the air like a basketball player getting a rebound, and just snatches passes. Just like the Lions situation at wide receiver, the Cardinals will have the same strength. The question with Fitzgerald and Boldin is will there be enough balls to throw around? Dennis Green has made a strong statement by saying that he will play conservative until the Cardinals prove themselves. Make no mistake, Fitzgerald will be the Cardinals leading receiver.

5. Keary Colbert, 750 yards and 5 touchdowns
He was the first Panther receiver to elevate his play when Steve Smith went down. Maybe his effort launched the Panthers veterans to give it their all, which inevitably turned around their season. All of the sudden Mushin Muhammed resurrected out of nowhere and the Panthers had a top notch duo at wide receiver. Muhammed is a free agent and with his big year the Panthers will likely not be able to afford him. Colbert was brought in to take over his spot, and the Panthers aren?t going to change that with Steve Smith coming back.


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