The 2013 wide receiver draft class was one of the deepest talent pools in recent memory, and as a result, there will be multiple rookies taking the NFL by storm this season. This list will highlight the rookies with the best overall opportunity to produce big numbers this season, while also taking into account their talent upside as well.
So let’s kick off the list at number 1 with St. Louis Rams’ wide receiver Tavon Austin.
1. Tavon Austin
Don’t be fooled by how little Austin was used this preseason, because what you saw was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the package of plays he’ll be used in this season. He will be a universal Swiss army knife on offense for the Rams running, catching and returning the football. And he could be the key to a division title in the NFC West.
2. DeAndre Hopkins
There were early concussion scares for Hopkins, but all reports have him ready for his Week 1 debut. This man in one word is special. The Texans have searched awhile to find a great compliment for Andre Johnson, and Hopkins looks to be that guy. Whether the Texans go to the Super Bowl or not will have a lot to do with how Hopkins plays.
3. Kenbrell Thompkins
This Bearcat may not be the most talented wide receiver on this list, but he’s come a long way from undrafted free agent to a projected starter for the Patriots. The opportunity is there for Thompkins to have a big year, and the Pats are very lucky to have found him after whiffing on their second-round selection.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson
He may be as raw as a carton of eggs, but you put the football into Patterson’s hands and he’ll fry opposing defenses. Patterson probably deserves to be higher on this list, but he has to show his development as a Pro first.
5. Quinton Patton
Patton likes to talk trash, but it fits what the 49ers want to be on offense: a bully who you can’t shut up. That’s what Patton brings to the table, and he will mesh well as one of Kaepernick’s top targets. The man also just has a knack of getting separation and winning those 50-50 balls.
6. Robert Woods
Woods is a very good receiver that fell into a good situation in Buffalo. E.J. Manuel will not have that many excuses with the receivers he has, and if the Bills’ passing game catches fire, a lot of the ignition will come from Woods.
7. Keenan Allen
It kills me to not have Keenan Allen higher, but he has to stay healthy. The Chargers have a lot of banged up receivers, which creates opportunities, but not if you’re one of those banged up receivers. Hopefully Allen can get over his PCL issue and become Phillip Rivers’ favorite target.
8. Terrance Williams
Preseason has been pretty quiet for Williams, but it could just be a ploy to not reveal too much for the regular season. Williams appears to have solidified the third wide receiver slot in Dallas, and his presence if he stays healthy, will give the Cowboys one of their best wide receiver cores in years.
9. Kenny Stills
This is another opportunity over talent situation, because Stills will be Drew Brees’ third option at wide receiver this year. He had flashes at Oklahoma and can help add a deep threat dimension similar to what Devery Henderson brought to the Saints’ passing game in previous seasons.
10. Markus Wheaton
The Steelers have had a lot of success with mid-round wide receivers, and you can add Markus Wheaton to the list. He has a nice combination of speed and quickness to make an impact as Big Ben’s third option in the passing game, and they’ll need him to fill the void that Mike Wallace left this offseason.
11. Ace Sanders
Slot machine comes to mind with Ace Sanders in the mix in Jacksonville, and Justin Blackmon’s four-game suspension will provide a big opportunity for him. Blaine Gabbert might even shake the bust label if Sanders shows up big in those four games for the Jaguars.
12. Brice Butler
The Oakland Raiders have a lot of holes on their roster, but they may have struck some bronze or silver with their seventh-rounder Brice Butler. He’s taken full advantage of his preseason reps and could eventually develop into a starter as the season goes on.
This concludes the top 2013 NFL rookie wide receivers, and if you believe I missed someone, leave a comment below and enjoy the start of football season.
James Cobern is a NFC West Division Leader for TPF and can be contacted at JCobern@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com or follow him on Twitter @Jmcobern1