Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes burst onto the scene in 2007 with 82 catches for 962 yards and nine scores. With a returning quarterback he was poised to build on those numbers in 2008.
But stats don't always translate from one year to the next, especially for receivers. Barnes had a miserable year in 2008, failing to reach the end zone and only posting one 100-yard receiving effort.
Barnes' pre-draft stock sank before 2009 drafts and could easily be had in the later stages of the draft in 2009. In fact, both Brian and I were able to grab Barnes in the 10th-12th rounds in several all-120 drafts last season. Of course, no one could have predicted the year Barnes had. But that is part of the point. Receivers are tough to pick and selecting receivers like Barnes, Austin Pettis/Boise St. (11th round), Titus Young/Boise St. (12th round), Naaman Roosevelt/Buffalo (10th round) and Rodney Bradley (12th round) can pay huge dividends.
So who are some of the receivers that could turn out a Barnes-like performance in 2010? Let's take a look...
Must be in a fast-paced, spread offense. Must have a history of putting up fantasy numbers worthy of a starting WR1. Must be coming off a down year either due to offensive woes or injury. Must be available in the middle rounds of the draft.
Why: Much like Bowling Green in 2008, It was a down year for the Tulsa offense last season. And despite catching 78 passes, Johnson only scored three times. If the Golden Hurricane are going to rebound, Johnson will have to have a big year. He's their top playmaker and like Barnes, Johnson is active in the running game. Tulsa still plays a hurry-up style of offense. Look for Johnson to rebound and become a top tier fantasy receiver again in 2010.
Why Not: Unlike Bowling Green last year, Tulsa has other weapons like Trae Johnson, A.J. Whitmore and Jameel Owens. Johnson and Owens are big receivers that could get the red zone looks.
Final Verdict: If there is one guy on this list that is the most poised for a Barnes-like rebound year it is Johnson. He's in the right system
Why: Texas Tech won't air it out as much as they have in the past, but they'll still chuck it under new offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Lewis was slowed by a hamstring last season, but still managed to lead the team in receiving yards and was only two catches behind Alex Torres in receptions. He's the fastest of the receivers, and working from inside spot he should approach 70+ catches again in 2010. And with Brown calling the plays there is a good chance Lewis could see a few carries as well. He won't put up Jerrel Jernigan numbers on the ground, but every little bit helps.
Why Not: There are too many receiving options at Tech. Torres and Lyle Leong will catch their share of touchdowns. Unless something strange happens Lewis is not going to catch 17 touchdown passes like Barnes. Low double-digit TDs would be a good season for Lewis.
Final Verdict: There will be much debate over which Tech receiver to take. It is the classic inside or outside guy argument. The outside receivers,Torres and Leong, are the big play threats, while Lewis should be the steady performer.
Why: It's hard to say that caught 85 balls and had over 1000 yards receiving as having a down year, but we get the sense he could do more. With James Cleveland having a breakout year, he'll likely go in the first or second round in your draft. And Tyron Carrier won't be far behind. But keep in mind we are talking about a team that will spread the ball around and throw it over 600 times. And Edwards looked like the most dangerous man on the field before his horrific injury against Marshall in 2008. With a lot of attention being played to Cleveland -- by both opposing defensive coordinators and fantasy owners -- Edwards will fall through the cracks.
Why Not: Cleveland was a red zone favorite of quarterback Case Keenum and rightfully so, as he's considerably bigger than both Carrier and Edwards. Both are smaller than Cleveland, making them less attractive targets for quarterback Keenum in close quarters. Both Edwards and Carrier have speed on their side and the ability to make plays in the open field.
Final Verdict: Once Carrier goes, don't be left without a Houston receiver on your roster. Grab Edwards.
Why: We received the tip on Bradley last year and we took a shot at him on draft day in most of our leagues. Through five games he was looking like a fantasy gem with five touchdowns and over 500 yards receiving. Then a broken leg cost him the remainder of the 2009 season. All reports of Bradley's recovery have been positive, but his draft stock won't be nearly as high as fellow receiver Greg Salas.
Why Not: Bryant Moniz. To be blunt, I just don't believe he's a good quarterback, and I don't believe the can perform at a high enough level to support both Salas' and Bradley's appetite. Playing one of the young quarterbacks is probably not the answer either as they need some stability at the position. And as we saw from DeAndre Brown and Patrick Edwards last year, a broken leg is not an easy injury to come back from for anyone, but especially a receiver.
Final Verdict: This is a matter of personal preference and trying to find value, but I'll pass on Greg Salas in rounds 2-3 and snag Bradley later.