Rookie Richter: Which WRs are catching on?

After A.J. Green and Julio Jones were picked in the top six of the 2011 NFL Draft, everyone expected to hear their names early in the season.

And those two have lived up to the hype — for the most part.

At the same time, several other rookie wide receivers, from second-round picks to an undrafted free agent, have made an impact through two weeks of football.

Watching tape and using our “Rookie Richter” scale, here are a few players we think have made some serious waves thus far.



Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders

Draft: Fifth-round selection, Tennessee
Games: Week 1 – Vs. DEN: Won, 23-20, Week 2 – At BUF: Lost, 38-35
Season stats: Nine targets, five catches, 146 yards, TD

Moore has jumped into the starting receiver rotation because of an injury-riddled receiving corp. Moore has flourished with his chances. Moore is physical enough to get off press coverage and sneaky fast when he gets a free release in the slot. With Brandon Lloyd-like athleticism, Moore makes plays and always looks to get up the field after the catch.

Richter rating: 8.2
Aftershock: 7.5. Huge breakout game against Buffalo, but it will be tough to top that impact. Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey return shortly.



A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Draft: First-round selection, Georgia
Games: Week 1 – At CLE: Won, 27-17, Week 2 – At DEN: Lost, 24-22
Season stats: 18 targets, 11 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs

Green understands route running — a rare trait for a rookie. He understands the subtleties of head movement and how to use his size and arms to manipulate corners. Green demonstrated an ability to beat press man and get on top of the cornerback, but conversely has one of the fastest hitch routes in the league.

Richter rating: 7.5
Aftershock: 8.5. Andy Dalton and Green are growing with chemistry and confidence weekly. Green is a superstar in the making.



Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

Draft: Second-round selection, Kentucky
Games: Week 1 – Vs. NO: Win, 42-34, Week 2 – At CAR: Won, 30-23
Season stats: Four targets, four catches, 60 yards, TD

Cobb is a livewire — but a playmaker. A kick goes eight yards deep into the end zone, he returns it for a TD. He runs the wrong route — touchdown. Rookie mistakes have been turned into big plays because of his skills. Still, he is too undisciplined to be an every-down player in a deep receiving corps in Green Bay.

Richter rating: 7.2
Aftershock: 6.1. Because of his frenetic play, we don’t expect a major impact from Cobb on a weekly basis.



Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Draft: First-round selection, Alabama
Games: Week 1 – At CHI: Lost, 30-12, Week 2 – Vs. PHI: Won, 35-31
Season stats: 14 targets, seven catches, 100 yards

Jones has all the attributes — size, speed, strength — but we have yet to really see explosiveness in his play. With his skill-set, you would expect more dominant ball skills. He will certainly have more opportunities in that offense, because he actually got on top of Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Richter rating: 6.7
Aftershock: 7.0. Jones has faced a brutal Chicago defense and an all-star secondary against Philadelphia, and he’s stronger because of it.



Titus Young, Detroit Lions

Draft: Second-round selection, Boise State
Games: Week 1 – At TB: Won, 27-20, Week 2 – Vs. KC: Won, 48-3
Season stats: Eight targets, five catches, 89 yards

After a quiet Week 1, Young became a big part of the offense in Week 2. Young is the Lions’ No. 3 receiver, and while the Lions love two tight-end formations, Detroit utilized three- and four-receiver sets — with Young on the outside. With coverage pulled toward Calvin Johnson, Young was targeted seven times last week and earned plenty of respect for his physical play versus Brandon Flowers.

Richter rating: 6.0
Aftershock: 7.1. As more multiple receiver threats are utilized, expect Young to be the deep-play threat in Detroit.



Greg Little, Cleveland Browns

Draft: Second-round selection, North Carolina
Games: Week 1 – Vs. CIN: Lost, 27-17, Week 2 – At IND: Won, 27-19
Season stats: Eight targets, five catches, 50 yards

Little gets off the ball quick and is very explosive — however he is not a refined route runner yet. Little is an excellent athlete and breaks tackles after the catch, running mostly underneath routes. But you can tell he is young (and a converted running back at UNC), because he still has trouble distinguishing between man and zone coverage and tailoring his routes to them.

Richter rating: 5.8
Aftershock: 6.8. Little has only scratched the surface with his play-making abilities.



Greg Salas, St. Louis Rams

Draft: Fourth-round selection, Hawaii
Games: Week 1 – Vs. PHI: Lost, 31-13, Week 2 – At NYG: Lost, 28-16
Season stats: 11 targets, five catches, 48 yards, two drops

Salas is being utilized as an oversized Wes Welker. He runs a lot of speed outs and shallow crossing routes from the slot, though he also got down the seam last game and failed to connect with Sam Bradford. A special teams contributor — returning and covering punts — he muffed a punt last week vs. the Giants.

Richter rating: 4.3
Aftershock: 5.1. Bradford loves his underneath receivers, and with Danny Amendola out Salas should get targets.



Dane Sanzenbacher, Chicago Bears

Draft: Undrafted, Ohio State
Games: Week 1 – Vs. ATL: Won, 30-12, Week 2 – At NO: Lost, 30-13
Season stats: Eight targets, four catches, 39 yards, TD

Sanzenbacher is quick — but not super fast — which makes him ideally a slot receiver. He is a short to intermediate route runner — but will not stretch a defense, which makes him a bit out of place in Mike Martz’s system and the verticals routes he runs. His first career touchdown was a blown coverage.

Richter rating: 3.8
Aftershock: 4.3. Sanzenbacher won’t ever wow you, but he will run the routes over the middle and be a reliable checkdown for Jay Cutler.



Clyde Gates, Miami Dolphins

Draft: Fourth-round selection, Abilene Christian
Games: Week 1 – Vs. NE: Lost, 38-24, Week 2 – Vs. HOU: Lost, 23-13
Season stats: Six targets, no catches

Gates was drafted to replace Ted Ginn‘s speed and special teams abilities. He has shown an ability to take the top off the defenses — however Chad Henne struggles throwing the deep ball. Of the 10 “go” routes Gates has run thus far — pre- and regular season — they’ve only connected on one. And Gates seems a little fearful of contact, especially on returns, where he is hesitant to hit holes at full speed.

Richter rating: 1.8
Aftershock: 2.1. Gates has gotten open on the deep ball, but who knows if Henne can connect.



Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Draft: Second-round selection, Maryland
Games: Week 1 – Vs. PIT: Won, 35-7, Week 2 – At TEN: Lost, 26-13
Season stats: One target, no catches

Smith doesn’t seem to be on Joe Flacco‘s radar. Smith was open several times down the seam and down the sideline vs. the Titan’s Cover 2 defense, but Flacco looked elsewhere. Smith doesn’t play physical, runs high and his hands are suspect.

Richter rating: 1.1
Aftershock: 1.9. Smith’s production can’t get lower. He was open last week, but didn’t get the ball.

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