. Robert Meachem
. Mike Sims-Walker
. Steve Smith
These were 2009's "breakout third-year receivers" -- a popular term in fantasy circles that is actually more fable than fact, as explained more than sufficiently in this blog post.
Smith was the best of them all. Leading the NFC in receptions and finishing as the No. 11 fantasy wideout (No. 8 in PPR), Smith set career highs in catches, yards, touchdowns, and yards-per-catch average. Outrageously consistent, Smith caught at least four passes in 15-of-16 games and six or more in 11. He ranked fourth in the NFL in targets, hauling in 71 percent of them.
Remember the "concern" about New York's "unproven" receiver corps entering last season? Smith is the primary reason the group is now considered among the league's most promising.Editor's Note: See where Smith ranks
in the 2010 Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Meanwhile, Giants first-round pick Hakeem Nicks
labored through the early part of his first year. An injured hamstring, contributing to Nicks' fluky offseason weight gain, was aggravated in training camp. Recovered for the second exhibition game, Nicks exploded against the Jets for six catches, 144 yards, and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, Nicks suffered a mid-foot sprain in the season opener when he was just on the verge of supplanting then-starter Domenik Hixon
Nicks returned with a bang. In Weeks 4-7, he scored a TD in four straight contests despite playing 43-or-less percent of the offensive snaps in all but one -- a five-catch, 114-yard, one-score eruption against New Orleans' stout secondary. Though Nicks was ultimately inconsistent because of his low target and snap totals, the former North Carolina Tar Heel's dominant talent again flashed in a four-catch, 110-yard, one-touchdown effort against Philadelphia in Week 13.
Nicks finished as the No. 29 fantasy receiver.
He didn't even see half as many targets as Smith during the 2009 season, and wound up with about three games worth of snaps fewer than Manningham. Ridiculously gifted, Nicks still found a way to pace the Giants in total yards after the catch and generate 13 plays of 20-plus yards. (Smith and Manningham each had 15 with loads more opportunities). Nicks' "drop rate" (drops divided by catches) was also easily the best on the team. He is New York's most physical receiver, the best at breaking tackles, and has the best hands and size.