Donte Moncrief heads a look at three fast-rising dynasty wideouts

donte moncrief

Sunday saw impressive breakouts from three mid-to-late-round rookie WRs.  Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant lit up the field in the Steelers-Colts explosion, while Michael Campanaro posted an understatedly impressive showing of his own.  Let’s examine their dynasty outlooks following their first extensive NFL action.

Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis

TALE OF THE TAPE

The Upside: Wow, that’s what.  I’ll let Rotoworld’s Raymond Summerlin break down the specifics for you, but know that in terms of explosivity (considering height, weight, and speed), Moncrief turned in the ninth-best WR combine since 2009.  I’ll list for you the eight who topped him:

Calvin Johnson

Vincent Jackson

Stephen Hill

Julio Jones

Andre Johnson

Chris Chambers

Tyrone Calico

Mark Harrison

That’s right.  In terms of combine numbers, the only wideouts to register as more explosive than Moncrief were: a sure-fire HOFer (Megatron), a near-HOFer (Andre), a super-stud on his way to those levels (Julio), a three-time Pro Bowler (Vincent), another Pro Bowler (Chambers), and three nobodies.  And it needs to be noted that NONE of those nobodies were high-volume targets in college; all were speculative workout warrior types.

So, on an athletic level, Moncrief has a ceiling that rivals the best wideouts taken over the last 16 years.  And it’s evident in some, though not all, of his film; Moncrief is a pull-away-after-the-catch stud who turns 15-yard completions into 60-yard touchdowns.  Call me a nutjob, but I saw a lot of Terrell Owens in his film.

The Downside: Moncrief is a body catcher, which is a problem for sure.  A dependable receiver needs to clutch the ball with his hands before bringing it into the bread basket, and Moncrief struggles to do that.  It’s something he needs to work on, though perpetual dependability is a bit of an overrated quality in a wideout; even studs like Owens, Tim Brown, Roddy White and a host of others have waged long battles with the dropsies.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Like Bryant, Moncrief is already climbing a depth chart that looks to be pretty wide-open in 2015.  Reggie Wayne will be an unrestricted free agent going on 36, and with Moncrief on board, it’s hard to expect the Colts to break the bank.  If Wayne returns, it will likely be in a mentor/slot role; think Donald Driver in his waning years.  Moncrief has not only impressed athletically; he caught Andrew Luck’s eye during training camp and worked his way into the pecking order early in the year.  It’s safe to assume he’ll be turned loose in 2015 as Luck’s #2 option, which is an extraordinary thing to be.

THE VERDICT

Moncrief looks like a top-end WR3 to target in 2015, with otherworldly talent and awesome opportunity as the second or third option in a soaring passing game.  With the league’s next legendary QB at the helm and balls filling the air (no team has thrown more passes in 2014 than the Colts, or even come within 41 attempts), the sky is the limit.  Treat Moncrief as a top-tier dynasty target at this point, and be prepared to pay handsomely to acquire him.  (It may be easier than you think; with Wayne due back to the lineup imminently, Moncrief could fade for a few weeks and deflate his price.)

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

TALE OF THE TAPE

The Upside: Bryant possesses some very impressive measurables.  At 6’4 with 32.7-inch arms, Bryant has the look of the late Chris Henry, and he uses that length well; Bryant plays anything but small.  He seems to take great joy in attacking the ball and shows great timing in the air.  And he can certainly get downfield; he ran  His 4.42 40 is mighty impressive for a long-limbed  While his lack of production in school is concerning, note that he ran behind both DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins over his final two seasons, serving as the dedicated deep threat on low-percentage routes.  When evaluating Bryant the prospect, it’s hard to overstate his supreme big-play ability.  Of his 42 catches in 2013, 33 went for first downs, 27 went for 15+ yards, and 12 went for 25+ yards, culminating in a 19.7 YPC mark.  When he’s paying attention, he’s an elite downfield target, which means the world to big-play seeker Ben Roethlisberger.

The Downside: For all of that height, Bryant is a spindly guy at 211; he’ll have to load up a bit to consistently handle the pounding of NFL press coverage.  And he’ll need to brush up on his technique: at Clemson, Bryant was used almost exclusively on go routes and attacking downfield stuff that didn’t require much recognition or nuance.  But the main concern with Bryant is his consistency at catching the football.  In his only year of real college production, he dropped 12.5% of his passes on a VERY limited route tree, and committed a crucial drop Sunday against the Colts.  Big-play threats like Bryant aren’t needed to have Larry Fitz’s hands, but if Roethlisberger can’t trust him on high-impact go and fade routes, then Bryant could go the way of Limas Sweed.  (Just kidding. There will NEVER be another Limas Sweed.)

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Bryant missed the first six games of the year with an AC sprain.  When finally activated, he was immediately laced into the gameplan, turning five targets into a 2-40-1 line against Houston.  His 7-5-83-2 line last Sunday launched him into the stratosphere.  Bryant is the Steelers’ second-most dynamic wideout, more capable of winning outside matchups than also-raw slot type Markus Wheaton.  And few QBs love a big, rangy wideout more than Roethlisberger, who entered the league targeting Plaxico Burress relentlessly and has lobbied the team publicly for another tall weapon.  It’s clear the team is high on Bryant, and their depth chart thins out dramatically this offseason, when the disappointing Lance Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey will likely be elsewhere.  The team is best served starting Bryant at split end and kicking Wheaton inside (presuming he works on his chemistry with Roethlisberger).

THE VERDICT

Bryant’s arrow is soaring (and Wheaton’s is markedly down).  It’s clear who Roethlisberger’s #2 target of the future is now, and I expect a Plaxico-esque role for the lanky youngster.  In fantasy terms, consider him a high-upside WR3 for 2015; the tools are there for a 65-1,100-9 type of sophomore effort.

Michael Campanaro, Baltimore

TALE OF THE TAPE

The Upside: Mikey Habañero (my creation, Justin Howe, verbal signature) looks like Wes Welker on the field.  Just like him: very small, lightning-quick, and sure-handed.  At 5’9½” 192, Campanaro was a seventh-round afterthought despite 219 catches over his last 30 games at Wake Forest.  (Much of that indifference was injury-related; Campanaro missed much of his senior year with a broken collarbone.)  Yes, dozens of these undersized slot machines vie unsuccessfully for an NFL career every summer and few make it, but Campanaro doesn’t look like merely another face in the crowd.  Athletically, his combine performance bested the combine/pro day marks of more heralded super-quick slot guys like Paul Richardson, De’Anthony Thomas, Robert Herron, and Josh Huff.  (And, of course, he blew Jarvis Landry out of the lake.)  And that quickness is evident on film; Campanaro shows an awesome first step and moves like a gazelle with the ball in his hands.

The Downside: As I said before, guys similar to Campanaro are a dime a dozen.  So while he appears to best those recyclable slot types who will never make an NFL dent, he’s no world-beating outside threat, and Raven evaluators may lump him in and roll along – especially now that Campanaro is down with a hamstring injury.  Seventh-rounders always have their work cut out for them; injured ones on good teams have it doubly hard.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Campanaro has turned heads all season.  When a seventh-round pick makes the active roster out of training camp – especially one who plays a position alongside about 15 other guys before cutdowns – you should take notice.  It means that he impressed the higher-ups and/or the starting quarterback.  Since Week Six, Campanaro has drawn six targets in 2.5 games, catching all six for an impressive 14.2 average.  (He had snags of 19 and 17 yards Sunday against the Bengals; in fact, he led the team in receiving when he left with his injury.)  Obviously, this is a seventh-round pet project we’re talking about here, so unless he returns quickly and continues to produce, his role won’t be assured entering 2015.  But I love his chances of being a real part of the Raven offense next year.  Steve Smith has already claimed he nearly retired this past offseason and looks unlikely to return to the Baltimore slot at age 36.  Jacoby Jones will again be overpriced and on the roster bubble.  And Dennis Pitta’s future is in doubt after re-fracturing his hip.  It’s likely the team will enter 2015 with only Torrey Smith and disappearing man Marlon Brown as established receiving threats.

THE VERDICT

Campanaro is a dice roll, but a dirt-cheap and intriguing one.  He certainly looks to have the substance of an NFL slotman; if Dane Sanzenbacher can make two rosters, then Mikey Habañero can stick on one.  He doesn’t look like a league-winner, but could post some 60-catch seasons out of the slot and has the upside of Julian Edelman.  Treat him as a bottom-of-your-roster guy whom you can acquire practically for free and ride to its conclusion.

 

Lead photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Donte_Moncrief.JPG By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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