Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer is having a great training camp for the Denver Broncos, and turning heads with every spectacular catch. Believe me when I tell you that I am just as excited as anyone else about the rookie, but let’s temper expectations just a little.
That doesn’t mean that what Latimer is doing on the field is not impressive, and it does not mean that he won’t have a tremendous career. However there are some things to remember when it comes to rookie receivers in general, and Latimer specifically.
Historically rookie receivers, no matter how talented, often struggle through that first season. As great as Demaryius Thomas is now, he was a non-factor in his rookie season. Even the best of the best like Calvin Johnson did not walk into the league and put up huge numbers, it takes time.
What are the reasons for that? There are a few but the primary one is the physical aspect of the game, especially the play at the line of scrimmage. Even with the new rules of no contact after five yards, NFL cornerbacks are very good at chucking receivers at the snap and knocking them off of their route. It takes a rookie receiver at least half of a season to adjust to that.
Secondly, receivers that are drafted high were often the best athletes on the field and just beat inferior athletes with that ability. In the NFL, every cornerback is capable and can cover. Rookies often need some time to work on their route running, and the little things that are needed to get open at the professional level.
Lastly, an offense like the one the Broncos run is not easy. There are so many audibles, checks and options on any given play and it often takes time to get to the point where you’re not thinking. It’s one thing to do in training camp; it’s another to do it in week three with a hostile crowd and the game on the line.
Then there’s this, the Broncos are loaded at wide receiver. The top three are Thomas, Emanuel Sanders and Wes Welker. That doesn’t even include tight-end Julius Thomas who will also be a huge target in the passing game. Throw in veteran Andre Caldwell who is having a great camp and it’s going to be tough for any rookie to get extensive playing time.
There’s no doubt that Latimer is a physically gifted receiver and his future with the Broncos is so incredibly bright. The fact that he may not contribute much as a rookie does not change that. Latimer is in a perfect spot, he can use his rookie season to learn and get acclimated to the professional game. He can do all of that without the pressure of having to produce for the team to win.
The one area where Latimer could excel this season is inside the 10 yard-line on goal-to-go situations. He’s all ready proven in camp that he is a very physical receiver who can out jump just about everyone. Those are ideal traits for the fade route that Peyton Manning loves to throw on the goal-line.
As for a stat line for Latimer in 2014; 25 receptions for 300+ yards and 4-5 touchdowns is reasonable. Latimer has all the tools to be a Pro Bowl receiver in the future, but let’s pump the brakes just a little on the rookie receiver.