Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

(Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports)

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2017 comes down to assessing the likelihood of playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Rookie previews: QB | RB | TE

Corey Davis | Tennessee Titans | 6-3, 209 | Western Michigan | Pick 1:05

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
WMU
67
941
14.0
75
6
2014
WMU
78
1408
18.1
75
15
2015
WMU
90
1436
16.0
80
12
2016
WMU
97
1500
15.5
70
19

Davis brings size and a crazy level of sustained production at Western Michigan. The Titans desperately needed more weapons for Marcus Mariota, making Davis a natural place to start. Speaking of which, it would be a shock if he wasn’t a Week 1 starter. While coaches always say players need to earn their roles, No. 5 overall picks with his skill set don’t ride the pine. At any rate, Davis is a WR3 in most formats. He should see considerable targets and be utilized all over the field. He can score from any distance and is a monster in the red zone.

Mike Williams | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-4, 218 | Clemson | Pick 1:07

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
CLEM
20
316
15.8
30
3
2014
CLEM
57
1030
18.1
56
6
2015
CLEM
2
20
10.0
16
1
2016
CLEM
98
1361
13.9
50
11

Assuming Keenan Allen can actually stay on the field this year, the ideal situation for the Chargers is to run three-wide sets featuring Williams, Allen and Travis Benjamin. Tyrell Williams will compete for looks after an encouraging 2016 effort. Being realistic about this scenario suggests it will take time for the rookie to win the starting job and play at a high level. That opens the door for Tyrell Williams to see more action early in the season. It may also be naive to believe Allen can remain healthy. The rook from Clemson will be a splash player with a role in the red zone. His brightest days are beyond the 2017 season; treat Williams as a WR4 with potentially drastic ebbs and flows in his production.

Zay Jones | Buffalo Bills | 6-2, 201 | East Carolina | Pick 2:05

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
ECU
62
604
9.7
59
5
2014
ECU
81
830
10.2
41
5
2015
ECU
98
1099
11.2
36
5
2016
ECU
158
1746
11.1
77
8

The Pirates force-fed Jones in 2017 like his life depended on it. He had been productive in prior years, but 158 catches is something else. This style of play fits in nicely for what the Bills need from a WR2 opposite Sammy Watkins. Should Watkins — a dynamic deep threat — remain healthy, Jones mostly will see single coverage. Tyrod Taylor is an adequate passer who has been extremely safe, which obviously limits the upside of his receivers. Jones has little competition for playing time at his position, but productivity could be hampered by an elite pass-catching back and underrated tight end in this rather conservative new offense. Jones has PPR appeal as a WR4 and less worth in routine scoring systems.

Chad Williams | Arizona Cardinals | 6-1, 204 | Grambling State | Pick 3:34

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
GRAMB
11
141
12.8
27
2
2014
GRAMB
45
572
12.7
51
5
2015
GRAMB
64
1012
15.8
83
10
2016
GRAMB
90
1337
14.9
70
11

Larry Fitzgerald is in the twilight of his esteemed career and will be taking it year to year. John Brown dealt with a medical condition that limited him much of 2016. JJ Nelson stepped up for six touchdowns but recorded the lowest receiving percentage (45.9) of all Arizona receivers. It’s unwise to continue down the road of running back David Johnson catching 80 balls (whopping 120 targets) a year. Coming from Grambling State may require a longer adjustment period for Williams, but he has potential to contribute in 2017. He’s a WR5 candidate with a strong offseason and could ascend to being in the weekly flex conversation.

John Ross | Cincinnati Bengals | 5-11, 188 | Washington | Pick 1:09

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
WASH
16
208
13.0
57
1
2014
WASH
17
371
21.8
91
4
2016
WASH
81
1150
14.2
70
17

Speed kills. We all know what players like DeSean Jackson can do to a defense. Objectively, Ross is a one-year wonder after transitioning from cornerback early in his collegiate career, and his injury history has to give pause. He can do so much after the catch and won’t be caught from behind. With weapons galore in Cincy, volume won’t be Ross’ strong suit in 2017. He will be used in manufactured situations to take advantage of his athleticism. Ross’ speed means defenses will not double Green as much. The rookie will be maddening to play in traditional fantasy games, unless he surprisingly claims a major share of the target total. Reassess his worth with a strong training camp and preseason.

Curtis Samuel | Carolina Panthers | 5-11, 196 | Ohio State | Pick 2:08

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
OSU
11
95
8.6
30
0
2015
OSU
22
289
13.1
40
2
2016
OSU
74
865
11.7
79
7

In addition to the stat line of 74-865-7 last year, Samuel rushed for 771 yards and eight scores. He can be utilized all over the field but will be pegged as a wideout in Carolina; count anything on the ground as a bonus. The blazing rookie has to contend with several capable players for targets, which limits his overall worth. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’ll be used to replace Ted Ginn’s deep-ball ability. Players of this nature often author quality figures over the course of a season, but knowing when to play them is troublesome.

David Dorey’s top 12 rookies

Kenny Golladay | Detroit Lions | 6-4, 218 | Northern Illinois | Pick 3:32

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
NIU
73
1129
15.5
68
10
2016
NIU
87
1156
13.3
49
8

Golladay’s likely task in 2017 is to replace the eight TDs scored by Anquan Boldin last year — or at least come as close as possible. The rookie stood out against inferior competition and will need time to learn the nuances of being an NFL receiver. That said, as this works itself out, Golladay’s sheer size makes him a weapon around the stripe. Figuring out when to play him in fantasy will be frustrating, which reserves his value to being a flier in deep leagues or a DFS gamble with the right matchup.

Jehu Chesson | Kansas City Chiefs | 6-3, 204 | Michigan | Pick 4:33

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
MICH
15
221
14.7
58
1
2014
MICH
14
154
11.0
28
0
2015
MICH
50
764
15.3
64
9
2016
MICH
35
500
14.3
40
2

Chesson wasn’t much of a scoring asset for the Wolverines outside of 2015, but he has been talked up recently for such a role with the Chiefs. Two things work for and against the rookie: KC has few weapons preventing his involvement, and the system is extremely difficult for most rookies to learn in a hurry. With a niche role, Chesson could climb into the box score a time or two. Keep him in the draft pool if you play in a traditional setup.

Cooper Kupp | Los Angeles Rams | 6-2, 204 | Eastern Washington | Pick 3:05

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
EWU
93
1691
18.2
63
21
2014
EWU
104
1431
13.8
61
16
2015
EWU
114
1642
14.4
78
19
2016
EWU
117
1700
14.5
75
17

Kupp was a juggernaut at Eastern Washington, posting eye-popping numbers each of his four seasons. He can do it all, and the upside is obvious. It stands to reason the Rams will give Kupp every chance to win a job in 2017. Ideally, he starts opposite Robert Woods and allows Tavon Austin to work exclusively from the slot. Kupp will battle the likes of Mike Thomas, Bradley Marquez, Pharoh Cooper and rookie Josh Reynolds for opportunities. Second-year passer Jared Goff’s growth will drive the aerial offense. Keep Kupp in mind as a long-term fantasy weapon; 2017 may not be kind to him, however.

JuJu Smith-Schuster | Pittsburgh Steelers | 6-1, 215 | USC | Pick 2:30

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
USC
54
724
13.4
53
5
2015
USC
89
1454
16.3
75
10
2016
USC
70
914
13.1
67
10

Talk about a murky situation! The passing game revolves around Antonio Brown, of course. Behind him is a slew of question marks. Martavis Bryant returns from suspension and may be the most talented player of the lot … he’s also a strong cup of coffee away from an indefinite ban. Eli Rogers flashed last year, as did Cobi Hamilton and DeMarcus Ayers. Sammie Coates technically still exists. At tight end, Jesse James and Ladarius Green are competent weapons. Finally, Le’Veon Bell is a receptions hog out of the backfield. So, after all of that, just where Smith-Schuster can find his role is yet to be determined. He could complement Brown nicely, although it’s a complex system and may take time. Treat JJSS as a late dice roll.

ArDarius Stewart | New York Jets | 5-11, 204 | Alabama | Pick 3:15

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
ALA
12
149
12.4
40
0
2015
ALA
63
700
11.1
38
4
2016
ALA
54
864
16.0
71
8

The quarterback situation may hold back any (every?) Jets receiver, but Stewart could surprise because of his possession skills. He is similar to Anquan Boldin and plays bigger than he is listed. Nevertheless, the arrow of potential is angled south in 2017. Take a flier in the waning rounds, all while being aware of the messy situation he enters.

Dede Westbrook | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-foot, 178 | Oklahoma | Pick 4:03

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
OKLA
46
743
16.2
42
4
2016
OKLA
80
1524
19.1
88
17

A shift toward being more balanced will squash Westbrook’s target count in 2017. He sits behind Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and probably Marqise Lee entering the season. There will be chances for Westbrook to flash, but he won’t be a volume player, barring an injury opening a door. His best path for mild success is by making the most of his touches. The rookie is extremely talented, make no mistake, but his time isn’t now.

Josh Reynolds | Los Angeles Rams | 6-3, 194 | Texas A&M | Pick 4:10

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
TA&M
52
842
16.2
70
13
2015
TA&M
51
907
17.8
95
5
2016
TA&M
61
1039
17.0
92
12

The most important item of note with any Rams receiver is the expected maturation of quarterback Jared Goff. The passing game can go only as far as he permits. Robert Woods was added in the offseason, while Tavon Austin returns. Second-year tight end Tyler Higbee will have a large role. Every other role for targets is wide open. Reynolds’ size gives him an edge in the red zone and could lead to designed jump-ball situations. The former Aggie is no better than a late-round flier in deeper leagues at this time.

Chris Godwin | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 6-1, 209 | Penn State | Pick 3:20

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
PSU
26
338
13.0
72
2
2015
PSU
69
1101
16.0
56
5
2016
PSU
59
982
16.6
72
11

Godwin brings more size to the Bucs’ offense — one that is loaded with quality players. While talented in his own right, as well as productive at Penn State, Godwin will be clawing for scraps in the passing attack. His placement in the pecking order safely can be projected behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Doug Martin/Charles Sims and probably even fellow rookie O.J. Howard at tight end. Toss in Cameron Brate and wideout Adam Humphries … Godwin’s involvement should be minuscule.

Amara Darboh | Seattle Seahawks | 6-2, 214 | Michigan | Pick 3:42

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
MICH
36
473
13.1
34
2
2015
MICH
58
727
12.5
39
5
2016
MICH
57
862
15.1
46
7

Seattle has room for another receiving option for Russell Wilson, but it will be moderated involvement. Darboh brings needed size to the red zone. The ‘Hawks have Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin as the top wideouts, Tyler Lockett is coming off a devastating injury after playing 15 games and may not be ready early in the season. Watch Darboh’s progression in the offseason and adjust accordingly from the baseline valuation of “undraftable.”

Mack Hollins | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-4, 221 | North Carolina | Pick 4:12

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
UNC
35
613
17.5
91
8
2015
UNC
30
745
24.8
74
8
2016
UNC
16
309
19.3
71
4

Hollins’ size alone makes him a viable weapon. He wasn’t heavily utilized at UNC, but he displayed deep-ball ability and caught a touchdown every four receptions. Philly has a lot of weapons who are certain to be ahead of the rookie in the pecking order, although Hollins will have designated plays. He will be difficult to play with confidence in any fantasy format and should be left on the wire in conventional drafts.

Taywan Taylor | Tennessee Titans | 5-11, 203 | Western Kentucky | Pick 3:08

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
WKU
24
270
11.3
45
0
2014
WKU
45
767
17.0
75
7
2015
WKU
86
1467
17.1
78
17
2016
WKU
98
1730
17.7
80
17

Even after drafting Corey Davis in Round 1, Tennessee has room for another weapon to emerge. Taylor’s top opponent for playing time in 2017 appears to be Tajae Sharpe — a preseason darling who fell flat as a rookie last season. The presumed pecking order for targets should boil down to a blend of Davis and Rishard Matthews, then Delanie Walker, followed by DeMarco Murray. Provided this order rings true, Taylor’s role will be ineffective for fantasy owners. Pass on him in typical draft structures.

Chad Hansen | New York Jets | 6-2, 202 | California | Pick 4:35

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
CAL
19
249
13.1
52
1
2016
CAL
92
1249
13.6
70
11

It would take a tremendous sequence of events to transpire before Hansen had any fantasy value in 2017. He was a one-year producer at Cal and enters an offense with arguably the worst passing attack in the league. With problems at quarterback and competition for touches at receiver, Hansen is merely a shot in the dark for gamers this season.

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