Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Wide receivers

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 2018 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

(Marvin Gentry, USA TODAY Sports)

Calvin Ridley | Atlanta Falcons | 6-0, 189 | Alabama

YEAR TEAM REC YDS AVG LNG TD
2015 ALA 89 1045 11.7 81 7
2016 ALA 72 769 10.7 52 7
2017 ALA 55 896 16.3 78 3

It really won’t be a big surprise if Ridley overtakes Mohamed Sanu as the second receiver behind Julio Jones. Furthermore, Jones is no stranger to injury, which would open the door for the rookie. All things even, look for Ridley to begin his career working out of the slot as a replacement for Taylor Gabriel. Being dynamic, Ridley can line up everywhere and allow Julio and even Sanu to move into the slot to take advantage of mismatches.

Fantasy gamers will have to accept some degree of frustration when deploying Ridley. He will disappear for several games in 2018 simply because of game flow and there being so many mouths to feed in the offense. Draft him as a WR4 or flex target.

D.J. Moore | Carolina Panthers | 6-0, 210 | Maryland

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
MD
25
357
14.3
52
3
2016
MD
41
637
15.5
92
6
2017
MD
80
1033
12.9
52
8

Moore sits nearly atop this list because of his ability to do a little bit of everything and Carolina’s desperation for someone to step up in the passing game. The former Terrapin should start from the get-go, or at least early on, and he’s capable of being moved all over the field.

The Panthers brought in Torrey Smith, as well, but the veteran is a shell of his former self and offers next to nothing. Cam Newton has the most comfort with tight end Greg Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey will catch a million passes from the backfield. Moore should be targeted early in his career, though the consistency is in doubt. He has a brilliant future in the NFL, yet gamers may want to demonstrate modest expectations on draft day. Think WR4 or a weak flex with downside to be a No. 5 producer.

Christian Kirk | Arizona Cardinals | 5-10, 201 | Texas A&M

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
TA&M
80
1009
12.6
66
7
2016
TA&M
83
928
11.2
69
9
2017
TA&M
58
730
12.6
81
7

Maybe this is a hair on the optimistic side, but Kirk’s opportunity is as exciting as any rookie receiver. The Cardinals need someone to step up in the receiving game to complement Larry Fitzgerald. Kirk was a quick study at A&M and is poised to challenge for a starting role in the summer. Second-year receiver Chad Williams could see more action, but he is completely unproven. Brice Butler offers some size and hasn’t been able to put it all together through two career stops. J.J. Nelson remains in play for a larger share of targets, even if he’s mostly one-dimensional.

Quarterback play could prove to be detrimental, especially if the offense switches during the season to a rookie. Kirk would be better off if Josh Rosen won the starting job in the summer, since it would give them time to work together. Watch both rookies’ situations as the next few months progress. Treat Kirk as a low-risk, high-reward WR4 or flex with more value in PPR.

(Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Gallup | Dallas Cowboys | 6-1, 205 | Colorado State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
CSU
76
1272
16.7
65
14
2017
CSU
94
1345
14.3
76
7

If we were talking opportunity alone, Gallup could easily top this list. Dallas has a mess of targets to replace after Jason Witten retired and Dez Bryant was shown the door. The rookie wideout has just two years of production, but there is no doubt he made the most of his time at Colorado State. Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Cedrick Wilson, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are the biggest competition for targets.

Dallas will rely heavily on the running game but experience problems with stacked boxes if none of these receivers step up. The Cowboys will have to sort this out over the summer, and gamers need to keep tabs on how it pans out. For now, from a floor-ceiling estimation, Gallup can be a weak WR2 or a lowly roster filler.

Deon Cain | Indianapolis Colts | 6-2, 202 | Clemson

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
CLEM
34
582
17.1
67
5
2016
CLEM
38
724
19.1
65
9
2017
CLEM
52
659
12.7
61
6

Looking for pure-play upside and opportunity? Cain can get downfield and will have defensive attention paid to T.Y. Hilton working in his favor, all provided he can win the No. 2 job out wide and put Ryan Grant into the slot. It is rare a sixth-round receiver finds fantasy value in his first season, but the Colts are really that thin at the position, and Cain slid a few rungs down the draft ladder.

All of this is predicated on a healthy Andrew Luck, of course. As the theme of this analysis seems to be headed, fantasy owners should watch this situation with a close eye. In best-case scenario, Cain will have matchup utility as a flex play due to a low-volume style.

Cedrick Wilson | Dallas Cowboys | 6-2, 197 | Boise State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
BSU
56
1129
20.2
75
11
2017
BSU
73
1290
17.7
59
6

Son of a former NFL receiver by the same name, the younger Wilson could step into a decent situation. The ‘Boys have a bunch of targets to replace without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and none of the replacements are world-beaters. Wilson will join a crowded but underwhelming cast of receivers, including third-round pick Michael Gallup. Stash Wilson’s name for now and watch the offseason play out. He has routine flex potential if everything works out.

(Matt Stamey, USA TODAY Sports)

Anthony Miller | Chicago Bears | 5-11, 201 | Memphis

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
MEM
47
694
14.8
82
5
2016
MEM
95
1434
15.1
84
14
2017
MEM
92
1407
15.3
89
17

Talent is not the issue, as one can glean from his statistics over the past two seasons. Miller enters an offense being commanded by a first-year head coach and a second-year quarterback learning said offense. In a blustery city. Playing for a run-heavy offensive philosophy. With at least two receivers ahead of him in the pecking order. Miller could emerge as the year progresses and/or an injury paves the way to full-time action. He has the makings of an NFL star receiver — in time. For now, spend a pick in the final quarter of your draft.

Courtland Sutton | Denver Broncos | 6-3, 218 | SMU

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
SMU
2
27
13.5
20
0
2015
SMU
49
862
17.6
51
9
2016
SMU
76
1246
16.4
88
10
2017
SMU
62
1017
16.4
62
12

Sutton will battle Jordan Taylor, Carlos Henderson and DaeSean Hamilton, a fellow rookie, for the No. 3 duties. The SMU product should be a fine addition to fantasy rosters — in 2019 drafts. Unless something happens to Demaryius Thomas and/or Emmanuel Sanders, Sutton will see a few scraps here and there this season. He’s merely a late-round flier.

D.J. Chark | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-9, 199 | LSU

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
LSU
26
466
17.9
80
3
2017
LSU
35
811
23.2
68
3

Speed is the name of Chark’s game, and as a second-round pick, expect the Jaguars to let him put it on display. Blake Bortles has plenty of arm to air it out and give Chark a chance for the home run. Jacksonville doesn’t have a ton of talent at the position, though this roster is loaded with scrappy bootstrappers. Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook figure to absorb most of the targets. Chark will be challenged by Jaydon Mickens, Keelan Cole and possibly Rashad Greene. We cannot forget this is a run-first system. Chark will shine at times and disappear more often than not as a rookie. Spend no earlier than a late-round choice on him in any single-year setup.

(Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports)

J’Mon Moore | Green Bay Packers | 6-3, 207 | Missouri

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
MIZ
2
33
16.5
17
0
2015
MIZ
29
350
12.1
32
3
2016
MIZ
62
1012
16.3
82
8
2017
MIZ
60
1017
17
71
10

Moore has downfield skills and could be used on the outside to help replace Jordy Nelson. The slot role should be dominated by Randall Cobb, and Moore’s game doesn’t translate to that area of the field anyway. Fantasy owners are looking at a sneaky option for a serviceable flex play, only if Moore can win a starting spot away from Geronimo Allison.

James Washington | Pittsburgh Steelers | 5-11, 213 | Oklahoma State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
OKST
28
456
16.3
68
6
2015
OKST
53
1087
20.5
75
10
2016
OKST
71
1380
19.4
91
10
2017
OKST
69
1423
20.6
86
12

Washington is great at getting down the field and making big plays. The concern in Pittsburgh is just how many passes could he possibly see come his way as a rookie? Finding consistent looks behind Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Le’Veon Bell seems unlikely, but Martavis Bryant’s role is up for grabs Washington is a total gamble late in the selection process.

Tre’Quan Smith | New Orleans Saints | 6-2, 203 | Central Florida

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
UCF
52
724
13.9
44
4
2016
UCF
57
853
15
72
5
2017
UCF
54
1082
20
79
13

New Orleans chose Smith in Round 3 and will give him a chance to work out of the slot. The majority of looks will be distributed between Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Ted Ginn and Cameron Meredith figure to make up the bulk of any remaining looks, which should leave Smith out in the cold for fantasy purposes.

DaeSean Hamilton | Denver Broncos | 6-1, 203 | Penn State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
PSU
82
899
11
51
2
2015
PSU
45
580
12.9
48
6
2016
PSU
34
506
14.9
54
1
2017
PSU
48
747
15.6
36
7

The fourth-rounder has an outside chance at winning the slot job or competing for No. 3 touches, but he has to beat out a second-round receiver and at least one carryover from last year. Hamilton looks like the 2019 replacement for Emmanuel Sanders and shouldn’t see enough playing time in 2018 to warrant fantasy consideration on draft day.

Dante Pettis | San Francisco 49ers | 6-0, 186 | Washington

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
WASH
17
259
15.2
48
1
2015
WASH
30
414
13.8
33
1
2016
WASH
53
822
15.5
61
15
2017
WASH
62
721
11.6
73
7

Arguably a reach in the second round, Pettis is a gifted slot receiver entering an offense with a suspect weapons cache. The 49ers seemed content with Trent Taylor, a fifth-round slot guy from last year, which makes the addition of Pettis somewhat puzzling. The scenario likely results in Pettis returning punts and being worked in at times as a wideout. Despite being a high selection, Pettis should be merely a late-round flier in the deepest of leagues this season.

(Reese Strickland, USA TODAY Sports)

Daurice Fountain | Indianapolis Colts | 6-2, 210 | Northern Iowa

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
UNI
10
117
11.7
35
1
2015
UNI
41
604
14.7
67
5
2016
UNI
33
413
12.5
45
5
2017
UNI
66
943
14.3
46
12

A fifth-round choice, Fountain is not a dynamic player and may struggle to find the field, particularly if the more explosive Deon Cain, a sixth-rounder, can overshadow Fountain. It will require considerable help and offseason success before Fountain warrants more than a passing glance in anything other than an MFL10 best-ball format.

Equanimeous St. Brown | Green Bay Packers | 6-5, 214 | Notre Dame

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
ND
1
8
8
8
0
2016
ND
58
961
16.6
79
9
2017
ND
31
468
15.1
75
4

The final pick of Green Bay’s three-round splurge on the position, St. Brown went in the Round 6 and is a long shot to contribute in 2018. His size could lead to a few jump-ball calls near the stripe.

Marcell Ateman | Oakland Raiders | 6-4, 216 | Oklahoma State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
OKST
22
276
12.5
51
0
2014
OKST
20
268
13.4
43
0
2015
OKST
45
766
17
82
5
2017
OKST
54
1049
19.4
69
8

It will take several scenarios to work in Ateman’s favor before he can return on fantasy investment. A seventh-round addition, he sits behind just about everyone in Oakland’s receiving corps as a rookie. Make a mental note of his name for the long run or if Jordy Nelson cannot rebound.

Trey Quinn | Washington Redskins | 5-11, 203 | SMU

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
LSU
17
193
11.4
27
0
2015
LSU
5
83
16.6
46
0
2017
SMU
106
1191
11.2
77
12

One year of high-level productivity helped sneak Quin into Round 7. The Redskins can provide him looks should the shaky starting trio struggle, which is a leap farther than gamers should attempt.

Austin Proehl | Buffalo Bills | 5-11, 175 | North Carolina

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
UNC
15
106
7.1
20
0
2015
UNC
12
225
18.8
61
1
2016
UNC
43
597
13.9
46
3
2017
UNC
21
337
16
47
1

The son of long-time NFL receiver Ricky Proehl will have to fight his way onto the Buffalo roster as a seventh-round choice. Luckily for his case, the Bills are awfully thin at the position and could use a pair of hands in the slot. Proehl has a glimmer of appeal, if he stands out in training camp and the preseason.

Braxton Berrios | New England Patriots | 5-9, 184 | Miami (Fla.)

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
MIAMI
21
232
11
33
3
2015
MIAMI
12
86
7.2
14
0
2016
MIAMI
12
178
14.8
38
2
2017
MIAMI
52
634
12.2
55
9

A slot receiver through and through, Berrios could be the next Wes Welker or Julian Edelman for this offense — well, that is only after the current Edelman relinquishes his role. Berrios isn’t draftable but has deep-league appeal if Edelman cannot return to form.

(Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

Keke Coutee | Houston Texans | 5-10, 181 | Texas Tech

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
TTU
11
105
9.5
23
0
2016
TTU
55
890
16.2
80
7
2017
TTU
82
1242
15.1
77
9

Braxton Miller will have to struggle before we see Coutee in any meaningful way. He’s strictly a slot receiver and should enter the summer behind Miller and Ellington seeking playing time.

Auden Tate | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-5, 228 | Florida State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
FSU
25
409
16.4
39
6
2017
FSU
35
464
13.3
51
7

Tate’s size could grant him a few looks in scoring position, but figuring out when these will happen is not worth the headache. Tate enters his career in Cincy buried on the depth chart.

Jaleel Scott | Baltimore Ravens | 6-5, 218 | New Mexico State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
NMSU
23
283
12.3
45
5
2017
NMSU
73
1042
14.3
41
8

Maybe he is trotted out for a few 50-50 balls in the red zone, but Scott has far too many capable guys ahead of him to be of fantasy consequence in 2018.

Dylan Cantrell | Los Angeles Chargers | 6-3, 226 | Texas Tech

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
TTU
9
70
7.8
16
1
2014
TTU
20
312
15.6
40
2
2016
TTU
58
675
11.6
54
8
2017
TTU
67
790
11.8
42
6

Cantrell was a future selection and is no better than the fifth receiver entering his career. His clearest path to worthwhile PT is if Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams struggle with injuries.

(Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

Antonio Callaway | Cleveland Browns | 5-11, 200 | Florida

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
FLA
35
678
19.4
66
4
2016
FLA
54
721
13.4
78
3

Callaway missed all of 2017 due to disciplinary reasons and admitted to failing a test at the combine for marijuana. Cleveland took a flier that he can be straightened out, but fantasy gamers shouldn’t extent the same courtesy in 2018.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling | Green Bay Packers | 6-4, 206 | South Florida

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
NCST
22
281
12.8
28
0
2014
NCST
22
257
11.7
42
1
2016
USF
22
415
18.9
77
5
2017
USF
50
746
14.9
95
5

Green Bay selected a wideout in three straight rounds, with Valdes-Scantling being sandwiched as a fifth-rounder. The Packers could turn to his size in the red zone and work the South Florida product into the game with spot action. He doesn’t figure to offer fantasy utility in 2018.

Justin Watson | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 6-3, 213 | Pennsylvania

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
PENN
42
497
11.8
55
2
2015
PENN
74
1082
14.6
79
9
2016
PENN
89
1115
12.5
67
8
2017
PENN
81
1083
13.4
80
14

Watson was a fifth-round choice and offers plus-size to an already good-sized receiving corps. He is mostly a developmental choice and shouldn’t be in fantasy plans at this time.

Ray-Ray McCloud | Buffalo Bills | 5-9, 190 | Clemson

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
CLEM
29
251
8.7
36
1
2016
CLEM
49
472
9.6
36
2
2017
CLEM
46
502
10.9
79
1

The Bills spent a pick in each of the final two rounds on wide receivers, choosing McCloud first. The receiving corps in Buffalo is sorely lacking a playmaker, and McCloud’s collegiate body of work does nothing to suggest he will be that guy.

Richie James | San Francisco 49ers | 5-10, 183 | Middle Tennessee State

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
MTSU
108
1346
12.5
69
8
2016
MTSU
105
1625
15.5
56
12
2017
MTSU
31
290
9.4
31
3

A slot possession receiver, James can also play outside and has as good of a chance of replacing Pierre Garcon in a year or so as any seventh-round gamble.

Jordan Lasley | Baltimore Ravens | 6-1, 203 | UCLA

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
UCLA
3
17
5.7
7
0
2016
UCLA
41
620
15.1
75
5
2017
UCLA
61
1136
18.6
59
8

It will be a surprise if the fifth-rounder doesn’t make the final roster or practice squad. Tuck away his name for 2019.

Javon Wims | Chicago Bears | 6-3, 215 | Georgia

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
UGA
17
190
11.2
51
1
2017
UGA
38
631
16.6
38
6

Given his size and upside, the inexperienced Wims probably will get a shot to stick around or make the practice squad. He has no fantasy worth in 2018.

Russell Gage | Atlanta Falcons | 6-0, 179 | LSU

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2016
LSU
5
62
12.4
24
1
2017
LSU
19
270
14.2
34
3

Gage has slot ability but will be lucky to make the final roster as a sixth-round choice.

Damion Ratley | Cleveland Browns | 6-1, 193 | Texas A&M

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
TA&M
15
200
13.3
42
2
2016
TA&M
2
26
13
20
0
2017
TA&M
26
603
23.2
76
6

The sixth-rounder probably won’t see the field on offense in 2018 due to all of Cleveland’s weapons at the position.

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