Which rookie wide receiver do you think will have the most value in the 2021 season?
Before the draft, Hakeem Butler was my top-rated rookie receiver. Unfortunately, he fell and ended up in a less than ideal spot in Arizona. I still think his talent will transcend his draft slot, but I'm not sure what the Cardinals offense will look like in 2021. They could be searching for a new identity, head coach, starting quarterback, and general manager by then if the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray experiment fails. If the Air Raid does translate, Butler will be a must-have player in 2021.
A possible candidate based on situation and talent combination could be Miles Boykin, who at that time will be entering his third season with Lamar Jackson. I believe that team is building something very special with Lamar Jackson under center, something that could make what has not been a fantasy friendly spot for wide receivers for some time become fertile ground once again. Boykin was clearly drafted with the intent of becoming the X receiver for Jackson. He’s the perfect package -- a big receiver who plays big and isn’t afraid to tangle with defensive backs at the catch point, but has the speed of a smaller receiver to run away from defenders after the catch. If that offense develops without major injuries or setbacks to the personnel, Boykin has good odds to be among the most valuable fantasy options at his position in 2021.
I'm going to stick with Metcalf here, although again the Tyreek Hill future variable makes Hardman a strong contender. Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin have to be considered if we project Lamar Jackson growth as a passer. Butler and Isabella come up again - Kyler Murray's favorite could put up pinball numbers.
I have no idea and I’m embracing the uncertainty. This wide receiver class doesn’t have a single sure thing but has a huge number of guys with a reasonable chance at making a fantasy impact if things break right. N’Keal Harry, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Brown, A.J. Brown, Mecole Hardman, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and Parris Campbell each have at least one standout trait and a manageable path to quickly emerging as one of their team’s top wide receivers. Strategically, the move for me this draft season has been to try trade back to add picks and then land whichever guys slide.
I trust the talent of A.J. Brown in this class. The short-term situation is murky with Corey Davis there in Tennessee and Marcus Mariota's status as a long-term, productive NFL starter still a question mark. However, Brown's metric profile is bulletproof and by Year 3 of his career, the cream will rise in one way or another amidst a crowded positional class.
Some rookie receivers come out of the gate and establish their bona fides immediately. Recent examples of this are Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham or T.Y. Hilton. Others need time to get their feet wet. Tyler Boyd ranked 68th in his first season but was 17th in his third. Davante Adams could only finish 76th from the magnificent class of 2014 but is now one of the elite receivers. DeAndre Hopkins was 51st in year one. Now, look at him.
What is rare, though, is a guy to start strongly and fade away. Even someone like Kelvin Benjamin who was 16th in his rookie season, finished 18th in year three. Players that were drafted high and didn’t perform in their first year, often never deliver. Justin Hunter was taken high by the Titans. Looked good, but never delivered. Kevin White, Corey Coleman, and Laquon Treadwell are more examples of this.
Therefore, to answer the question, the guys who start strong are likely to be that throughout their careers, while the Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins types are common, but aren’t as easy to predict. If I thought Parris Campbell was going to be the best rookie receiver, I see no reason why in year three he won’t be an elite receiver. By then T.Y. Hilton will be winding down and Andrew Luck will still be in his prime. Maybe by then, the Colts will have a running game to help as well.
We don't know what 2021 holds for Tom Brady, so Harry isn't quite as sexy a dynasty option. I'm a little more intrigued by the three Arizona rookies, provided one or more avoid a lost rookie season. I'm a big fan of Andy Isabella in particular - he showed during postseason workouts that his 1,698 senior yards were no fluke. With blazing speed and quickness, he could enter 2020 as a downfield complement to Christian Kirk - then take another step forward in Year 3. Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson likely are battling for one prominent role behind them. Butler is the draftnik's darling, with his 6'5" and 227-pound frame, but Johnson is poised and polished enough to stay in the discussion. He's a technical marvel who topped 1,000 yards in each of his last 2 college seasons, and profiles as a strong Plan B to Kirk.