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Each year, the incoming group of rookies offers hope for the new season. We asked our staff to offer up the rookie wide receiver they are most interested in.
Here are the names who were mentioned.
- Jaylen Waddle
- JaMarr Chase
- DeVonta Smith
- Rondale Moore
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Amari Rodgers
- Kadarius Toney
- Josh Palmer
- Nico Collins
- Terrace Marshall
- Dez Fitzpatrick
- Rashod Bateman
And here are all of the reasons.
JaMarr Chase understandably is the consensus top rookie for redraft purposes, and certainly, nothing about his situation or performance at LSU argues against the excitement. I am wondering if we're selling Tee Higgins short; he was exceptional as a rookie particularly considering he had to play without Joe Burrow for a chunk of the season. As an Eagles fan, DeVonta Smith intrigues me, but I don't think the passing offense under Jalen Hurts will have the precision or volume to make Smith particularly exciting as a rookie. So my choice goes to his college teammate -- Jalen Waddle. Tua Taigovailoa wasn't very good last year, but he wasn't bad enough to write off, either. This year he's armed with Will Fuller and Waddle, so there are no excuses. Can Waddle ignite the Dolphins' offense? Is he the missing piece?
Amari Rodgers is super interesting to me as the Packers receiving corps is an abyss after Adams.
I expect the Packers to patch things up with Aaron Rodgers and the uncertainty should be leveraged by fantasy managers.
The rookie should be able to slide into the slot and be a long-term starter for Green Bay. Playing for Clemson should help Rodgers get up to speed quickly.
I am expecting Rodgers to play a Randall Cobb-like role as the security blanket on short-to-intermediate routes. While he may never be a fantasy WR1, I am expecting fringe WR2-3 production for many years.
Rodgers is short, thick, and quick. We will be able to gain separation in the NFL.
Maybe this is another homer pick, but I’ll say, Jaylen Waddle. I believe many people were surprised when the Dolphins took him sixth overall, but he is exactly what they needed. Waddle posting 106 catches on 133 targets for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns is a testament to how dominant he was in college. The familiarity with Tua obviously played a huge part in the decision. His route-running and YAC ability are going to significantly help the offense become more explosive. Now that he seems to be recovering from his injuries, I’m very interested to see his target share in his rookie year.
Piling on, Troy: The Dolphins gave up a first-round pick to ensure they nabbed Waddle. Have to believe they have a plan for him.
From a redraft lens, but mainly dynasty, JaMarr Chase's addition to Cincinnati piqued my interest. Tee Higgins is highly valued after a strong rookie season. Tyler Boyd has built an underrated track record of production. This is a trio of quality profiles for a now second-year quarterback, Joe Burrow, to support. Burrow is returning from injury and was a middle-of-the-road QB2 last season. There could be one or two significant declines in fantasy-dynasty sentiment here by the end of the season even those all three are (or could be) quality players going forward.
Kadarius Toney is such an interesting case with a Round 1 pedigree but a weak metric profile for said draft position. Toney goes to a packed Giants passing game with Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, plus Kyle Rudolph added and Saquon Barkley returning from injury. Even more than Joe Burrow, there is immense fantasy pressure on Daniel Jones - still a work in progress - to support as many of these competent-or-better skill position players. I struggle to see Toney with more than 50-60 targets at most.
I am absolutely obsessed with Rondale Moore. He was a true freshman breakout at Purdue — the only such player in the 2021 class — and has contributed in a variety of ways. While Moore struggled with injuries in his final two seasons, he remained a dynamic playmaker when on the field. He was consistently inside of the top five of my rookie ranks, and now has an ideal landing spot in Arizona. The Air Raid accentuates slot weapons, and Moore is an elite athlete who can dominate on low-aDOT targets. He should immediately produce and has a long-term ceiling in the mold of wideouts such as Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, and even Antonio Brown.
Chase should be the odds-on favorite to lead rookie wide receivers in every fantasy-relevant category and we should especially be intrigued in him as a case of a once-every-three-to-five-years receiver prospect being reunited with his college quarterback. He's a good answer, but the easy one.
If Chase doesn't lead the rookie in catches, then Amon-Ra St. Brown is your next best bet. The Lions outside receivers (Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman) aren't known for durability or prolific production and St. Brown should be the slot receiver for a quarterback who made Cooper Kupp a top-end fantasy WR1 for a season.
From a dynasty perspective, Josh Palmer (Chargers) and Nico Collins (Texans) are a pair of third-round picks who will be on track for big roles next year if they show development this year. Simi Fehoko (Dallas) and Cornell Powell (Chiefs) are a pair of fifth-round picks who could inherit roles in potent pass offense next year, depending on what Dallas does with Michael Gallup and whether Mecole Hardman develops consistency this year. Jalen Camp (Jacksonville), Mike Strachan (Indianapolis), and Seth Williams (Denver) are boom/bust size/speed prospects to track from the sixth round.
I share Anthony's obsession with Rondale Moore. It's impossible to overstate how spectacular Moore was as an 18-year-old freshman in 2018. He single-handedly made Purdue games appealing for the first time since Drew Brees was running Joe Tiller's spread offense in the late 90s. Moore sustained a gruesome-looking hamstring injury in 2019 after four games, then played three games in 2020 before incurring an unspecified lower-body injury and opting out of the season. The incomplete curriculum vitae makes Moore seem risky, but go watch the 2018 highlights again and tell me we shouldn't be excited about Moore because he only played seven games the last two seasons, or because he's only 5'7 and 181 pounds. The kid is a little stick of dynamite, and I can't wait to see how the Cardinals are going to use him (even if we can't assume Kliff Kingsbury will use him in optimal fashion).
The rookie wide receiver that interests me most is Terrace Marshall. He was buried at LSU behind Justin Jefferson and JaMarr Chase, however, he too has a strong profile that rivals his former teammates that we have just started to recognize how great he can be. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and he has the preferred size-speed combination for success in the NFL at 6'2, 205 pounds with 4.38 speed. In his last 19 games at LSU, he totaled 23 touchdowns. Like his Carolina teammates, Marshall brings athleticism and speed to the Panthers' shallow-cross, horizontal attacking offense. What could set him apart is his ability to score touchdowns which have been lacking from both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Marshall has an opportunity to carve out a role and if he's remotely like the previous wide receiver stars at LSU, he's going to fit in just fine at the next level.
Draft capital usually talks, but fourth-round selection Amon-Ra St. Brown is poised to make a splash in his first year with the Lions. In 30 games with USC, he tallied 2,270 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns on just 178 total catches. With the exit of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr, St. Brown will have ample opportunity to lead the Lions' putrid receiving core in targets with Jared Goff at the helm. I expect him to be targeted around the line of scrimmage fairly often (bonus points for PPR formats), and he could become what Cooper Kupp was to Goff in LA. In most rookie drafts I have completed, St. Brown is one of the last players on the board in the second round who is set up for guaranteed targets as a rookie in 2021. St. Brown most likely will not lead you to a WR1 finish, but his current value in both dynasty and redraft formats is not something you should not be shying away from.
Two mentions of a fourth-round receiver and none of some first and second-rounders has me scratching my head. Sure Amon St. Brown has an opportunity, but he also has an inexperienced coaching group, Jared Goff at quarterback and veterans who aren’t going to give an inch. When every team passes on a guy at least three times, there has to be a downside. I am also wary that his brother has done nothing in three years at Green Bay.
I want to give a shout-out to the guys drafted higher that haven’t got a plug: Rashod Bateman at Baltimore, Elijah Moore with the Jets, DWayne Eskridge at Seattle, Tutu Atwell with the Rams, Anthony Schwarz in Cleveland, and Dyami Brown at Washington. All are in fantastic spots to develop behind established starters, sometimes stars. Bateman probably has the best opportunity to jump right out of the gate and deliver for redraft leagues, while long term, I like Schwarz to start making an impact in 2022.
I think the debate about Amon-Ra St. Brown is interesting. Day three wide receivers are basically a 5% bet to ever produce a top-24 seasonal finish. For rookie production, it is even worse. With that base rate, you have to be very very very cautious about betting on the exceptions. For me to take one before they have broken out in the NFL it needs to be such an obvious glaring case from a profile perspective that I'm willing to ignore draft capital. No one in the class qualifies for me.
There are two wide receivers falling in rookie drafts that both interest me greatly. One is Amari Rodgers, but he has already been mentioned and the uncertainty surrounding the Packers' other Rodgers makes him less interesting. The other is Dez Fitzpatrick in Tennessee. The talk around fantasy land is all of the vacated targets for the Titans but Fitzpatrick is not seeing much love in this talk. He was the first wideout selected for Tennessee after losing just about every member of their wide receiver corps this offseason. A.J. Brown will clearly be the WR1 and may break target records in 2021, but they have to throw to someone else at some point and Fitzpatrick just needs to beat out Josh Reynolds. I like Reynolds this season too, but he is by no means unbeatable.
I'm eager to see what the greatest wide receiver prospect (per film and stats) since Randy Moss, Devonta Smith, does with the Eagles. Having Jalen Hurts as his quarterback means he probably won't fit the bill, but it's likely he'll be a fantasy WR1 regardless simply by volume.
I'm with Danny. The most interesting has to be Devonta Smith. The guy just won the Heisman Trophy as a 170-pound wide receiver. He doesn't have a historical comp. It will be fascinating to see if he can overcome the odds and develop into a WR1 at the NFL level. As Danny mentioned, he should at least get every opportunity to produce right from the start.
I think the most interesting wide receiver in the class is Rashod Bateman. Baltimore's wide receiver corps was bottom five in the league when factoring in routes, targets, receptions, and yards. To win in the AFC, you need to hang with Kansas City and Buffalo offensively, and the selection of Bateman, along with the signing of Sammy Watkins, is a signal Baltimore gets it. I'm really interested in how Bateman transforms the offense and how the Ravens will view the extension with Lamar Jackson.
I agree with Jordan that Bateman is interesting. Baltimore is a team that has shown success with both veteran free agent signings and with early draft picks. In Sammy Watkins and Bateman, Baltimore utilized both of those acquisition methods on wide receivers. After a highly disappointing season from their entire passing game (specifically from Marquise Brown after the preseason hype train got out of control), Baltimore is signaling that it wants more from the passing game. Bateman won't be the most productive rookie wide receiver, but his acquisition reflects how his team feels about its standing in the AFC landscape. That's intriguing. And if Watkins suffers another injury, Bateman likely becomes a starter.