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Rookie receivers

More young receivers having instant success

JaMarr Chase played yesterday, DeVonta Smith is playing today, and it serves as a reminder that rookie receivers are making an impact more quickly than they have in the past. They’re getting acclimated into offenses and affecting games.

In each of the last two years, four rookie receivers have finished with top-30 numbers (that’s using PPR scoring). The Bengals have two of those guys (Chase and Tee Higgins). Another three will be playing today: Smith, CeeDee Lamb and Chase Claypool.

For fantasy purposes, I think the takeaway is that we shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger on rookie receivers. Some of those guys are going to outperform their draft position significantly, helping to swing leagues.

It’s easier said than done, of course. I could see the potential in Amon-Ra St. Brown when they drafted him, but he looked pretty ordinary in their preseason games, catching a few painfully short passes – in August, he looked like he would be a modest slot receiver. And Chase was the most drop-plagued receiver in the league in the preseason, looking like he maybe forgot how to play football while not playing at all in 2020.

Three receivers last year were selected early in the draft, and they all hit – Chase, Waddle, Smith. More commonly, however, the instant-impact rookie receivers have been the less obvious candidates. In the last 10 years, 26 wide receivers have finished with top-30 numbers in their first season; over half of those guys weren’t drafted in the first round.

YearPlayer (round)RecYdsAvgTDPPRRk
2012• T.Y. Hilton, Ind. (3)5086117.28187.028
2012Justin Blackmon, Jac.6486513.55184.829
2013• Keenan Allen, S.D. (3)711,04614.78223.618
2014Odell Beckham, NYG911,30514.312297.08
2014Mike Evans, T.B.681,05115.512245.113
2014Kelvin Benjamin, Car.731,00813.89227.816
2014• Jordan Matthews, Phil. (2)6787213.08202.225
2014Sammy Watkins, Buff.6598215.16200.027
2014• Jarvis Landry, Mia. (2)847589.05189.430
2015Amari Cooper, Oak.721,07014.96214.721
2016• Michael Thomas, N.O. (2)921,13712.49259.77
2016• Tyreek Hill, K.C. (5)615939.712219.018
2017• JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt. (2)5891715.88197.720
2017• Cooper Kupp, LAR (3)6286914.05178.925
2018Calvin Ridley, Atl.6482112.810208.820
2019• A.J. Brown, Ten. (2)521,05120.29217.122
2019• DK Metcalf, Sea. (2)5890015.57193.129
2019• Terry McLaurin, Was. (3)5891915.87191.930
2020Justin Jefferson, Min.881,40015.97274.26
2020CeeDee Lamb, Dall.7493512.67219.722
2020• Chase Claypool, Pitt. (2)6287314.111216.923
2020• Tee Higgins, Cin. (2)6790813.66196.628
2021JaMarr Chase, Cin.811,45518.013306.65
2021Jaylen Waddle, Mia.1041,0159.87247.812
2021• Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det. (4)9091210.16227.322
2021DeVonta Smith, Phil.6491614.35187.630

—Ian Allan

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