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Sophomore Slump? (Wide receivers)

Solid rookies likely to improve

Yesterday I ran an item discussing the likelihood of a "sophomore slump" when it came to rookie running backs. I said I'd look at the history for wide receivers, as well, and here's that information.

With running backs, the numbers were inconclusive. About half of the solid rookies put up similar or better numbers in Year 2, about half declined by a decent amount. Injuries were a huge part of the picture for those who declined, which isn't exactly a slump -- anyone can get hurt.

Since injuries are less common at the wide receiver position, I figured we'd have a much smaller percentage of players decline. And that's how things turned out. At this position, it looks fair to say, the bigger question is to what extent players will break out with even bigger years in their second seasons, rather than decline.

For this table, I looked at all wide receivers who put up at least 750 receiving yards in their rookie seasons. Since 2000, there have been 55 such wideouts, including four las year: Garrett Wilson (pictured), Chris Olave, Drake London and George Pickens.

Of those 51 previous wide receivers, a remarkable 39 came back with at least 750 receiving yards in their second season -- that's over 76 percent. A 750-yard wideout isn't necessarily particularly special, but 30 of them (about 60 percent) went over 1,000 yards. In PPR leagues, 19 of them put up top-12 production, including three from last year (Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith). Two thirds (34 of 51) finished in the top 25. Most of the ones who didn't battled injuries in their second seasons.

Table below shows those 55 750-yard rookies, sorted by their Year 2 receiving yards.

2012Josh Gordon, Cle.5080554187-1646-93
2020Justin Jefferson, Min.88140076108-1616-104
2014Odell Beckham, NYG91130512896-1450-135
2017JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt.58917820111-1426-78
2004Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.58780831103-1409-102
2021Jaylen Waddle, Mia.104101571275-1356-88
2011A.J. Green, Cin.65105771797-1350-114
2007Calvin Johnson, Det.4875653878-1331-123
2019DK Metcalf, Sea.5890072983-1303-107
2009Mike Wallace, Pitt.3975663660-1257-109
2016Michael Thomas, N.O.92113797104-1245-56
2013DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.5280224976-1210-614
2014Mike Evans, T.B.681051121374-1206-322
2006Marques Colston, N.O.70103881698-1202-118
2011Julio Jones, Atl.5495982179-1198-1011
2021DeVonta Smith, Phil.6491653095-1196-79
2018DJ Moore, Car.5578823687-1175-416
2021Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.90912622106-1161-67
2014Jarvis Landry, Mia.84758530110-1157-69
2008DeSean Jackson, Phil.6291243062-1156-1210
2015Amari Cooper, Oak.72107062183-1153-515
2003Andre Johnson, Hou.6697642279-1142-618
2019Terry McLaurin, Was.5891973087-1118-420
2020CeeDee Lamb, Dall.7493572279-1102-619
2020Tee Higgins, Cin.6790862874-1091-623
2012T.Y. Hilton, Ind.5086182882-1083-519
2019A.J. Brown, Ten.52105192270-1075-1211
2009Hakeem Nicks, NYG4779063379-1052-118
2014Sammy Watkins, Buff.6598262760-1047-920
2007Dwayne Bowe, K.C.7099552286-1022-716
2014Jordan Matthews, Phil.6787282585-997-816
2009Jeremy Maclin, Phil.5677343570-964-1014
2006Santonio Holmes, Pitt.4982433852-942-824
2009Percy Harvin, Min.6079082371-868-719
2018Calvin Ridley, Atl.64821102063-866-727
2020Chase Claypool, Pitt.62873112359-860-238
2011Torrey Smith, Balt.5084173049-855-831
2013Keenan Allen, S.D.71104681877-783-436
2010Mike Williams, T.B.65964111665-771-336
2004Lee Evans, Buff.4884392948-743-732
2001Chris Chambers, Mia.4888373352-734-347
2004Roy Williams, Det.5481783245-687-835
2003Anquan Boldin, Ariz.10113778356-623-152
2017Cooper Kupp, LAR6286952540-566-651
2020Jerry Jeudy, Den.5285634538-467-085
2012Justin Blackmon, Jac.6486552929-415-193
2019Deebo Samuel, S.F.5780263133-391-196
2004Michael Clayton, T.B.80119371432-372-089
2011Doug Baldwin, Sea.5178844229-366-379
2008Eddie Royal, Den.9198051437-345-281
2004Keary Colbert, Car.4775454125-282-293
2022Garrett Wilson, NYJ831103421??????
2022Chris Olave, N.O.721042424??????
2022Drake London, Atl.72866428??????
2022George Pickens, Pitt.52801540??????

Three of those 2022 rookies made it into our initial top 25 at the position this year. Based on the history, pretty good chance that optimism will prove to be well-founded. I will not hesitate to select any of the four (including Pickens, who made it into our top 40) in drafts. It's a really nice track record.

--Andy Richardson

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