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Rookie receivers

Contributing receivers from later rounds

With Puka Nacua and Amon-Ra St. Brown having had big rookie seasons in recent years, I’m guessing there will be more willingness in fantasy drafts to use some picks on lightly regarded receivers. One need not be a first-round pick to thrive right away at the position.

This is not to take anything away from Marvin Harrison. Given his talent and where he was drafted, he’ll be the first rookie wide receiver selected in the vast majority of drafts. Most, I think, are expecting him to be a top-20 receiver from the jump.

But if history is any indication, there will also be some decent receivers coming out of the later rounds.

Using PPR scoring, I see 21 wide receivers in the last 10 years who’ve finished with top-40 numbers. About two per year. Only four of those 21 finished with top-20 numbers, so for most we’re talking about players who are contributors rather than difference makers.

Of these 21 wide receivers who had some success, 13 were selected in the second round. Four were selected in the second round this year, including three really early (Keon Coleman, Ladd McConkey and Ja’Lynn Polk). Adonai Mitchell was selected a dozen-plus picks later, but some thought he should have gone a lot earlier.

The Bills are hopeful of big things from Coleman, while McConkey should catch a lot of balls for the Chargers; I can see those guys maybe finishing with top-40 numbers.

There have also been eight rookie receivers in the last decade who have put up top-40 numbers immediately despite not being selected in the first or second rounds. I’ve got those guys tagged with dots. Four of those were selected in the third round, while four came after the third round. If you’re drafting a receiver who wasn’t selected in the top 100, there should be something about him that you really like.

If I were throwing a dart today at a receiver selected after the second round, I would be looking at Jermaine Burton and Roman Wilson. I think Wilson (who was the No. 1 option for Michigan last year) will be starting for the Steelers; with George Pickens tending to operate outside, running downfield routes, I could see Wilson catching a decent number of balls.

With Burton, he’ll get a lot more interesting if either JaMarr Chase or Tee Higgins runs into injury issues.

2023• Puka Nacua, LAR17710514866298.54
2016Michael Thomas, N.O.479211379259.77
2021• Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.112909125227.322
2016• Tyreek Hill, K.C.165615936219.018
2023Jayden Reed, G.B.50647938217.225
2019A.J. Brown, Ten.515210518217.122
2020Chase Claypool, Pitt.49628739216.923
2023Rashee Rice, K.C.55799387214.527
2014Jordan Matthews, Phil.42678728202.225
2017JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt.62589177197.720
2020Tee Higgins, Cin.33679086196.628
2019DK Metcalf, Sea.64589007193.129
2019• Terry McLaurin, Was.76589197191.930
2019Deebo Samuel, S.F.36578023191.131
2014Jarvis Landry, Mia.63847585189.430
2016Sterling Shepard, NYG40656838184.436
2017• Cooper Kupp, LAR69628695178.925
2019• Darius Slayton, NYG171487408170.037
2019• Diontae Johnson, Pitt.66596805167.139
2022George Pickens, Pitt.52528014166.540
2023• Tank Dell, Hou.69477097165.039

—Ian Allan

Fantasy Index