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Factoid

Rookie wideouts

Quick impact increasingly common at position

It's looking like a big year for rookie wide receivers. There were seven selected in the first round of April's draft, the first time that's happened in 20 years. A lot of those players might -- probably will -- lead their teams in receiving right away.

There are two obvious teams whose best wide receiver this season will probably be a rookie. Marvin Harrison in Arizona and Malik Nabers with the Giants are almost certainly starting and going to be their teams' No. 1 wide receivers right away.

Four or five other teams, though, might also be led by rookies this season. Keon Coleman in Buffalo, Xavier Worthy in Kansas City, Brian Thomas in Jacksonville and Ladd McConkey for the Chargers are all being selected 1st or 2nd at the position in drafts thus far. On our board, only McConkey is ranked highest on his team (because Joshua Palmer has established himself as a pretty marginal player), but Coleman is close (we have Khalil Shakir higher) and Worthy could get there (everyone expects Rashee Rice to be suspended).

I took a look at the last decade to see how often a rookie wideout ranked in the top 32 at the position -- not always the top wide receiver on his own team, but usually. There are a lot of recent examples.

Last year, five rookie wide receivers finished as their team's No. 1 wideout, ranking in the top 32 in PPR leagues. It happened 3-4 times each of the previous four years, too.

The 2014 draft class, like this one, was a particularly good year for wide receivers. There were five selected in the first round and seven more in the second. Given the talent that year, it wasn't surprising that six of those rookies finished in the top 32 at the position that this season. Perhaps 2024 will be another such year.

Table shows rookie wide receivers who ranked in the top 32 over the last decade, sorted by draft year. As you might expect, being an early selection counts for a lot (only 5 of the below 32 players were selected outside the first two rounds of the draft).

ROOKIE WIDE RECEIVERS IN THE TOP 32 (PPR), 2014-2023
RdYearPlayerTgtRecYdsTDRk
52023Puka Nacua, LAR160105148664
12023Jordan Addison, Min.108709111023
22023Jayden Reed, G.B.94647931025
22023Rashee Rice, K.C.10279938727
12023Zay Flowers, Balt.10877858631
12022Garrett Wilson, NYJ147831103421
12022Chris Olave, N.O.119721042424
12022Drake London, Atl.11772866428
12021JaMarr Chase, Cin.128811455135
12021Jaylen Waddle, Mia.1401041015712
42021Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.11990912622
12021DeVonta Smith, Phil.10464916530
12020Justin Jefferson, Min.12588140076
12020CeeDee Lamb, Dall.11174935722
22020Chase Claypool, Pitt.109628731123
22020Tee Higgins, Cin.10867908628
22019A.J. Brown, Ten.84521051922
22019DK Metcalf, Sea.10058900729
32019Terry McLaurin, Was.9358919730
22019Deebo Samuel, S.F.8157802631
12018Calvin Ridley, Atl.92648211020
22017JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt.7958917820
32017Cooper Kupp, LAR9462869525
22016Michael Thomas, N.O.12192113797
52016Tyreek Hill, K.C.83615931218
12015Amari Cooper, Oak.130721070621
12014Odell Beckham, NYG130911305128
12014Mike Evans, T.B.1226810511213
12014Kelvin Benjamin, Car.145731008916
22014Jordan Matthews, Phil.10367872825
12014Sammy Watkins, Buff.12865982627
22014Jarvis Landry, Mia.11284758530

Like most, I can't wait to see Harrison on the field for the Cardinals. Not only does he figure to be their No. 1 right away, but it's not even a controversial idea (Michael Wilson and Greg Dortch are the other remote possibilities).

And I've come around to Nabers, particularly with some of the early camp reports. There have been Odell Beckham comparisons made by Giants beat writers. New York does have some capable veterans (Darius Slayton, most notably), and a lesser quarterback situation, but maybe Nabers can help Daniel Jones take off this season. Stranger things have happened.

McConkey, who I just selected in the latter stages of an experts draft, also catches the eye. He's going to be in a modest passing offense, most likely, but has arguably the best quarterback of the rookies, and also very little competition. Regardless, should be a nice season for a lot of these players.

--Andy Richardson

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