Regardless of the first running backs getting drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft this year since 2012, many changes in the game in recent years have driven home the fact the NFL is a passing league.
As more college talent continues to flow towards developing the passing game, and NFL passing stats increase, the wide receiver position is deep for fantasy football players. As Dave opined in his early WR rankings however, 1,000 yard receivers are nice, but the touchdown scorers are the ones ultimately making a difference to your fantasy team.
In 2014, we saw, undoubtedly, the best rookie wide receiver class ever. Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin made regular appearances on fantasy highlight reels, while Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews and Jarvis Landry all made names for themselves.
Thus, the overvaluing of rookie wide receivers has begun – which by the way could help you capitalize on trading for an elite veteran receiver that can help you win now. Unfortunately, this year, I do not believe as many rookie wide receivers will make as big of an immediate impact as in 2014.
There is always potential though, and here are my post-NFL Draft Top 10 Rookie Wide Receivers:
1. Amari Cooper, Raiders
Arguably the best wide receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft, Amari Cooper was selected by the Oakland Raiders 4th overall. Oakland has been a wasteland for fantasy players over the past few years, however, they now may have some draftable talent. Quarterback Derek Carr finished 2014, his rookie season, with the seventh-most passing attempts in the NFL. With the departure of James Jones, Cooper should be Carr’s top target from Day One. With many fantasy owners shying away from Oakland players, Cooper could be a steal come draft day, especially in PPR leagues, where a 100-catch season is possible.
2. Kevin White, Bears
There have been dark clouds following the Chicago Bears this offseason. It is obvious the Bears’ defense needs improvement, but new General Manager Ryan Pace decided to make a splash on draft day adding Kevin White to an already strong set of skilled offensive players. The departure of Brandon Marshall leaves no doubt Alshon Jeffery is quarterback Jay Cutler’s top receiving target. The Bears still have a tremendous dual-threat running back in Matt Forte, plus tight end Martellus Bennett (admittedly, rumored to be on the trading block). Each of these players should continue to demand high targets from Cutler. However, White, who offers a great mix of size (6’ 2.5”), speed (4.35 40-yard dash) and strength, should slide into the number two wide receiver position ahead of recently acquired Eddie Royal and add a spark for this offense that struggled in 2014. White could shine early given the attention opposing defenses need to give his new teammates.
3. Nelson Agholor, Eagles
Nelson Agholor may have landed in one of the best situations for a wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles and Head Coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Agholor should easily slide into the number two role and give sophomore Jordan Matthews some tough competition for targets. The quarterback situation is a bit murky between oft-injured Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez (and Tim Tebow?). Bradford should win the starting gig. The top receiver in Philadelphia the past two seasons has put up terrific fantasy numbers:
- In 2013, DeSean Jackson totaled 82 receptions, 1,332 receiving yards and nine touchdowns
- In 2014, Jeremy Maclin totaled 85 receptions, 1,318 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns
Whoever wins the top spot in Philadelphia should have a great season. Come draft day, Agholor’s price will not nearly be as steep as the likes of Cooper and White.
4. Breshad Perriman, Ravens
It is very difficult to rank Breshad Perriman due to criticisms of him being “an unfinished product” and “still raw”. However, the upside and opportunity, in my opinion, outweigh the criticisms. Baltimore is looking for a stand-out receiver and Perriman might just be that guy. Over the past three seasons, the top fantasy scoring wide receiver on the Ravens averaged 64 receptions on 128 targets, 1,016 yards, and six touchdowns. Those are not fantasy WR1 numbers. There isn’t a ton of immediate upside here, but learning from veteran Steve Smith and with a quality quarterback in Joe Flacco, Perriman can develop into that WR1 role and perhaps do more with it than his predecessors. For leagues starting three wide receivers, Perriman is worth grabbing given his opportunity to produce, especially for his draft price.
5. DeVante Parker, Dolphins
NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper said DeVante Parker to the Miami Dolphins was the “best first round pick” of the NFL Draft. Parker offers a nice target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. However, Parker joins a suddenly crowded Dolphins offense. Tannehill has second year Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and recently signed veteran Greg Jennings at wide receiver, plus tight end Jordan Cameron. On top of those receiver options, running back Lamar Miller proved himself capable last year under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and may earn more carries this season. Parker is likely a year away from a truly significant fantasy impact, but with some injury-prone players, Parker may get the opportunity to prove he belongs on the field.
6. Dorial Green-Beckham, Titans
Tennessee Titans are in the early stages of a complete rebuild. Already young on offense to begin with, after drafting anticipated franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back David Cobb and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, this team will undoubtedly go through some growing pains. Green-Beckham has been compared to Brandon Marshall. Hopefully that comparison translates to only on-field production as opposed to off-field distractions. He will compete against Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright as the top receiver for the Titans. Though the immediate returns might be small due to some struggles while they develop, stashing Green-Beckham could be worth the wait.
7. Jaelen Strong, Texans
Jaelen Strong will join the Houston Texans who were looking to bulk up their receiving corps. Head coach Bill O’Brien seems to be building an offense that can offer scheme flexibility for the wide receivers. 2014 breakout sensation DeAndre Hopkins will move up into the number one gig with the departure of Andre Johnson. Strong will compete with Cecil Shorts for targets opposite Hopkins. The only negative is the lack of a quality quarterback, with Brian Hoyer currently ahead of Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage on the depth chart. I expect the Texans to draft a quarterback in the near future (2016). Until then, Strong will gain NFL experience and could be a sleeper option come draft day.
8. Devin Funchess, Panthers
Devin Funchess joins 2014 rookie standout Kelvin Benjamin, and not much else at wide receiver, for the Carolina Panthers. Some are calling them the Twin Towers in Carolina due to their big, tall physique. Quarterback Cam Newton loves his high arching throws, so Funchess provides Newton with another red zone target to go up and get the ball. Carolina isn’t known for their passing game, but continuing to add skill at the receiver position could indicate some change in philosophy for the Panthers.
9. Phillip Dorsett, Colts
To the untrained eye, Phillip Dorsett being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts raises many questions since the Colts have so many receiving options already. However, T.Y. Hilton, who is in a contract year, may walk away in free agency next year, so with Dorsett being compared physically to Hilton, consider the pick an insurance policy. With the offseason addition of Andre Johnson, and sophomore Donte Moncrief, Dorsett may not see the field very often this year. However, having one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Andrew Luck significantly helps a young receiver’s stock. Fantasy owners will want a piece of this offense for years to come. Stash Dorsett and be patient.
10. Devin Smith, Jets
Devin Smith is one of the best vertical threats drafted this year. Smith joins a receiving corps in New York of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and tight end Jace Amaro. Unfortunately, besides being a deep threat, Smith does not provide much else, which is not good since quarterbacks Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick already have problems throwing the deep ball. It may be a year or two until Smith can become fantasy relevant.
Best of the Rest
Chris Conley, Chiefs
Talk about a great player but in the wrong situation. Chris Conley has great speed and explosion, but unfortunately his quarterback Alex Smith does not throw the ball down the field. Conley will slide into the number two receiver position after Jeremy Maclin, but that doesn’t mean much if his quarterback cannot/will not throw the ball deep. The wide receivers for the Kansas City Chiefs were abysmal last year, so it is extremely difficult to expect much from Conley even in the WR2 spot.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks are still looking for a player to replace Golden Tate and they are hoping Tyler Lockett will be that guy. Seattle did themselves and quarterback Russell Wilson a huge favor by acquiring elite tight end Jimmy Graham during free agency. With defenses focusing on Graham, speedy receivers like Lockett should find some deep ball opportunities from Wilson.