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Wide receivers are a staple of NFL teams and fantasy rosters, with their ability to generate yards through the air a major factor for the success of the majority of NFL teams. Additionally, with PPR and half-PPR formats dominating fantasy scoring standards, wide receivers are becoming more and more important to championship rosters.

Although wide receivers have always been a staple of fantasy lineups, it often takes time for good wide receivers to develop into fantasy stars due to the adjustment from the college level to the NFL. Nevertheless, there has still been plenty of young talent that has made an impact on the NFL and fantasy football early in their career.

The most dominant receiver last year in fantasy football was DeAndre Hopkins. With an influx of rookie talent coming into the league at the receiver position, could any of them dethrone Hopkins from his place atop the wide receiver rankings? Let's see if we can find out.

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Nuk Above All?

DeAndre Hopkins, or "Nuk," has been an absolute force since entering the league in 2013. With over 800 yards his rookie season, Hopkins was primed for a breakout in 2014. Through 2014 and 2015, playing alongside a slew of quarterback castoffs, Hopkins amassed over 2,700 yards and 17 touchdowns, solidifying himself as one of the top players at his position. Then came the Brock Osweiler experiment and 2016. Even with a massive handicap at the quarterback position, Hopkins was still able to earn over 900 yards in what would inevitably become a down year.

With those results in mind, it was expected that Hopkins would more or less rebound in 2017, however expectations were tempered. Well, Hopkins proved everybody wrong and recorded 96 receptions for almost 1,400 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns. Hopkins was the number one receiver last year and will look to continue his performance in 2018. What is more astounding is that Hopkins only had a competent quarterback for half the season, as Deshaun Watson was only able to play in seven games (and he didn't even start in every one). It seems as if Hopkins is more than likely to repeat or even exceed his stats from 2017 and remain the most dominant wide receiver in all fantasy football formats in 2018. Hopkins is still only 25 years old, making his dynasty outlook extremely favorable as well. All signs are pointing up for Nuk in 2018 and beyond

 

2018 Rookie WR Class

The 2014 rookie wide receiver class led to massively skewed perceptions about how early round wide receivers were expected to perform out of the gates. Here are some of the names from that class: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, and Martavis Bryant (and that's not even all of them). Wow. In the years following, first round wide receivers have failed to live up to the hype that is unjustly attributed to them. It's simple - it takes time to adapt to the NFL environment for a wide receiver. That being said, the 2018 rookie class has some prospects who could breakout sooner rather than later and become stalwarts of fantasy rosters.

The most likely wide receiver to enter the upper echelon of NFL skill position players is Panthers first round pick D.J. Moore. Moore was a beast at Maryland while playing with terrible quarterbacks (even at the college level). He projects as a number one receiver at the next level and should see immediate playing time alongside wide receiver Devin Funchess, tight end Greg Olsen, and running back Christian McCaffrey. Although it could be a while before Moore makes a significant fantasy impact, he has the potential to become the leading weapon for quarterback Cam Newton and become an upper-tier wide receiver out of the gates. With a redraft and dynasty startup cost as a lottery ticket/mid round pick, Moore is a good value play who could wow everyone in 2018 and become a top level receiver, therefore justifying the cost. However, do not make the mistake to think that it is likely that he will outperform Hopkins this year (or even over the next few years).

Other rookie wide receivers who could make an impact are fellow first round pick Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons) and second round picks Michael Gallup (Dallas Cowboys), Anthony Miller (Chicago Bears), and Courtland Sutton (Denver Broncos). In the case of Sutton, Ridley, and Miller, there are already established wide receivers on their respective teams that will demand targets and limit the short-term upside of the trio of receivers. Gallup has little competition in Dallas for snaps, but the run-based nature of that offense and diverse set of receiving weapons also leaves him little room to carve out an elite role in 2018. Therefore, none of these options should challenge Hopkins in redraft formats, but all provide excellent lottery ticket upside as late round picks. In dynasty startups, Hopkins is obviously one of the top picks, while the rest of these receivers are good value picks who have long-term potential. At the end of the day, with the way the NFL is going, it is more than likely that these players will become role players on the offense and take time to adjust to the NFL, making their value seem small when compared to a proven elite talent like DeAndre Hopkins.

 

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