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Rookie Receiver Breakouts from Week 1: Trust or Bust?


Rookie wide receivers are generally hard to trust in fantasy football. Last year’s class, for example, did not produce any regular fantasy starters, although players such as Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk and Michael Gallup all showed some promise. Ridley was the best of the bunch with 64 catches for 821 yards and 10 TD.

The 2019 season, though, opened with multiple impressive performances from some rookie wideouts. So many fantasy owners are going to go to the waiver wire to grab them this week. We saw big plays from these new pros, but many of them figure to be boom or bust types going forward. Can you rely on any of them going forward? Or was Week 1 just a mirage?

We examine the four big rookie WR headline-makers from the season opener here.

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Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

He was the most spectacular of all the impressive rookie wideouts on Sunday, catching TD passes of 47 and 83 yards as he caught four passes for 147 yards and two TDs in Baltimore’s destruction of Miami. Brown was drafted to be an immediate impact performer for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson desperately needed playmakers to contribute immediately and Brown was widely considered to be the best wideout in the 2019 NFL Draft class.

The matchup was obviously a very friendly one against a Miami defense that generated no pass rush against Lamar Jackson and could not prevent the big play. Tougher opponents definitely lie ahead, but Jackson has been showing since the preseason that he will continue to improve as a passer. Brown has instantly elevated himself to the No. 1 WR role in Baltimore.

After Week 1, opponents will surely respect Brown and the Ravens passing game more, and will try to take him away and make other Ravens pass-catchers beat them when they throw. But Baltimore can exhibit quality offensive balanced with a dual-threat QB and a solid ground attack. There should be more good games ahead for Brown, but inconsistency may be an issue. He has yet to prove he can make key possession catches and some secondaries will not allow the big plays.

Verdict: You cannot fully trust Brown yet, but there will be some weeks where he will boost your team to a victory. Examine matchups carefully before deciding to start him.

 

Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

Washington may have needed a WR of impact even more than Baltimore, but the QB situation is less steady, even after Case Keenum had a quality outing in the opener. The journeyman is certainly capable of posting good numbers at times, and Dwayne Haskins is the obvious future. Like Brown, McLaurin is in a situation where he is being handed an opportunity right away.

McLaurin caught five passes for 125 yards, including a 69-yard TD reception. His speed was on regular display, and Keenum did not hesitate to gun downfield with him. But also like Brown, McLaurin is now going to command more defensive respect. McLaurin has fewer playmakers around him in Washington than Brown does in Baltimore. If defenses start trying to take McLaurin away, there does not seem to be much else for the Redskins to challenge opponents with. On the other hand, he may demand a lot of targets after his opening-week outing. Plus, if Haskins is elevated to the starter role at any point, the two obviously have a previously established rapport from playing in college together.

Verdict: I might actually trust McLaurin a bit more than Marquise Brown, because there isn’t too much else on offense around him. They may have to continue to force the ball to the rookie and that will make him more of a dependable WR than possibly any other first-year wideout.

 

A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee newcomer caught three passes for a cool 100 yards in the Titans’ opening-week rout of the Browns. The Titans passing game has been lacking a potentially explosive playmaker for a long time, and Brown is a refreshing new addition for Marcus Mariota, who has not been able to consistently rely on anyone other than Delanie Walker.

This is a pivotal year for Mariota in his career, and Brown can help him succeed. Not only did he demonstrate his abilities to separate from defenders in his debut, he also displayed open field gears. Suddenly, Mariota has a new way to attack opposing defenses. If the running game continues to be consistently strong, that can only help the downfield passing. If opponents have to continue to pay heavy attention to Derrick Henry, that can set up play-action strikes to Brown.

Corey Davis has been an obvious disappointment so far, but Delanie Walker has returned to health and the Titans can establish enough offensive balance to make Brown a regular offensive threat. It heavily depends on Mariota.

Verdict: If Mariota and Henry can be more consistent then they have in the past, Brown could become a very dangerous man to opponents. But we cannot expect to depend on him just yet, as the Titans QB and RB have disappointed us before.

 

D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s newest possible star has been stirring buzz since the preseason and continued to do so when he wore a Steve Largent throwback jersey to the stadium at the home opener. Metcalf’s fantasy appeal had dipped a bit because of a preseason knee procedure, but he was able to be elevated to the starting lineup by the time the regular season began.

Metcalf then proceeded to catch four balls for 89 yards against the Bengals, with the longest being a 42-yarder. The Seattle passing game sputtered at times against a surprisingly effective Cincinnati defense, but Russell Wilson still made timely throws to Metcalf. There should be more productive weeks ahead for Metcalf, as the Seahawks may have to throw more to loosen teams up against the run.

Metcalf could have not landed in a better spot suited for his size and speed. Wilson is arguably the best deep thrower in the NFL, especially off play action. Plus the Seahawks need Metcalf to contribute often with Doug Baldwin no longer in the mix.

Verdict: Metcalf must continue to steer clear of injury issues, and that has been a problem for him. When available though, he has the best QB situation of all of these rookie wideouts. If he can stay healthy, Metcalf could be the most reliable of all of these first-year WRs, with McLaurin running second. Marquise Brown has the most weekly upside but he and A.J. Brown will be less dependable than Metcalf and McLaurin.

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