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Rookie Wide Receivers with the Best Fantasy Outlook


The first week of May means Star Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo. It also means fantasy football, specifically dynasty rookie drafts and best-ball leagues. The first two are nice, but you're here for the third. Let's talk about rookie wide receivers with the best immediate fantasy outlooks.

In redraft or best ball leagues, we're looking for an immediate contribution. In dynasty, we can play a longer game but let's face it, we'd rather have our cake and eat it too. A rookie that contributes now and in the future is usually preferable to one we have to wait on. To identify these prospects, I've used a combination of available targets and Air Yards. If the team lost receivers that accumulated a lot of targets and air yards, then there should be a corresponding opportunity for incoming rookies. I've also ordered the list by how valuable I perceive the opportunity, which is not the same as which player will have the best season. For example, Cooper Kupp's landing spot has more opportunity than Corey Davis, but I think Davis will have the better performance.

Here are the 10 rookie wide receivers with the best immediate situations for fantasy owners.

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Rookie Receivers in Favorable Situations

Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams

Since Kenny Britt and Brian Quick left in free agency, the Rams are left with just Tavon Austin and a group of guys that have limited experience and represent minimal draft capital. Britt and Quick leave behind over 200 targets, and Kupp (third round) should see the field immediately. Reynolds (fourth round) will compete with last year's fourth-round pick Pharoh Cooper. Kupp is an older prospect but was incredibly productive in college. His long-term ceiling may not be that high but he should be an immediate starter in the slot.

Josh Reynolds and Pharoh Cooper bear some striking similarities. Both were selected with the 117th pick and had very similar college numbers in terms of receiving yards per game (81.1 for Cooper, 79.9 for Reynolds). They also managed similar market shares of receiving yards and TDs.

Both Kupp and Reynolds should be helped by the arrival of a new coach (Sean McVay) who should lead a more pass-heavy offense. Kupp is the favorite here, but keep an eye on Reynolds.

Tim Patrick and Quincy Adeboyejo, Baltimore Ravens

Who are these guys? Neither was drafted by Baltimore; both were signed as free agents after the draft. That probably tells us that Baltimore is happy with their current options at WR. Undrafted free agents seldom pan out, but so don't get too excited. But if you're in a really deep dynasty league these guys are worth watching given the amount of available opportunity. Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken took over 150 targets with them when they left. Baltimore's presumptive starters are now 30-year-old Mike Wallace and still-unproven Breshad Perriman. Don't get me wrong, odds are still against Patrick and Adeboyejo, but the obstacles in front of them don't appear insurmountable.

Of the two I prefer Patrick. Playing at Utah, he accounted for a third of the team's receiving TDs in his final season, along with over a quarter of the receiving yards. At 6 feet 4 inches and 208 pounds, he has great size. He also has above average athleticism, running a 4.47 40-yard dash and posting a 37.5 inch vertical.

Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills

The first WR taken in the second round, Jones lands in a plum situation. Buffalo brought in a few free agent WRs but none with the draft pedigree of Jones. Further, those free agents were brought in by now-deposed former GM Doug Whaley, so it's not clear that the coaching staff really likes them. Jones should be an immediate starter and given Sammy Watkins' propensity for injury, Jones could see a lot of targets, even if Buffalo remains a low-volume passing offense. Jones accounted for over 40 percent of his team's receiving yards last year, and as a relatively high draft pick, I expect him to be involved early and often.

Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans

The first WR selected in the draft also lands in a good situation from an opportunity point of view. Last year, Tajae Sharpe started the season at WR for the Titans, but his performance tailed off as the season progressed. The Titans also jettisoned Kendall Wright and Andre Johnson and forced Harry Douglas into a pay cut. Rishard Matthews played well and should be a starter, but the spot across from him is all Davis. Matthews could keep his 108 targets from last year, and Davis could still easily inherit 140 or more from the departed and demoted WRs. The opportunity isn't technically the best, but the WR is. Davis should be the top-performing rookie WR this year.

Ardarius Stewart and Chad Hansen, New York Jets

Taken in the third and fourth rounds respectively, Stewart and Hansen enter a situation that is somewhat murky - the Jets have a lot of bodies at WR - but also ripe with opportunity. Devin Smith is injured, Brandon Marshall is gone, and Eric Decker might be cut or traded. Even if Decker is retained, the loss of Marshall alone frees up 128 targets. If Decker is released, that leaves just Quincy Enunwa as major competition. Enunwa did well last year but is just a sixth round pick himself. After that is just undrafted Robby Anderson and suspended Jalin Marshall. Stewart and Hansen could both have roles, but it's difficult to tell how the Jets roster will shake out. They're similar prospects so if you're looking for an end of the bench staff, go with whichever is cheaper.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

Ted Ginn's departure frees up about 100 targets. Devin Funchess hasn't broken out yet, and Kelvin Benjamin is reportedly overweight. In other words, there's no sure thing at any WR spot for the Panthers. Even if Funchess and Benjamin work out though, Samuel offers a very different profile and should be able to grab Ted Ginn's role with no problem. With a second-round pedigree and positional versatility, he could be an impact player straightaway.

Chad Williams, Arizona Cardinals

Coming from Grambling, Williams didn't have much pre-draft hype. He's got decent size and athleticism, but more importantly, has good production. He accounted for over a third of Grambling's receiving yards and TDs in his third and final college season. The draft capital spent to acquire him is encouraging, and the Cardinals could have a role for him right away. Michael Floyd is gone, J.J. Nelson is dynamic but undersized, and John Brown may or may not have his sickle cell issues under control. Add in an aging Larry Fitzgerald and there are several scenarios where opportunity could come available in bunches.

 

More 2017 Fantasy Football Analysis


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