Should You Target Rookie WR’s or Vets for Your Dynasty Team? (Part 1)
Chad Workman / @tweetsbychadfw
Rookie wide receivers have gotten a lot of dynasty hype during the off-season, with many clamoring about how this is the best class we have seen in some time. While that could be true, there are many questions surrounding rookie wide receivers every year, but especially in the year of COVID-19. This has led many analysts to suggest sticking with veterans this season. Solid advice, but as always you need to balance youth with veterans. So, is there a sweet spot to target somewhere in between the youngins entering the league and the old grizzled veterans? Of course there is, most notably, second year wide receivers who are offering tons of value.
If you think the list of incoming rookie wide receivers is impressive, take a moment to think about last years class. We saw A.J. Brown grow into a man amongst boys, we saw Terry McLaurin shine in an otherwise dark offense, we saw Darius Slayton come out of nowhere for a Giants team lacking a true #1 wide receiver. I could keep going but you get the point. We also saw some receivers disappoint, most notably J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. And of course, some receivers showed flashes but haven’t fully put it together yet, and others saw their seasons cut short due to injury. But you probably already know that, so let’s look at some factors that might help us evaluate these players going forward.
Note: The players profiled are in order of current ADP at DynastyLeagueFootball, not necessarily my rankings.
Coming out of Ole Miss, A.J. Brown checked many of the boxes that teams were looking for in the draft. At 6’0” and 226 lbs, running a 4.49 40-yard dash, Brown has the size and speed combination to excel at the NFL level. He possesses quality draft capital, going with the 19th pick of the 2nd round, but was quickly overlooked due to his landing spot. Brown has become a prime example of looking at talent over situation when it comes to dynasty.
Nobody will mistake Brown for a burner, but he does posses enough speed and above average elusiveness to run away from NFL defenders. We saw this on display many times throughout his rookie season, evidenced by his 20.2 yards per reception (YPR), only trailing Mike Williams (20.4) in that category last season. The elite YPR, along with an 8.8 yards after catch (YAC) average which was good for fifth in the NFL, catapulted Brown to a rookie season with 1051 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. In addition, Brown carried the rock 3 times for 60 yards and 1 touchdown, providing further evidence of his running ability. This man does not go down easy.
Video - AJ Brown vs CLE (2019)
There’s not much left to be said about Brown, he is a certified stud. Many are predicting a regression this season, and there likely will be in some categories. His 20 yards per reception may go down, but he will almost certainly see an increase in targets and improved efficiency from his QB. I am a Ryan Tannehill believer, and even if you’re not, there’s no denying the improvement we saw from Brown after Tannehill took over the offense. Brown saw 3.8 targets per-game with Mariota at the helm but saw 6.1 targets per-game with Tannehill under center. His snap percentage also jumped from 50% through the first six weeks, to 80% through the last ten. I expect him to be well over 80% this season.
Brown’s dynasty ADP is currently sitting at WR8 and 23 overall, which is a bit high, but I believe Brown will deliver at that cost considering his long-term outlook. Going ahead of guys like Golladay, Evans, Beckham and Allen Robinson, which I think is just right. Brown’s ADP seems pretty spot on, so while he won’t be cheap, he is worth the investment.
D.K. Metcalf, perhaps the bigger name wide receiver coming out of Ole Miss in 2019, made his name known primarily for being a workout warrior and athletic anomaly. Clocking in at a 4.33 40 time at the combine, Metcalf tied for third fastest amongst wide receivers. The guy he tied with is just a speedy 5’10” wide receiver out of Georgia named Mecole Hardman (we’ll get to him later). The difference between the two being about six inches and 41 pounds. Metcalf also benched 27 reps, which tied for first in the wide receiver class with N’Keal Harry, placed third in the vertical jump amongst wide receivers at 40.5, and leapt to the fourth best broad jump in the wide receiver group. I mean, look at these measurables.
(Photo Credit: RotoViz)
Metcalf ended up “falling” to the end of the second round, further than many projected. But it wasn’t all bad considering Metcalf landed in Seattle, pairing him with future (2020?) MVP Russell Wilson. Metcalf finished the season with 900 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns, a very solid rookie campaign. The one blemish on his measurables, seen above, is his short area quickness, which can be a cause for concern in terms of getting out of his breaks and running a full route tree. The Seahawks didn’t ask much of him early in the season in terms of his route tree, but as you can see from the NFL Next Gen Stats, they certainly did in the two playoff games. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told local radio show Chuck and Buck in the Morning that he was blown away by what Metcalf accomplished in his rookie year. He also stated, “there’s so many more routes he can run. The flexibility of moving him around, introducing some different route concepts that we could kind of get him up to speed on that will protect or complement the things that he’s put on film will just be an incredible, incredible advantage for us as we head into the next season."
(Photo Credit: NFL NextGen Stats)
Metcalf finished the regular season with an average of 6.3 targets per game, just behind teammate Tyler Lockett’s 6.9. However, over the final six weeks after the bye, Metcalf received 36 targets to Lockett’s 34. Not a huge difference, but when a rookie out-targets the trusted veteran, we should take notice.
Metcalf’s dynasty ADP is currently sitting at 37, 15th amongst wide receivers. This is a bit too low, as he is going after Allen Robinson and aging superstar Julio Jones. With his upside, I would take him over either. I don’t anticipate Metcalf’s current owner in your existing dynasty league is looking to give him up, but if you can buy at this cost, do it now. Wait, do it after you finish reading the rest of this article instead.
(Photo Credit: Player Profiler)
Okay, so we all agreed that Metcalf’s ADP is too low, right? Good. In that case, Terry McLaurin’s ADP of 52 (WR 23) is criminal. He’s going behind two rookies in Jerry Jeudy and Cee-Dee Lamb who we’ve barely seen in their new NFL threads, and who would be thrilled to post numbers similar to “Scary Terry” in year one. Now, I am excited to see each of those players and am bullish on their upside, but McLaurin is the real deal, and I’ll tell you why.
McLaurin showed solid workout metrics leading up to the NFL Draft, and went with the 12th pick of the third round to the Washington Redskins who would later become the Washington Football Team. No seriously, that’s their name now.
McLaurin finished first among rookies in targets (93), target share (22.7%), and air yards (636), while finishing second in receptions (58), receiving yards (919), and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (7). As my colleague Andrew Woodruff points out, along with other excellent observations seen in the image on the left, he put up these numbers in just 14 games.
Despite playing just 14 games, McLaurin finished the season as WR24 in standard scoring, and as WR29 in PPR scoring with subpar quarterback play. He had similar production before and after Haskins took over, but Haskins should continue to improve and develop. And of course, with Haskins being McLaurin’s college quarterback at The Ohio State University, they have a strong connection that’s only going to improve in their fourth year playing together, and second in the NFL.
I would be remiss if I did not mention McLaurin’s excellent route running abilities. The guy is fluid, cuts well in and out of breaks, and is a burner with a 4.35 40 time, which is in the 98th percentile. Last year, he was in the 89th percentile with a 76% success rate vs. man coverage, and in the 93rd percentile with a 79.7% success rate vs. zone coverage. This is all great stuff, but he’s not ALWAYS going to be able to separate at the NFL level. Well, it’s a good thing he also led the league in contested catch rate. What can’t this guy do? Play quarterback, I guess. Sorry Washington Football Team fans.
If you’re not already making trade offers in your leagues for McLaurin, then I thank you for focusing solely on this article, but as soon as you are done reading, go check in on McLaurin’s price tag. If you can get him for the price of his current ADP of 52, do it. If you are drafting a start-up, take him higher than that and cash your checks at the end of the season.
The first wide receiver taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, Marquise Brown, went to the Ravens with the 25th overall selection. Brown’s nickname of “Hollywood” stuck when he toasted Oklahoma State in 2017 going 9 for 265 with a pair of touchdowns. During one of his scores, announcer Gus Johnson yelled out “Hollywood” as if everybody already knew that was his nickname. Now we know.
One of the smallest wide receivers in the league, Brown came in at just over 5’9” and 166 pounds at the combine. While he did not run at his pro day or the combine due to a foot injury, we already knew he could fly. He reportedly clocked a 40 time of 4.32 prior to those events.
Always a big play threat when he is on the field, “Hollywood” found the end zone 7 times in his rookie season. However, his yardage total of 584 was a bit of a letdown for a first-round pick, though he did miss two games. He saw 19% of the teams targets inside the redzone, and 20% of the teams targets inside the ten yard line. Brown also stepped up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, going 7 for 126, including this one-handed grab that proves he doesn’t just possess great speed, but great hands as well.
Video - Marquise Brown vs TEN (2019)
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman stated that Brown had a great offseason physically, and there have been plenty of other reports supporting that as well. He did have surgery after the season concluded to remove the screw in his foot and has been rehabbing since. One thing dynasty owners are hoping for from his offseason regimen is some added weight, which could help him stay healthy.
Overall, I was disappointed in Brown’s rookie season, but as mentioned above, he didn’t appear to be fully healthy. Brown is a player that is somewhat boom or bust, often going for big plays but also not getting involved in some games. Brown recorded receiving yards of 1, -2, 6, and 15 with no touchdowns in four of the last five games of the regular season. This is not a guy who I want to rely on as my WR2 or WR3, which is where he is being drafted in dynasty leagues. I do expect Brown to improve upon his rookie season, and obviously this draft spot is with his high upside, long-term outlook in mind, but I’d rather pass on that ADP, and take Robert Woods, Jalen Reagor, or Michael Gallup, all going after him. The question marks surrounding Brown are magnified when you consider that the Ravens posted the highest rushing play percentage last year at 54.07, and the lowest throwing percentage at 45.93. Brown does have upside, even in this offense, and is certainly worth betting on at a lower price point, but I’m reluctant to buy at this price point.
Coming out of South Carolina, Deebo Samuel was the second wide receiver taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, going 36th overall to the 49ers. Playerprofiler shows his workout metrics, rating in the 70th percentile in his speed score, burst score, 40-yard dash, and catch radius.