The New Wave of Wide Receivers
Has the recency bias gone too far on some of the rising stars or are they going to live up to the hype? The jump from year 1 to 2 is crucial for wide receivers and can usually make or break a player’s career. Let’s take a hard look at each of these rising stars and figure out who has what it takes to make the leap to stardom.
Here are a couple of notable rookies:
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.33
Rookie Year Stats: 900 rec. yds. - 58 receptions - 15.5 yds/rec - 7 TDs
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.35
Rookie Year Stats: 768 rec. yds. - 48 receptions - 15.8 yds/rec - 4 TDs
A couple of physically gifted guys who had decent rookie years right? Player A is D.K. Metcalf. Player B? That’s the fantasy football legend, Calvin Johnson. In Johnson’s sophomore season he went on to finish with 75+ receptions for 1300+ yards and a whopping 12 TDs. Now I’m not saying that Metcalf is the second coming of Megatron; however, he has the tools to be a star in this league. Let’s see if Metcalf has what it takes...
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
A popular late-round sleeper last year, Metcalf lived up to the hype by leading the league in end zone targets (19) and tied for 13th in touchdowns (7). Encouragingly enough, his numbers last year were consistent on a week-to-week basis, averaging 11.8 PPG in PPR formats, a trait not often found in rookies. Consistency is a highly desirable attribute in players who have the potential to achieve WR1 status and who hold more value in general. It’s important to note that Metcalf was 2nd on the team in targets, and was just 11 behind Lockett. He has clearly gained the trust of Russel Wilson and that chemistry is only going to grow as they continue to work together. Did you know that Wilson has had a WR finish in the top 15 the last 5 seasons? It’s likely that trend will continue and it’s even more likely that Metcalf becomes the guy in Seattle. Buy now before it’s too late. The breakout season is on the way.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Red...Wolves? Tails? Oh well, we will figure it out.
A virtual nobody coming out of the draft last year, McLaurin was reunited with his college quarterback Dwayne Haskins. F1 (or Scary Terry) was the lone bright spot for the Redskins last season starting the season off with a bang by scoring 5 touchdowns in his first 5 games. He did cool off in the middle of the season as Washington transitioned Haskins into the starting gig. While F1’s performances were inconsistent throughout the season, it isn’t uncommon to see in rookies. Especially rookies with the less than stellar QB play that he dealt with last season. He still managed to lead all WR’s on his team in every statistical category and it wasn’t close. While McLaurin was nearly identical to the aforementioned Metcalf in every statistic, he is being valued two whole rounds higher than him. Why is that? It could be the coaching change with Rivera coming in and the enticing thought of Terry becoming the next DJ Moore. It could be the total lack of competition for targets or it could even be the likely game script Washington will find itself in. This most certainly contributed to McLaurin finishing as the WR28 in PPR leagues last year. It could be a combination of all of these factors. What is certain is that he is prepared to take the next step this season and if a few things break his way he can easily be a top 20 WR.
To introduce our next young wideout let’s do another player comparison:
Avg. Snap %: 50.67 Targets/Game: 3.83
Yds./Game: 45.5 PPG: 8.72
Avg. Snap %: 80.0 Targets/Game: 6.1
Yds./Game: 77.8 PPG: 16.38
Player B seems to have the other beat in every statistical category right? Well, it just so happens that they’re both A.J. Brown! Player A is Brown with Mariota at the helm, while Player B is Brown with Tannehill under center. A near night and day split between these two versions of this talented receiver.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
The 4th wide receiver off the board in the 2019 draft class had Titans fans excited after Corey Davis failed to produce through his first three years in the league. Clearly, the poor play of Mariota seemed to keep a leash on Brown as well as the entire offense through the first six weeks. When Tannehill took over it was like someone finally turned the lights on. While the numbers are great for a rookie, he was highly efficient with his touches, but also extremely inefficient from week to week. It's hard not to expect some regression in efficiency and TD rate... but how much? Brown finished the season tied for 7th in touchdowns; however, he finished 43rd in OTD with a mark of just 3.7. Clearly, regression is in store for the young wideout, although with his rookie season behind him and Tannehill staying in town, a boost in volume is expected. This could lead to more consistent play and another top 25 campaign.
(Photo Credit: Mark Zaleski, Associated Press)
D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chark is the black sheep of the bunch here as he is already entering his 3rd season in the NFL; however, he didn’t really make a name for himself until his sophomore season. You could argue that Chark has already had his breakout after he was the 6th best wide receiver through the first 8 weeks of the season last year. Chark’s jump from year 1 to year 2 is what we hope to see in the other young wideouts mentioned, but what can we expect moving forward? With little to no competition for targets, a new pass-happy OC in Jay Gruden, and another year under Minshew’s belt, a top 25 season is a reasonable expectation. The biggest argument for Chark to have another breakout campaign is the number of moving parts going on in Jacksonville. The team clearly seems to want out of the Leonard Fournette business and with Gruden in town we could see a significant shift to a pass-heavy offense in 2020. Not to mention that the Jags are looking pitiful on defense, so game script should favor Chark as well. Look out for another monster season in 2020.