One of the very common “bylaws” of Fantasy Football used to be that WRs – in particular, rookies – fell into the bucket of specific players to avoid during drafts. They were also the player that you didn’t want to spend a waiver claim(or FAAB, depending how your league is set up) because they were rookies. And the golden rule of rookie WRs – maybe as recent as five years ago, was – “avoid rookie WRs. They’re not ready to help, breakout, contribute(etc), until three years after they’re drafted into the NFL.”
This was a commonality that I myself was guilty of falling into many times. However, as one of my former colleagues reminded me this week, one thing that remains constant is change.
And times have changed how we view, and look at, rookie WRs in today’s NFL.
So, let’s take a closer look.
Of the past four NFL drafts (2019-2022), there’s been 60 WRs drafted through the first three rounds(with 3 “outliers” drafted in the 4th round each of the last three years). At least 5 or more – for a total of 23(38.3%) – have hit double digit points their rookie season, finishing amongst the Top 50. Those numbers also include rookies in the current season through the first six weeks of 2022.
Pretty solid results.
The script has certainly flipped since the days of avoiding rookie WRs at all costs in year one of fantasy football. The development of WRs at the college level has translated into players who have the ability to step in as day one contributors and make an impact.
They’re no longer dressage horses galloping at the local horse show.
Instead, they’ve grown into thoroughbreds – ready to run on the big stage.
As was previously mentioned, there are currently six rookies who are ranked amongst the top 50 WRs though Week 6. Below I will touch on a few of them and see how much of an impact they have made so far. I have highlighted three who appear to have stood out from Week 1 and on, with two more who are seeing their stock rise each week.
Let’s get to the rooks(listed in order of their ranking).
Chris Olave – WR24(32/495/2; 56 targets – stats include Week 7 v Cardinals)
Olave had a solid debut in Week 1 with a 3/41 line and then racked up a whopping 26 targets the next two games before he had to sit out Week 6 with an injury. Despite missing last week’s game, Olave stood as the WR21, averaging 8.4 targets/game(which leads all rookies). He’s caught 61% of his targets and has averaged a 5/77 line for the Saints. In the early part of this season, he has already overtaken the WR1 role for Nawlins’ and should remain that way for a long time. Jarvis Landry is a free agent, along with four other current Saints’ WRs who could very well all leave the Big Easy next offseason.
Chris Olave has more receiving yards (495) through 6 games than:— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 21, 2022
• Ja’Marr Chase
• Travis Kelce
• DK Metcalf
• DeVonta Smith
• Terry McLaurin
• Mark Andrews
• Deebo Samuel
• Marquise Brown
• Courtland Sutton pic.twitter.com/wC1iaUDOhy
Drake London – WR29(25/306/2; 43 targets)
London broke out in Week 2 against the Rams in LA for an 8/86/1 line and has continued to develop as the Falcons WR1 of the future. His 6’4 frame allows him to box out defenders and consistently win one on one matchups. But it’s clear, he’s more than just a contested catch guy who can high point the ball. London leads all Falcons WRs with 43 targets(the next closest has 18) and has seen a 32.5% target share. He’s averaged nearly 11 yards/rec and has a 2.23 Y/RR and 10.03 aDoT(both per PFF). He continues to get better each week despite his inconsistent QB play, which could continue to hold him back this year.
Romeo Doubs – WR44(26/334/2; 38 targets)
2022’s camp darling, Doubs’ momentum during the summer has carried over into the regular season. He leads Packers WRs in targets which has led to an 18.1% target share and 102.3 passer rating when targeted. Most of his success has come via the slot, where he’s seen 2.26 yards/route run and an 11.03 average depth of target. He may continue to have his boom weeks as the season carries on, but his future is bright in Green Bay as the future slot receiver and potentially Aaron Rodgers’ new favorite.
Two Rookie Risers
Alec Pierce(18/271/1; 29 targets) – Who would’ve thought we’d see Alec Pierce as the WR24 over the last four weeks? I don’t think any of us, but that’s what he is. Pierce has scored 51.1 PPR points(a 12.8 per game average) from Week 3-6 and appears to have solidified his role as the Colts’ WR2. Indianapolis has desperately been searching for a complement opposite Michael Pittman, Jr and it looks like they may have found one. Pierce’s game-winning touchdown catch against the Titans last week was a thing of beauty.
George Pickens(20/277/0; 34 targets) – Pickens is the WR30(Wk 3-6) over the last 4 weeks and has earned 29 targets during that stretch. He has seen 76.8% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps as the Steelers’ WR3 and caught 66% of his targets. He’s succeeded in his role as the deep threat in the Steel City, with a 14.1 average depth of target. Pickens’ stock and role are both growing, and will skyrocket even more if Chase Claypool is traded by the November 1st deadline.
Lastly, I leave you with this