For years on the Apex blog, we’ve been pounding the table to draft second-year wide receivers. The only group of receivers that see a fantasy scoring increase are those going into their second NFL season.

We’ve learned that younger receivers that are selected within the top 100 picks are more likely to break out in Year 2. Those who are aware of this edge have been rewarded handsomely.

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  • Jahan Dotson’s rookie year metrics put him in exciting company among first-round wide receivers, and we’re getting a discount compared to other sophomore breakout candidates.
  • Treylon Burks has a massive target ceiling and the thresholds he met as a rookie (despite injuries) put him on track to make a leap in Year 2.
  • George Pickens’ rookie year efficiency combined with his early collegiate production at a young age gives him exciting comparables for his sophomore campaign.

We’ve seen players like Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffrey, Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and many more make league-winning jumps as second-year stars. Last we saw sophomores Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith take the league by storm on their way to WR1 finishes.

While rookie breakouts are becoming more common, buying second-year wide receivers continues to be an exploitable edge. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Christian Watson are obvious studs but begin drafting season at an extremely expensive price. Here are three second-year wide receivers who remain undervalued.

Jahan Dotson

While exciting second-year wide receiver Christian Watson is being selected as WR20 in early drafts, Jahan Dotson is being selected as WR40. Let’s see how they compare.

Christian WatsonGNB233411.726641611743.69.3
Jahan DotsonWAS221610.886135523743.68.6

Dotson was selected 18 picks higher in the NFL Draft, is one year younger, and was right in line with Watson’s production. Sure, Dotson may not be the physical specimen that Watson is, and he may not currently be his team’s top option, but is that worth a three-round discount?

While Watson may have outpaced Dotson in terms of yards per target, Dotson finished 2nd out of all rookie wide receivers in fantasy points over expectation.

At over 40 receiving yards per game, Dotson slides in with an exciting group of rookies. This list includes all rookie wide receivers since 2011, who were selected in the top three rounds, averaged at least 8 yards per target, played in at least 10 games, and recorded at least 40 receiving yards per game.

Julio Jones201122ATL15.554959873.810.16
A.J. Green201123CIN14.53651057770.59.24
Torrey Smith201122BAL11.2550841752.68.958
T.Y. Hilton201223IND12.4750861757.49.692
Josh Gordon201221CLE9.9150805550.38.42-1
Keenan Allen201321SDG14.64711046869.71076
DeAndre Hopkins201321HOU8.8952802250.18.827
Terrance Williams201324DAL9.13447365469.974
Odell Beckham Jr.201422NYG24.5891130512108.81012
Mike Evans201421TAM16.346810511270.18.67
Brandin Cooks201421NOR13.9353550355820
Jordan Matthews201422PHI12.6467872854.58.542
Amari Cooper201521OAK13.29721070666.98.24
Tyler Lockett201523SEA10.3451664641.59.669
Michael Thomas201623NOR17.05921137975.89.447
JuJu Smith-Schuster201721PIT14.1258917765.511.662
Cooper Kupp201724LAR11.7962869557.99.269
Kenny Golladay201724DET8.628477343.49.996
Calvin Ridley201824ATL12.93648211051.38.926
D.J. Moore201821CAR9.8155788249.39.624
Christian Kirk201822ARI10.2943590349.28.747
Courtland Sutton201823DEN8.52427044448.440
A.J. Brown201922TEN13.57521051865.712.551
Terry McLaurin201924WAS13.7158919765.69.976
D.K. Metcalf201922SEA11.6958900756.3964
Deebo Samuel201923SFO12.6157802353.59.936
Marquise Brown201922BAL10.4646584741.78.225
Justin Jefferson202021MIN17.14881400787.511.222
CeeDee Lamb202021DAL13.6174935558.48.417
Tee Higgins202021CIN12.1667908656.88.433
Chase Claypool202022PIT13.4362873954.6849
Ja'Marr Chase202121CIN17.928114551385.611.45
DeVonta Smith202123PHI10.9264916553.98.810
Chris Olave202222NOR13.21721042469.58.811
George Pickens202221PIT9.7952801447.19.552
Christian Watson202223GNB11.7241611743.69.334
Jahan Dotson202222WAS10.8835523743.68.616
Treylon Burks202222TEN8.5533444140.48.218

In addition to being a first-round pick, Dotson performed efficiently as a 22-year-old rookie. However, his price indicates that fantasy drafters expect Sam Howell and the Redskins offense to flounder.

Howell fell too far in the NFL draft after achieving a 92nd percentile breakout age and a 96th percentile college yards per attempt. If he can outperform expectations, an explosive second-year breakout for Dotson could easily be on the way.

Treylon Burks

In case you didn’t read my rookie wide receiver article from last year, Treylon Burks was an excellent prospect coming out of school.

100Treylon BurksArkansas180.360.370.420.924.55225
88N'Keal HarryArizona State320.310.390.380.754.53228
83Kenny BrittRutgers300.390.330.410.584.47218
75Jonathan BaldwinPittsburgh260.320.330.310.384.49228
65Jordy NelsonKansas State360.370.450.470.924.51217
65Hakeem NicksNorth Carolina290.390.460.470.924.51212
58DeAndre HopkinsClemson270.290.310.341.384.57214
34Alshon JefferySouth Carolina450.380.40.320.624.48216
34Brandon AiyukArizona State250.310.310.390.674.5205
31D.J. MooreMaryland240.330.390.530.674.42210
30Allen RobinsonPenn State610.360.380.460.54.6220

His college production combined with his impressive size/speed combination led to much enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, a toe injury forced Burks to be placed on the Titans’ injured reserve and a concussion led to more missed time. However, he was still able to produce enough to make the list above. Here’s what the list looks like if we only include the receivers that were selected in the first round.

Odell Beckham Jr.201422NYG24.5891130512108.81012
Justin Jefferson202021MIN17.14881400787.511.222
Ja'Marr Chase202121CIN17.928114551385.611.45
Julio Jones201122ATL15.554959873.810.16
A.J. Green201123CIN14.53651057770.59.24
Mike Evans201421TAM16.346810511270.18.67
Chris Olave202222NOR13.21721042469.58.811
Amari Cooper201521OAK13.29721070666.98.24
CeeDee Lamb202021DAL13.6174935558.48.417
Brandin Cooks201421NOR13.9353550355820
DeVonta Smith202123PHI10.9264916553.98.810
Calvin Ridley201824ATL12.93648211051.38.926
DeAndre Hopkins201321HOU8.8952802250.18.827
D.J. Moore201821CAR9.8155788249.39.624
Jahan Dotson202222WAS10.8835523743.68.616
Marquise Brown201922BAL10.4646584741.78.225
Treylon Burks202222TEN8.5533444140.48.218

Take this list with a grain of salt as a number of these players drastically outperformed Burks as a rookie – but there should be enthusiasm for a first-round pick who was efficient and productive as a rookie.

Jim Wyatt reports Burks has been Ryan Tannehill’s “favorite target” at OTAs. Burks also “looks fit, and faster.” Don’t believe the beat writers? See for yourself.

Dalton notes that he looks like another rookie wide receiver.

George Pickens

Pickens isn’t a first-round pick, but he was a 21-year-old rookie. His college profile was shaky in some areas, but his true freshman breakout provides a reason for enthusiasm.

Using RotoViz’s Similarity Search, there are many exciting comparables for his rookie season.

George Pickens20222152497972939.212.3148.3
Kenny Britt20092130427570139.310.7130.1
DJ Moore20182124558278829.610.5160.2
Brandin Cooks2014212053695503814.6139.3
Jeremy Maclin20092119569177348.59.8156.6
Santonio Holmes20062225498682429.68.3144.7
DeAndre Hopkins20132127529180228.8-2.4144.2
Christian Kirk20182247436859038.713.6123.5
Stefon Diggs201522146528472048.618.3149.3
Antonio Bryant20022163449373367.95.3157.3
Keary Colbert20042262479275458.27.8154.4
Chris Givens20122396428069838.75.8133
Elijah Moore202121344377538572.4138.2
Laviska Shenault20202242587960057.618.2157.1
Calvin Johnson2007222489475648-2.6158.8
Allen Robinson20142161488154826.8-9.8116.8
Titus Young20112244488560767.17148.2
Jamison Crowder201522105597860427.73.4135.6
Robert Woods20132141408558736.9-13.6120.3
Antonio Callaway201821105438158657.2-4.9134.3

In terms of fantasy points over expectation, Pickens finished 4th out of the rookies. He was by far his team’s most efficient target.

After proving himself as a rookie, I expect the Steelers to make more of an effort to get their young phenom the ball.