Generally, in fantasy football leagues wide receivers have a history of struggling in their first season. Recently, some rookies have made an immediate impact – namely Calvin Ridley last year, JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017, and Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill in 2016.
Most intriguing wide receivers are important to roster as the season progresses but are difficult to invest a high draft pick on. With help from our friends at Roto Underworld, here are nine rookie wide receivers you will want to keep an eye on in 2019.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Marquise Brown was the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 NFL draft. His production in college was impressive – catching 132 passes for 2,400 yards and 17 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons.
At just 5’9” 166 lbs., Brown is small and fast. Unfortunately, Brown was injured and did not participate in the combine.
Brown’s elite production is intriguing, but his landing spot leaves a lot to be desired. John Brown’s production fell off when Lamar Jackson took over last season and it remains to be seen whether L-Jax can support a consistent fantasy receiver. The Ravens’ heavy rushing tendencies make it difficult to be optimistic.
N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots
For those of you who follow the blog closely, you have already read Dalton Kate’s excellent Harry breakdown. Harry has an excellent college dominator rating (88th percentile) and broke out at a young age (95th percentile). Both of those are excellent news for his NFL prospects.
His athleticism is well-rounded. At 6’2” 228 lbs., Harry is big but still maintains impressive speed when adjusted for his size (90th percentile). Harry also has good leaping ability (78th percentile).
With the departure of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are desperate for pass-catchers. Harry is expected to begin the year as the second receiver behind Julian Edelman, but if Josh Gordon returns it’ll be difficult for Harry to be consistently productive.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel was selected by the 49ers with the fourth pick of the second round. Samuel’s production is a concern for some as he never officially broke out in college. Despite already playing three seasons, Samuel had just 1,194 yards from scrimmage heading into his senior season. As a redshirt senior, Samuel is one of the oldest players in this class.
At 5’11” 214 lbs., Samuel is a similar size to many slot receivers. In terms of workout metrics, he’s above average across the board. His impact rushing and returning kicks show his versatility athletically.
Samuel is a moveable chess piece that is expected to slide in as the 49ers’ No. 2/starting “Z” receiver. His substantial injury history makes him difficult to evaluate but Kyle Shanahan will give him an opportunity to prove himself. With Dante Pettis seemingly the number one, the 2B option in this passing game behind George Kittle and possibly Pettis is up for grabs.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
In his sophomore and junior season, A.J. Brown had 2,572 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. His dominator rating and breakout age were both 59th percentile. He was an early declare, which is favorable news for his odds of being a good NFL receiver.
At 226 lbs., Brown is heavy and fast (90th percentile speed score). At Ole Miss, Brown outperformed super freak athlete D.K. Metcalf.
Unfortunately, the Titans are an awful landing spot – last season, only the Seahawks had fewer pass attempts. With Corey Davis likely to continue to lead the team in targets, Brown is at best second in line for targets on one of NFL’s lowest volume passing offenses. The return of trusty security blanket Delanie Walker and the signing of Adam Humphries further clouds the picture here.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
With the impending suspension for Tyreek Hill looming, the Chiefs selected Mecole Hardman. In his two college seasons combined, Hardman combined for just 1,058 yards from scrimmage. His production was not enough to trigger a breakout in either season. His college dominator rating is just 19th percentile.
At 5’10” 187 lbs., Hardman is small but ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. His agility is also above average (75th percentile). He’s explosive but undersized. One favorable characteristic is Hardman’s age as he’s one of the youngest players in this year’s draft.
Hardman’s landing spot is excellent – Patrick Mahomes will give him every opportunity to produce. Nonetheless, it’s hard to expect big things from a player who has very little college production.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside didn’t play in his freshman season but caught 28 touchdowns in his three collegiate seasons. His raw stats don’t look great, but he’s a market share monster. In those three seasons, Arcega-Whiteside caught 48 percent of Stanford’s touchdowns – giving him an impressive 86th percentile dominator rating. Despite not playing his freshman season, Arcega-Whiteside has an impressive 74th percentile breakout age.
At 6’2” 225 lbs., Arcega-Whiteside has solid size. When combined with his size, he has impressive speed (87th percentile speed score). Arcega-Whiteside struggled in the jumping and agility drills at the combine.
Arcega-Whiteside enters a crowded depth chart behind Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor. It becomes even more difficult to envision Arcega-Whiteside being productive this season when you consider that Zach Ertz is likely to lead the Eagles in targets. In addition, Dallas Goedert is receiving glowing minicamp reviews. Arcega-Whiteside is more of a dynasty play at this point in time.
Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
At Ohio State, Parris Campbell only broke out as a senior. Even as a senior he didn’t really take the NCAA by storm with just a 31st percentile dominator rating. His breakout age, just 34th percentile, also leaves something to be desired.
At 6’0” 205 lbs., Campbell isn’t badly undersized. He is extremely fast (4.31 40-yard dash) and jumped out of the gym, en route to a 97th percentile burst score. Campbell did not participate in the combine agility drills.
Again, it’s difficult to like a prospect without college production, but there are similar players who have produced in the NFL. Campbell lands on an elite offense with Andrew Luck at the helm. He’ll have opportunities to prove he’s the player the Colts envisioned – but behind TY Hilton, Devin Funchess, and Eric Ebron, they may be tough to come by as a rookie.
Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals
Andy Isabella barely played as a freshman but topped 3,800 yards in his final three collegiate seasons – including an NCAA-leading 1,698 receiving yards last season. Isabella’s dominator rating is tremendous (97th percentile) and his breakout age is encouraging (71st percentile). Isabella’s production is fantastic – the negative is early declares typically dominate four-year players when it comes to NFL production.
Isabella is just 5’9” 188 lbs. but has blazing (100th percentile speed). His burst and agility scores were just slightly above average.
Isabella’s combination of speed and college production return impressive comps like Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Tyler Lockett – so there’s a good reason for enthusiasm. Joining Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid is just another reason to like the rookie.
D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
D.K. Metcalf is an early declare, turning pro after his redshirt sophomore season. In just 21 career college games, Metcalf compiled 1,228 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. His 72nd percentile breakout age is solid and his 57th percentile dominator rating is just above average.
At 6’3” 228 lbs., Metcalf is a physical freak. His 40-yard dash (99th percentile) and burst score (97th percentile) are extremely impressive – especially at his size. On the negative side, Metcalf’s agility was just 4th percentile. Physically though, Metcalf has the ideal size and speed of an outside NFL receiver.
With Doug Baldwin retiring, there will be opportunities to be targeted in Seattle. Unfortunately, the Seahawks threw the fewest times in the NFL last season and are unlikely to change their offensive scheme. The good news is Russell Wilson has said: “DK is looking really, really special.”
We’ve also written about the rookie running backs to know for 2019.