Reviewing the 2020 Rookie WR Class (Fantasy Football)

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In the Fantasy Footballers’ 2020 Rookie Review episode, Andy, Mike, and Jason recapped the 2020 season for the group of fresh faces. Before we dive into the discussion, let’s put this class of WRs into perspective.

Over the last seven seasons, here are the number of rookie WRs who finished in the top-36:

Year WRs Total Top-36 Rookies
2014 Odell Beckham Jr. (WR5), Mike Evans (WR12), Kelvin Benjamin (WR15), Jordan Matthews (WR25), Sammy Watkins (WR26), Jarvis Landry (WR34) 6
2015 Amari Cooper (WR21) 1
2016 Michael Thomas (WR7), Tyreek Hill (WR22), Sterling Shepard (WR35) 3
2017 Juju Smith-Schuster (WR21), Cooper Kupp (WR27) 2
2018 Calvin Ridley (WR19), D.J. Moore (WR34) 2
2019 A.J. Brown (WR15), Terry McLaurin (WR28), D.K. Metcalf (WR29), Deebo Samuel (WR30), Darius Slayton (WR35) 5
2020 Justin Jefferson (WR6), Chase Claypool (WR19), Ceedee Lamb (WR24), Tee Higgins (WR30), Brandon Aiyuk (WR33) 5

The presence of impact rookies is nothing new but we’ve seen an increase in top-end scoring over the last couple of years. For the 2020 rookies, I’ve divided up each position into three categories:

Impressive– This is the cream of the crop.

You Have Our Attention– At least they did something in their rookie season.

Better Luck Next Year– Ummmm… so did they really play in 2020?

Let’s dive into the 2020 Rookie QB class, highlight some of their strengths and weaknesses and speculate where they might be drafted in 2021.

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Impressive and We Want More! 

I won’t spend a ton of time on Jefferson and Claypool as they were discussed in detail on WR TRUTH episodes earlier this offseason.

Justin Jefferson | Round 1, Overall 22 |  Minnesota Vikings

  • WR6 Finish — Consistency Rank: 19 / 1st Half: 41 / 2nd Half: 8
  • 16 games — 125 targets for 88/1400/7

Jefferson could’ve had an even bigger season as Adam Thielen hogged all the TDs (14) due to a league-leading 20(!) end-zone targets. Do some of those go Jefferson’s way in 2021? Is there a chance he will be overdrafted? 1,400 yards is a lot to ask to repeat…

Chase Claypool | Round 2, Overall 49 | Pittsburgh Steelers  

  • WR19 Finish — Consistency Rank: 38 / 1st Half: 33 / 2nd Half: 41
  • 16 games — 109 targets for 62/873/9 — 10/16/2 rushing

Claypool was detailed in a recent historical breakout WR article as he’s part of a list of rookie WRs over the last decade with 11 total TDs: Evans, OBJ, Tyreek & Claypool. That’s it. Is he Mike Evans? With Juju presumably gone, will he see 120 targets in 2021?

CeeDee Lamb | Round 1, Overall 17  |  Dallas Cowboys

  • WR20 Finish — Consistency Rank: 31
  • 16 games — 111 targets for 74/935/5 — 10/82/1 rushing

Justin Jefferson kinda overshadowed how good of a rookie year he had. He looked like he was on a historic pace with Dak through that 1st month. Through Weeks 1-5, he was on a 16 game pace of 93/1385/6. Lamb was a premier slot WR tallying the 2nd most slot snaps, slot receptions & slot yards in the NFL. As I detailed in the historical breakouts article, Lamb is one of seven rookie WRs with 70+ receptions and 900+ receiving yards over the last decade. Will he come at a discount in 2020? If Dak is back, can he be your WR2/3?

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Brandon Aiyuk | Round 1, Overall 25 | San Francisco 49ers

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  • WR33 Finish — Consistency Rank 12 / 1st Half: 24 / 2nd Half: 6
  • 12 games — 96 targets for 60/748/5 — 6/77/2 rushing

His splits were eerily similar with Deebo Samuel on or off the field. Aiyuk had 100+ yards or a TD in nine of his 12 games including five WR1 performances. His consistency was what was so impressive as he had six games in a row at one point as a top-20 WR. From Weeks 3 to 15, he had a 23.7 % target share although much of that was due to George Kittle’s injury. Aiyuk was detailed in Thursday’s Buy or Sell segment as the guys debated whether he could be a top-24 WR in 2021 and Mike bought it.

Tee Higgins | Round 2, Overall 33 | Cincinnati Bengals

  • WR30 Finish — Consistency Rank 32
  • 16 games — 108 targets for 67/908/6

Higgins was solid in his rookie campaign. He entered the year 3rd or 4th on the depth chart and looks like the main target in Cincinnati moving forward. He’ll be a popular guy to ascend in 2021 but he’ll likely have to wait until Joe Burrow returns from his injury.

You Have Our Attention

Jerry Jeudy | Round 1, Overall 15 | Denver Broncos

  • WR44 Finish — Consistency Rank 54
  • 16 games — 113 targets for 52/856/3

Jeudy was one of the names brought up in the disappointing category for wide receivers. He had only two top-10 WR weeks all year long despite Courtland Sutton being out most of the season. He dropped 12 passes (2nd most in the NFL) although the QB play with Drew Lock certainly could’ve hurt. Jeudy has the most to prove among the 1st round WRs (outside of Henry Ruggs II) in 2021.

Laviska Shenault Jr. Round 2, Overall 42 | Jaguars 

  • 14 games — 79 targets for 58/600/5 — 18/91/0 rushing

Since 1966, the only other rookie WR with more rush attempts than Viska: Tyreek Hill (24). Despite being on the Jaguars, Shenault had a decent rookie season and could easily build off of this in 2021. Urban Meyer is notorious for running jet sweeps and perfecting the screen game, where Shenault is deadly with the ball in his hands. Could you see him as a top-30 WR in 2021?

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Disappointing / Not Fantasy Relevant

—- Round 1 —–

Henry Ruggs III | Round 1, Overall 12 | Raiders – missed Weeks 3 & 4 (knee), Week 15 (Covid list)

  • 13 games — 43 targets for 26/452/2

The Raiders had a massive whiff taking Ruggs ahead of some of the other WRs previously mentioned. The Jets let him have one shining moment of 2020 but he failed to have as many big plays as advertised. He never had more than three receptions in a game and in six of his games, he was under 20 total receiving yards.

Jalen Reagor | Round 1, Overall 21 | Eagles missed Weeks 3-7 (thumb) 

  • 11 games — 54 targets for 31/396/1

Reagor had a 55(!) yard reception on his 1st target of the season… he finished 1-of-4 for 55 yards in Week 1. That ended up being his most total receiving yards in a game all year. Reagor has a ton to prove as the Eagles took him one pick before Justin Jefferson. Whoops.

—– Round 2 —–

Michael Pittman Jr.| Round 2, Overall 34 | Colts – missed Weeks 4-6 (calf)

  • 13 games — 61 targets for 40/503/1 — 3/26/0

He flashed some YAC-ability but found himself third or fourth in the Indianapolis passing attack for most of the year. He did show out in the playoffs against Buffalo so perhaps he builds on that momentum. He’s basically the only Colts WR under contract other than the injured Parris Campbell. The question will be who is the starting QB for the Colts in 2021?

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KJ Hamler | Round 2, Overall 46 | Broncos – On 56 targets, Hamler was credited with seven dropped passes. Other than one big game against Carolina in Week 14, he was irrelevant.

Van Jefferson | Round 2, Overall 57 | RamsJosh Reynolds & Mt. Everett are Free Agents. Jefferson should slide into the WR3 role with Matthew Stafford.

Denzel Mims | Round 2, Overall 59 | Jets No more Adam Gase might work wonders for Mims.

—– Round 3 —–

Lynn Bowden Jr. | Round 3, Overall 80 | Raiders- Traded to the Dolphins mid-season.

Bryan Edwards | Round 3, Overall 81 | Raiders- He fell off the face of the earth… What happened?

Devin Duvernay | Round 3, Overall 92 | Ravens- 20 catches; punt return specialist

—– Rounds 4-7 —–

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Gabriel Davis | Round 4, Overall 128 | BillsDavis had four weeks as a top-24 WR. He actually had 12 “end-zone” targets. That’s one more than Davante Adams had…

Antonio Gandy-Golden | Round 4, Overall 142 | Washington –  HAVE SOME GANDY!🍬

Joe Reed | Round 5, Overall 151 | Chargers

Tyler Johnson | Round 5, Overall 161 | Buccaneers – Interesting name to monitor for redraft if Chris Godwin is gone…

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Collin Johnson | Round 5, Overall 165 | Jaguars – Huge! At 6’6, he could win other starting outside WR spot opposite D.J. Chark Jr.

Quintez Cephus | Round 5, Overall 166 | Lions- Basically only WR Detroit has left…

John Hightower | Round 5, Overall 168 | Eagles

Isaiah Coulter | Round 5, Overall 171 | Texans

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Darnell Mooney Round 5, Overall 173 | BearsHe tied for the 4th most missed tackles (17) among WRs and had a ton of Air Yards. Now the biggest question is who his QB will be in 2021?

K.J. Osborn | Round 5, Overall 176 | Vikings

Donovan Peoples-Jones | Round 6, Overall 187 | Browns

Quez Watkins | Round 6, Overall 200 | Eagles

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James Proche | Round 6, Overall 201 | Ravens

Isaiah Hodgins | Round 6, Overall 207 | Bills

Dezmon Patmon | Round 6, Overall 212 | Colts

Freddie Swain | Round 6, Overall 214 | Seahawks

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Jauan Jennings | Round 7, Overall 217 | 49ers

K.J. Hill | Round 7, Overall 220 | Chargers

Tyrie Cleveland | Round 7, 252 | Broncos

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