Campfire Chat: Favorite Rookie WR for 2017

Footballugys staff members discuss the top rookie wide receivers

In a redraft league, which rookie wide receiver would you most want to have on your roster? And "none" can be an answer.

Chad Parsons: My market shares for rookie receivers in 2017 redraft leagues has been lower than previous seasons. I love Corey Davis long-term, but project Eric Decker to be the No.1 target in Tennessee this year. The WR30-35 ADP of Davis is cost prohibitive as I see it has his ceiling more than his floor.

The Bengals have a crowded passing game pecking order. I am fine with John Ross in the WR50s of ADP in a best ball format, but in head-to-head, he is a firm pass.

Zay Jones may have the most clear path (Sammy Watkins missing time) to churning a profit on his ADP (WR55-60). I see that scenerio more than betting on Cooper Kupp (WR72), Chris Godwin (WR73), Kenny Golladay (WR77), or Chad Williams (WR79) as the other rookie receivers in the top-80 of positional ADP. Of those Godwin stands out as the most quizzically-priced. With a drove of quality pass targets ahead of him, I project Godwin will be any early-season cut by every drafter of him in seasonal leagues.

The early-season waiver wire churn is the most impactful factor to consider when assess rookie wide receiver selections in redraft. How patient will you be in September when they are buried on a depth chart and players flash from the waiver wire? I side with taking running backs (or tight ends) from unsettled depth charts because there is more volatility to be on the right side of how things shake out in the preseason, or Weeks 1-2. If the story for a wide receiver to vault to up early season 'keeper' status is more than a single event, consider another position where their rise offers a more simple story.

Jason Wood: I love Chad's analysis here. Based purely on my MFL10 rosters to date, Kenny Golladay is my favorite rookie receiver. Part of my excitement for Golladay is a disdain for Marvin Jones Jr. My fellow staffers and long-time Footballguys subscribers know of my persistent disdain for Jones. I almost threw in the towel on my hatred for the player early last season, but when the dust settled, Jones was exactly who I thought he was...a limited player miscast in a lead role. Because the Lions need weapons, and because I dislike Jones, I can craft a scenario where Golladay is playing meaningful snaps quickly.

Andy Hicks: This doesnt look like the class of 2014, but there will always be a rookie receiver or three who appears on fantasy radars. Chad has done a good job of describing where most of the rookies sit this year, but left out a couple of guys that I think have a big impact. Curtis Samuel for the Panthers and the one I really like in Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster. Notwithstanding my low opinion of Martavis Bryant this year, Smith-Schuster is a ready made receiver who fills in a blank on the Steelers offense. Antonio Brown and Le'veon Bell are going to attract most of the defensive attention and if Bryant can actually return to a real NFL game will keep the secondaries busy. That leaves lots of space for a 3rd receiver, which will be the rookie. Smith-Schuster has rightly drawn a lot of comparisons to Anquan Boldin and while I don't think the young Steeler can rival Boldin's magnificent rookie year, he will out perform his ADP significantly.

Justin Howe: Value-wise, it has to be Zay Jones. He was a great prospect, his path to targets is clear and logical, and he carries the added bonus of his team's No. 1 having a chronic foot problem. My projections call for 50-624-3 (PPR WR72) with 16 games from Sammy Watkins, which seems unlikely. If I trim 3 games from Watkins, Jones boosts all the way to 57-713-4 (WR65). That doesn't seem like much, but (a) it presupposes that Jones will struggle to beat out near-nobodies for the locked-in No. 2 role, (b) it's assigned very average yardage/TD rates that Jones is definitely talented enough to top, and (c) it still brings him stronger upside than some higher-ADP guys (Josh Doctson, for example).

Ryan Hester: The clear answer here is "none." Justin made a great case for Jones, but there are other receivers being selected after Jones that I like more. Ted Ginn Jr is being undervalued as a deep threat in an offense that throws the ball successfully (and frequently) to all levels; Breshad Perriman has huge upside in a high-volume pass offense; and even Tavon Austin is someone who should have a ton of volume compared to his ADP piers. If the Rams offense can be even slightly more efficient, he could have several useable weeks. So unless there's an unforeseen fall in any of my drafts, I'll be passing on the rookies for redraft purposes this year.

Matt Waldman: Wood, you're like the Hannity of Marvin Jones Jr takes.

I believe Cooper Kupp will shock this year. Not only does he have the best array of press releases I have seen from a rookie, he is already correcting alignments of his teammates in practice as a starter. His coach says Kupp displayed the knowledge of a vet receiver's coach in predraft interviews. His acceleration and COD metrics profile are as good or better than Allen Robinson. Steve Smith also likes him as the best prospect in this class and while I like Davis and a few others more...Kupp is in a position to be a high-volume option right away.

David Dodds: Another vote for Cooper Kupp here. This doesn't look to be a great pass offense, but little stands in the way for him even emerging as the WR1 on the Rams. A lot of the rookies get high praise on work ethic this time of year, but comments on Kupp echo what Matt is saying here...that Kupp also possesses a high football IQ. He is definitely worth a dart throw late.

Hester: This doesn't really answer the original question, but the comments on Kupp made me think of the Rams offense as a whole.

Will coaching change + Jared Goff progress = viability for a couple skill players? I'm working on a two-part piece that will post early and late next week (week of 8/7) that focuses on opportunity. And it made me like the idea of drafting (gasp) Tavon Austin.

Of course if Kupp can overtake Austin and/or Robert Woods, the same logic holds true for his chances to surprise.

Howe: Last year's Rams receivers, save for Kenny Britt, were an embarrassment in terms of generating yardage. That's the real obstacle between their wideout options and fantasy relevance. Several will make a run at 50 or 60 or even 70 catches - and Cooper Kupp is certainly in that cohort - but unless one can top 10 yards a catch, there's no fantasy value there. (We know touchdowns will be hard to come by.)

Much of that can be blamed on Goff, who looked gun-shy and unwilling to go downfield as a rookie. But in any event, someone is going to have to get dynamic fast. Who, though? Kupp is a very limited athlete, as is Pharoh Cooper, and Tavon Austin isn't thrown to down the field. Woods looks like the only one with real, palpable upside from what we've seen of the Rams' targets, and I don't envision Kupp or Cooper being a fantasy factor soon. Most likely, one - probably Kupp - would have to establish himself as a volume monster and make a run at 90 catches.

Danny Tuccitto: By default, I tend to avoid rookie wide receivers in redraft. It's not that I have a hard-and-fast rule of zero percent exposure. I'm just always reserving them for the back half of the draft when I break from default. Why? The base rate. Below is the standard fantasy points scored by the average rookie wide receiver this decade based on draft round, along with the percentage that scored at least as much as what David is currently projecting for WR36:

  • 83.9 (30%)
  • 68.0 (11%)
  • 41.9 (6%)
  • 32.4 (4%)
  • 32.8 (5%)
  • 12.6 (0%)
  • 8.4 (0%)

Now, obviously, these figures are averages, so they don't illuminate much about outliers. Therefore, below is the percentage of rookie wide receivers, by draft round, who scored 2 or more standard deviations above the average of their round, along with the percentage that scored 2 or more standard deviations above the average across all rounds:

  • 4%, 4%
  • 4%, 1%
  • 6%, 1%
  • 4%, 1%
  • 5%, 1%
  • 5%, 0%
  • 5%, 0%

Just in case this is confusing, the "4%, 4%" for Round 1 means that 4% of first-round wide receivers (i.e., 1 of 27, his name is Odell Beckham Jr, Jr.) had an outlying season among first-round rookie wide receivers this decade, while 4% (i.e., 7 of 178) -- Beckham, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Sammy Watkins -- were first-round wide receivers that had an outlying season among all rookie wide receivers this decade.

So here's how I'm applying all the base rate stuff above to this season's rookie wide receivers as a default, by round:

  1. There were three wide receivers selected, so we can expect one to finish in the Top 36 this year (i.e., 30 percent of 30 equals 9, which is one more than the above, through-2016 30 percent of 27 equals 8), we can expect none to be an outlier among first rounders (i.e., 4 percent of 30 equals 1, but 4 percent of 27 equalled 1 too), and we can expect one to be an outlier among all rookie wide receivers (i.e., 4 percent of 210 equals 8, which is one more than the through-2016 4 percent of 178 equals 7.) Corey Davis is the obvious choice, although John Ross could be the one if he overcomes his shoulder injury, A.J. Green suffers a catastrophic injury, and Davis can't shake his hamstring issue.
  2. There were three wide receivers selected, so we can expect none to finish in the Top 36 this year, we can expect none to be an outlier among second rounders, and we can expect none to be an outlier among all rookie wide receivers. When we get down to base rates this small, distinguishing between 0 and 1 is too cute by half. Based on opportunity, I'd say Zay Jones is the one if there is one.
  3. There were eight wide receivers selected, so we can expect none to finish in the Top 36 this year, we can expect none to be an outlier among second rounders, and we can expect one to be an outlier among all rookie wide receivers. Again adjusting for the small-proportions caveat, I think that, based on opportunity and flashes already seen in the first week of training camp, either Cooper Kupp or Kenny Golladay will be the one if there is one.

For Rounds 4-7, the expectations are zero Top 36 rookie wide receivers, zero round-specific outliers, and zero overall outliers.

Put all of the above together, and I end up with five rookie wide receivers I'll even consider taking in redraft: Davis, Ross, Jones, Kupp, and Golladay. Combining my default avoidance of rookie wide receivers, the ADPs of these five potential exceptions (i.e., 91, 152, 161, 209, and 206), their respective situations, and their current injury status, Jones, Kupp, and Golladay are the three I'm "targeting."

Hey, whaddyaknow! A statistical deep dive ended up at the same place this thread had before it.

Chris Feery: I’m going to lean towards "none" here, but I’ll echo the other sentiments on Cooper Kupp. Assuming he locks down the WR3 spot for the Rams as projected, there’s some value to be found in that role for the Rams offense. I’m optimistic that Sean McVay will work some magic with Jared Goff, and the Rams may be airing it out more than expected in 2017. One other name to add to the mix for a late dart throw is Trent Taylor. He’s been turning some heads in the early goings at 49ers camp, and Jeremy Kerley hasn’t put his stamp on the WR3 role just yet. If Taylor overtakes him, I’ll put him on equal footing with Kupp on my optimism meter.

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