In part two of the “Rookie Superlative” series, I examine a few wide receivers that could be candidates for a variety of awards amongst their draft class. If you missed part one, make sure you check that out as well.
Michael Pittman, Jr. is a large target standing 6’4” tall with an 89th percentile catch radius and as such, should stand out amongst his fellow wide receivers in Indianapolis. The most prominent wide receiver competition for Pittman consists of T.Y. Hilton (5’9” 183 pounds) and Parris Campbell (6’0” 205 pounds).
Pittman immediately slots in as the starting ‘X’ receiver for new quarterback Phillip Rivers, and could be used by Rivers in a similar way Mike Williams was in Los Angeles. Williams also stands 6’4” tall and often was used in jump-ball situations and turned that into the highest yards per catch (minimum 1.8 catches per game) and third-highest yards per target in 2019. Possessing a skill set unlike his peers with a clear opportunity to contribute early in his career, Pittman should delight fantasy owners as a rookie and beyond.
It is not difficult to be the best couple when you are the only one with a date. Unless Jacob Eason or Jalen Hurts get significant playing time early on, the most notable rookie quarterback/wide receiver pairing will be Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins. Selected with the first pick of Round 1 and 2, Burrow and Higgins should both be able to make immediate impacts in 2020.
With the release of Andy Dalton, there remains no question Burrow will be the starting quarterback as a rookie. While Higgins joins a crowded wide receiver room to begin his career, he will definitely see some run in year one. Cincinnati ran the second-highest percentage of pass plays out of ‘11’ personnel (79%) - or three receiver sets - in 2019. A.J. Green is currently on a one year deal and has dealt with numerous injuries over the years, and as a result has not seen the field since December of 2018. John Ross is in the final year of his rookie deal as the team recently declined the fifth-year option, and he too has had injury issues. Even beyond 2020, the outlook for Tee Higgins is bright, tethered to his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for years to come.
This award could be renamed “Highest Floor,” as I am looking at which receiver will most likely be a consistent fantasy option you can set and forget in your lineup week in and week out. Jalen Reagor was the fourth receiver taken in the first round of the NFL Draft but could very well be the most dependable for fantasy owners from the start.
Heading to Philadelphia, the quarterback situation is stable with Carson Wentz at the helm and targets are available. Although 2019 saw Carson Wentz target his wide receivers only 16 times per game, much of that was due to the fact that Alshon Jeffrey missed six games, Nelson Agholor missed five, and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was unprepared to be an immediate contributor. In the previous two seasons with relatively healthy wide receivers, Wentz targeted the position nearly 19 times per game. Reagor is a better prospect than Arcega-Whiteside and should see more consistent playing time than newcomer Marquise Goodwin or fellow rookie John Hightower opposite Alshon Jeffrey. With some of his rookie classmates seeing a more impeded path to immediate contribution, Reagor very well could emerge from 2020 as the most-targeted rookie wide receiver.
Taylor Cornell (@_TaylorCornell)