Impact Rookie Wide Receivers (2019 Fantasy Football)
Any discourse on rookie wide receivers who could make an impact would be a lengthy one. There were top talents taken everywhere from the first to seventh round, and some even slipped through the cracks and into the undrafted free-agent pool. Hakeem Butler, Kelvin Harmon, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and KeeSean Johnson could make an impact in 2019. So could Preston Williams and Harmon’s college teammate, Jakobi Meyers, who both went undrafted. If we touched on everyone with a chance to make a mark, this list could be 40 deep. Instead, let’s focus on the receivers all but certain to make a sizeable fantasy contribution in 2019.
N’Keal Harry (NE)
N’Keal Harry should be the first rookie receiver off the board in not only re-draft leagues, but dynasty as well. He landed in an offense absolutely tailor-made for his skill set. With his ability both downfield and in the short-pass and screen game, Harry should become an instant volume receiver for Tom Brady. Reports over the summer suggest the Patriots are not treating Harry with the kid gloves they typically utilize. They recognized his game-changing talent and elite system fit when taking the plunge in the first round. Absent a midseason return by Josh Gordon, Harry looks to have a WR2 floor with WR1 upside. He is not a WR1 talent per se, but he will likely have a role that can make him one. Believe in Harry. He is worth a slight reach on draft day.
Marquise Brown (BAL)
The Marquise Brown hype train has yet to officially take off. He landed in an unenviable situation with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but he still has massive upside. While Brown may never realize his WR1 level ceiling, that does not mean he will not be an elite WR2 as soon as this season. Jackson is a better passer than many give him credit for, and he has experience with a receiver who ran many of the same routes Brown will be asked to run this year. A full offseason to install an offense that caters to Jackson’s strengths, coupled with some standout offensive additions, will go a long way towards propelling his second-year leap.
Brown, who looks to step into a number-one receiver role out of the gate, should be good for some monster weeks. He may follow a T.Y. Hilton type of career path where he is a weekly boom-or-bust threat, but his overall numbers are likely to bear him out as a top-25 receiver in 2019. More than just a one-trick pony, Brown can dominate all over the field. Arguably the most talented receiver in this draft class, Brown is someone to consider in the middle rounds on draft day.
D.K. Metcalf (SEA)
Like Harry, D.K. Metcalf landed in the absolute perfect situation. There is no quarterback in the league more suited to maximize his elite strengths than improvisation extraordinaire Russell Wilson. Metcalf may struggle running crisp routes, but his elite speed will allow him to get open deep. Wilson’s ability to extend the pocket and buy time will make Metcalf nearly uncoverable. Covering him for more than just a few seconds will be a difficult task even for the most formidable cornerbacks.
Metcalf could return WR2 value as soon as this season. He is a strong WR3 target who can be had in the middle rounds of most drafts. He is not without flaws, but providing the Seahawks can keep him healthy, they should find a way to set him loose on the NFL.
A.J. Brown (TEN)
A.J. Brown is a tremendous wideout who earned JuJu Smith-Schuster comparisons all throughout the pre-draft process. Though he is half an inch shorter than the Pittsburgh wideout, he ran a faster 40 despite weighing in at 226 pounds, nine pounds heavier than Smith-Schuster’s NFL Combine weight. Brown can also win both inside and out and, perhaps due to his superior speed, also thrives after the catch. He averaged 7.1 yards after the catch in his final season at Ole Miss and racked up an impressive 33 plays over 20 yards in 2018. The fact that he shined in an offense that also featured Metcalf, curious draft slider DaMarkus Lodge, and Bills new tight end Dawson Knox tells us all we need to know about his ability to separate.
Brown looks to have landed in a poor situation, as Marcus Mariota has struggled for any semblance of consistency thus far in his career. However, it is sink-or-swim time for Tennessee’s quarterback. He now has Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Derrick Henry, and Dion Lewis. If he cannot show marked improvement this season, the Titans will undoubtedly move on from him in favor of one of next year’s top signal-callers. Suffice it to say that Mariota should be especially motivated this season as he plays for the direction of his career.
Brown is a questionable fit with Humphries on the team, as both receivers are at their best in the slot. That said, both receivers are more than capable of lining up on the outside and dominating. Plus, as we all know, motion and actual lineup spots will have just as much to do with the success of these two wideouts. Brown is one of the only wide receivers in this class with 100-reception upside. He may not see it this season, but with Davis garnering all the attention, he could easily lead Tennessee in both targets and receptions. Think of Brown as a WR3 with elite WR2 upside.
Parris Campbell (IND)
Parris Campbell joins the perfect situation for immediate fantasy value. He was one of the more divisive prospects leading up to the draft due to a route tree that saw him amass 49.5 percent of his total receptions on outs, screens, and jet sweeps. This was as much a function of Ohio State’s offense and Dwayne Haskins‘ struggles under pressure as it was any deficiency in Campbell’s game. However, this means he is not battle-tested as a deep threat. Enter the Indianapolis Colts, who already have Hilton as a tried-and-true elite deep target. What they have needed is someone who can make defenses pay underneath. Campbell, thanks to his hotly debated college route tree (or lack thereof), is the perfect fit for this offense. He has the elite deep speed to keep cornerbacks from constantly pressing, which leads one to believe Campbell will quickly become among the league leaders in average yards of separation as well as target separation.
Campbell should be an immediate starter in three-wide sets and is likely to outproduce big-money free-agent signing Devin Funchess in receptions and targets. Funchess will be a preferred red-zone weapon, but despite Luck’s proclivity towards big-bodied targets, he loves throwing to open receivers even more. Placing Campbell alongside Hilton instantly makes this one of the NFL’s most exciting passing games. Campbell projects as a WR3 with a flex floor and WR2 ceiling. He will not reach it this year, but the landing spot makes him one of only three receivers in this draft class brandishing eventual 100-reception upside.
Deebo Samuel (SF)
Deebo Samuel landed in an interesting spot for his fantasy value. He should be an immediate starter in both two-wide and three-wide sets and could thrive in his expected role as the 49ers’ number two receiver. The 2018 emergence of George Kittle ensures that this role really means he’ll place third in targets. However, that will help Samuel thrive in single coverage.
A wide receiver with worthy highlight tape, Samuel is capable of making acrobatic, circus-like catches look routine. He is a crisp route runner who actually outpaced Campbell in yards after the catch with 9.5 (fourth in the NCAA) to 8.9 (seventh). Samuel is going to bring a lot of excitement to San Francisco’s offense, but that will not be his only contribution. Along with the additions of fellow rookie Jalen Hurd and UDFA Shawn Poindexter, he gives the 49ers a complete offense. Samuel may start the season slow, but he should quickly emerge as one of their top — and perhaps most exciting — options on offense. He is a high-upside flex target who could return elite WR3 numbers.