2019 Rookie Fantasy Recap: Wide Receivers
Let’s rewind for a moment. At this point last year, we were beginning the conversation of analyzing these incoming rookies. Just like this year, there’s no shortage of people doing their homework on these players and inspecting the tape and reviewing the numbers that they put up in college.
For a few months, this is what all of the NFL’s attention is turned towards. When you turn on NFL Network, it’s all they’re talking about. In addition, all the other major sports news outlets are covering these players and it’s all in anticipation of those few days in April where we find out where these players will end up.
After the NFL Draft, there’s a few weeks of discussing the landing spots and recapping the event. But then the conversation about these rookies falls off a cliff. Specifically in Fantasy Football, there’s very little review on these rookies and how they performed. Whether this is in-season or at the year’s end, we fall victim to the mindset of constantly looking forward.
However, for Fantasy Football, looking back can be extremely beneficial. There are players that may be immediate contributors in 2020, but their situation wasn’t perfect in 2019 and they failed to maximize their potential.
We have short-term memory in Fantasy Football and it’s important to remember that and strive to remedy it. In this article, we’ll look at the 2019 RB rookies and how they performed, while also looking forward to next year and how they can contribute in 2020.
(Players will be listed below in order of where they were drafted)
1. Marquise Brown (BAL)
Marquise Brown battled injuries for the majority of the season, but he flashed his speed and playmaking ability when he was on the field. Brown played in 14 games in 2019 and finished with 46 receptions for 584 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. He finished as the WR44 on the season for Fantasy Football and struggled to deliver consistent games week after week. He had a couple big performances, but the offense is not catered to his skillset. He impacts the offense with his speed and certainly opens things up for the running game, but he’s unlikely to be a consistent weekly fantasy force. I fully expect the Ravens to add more weapons to the receiving game in 2020, so Brown could become even more boom-or-bust. Brown will be an intriguing weekly FLEX option next season, but I wouldn’t expect him to finish much higher than WR35 or so on the year.
2. N’Keal Harry (NE)
N’Keal Harry was a surprise pick for the Patriots at the end of the first round, but struggled to make much of an impact in year one. Harry played in only 7 games after coming off of IR and hauled in 12 receptions for 105 receiving yards and only 2 touchdowns. Next season, the Patriots are expected to bring in more weapons in the receiving game, which could open things up and create more opportunities for Harry to display the talent that made him a first round pick. However, it’s going to be hard to trust Harry after his WR130 fantasy finish in 2019. We’ll have to see how things shake out with the Patriots receiving corps before we make any projections for Harry in 2020.
3. Deebo Samuel (SF)
Deebo Samuel ended up in the perfect landing spot for his skillset. Kyle Shanahan used Samuel in the right way in 2019 and it resulted in a WR36 fantasy finish. Samuel played in 15 games and hauled in 57 receptions for 802 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also contributed 14 rushes for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Samuel was a useful fantasy asset in 2019 and that projects over well into 2020. While the 49ers will still be centered around the run game in 2020, Samuel should receive more than enough work to be a weekly start. His upside may be capped, which could prevent him from cracking the Top-24, but he’s a talented player with a defined role on a good offense.
4. A.J. Brown (TEN)
A.J. Brown was the steal of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans drafted Brown at No. 51 overall and the rest of the league is kicking themselves for not taking him when they had the chance. Brown was awesome on the field, and for Fantasy Football, in 2019 and finished as the WR21. Brown hauled in 52 receptions for 1,051 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, while averaging 20.2 Yards Per Reception. He was a tackle-breaking machine and his speed allowed him to easily pull away from chasing defenders. Brown has superstar potential and, as long as Ryan Tannehill is back in 2020, a Top-12 fantasy finish isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
— Jordan Dajani (@JordanDajani) December 29, 2019
5. Mecole Hardman (KC)
Mecole Hardman wasn’t exactly consistent in 2019, but his speed and athleticism translated well to the NFL field. Hardman wasn’t used as frequently as he could have been due to weapons like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Sammy Watkins ahead of him. He finished as the WR59 for Fantasy Football in 2019. He brought in 26 receptions for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns, while averaging 20.7 Yards Per Reception. For 2020, there’s a strong possibility that Watkins is not with the team, which opens things up dramatically for Hardman. He’ll still be a boom-or-bust play, but he’ll absolutely have fantasy value in certain matchups.
6. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (PHI)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a Catch-Point Specialist in college and projected to be an immediate impact player in the red zone. Unfortunately, Arcega-Whiteside did very little in 2019, even when given plenty of opportunities with the injuries the Eagles suffered. Arcega-Whiteside only finished with 10 receptions for 169 yards and 1 touchdown, which was good enough for a WR132 fantasy finish on the year. The Eagles need someone to step up next season, but the opportunities are going to be minimal. Unless something drastically changes this offseason, Arcega-Whiteside is not going to be on any of my rosters in 2020.
7. Parris Campbell (IND)
Parris Campbell is a dangerous weapon when he’s on the field. Unfortunately, he was rarely on the field in 2019. Campbell only played in 7 games and finished as the WR125 in Fantasy Football. He hauled in 18 receptions for 127 yards and only 1 touchdown. Next season, Campbell should be healthy and will be a focal point of this offense. He’s an intriguing buy in Dynasty leagues as the Colts will want to make sure he gets the ball in his hands. The Colts will most likely add weapons to their receiving corps this offseason, but that should only help the offense. Campbell being a weekly contributor for Fantasy Football next season is a strong possibility and don’t forget about him.
Parris Campbell turns on the JETS. 💨 #INDvsCIN
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 29, 2019
8. Andy Isabella (ARI)
Andy Isabella was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but rarely saw the field on offense. Isabella finished with 9 receptions for 189 yards and 1 touchdown, which was extremely puzzling with his skillset. The Cardinals chose to consistently roll out players like KeeSean Johnson (6th round pick in 2019) and Damiere Byrd ahead of him. Isabella’s 2020 status is going to be a mystery until we potentially see some of his usage in the preseason. Isabella has the talent and speed though to be an asset in this Kyler Murray led offense, but he just simply has to get on the field first. This will be a situation that will be monitored closely by Fantasy Football players everywhere this offseason.
9. D.K. Metcalf (SEA)
I was tempted to write “Decaf Metcalf” in the title, but I figured his actual name would be better…Metcalf was drafted much later than people expected and he made the other teams that passed on him regret it. Metcalf played in all 16 games and finished as the WR34 in Fantasy Football. Metcalf saw over 100 targets, hauling in 58 of them for 900 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. His chemistry with Russell Wilson developed over the back half of the year and there were very few corners in the NFL who could guard Metcalf play after play. The Seattle Seahawks have a commitment to the running game, which limits Metcalf’s true upside, but he should be right back in the same range for fantasy next season. Add on a couple more touchdowns and there’s a possibility that Metcalf cracks the Top-24.
10. Diontae Johnson (PIT)
Diontae Johnson was a lesser known prospect coming out of Toledo, but the Steelers liked him enough to draft him No. 66 overall. The entire Steelers offense fell off track when Ben Roethlisberger got injured in 2019, but Johnson came on towards the latter half of the season and started contributing for Fantasy Football. Johnson finished with 59 receptions for 680 yards and 5 touchdowns. For a 3rd round prospect, Johnson out-performed some of the top-tier guys in this 2019 draft class. He absolutely has a future role on this team and should be treated as a deep target in redraft leagues next season.
11. Jalen Hurd (SF)
Jalen Hurd was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers to be a gadget-type player, but injuries set that plan back quite a bit. Unfortunately, Hurd missed all of 2019 with a back injury that he couldn’t quite fully heal from and was never removed from IR. There’s a possibility that Hurd has a role on this team for 2020, but it’s unlikely to be anything substantial enough to warrant drafting in redraft leagues or hanging onto in shallow Dynasty leagues.
12. Terry McLaurin (WAS)
Terry McLaurin was an incredible selection for the Washington Redskins at pick No. 76 overall. McLaurin was an immediate contributor on the field and was a steal for Dynasty rosters that selected him in the 3rd or 4th rounds. McLaurin hauled in 58 receptions for 919 yards and 7 touchdowns and finished as the WR24 in Fantasy Football. He was a star on the field and the arrow is only pointing up. Defenses were able to focus in on him due to the lack of other weapons on that Washington offense, so I expect the Redskins to add multiple options this season, which will only help Dwayne Haskins. If the offense takes even a slight step forward, there’s a possibility we’re looking back at this time next year and talking about McLaurin’s Top-12 finish…
— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2019
13. Miles Boykin (BAL)
Miles Boykin was an athletic player coming out of Notre Dame, but was a project to develop into a solid wide receiver in the NFL. Unfortunately, he never took that step forward and Boykin will most likely be pushed down the depth chart this offseason as the Ravens add other options, either through the NFL Draft or Free Agency.
14. Hakeem Butler (ARI)
Hakeem Butler was an athletic standout at Iowa State in 2018 and, to the surprise of many in the Draft media, fell down draft boards in April. He was selected at the top of the fourth round, but unfortunately never saw the field in 2019 due to an injury. Butler’s ultra-talented, but may struggle with the subtle nuances to the position. He’s an intriguing hold/acquire in Dynasty leagues due to his upside in the Cardinals system, but, at this point, he shouldn’t be relied upon in redraft leagues.
15. Gary Jennings Jr. (SEA)
Gary Jennings was a puzzling selection in the 4th round for the Seattle Seahawks and it didn’t work out for him. The Seahawks cut Jennings in early November and he landed on the Miami Dolphins roster. Jennings didn’t register a single target at all last year and belongs on Dynasty waiver wires everywhere.
16. Riley Ridley (CHI)
Riley Ridley was selected by the Bears with the 126th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft and failed to do much in his rookie season. Through 5 games played (he was inactive for the other 11), Ridley only registered 6 receptions for 69 yards. There were long-term question marks with Ridley and whether or not he could be a valuable contributor for the Bears, so this year is going to be interesting to see if he’s able to carve out a larger role for himself. Ridley’s nothing more than a long-term stash for Dynasty rosters.
17. Hunter Renfrow (OAK/LVR)
Hunter Renfrow didn’t have the greatest athletic profile coming out of Clemson, but he had hands like Spider-man. He rarely dropped a pass thrown his way in college and that translated over to the NFL. Renfrow became a valuable target for Derek Carr in 2019 and projects to have even more of a role in the offense in 2020. He brought in 49 receptions for 605 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2019 in 13 games played and finished as the WR63 for Fantasy Football. If Renfrow stays healthy, 100 targets in this offense is not out of the realm of possibilities.
— NFL (@NFL) December 22, 2019
18. Darius Slayton (NYG)
Darius Slayton was a project coming out of Auburn, but he had one thing going for him…speed. The Giants offense desperately needed that type of player and he was able to get onto the field quickly in 2019. Slayton shocked some people and finished as the WR35 on the season, which was one spot better than Deebo Samuel. Slayton reeled in 48 receptions for 740 yards and 8 touchdowns. Projecting forward, Slayton will remain a focal point of this offense and he has chemistry with Daniel Jones. There’s no reason to believe that Slayton can’t return to this range of fantasy outcomes in 2020.
19. KeeSean Johnson (ARI)
KeeSean Johnson was drafted with very little expectation or hype, but managed to carve out a nice role for himself in the Cardinals offense. While it didn’t translate to an outstanding fantasy finish (WR114), Johnson outproduced the expectations for a 6th round pick. He finished with 21 receptions for 187 yards and 1 touchdown, while only playing in 10 games. For 2020, we’ll have to wait and see how the depth chart forms to know whether or not Johnson could be a contributor for Fantasy Football.
20. Kelvin Harmon (WAS)
Kelvin Harmon was a favorite of draft Twitter last season, but he surprisingly fell all the way to the 6th round. The Redskins selected him and he was able to carve out a role for himself, opposite of Terry McLaurin. Harmon played in all 16 games and finished the season with 30 receptions for 365 yards and 0 touchdowns. The Redskins are likely to bring in competition for Harmon at the position, so he remains a pure Dynasty stash at this point.