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3 Second-Year Wide Receivers to Draft (2024 Fantasy Football)

We’ve seen a renaissance at the wide receiver position over the last half-decade with no shortage of young, explosive receivers around the NFL. We’ve certainly grown accustomed to the old trope of the “third-year breakout wide receiver” for fantasy football. While that is certainly still true with receivers like Brandon Aiyuk, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Nico Collins and Davante Adams all leveling up in their third season, we’ve also seen immediate breakouts in a receiver’s second season.

Players like Justin Jefferson, Garrett Wilson, Terry McLaurin, Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman Jr. all broke out in a major way in their second season for fantasy managers. I like to think about which wide receivers could reasonably become first or second-round picks next season. Of course, there’s Puka Nacua and Tank Dell, but Nacua already has a first-round average draft position (ADP) and Dell is likely a fringe second-round pick if he doesn’t get hurt at the end of 2023.

We’ll feature some second-year wide receivers who aren’t going in the first two rounds of fantasy football drafts that could make the leap up to that level and break out this season.

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Second-Year Wide Receiver Targets

Zay Flowers (WR – BAL)

Zay Flowers had a very successful rookie campaign for the Ravens in 2023 and it didn’t take backweighted production in the second half as is typical with rookies. He was a massive route runner from Week 1, as Flowers ran at least 86% of routes per dropback in all but three of the 17 games he played. Getting on the field is hard enough for any rookie, but it was a great sign from the jump that he earned routes immediately.

Finishing as 2023’s WR32 in fantasy points per game (12.9) and as Baltimore’s top pass-catcher with Mark Andrews missing the final six games of the season, Flowers also led the team in most major receiving categories, including a 26.5% first read target rate, per Fantasy Points Data, 1.64 yards per route run (YPRR) and 22.5% of the team’s air yards.

For 2024, Flowers is an unquestioned top-two target for the Ravens with Andrews, but Andrews, who will be 29 when the season starts, has some question marks. He saw a bit of a slowdown with his YPRR dipping under 2.00 in consecutive seasons even before missing the final six regular season games with a fractured fibula. He also saw a sharp decline in his average depth of target (aDOT), going from 10.9 yards in 2021 to 8.2 yards in 10 games last season.

If Andrews doesn’t come back to his full potential, Flowers could step in to pace this offense through the air if he leaps in Year 2. From Flowers’ current WR27 standing in FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings (ECR), we could see a big-time price increase for Flowers next season in fantasy drafts.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – SEA)

As the first wide receiver selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, the pressure was already on Jaxon Smith-Njigba from the moment the Seahawks selected him 20th overall. Some considered his landing spot in Seattle unfortunate, as they did (and still do) employ DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The 2023 bull case for Smith-Njigba never really materialized as he was very much behind Metcalf and Lockett in the team’s pecking order, with fellow rookie Jake Bobo becoming annoyingly involved at times. We can send a hearty thanks to former offensive coordinator Shane Waldron for that.

The Seahawks made more room for Smith-Njigba to play more snaps and run more routes by tailoring their offense for more 11 personnel utilization, which they increased by 11.3% in 2023 from the previous season while also cutting their 12 personnel usage by almost 6%. As for Smith-Njigba, his rookie campaign was solid, not spectacular, with a 16.5% target share, 19% targets per run route (TPRR) and 1.32 YPRR with a very low 6.4-yard aDOT. That aDOT should come up into the 10-yard range this season in offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s pass-centric scheme he’s bringing over from the University of Washington.

Another reason for optimism has to do with fellow wide receiver Tyler Lockett. The other shoe has been waiting to drop for a couple of seasons for Lockett and the signs are slowly rearing the head.

Tyler Lockett

Lockett’s yards per target have declined roughly 33% since 2021 and his yards per route run have also seen an over 30% backslide in that same timeframe. For Smith-Njigba, the door may be opening a little bit to see more routes directly from Lockett if his decline continues. If the second-year receiver proves good enough this season it will be incredibly difficult to keep him off the field. It would do the Seahawks (and fantasy managers) a disservice to keep Smith-Njigba strictly in the slot for an aging Lockett in his age-32 season.

Smith-Njigba is currently ranked as the WR41 in ECR as a massive value thanks to the general unknown of the new Seahawks’ offensive scheme. If what Grubb brought to the table in the Pac-12 at Washington is any indication, Smith-Njigba could be in for a fantastic sophomore campaign with Seattle.

Dontayvion Wicks (WR – GB)

Going completely under the radar as an unassuming fifth-round pick by the Packers three rounds after fellow receiver Jayden Reed was selected, Dontayvion Wicks was pressed into action as an outside receiver when Christian Watson‘s injury woes crept up throughout the season. The Packers immediately trusted Wicks on the field and he worked his way into being a consistent contributor in his rookie season.

Wicks is your classic “if he only ran more routes” receiver that gave off a clear signal he should be playing a lot more.

Player YPRR TPRR wTPRR Routes per Dropback
Jayden Reed (17 gm) 2.05 23.3% 0.59 387
Dontayvion Wicks (17 gm) 2.04 20.0% 0.51 285
Christian Watson (9 gm) 1.56 19.6% 0.60 271
Romeo Doubs (17 gm) 1.32 18.3% 0.49 509

Wicks’ peripheral statistics clearly show a receiver that should be a heavy contributor in 2024. Matt LaFleur has already given Wicks high praise, reminding him of a certain former Packers wide receiver named Davante Adams. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He was pretty good in his time in the green and gold.

Going from the “cheapest way to play the Packers’ wide receivers” to one of the Packers’ top-two targets is not out of the question for Wicks in 2024. Wicks’ WR69 price in ECR makes him essentially a free draft pick to find out if the juice is worth the squeeze. With the Packers offense on the upswing and an imminent spike in efficiency, Wicks in Year 2 seems destined to pay off his affordable price tag and then some on draft day. Wicks needs to get over a couple of hurdles in his own receivers’ room for the playing time he needs, but his talent should take care of that.

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