Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the wide receiver class wasn’t as strong as it has been in the past. Fantasy owners realized this and in re-draft leagues likely waited to take a rookie wideout. And chances are that strategy paid off. The rookie wide receivers did fairly well for themselves, and they certainly have room to improve. For those in dynasty formats, these players were probably drafted and will help owners in 2019 and beyond.
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
Ridley finished with the most fantasy points, targets, and receptions out of all rookie wide receivers. However, compared to the rest of the wide receiver pool, he was a borderline top-20 fantasy option (finished 21st). Ridley did have a lot of hype heading into the draft, with many fantasy owners taking him in the later rounds. He started the season with two targets and zero receptions in Week 1. However, he then scored six touchdowns in the next three games. From there, his season was up and down, but he ended the season at about 85 percent owned and was likely on many starting rosters throughout the season. He should be a mid-to-late-round draft pick for 2019.
DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers
The rookie wide receiver with the second-most fantasy points in 2018 was Moore. However, he was 34th overall at the position. The touchdowns weren’t there for Moore, as Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton were primarily in charge of scoring for the Panthers. Moore had two touchdowns all season. His impact was felt in PPR formats, where he had 55 receptions. Part of the problem was Newton’s health, but the early reports on his shoulder are promising. If Newton checks out OK, Moore is shaping up to be a solid late-round draft pick for 2019 with upside.
Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns
Heading into the season, fantasy owners were wary of any Browns receiver, including Jarvis Landry. No one knew who the quarterback would be or what the offense would look like. While Landry was solid but not spectacular, Callaway played like a true rookie, having some good games (3/81/1 in Week 2) followed by some not-so-good games (4/20/0 in Week 3). He had five touchdowns but did not have a 100-yard game. He had two games with five receptions and 10 games with under 50 yards. Callaway was hard to trust, and he will likely still be hard to trust in 2019 but the appeal is there given Baker Mayfield's presence.
Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
The Broncos clearly believe in the future of Sutton, although his rookie year was a little rough. He had 704 yards and four touchdowns. However, he had to deal with Demaryius Thomas leaving, Emmanuel Sanders getting injured and Case Keenum at quarterback. For 2019, Thomas is no longer on the team. Sanders will likely be back, but there's uncertainty at the quarterback position. Sutton’s value will depend on what the team does in the offseason, but he has the potential to be a solid fantasy option in 2019.
Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears
Miller's targets and receptions were low, but he made up for it by scoring seven touchdowns. It was hard to trust Miller all season as the Bears spread the ball around and he was banged up at different parts. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 3 and missed Week 4, but didn’t miss any more time. He re-aggravated the injury in Week 17 but was able to play through it against Philadelphia in the wild-card round. That could somewhat explain Miller's late-season fade (four receptions for 25 yards over the final five games), but shoulder issues are nothing new for Miller either. He is expected to undergo shoulder surgery at some point this offseason. While there is some risk here, there's also plenty of potential as Miller could very well take a step forward in 2019 and emerge as a solid WR3.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Kirk was putting together a nice rookie season before he broke his foot in Week 13. He should be healthy for 2019, but fantasy owners should see how he does in the preseason. Kirk appeared to click with Josh Rosen, and the pair should be a nice fantasy duo in 2019. Kirk finished with 590 yards and three touchdowns on 43 receptions last season. He also saw some work as a punt returner, which increases his appeal and value in fantasy leagues that include return yards. Larry Fitzgerald has already said he intends to return for one more season, but Kirk should slot in right behind the future Hall of Famer in terms of target share, if not overtaking the 36-year-old at some point.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers
Valdes-Scantling made a name for himself in Week 5 when Geronimo Allison was out with an injury. He scored a touchdown that week and followed that up 103 yards the next week. Following the bye, Valdes-Scantling found the end zone against the Rams and put up another 100-yard game against the Patriots. But then he disappeared. If Weeks 5-9 (including a bye) were taken away from his final stat line, he would have finished with 264 yards and no touchdowns. Overall, he was a disappointment, but he may have a role in Green Bay’s offense moving forward.
Dante Pettis, San Francisco 49ers
Pettis started the season with a touchdown in Week 1, but then he fell off the radar until Week 10. He had games where he played and didn’t see a target, but he also was injured. Once he returned healthy, he had a good stretch of games starting in Week 12. It was likely too late for fantasy owners, but it shows promise for 2019. Pettis’ final stats for 2018 were 467 yards and five touchdowns. He should improve upon that in 2019 and could benefit more from the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans
For fantasy owners that started Smith in Week 5 and Week 11, they got lucky. He had two big games (both with more than 100 yards and at least two touchdowns), but outside of those, his season was a disappointment. He had 427 yards and five touchdowns on the season and more than half of that (268, three) came in just two games (Weeks 5, 11). Smith should have benefitted with Ted Ginn Jr. out, but he didn’t seem to be able to take advantage. It’s not a promising sign heading into 2019.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
Gallup had more than three receptions in a game only twice all season (Weeks 13 and 14). He had more than 55 receiving yards twice. He had 50 or fewer receiving yards in 12 games. Overall, he wasn’t really a good fantasy option, but he was 10th among rookie wide receivers in terms of fantasy points. It is possible he makes the leap to fantasy relevance for 2019, but he won’t be climbing up draft boards.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
(Top photo courtesy of www.atlantafalcons.com)