Many football fans are no longer thinking about fantasy football, unless you have decided to dabble with the XFL. However, those owners in dynasty leagues should be looking back on the rookies while already looking ahead to the upcoming NFL season. In 2019, the rookie class was quite strong. Some rookies made a sizeable impact for fantasy owners in both dynasty and re-draft formats. Let’s see how the 2019 rookies performed and what their outlook is for 2020.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
Brown was the only rookie wide receiver to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, but in most fantasy leagues, he wasn’t the top rookie at his position off the board on draft day. He may arguably be the best rookie wide receiver in 2019, and that’s with a slow start to the season. In the first six games, he did not have more than three receptions in a game. He had two games with over 90 yards and four games with under 30 yards. The Titans started using him more in the second half of the year. and he ended with nine total touchdowns, the most of all the rookies. He should be in the WR2 conversation in 2020.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
McLaurin is a rookie that came in with promise and showed that he could develop as the season progressed. He seemed to work well with former Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins, and he did what he could on an offense that struggled all season. McLaurin will likely be the No. 1 wideout in Washington again in 2020, which does boost his fantasy value. He ended the year with 919 receiving yards and seven touchdowns (in 14 games). He should build on this season and will be a WR2 in 2020.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Samuel stepped up when Emmanuel Sanders was injured later in the season, but he was a solid player before that. He showed that he has an ability as a runner as well as a pass-catcher, as evidenced by his usage in the Super Bowl. Samuel had three receiving touchdowns in 2019, but he also had three rushing touchdowns. He ran for more yards than he had receiving yards in the Super Bowl, and while that won’t be the case moving forward, players with that dual-threat often do well in fantasy. Sanders is a free agent, so it is possible Samuel’s role increases even more in 2020. He is a high WR2 on draft day.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
Metcalf was a popular pick in dynasty leagues because of his potential for long-term success. Owners were surprised when he had such a solid 2019 season. He led all rookie wide receivers in targets with 100. He had 900 yards and seven touchdowns. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will be the focal points of the Seahawks passing game in the future, but the fact that they are both strong receivers will cap the fantasy value of both. Metcalf will be a solid WR3 in 2020.
Darius Slayton, New York Giants
Slayton was a surprise to fantasy owners in re-draft leagues, especially this year. With the Giants struggling on both sides of the ball, they needed a bright spot. Slayton provided just that. He stepped up while Golden Tate was suspended and became a favorite target of Daniel Jones. Slayton finished the season with eight touchdowns, just one fewer than A.J. Brown (who had the most among all rookies). Slayton will be a WR2 next season.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Johnson quietly put together a nice rookie season, even with the quarterback mess in Pittsburgh. He seemed to jump ahead of James Washington on the depth chart and was able to catch seven touchdowns. He had 680 receiving yards, and that should increase with Ben Roethlisberger back in 2020. Johnson is a wide receiver primed for a breakout sophomore season. He’ll likely be drafted as a WR3/4 but could exceed that.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs
The key for Hardman is what happens to Demarcus Robinson. If the free agent receiver does not return to Kansas City, Hardman will step up to a solid No. 2 role behind Tyreek Hill with Sammy Watkins expected to move on. As long as Hill can stay on the field (both by staying healthy and avoiding off-field issues), Hardman is in for a bigger role in 2020. In 2019, he had 538 yards and six touchdowns. However, most of that work came in the first half of the season, when Hill was out (he missed Weeks 2-5). Hardman should build on this season and will be listed in “potential breakout” columns heading into the 2020 season.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Brown and Lamar Jackson did work well together, but the Ravens offense revolved around Jackson. With seven touchdowns, Brown ended the season with solid, albeit inconsistent numbers. He had three regular-season games with over 50 yards and seven games with under 30 yards. He did miss two games due to injury, and it is possible that injuries lingered for some of the season. However, Brown will be a boom-or-bust player. He can make the big plays, but when he doesn’t, he doesn’t help your fantasy team. He’s a WR3 with upside moving forward.
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
Renfrow wasn't a flashy name to have in a fantasy lineup, but as a rookie wide receiver, he did well. He had 605 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The touchdowns all came after the bye week, with the last two in Weeks 16 and 17. Renfrow was dealing with broken ribs and a punctured lung for Weeks 13-15, but when he returned, he posted back-to-back 100-yard games with a touchdown. If that’s any indication of what 2020 will look like, he’s a name to keep in mind. With the offense playing as they were, he's only a WR3/4 but could move up.
N'Keal Harry, New England Patriots
Harry was one of the top rookies in most dynasty drafts but was a disappointment in all formats in 2019. He was injured for the first half of the season, not even seeing the field until Week 11. At that point, trying to get used to the NFL and carve a role on the team was difficult. Harry only caught 12 balls in 2019, although two of those catches were for touchdowns. He has potential, based on his resume heading into this year. However, the current uncertainty at quarterback for the Patriots makes his fantasy value in 2020 questionable.
— 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.