While targets are a popular stat to watch in general and when it comes to fantasy football, targets among rookie wide receivers prove to be especially interesting. Dynasty owners have already scooped up rookie wide receivers, but those in re-draft leagues will be watching how the young players continue to develop. However, in looking back at the 2017 season, here is an analysis of how the rookie wide receivers performed.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT
Cooper Kupp, LAR
Keelan Cole, JAC
Chris Godwin, TB
Kenny Golladay, DET
Zay Jones, BUF
Dede Westbrook, JAC
Corey Davis, TEN
Curtis Samuel, CAR
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster was the rookie wide receiver who ended the year with the most fantasy points. He didn’t have the most targets or the most receptions, but with seven touchdowns (the most out of all rookie WRs), he had the most fantasy points. He added 240 return yards and a special teams touchdown, for leagues that include those points as well. Smith-Schuster had three games with more than 100 yards and was an excellent complement to Antonio Brown. His value should rise heading into 2018, although he will likely still compete with Martavis Bryant for targets.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Heading into the preseason as a popular sleeper, Kupp (above, right) ended the season with the most targets and the most receptions among rookie WRs. He had the second-most yards (Smith-Schuster had 917 to his 869) among rookies as well. Kupp had two 100-yard games and five touchdowns on the year. As Jared Goff improved, so did his receivers. Robert Woods stepped up, but Kupp filled in the slot. In 2018, Kupp should have high WR3 value.
Keelan Cole & Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Both rookie wide receivers from Jacksonville had solid games and had games where they disappeared. Neither made a fantasy impact until the second half of the season (Westbrook didn’t even play prior to Week 11). However, both rookies looked like they had potential in this offense. Competing with Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee for targets hurt their value, but both Robinson and Lee are free agents. The value for Cole and Westbrook in 2018 will depend on what the Jags' wide receiver corps looks like. If Robinson and Lee are both gone and no other veteran WRs are added, both will be fantasy relevant, with Westbrook having WR2 value and Cole WR3 value.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
Injuries marred most of Golladay’s rookie season. He started Week 1 with two touchdowns, but then dealt with hamstring injuries for most of the rest of the year. He played a little in Weeks 2 and 3 before shutting down until Week 10. He still only managed between two and four receptions a game through the rest of the season. He scored another touchdown in Week 17, showing his big-play ability. However, he needs to stay healthy and be given a chance in the offense. He’s a WR3 right now, but this is subject to change.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Godwin didn’t even enter onto the fantasy scene in most leagues until Week 10 when he posted a 5/68/0 stat line. Even after that, he didn’t do a lot for fantasy owners. He only had five or more receptions twice and scored one touchdown. He’ll be behind Mike Evans on the depth chart, but if he can get playing time over DeSean Jackson or Adam Humphries, he’ll have 2018 value.
Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills
All of the rookie wide receivers except Jones caught more than half of their targets. Jones caught 36 percent or a little more than one out of three passes thrown his way. He did undergo offseason shoulder surgery and reportedly was playing through a torn labrum. In the middle of the season, Jones had a solid stretch where he did score his two touchdowns of the year. However, the Bills' offense is up in the air. For one, there is a new coordinator (Brian Daboll). Kelvin Benjamin may or may not return. Tyrod Taylor may or may not be the quarterback. Depending on how this offense shapes up will determine Jones’ role in 2018.
Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Davis dealt with hamstring injuries for much of his rookie season, which led to lower numbers on the year. He had 34 receptions for 375 yards and no touchdowns. He had two games with six receptions (Weeks 1, 16) but everything else in between was just ok. Davis will have the offseason to get healthy and to work with Marcus Mariota, and he also gets the benefit of a fresh start with a new coaching staff. With no other wide receivers in his way, Davis should have a big role in 2018, as long as he can stay healthy.
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Samuel’s rookie season was lost due to injury. He was placed on Injured Reserve following a Week 10 ankle injury that required surgery. However, even before that injury, he missed time because of other injuries. He could have been a great addition to a Panthers offense that was in need of pass catchers after Greg Olsen went down and Kelvin Benjamin was traded to Buffalo, but Samuel just couldn’t stay healthy. Depending on how he looks over the summer, he may have fantasy value in 2018.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
(Top photo courtesy of www.steelers.com)