Determining the consensus ADP for the 2019 rookie class prior to the 2019 rookie drafts is a little tricky. For the purpose of this article, I went back and reviewed my rookie rankings prior to the 2019 draft season.
My top 5 rookie wide receivers prior to the 2019 season were;
- 5. JJ Arcega-Whiteside
- 4. Parris Campbell
- 3. A.J. Brown
- 2. N’Keal Harry
- 1. DK Metcalf
The 2019 WR class is a special draft class–one that one day may compare to the 2014 WR class that includes the likes of Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Brandon Cooks, Davante Adams, and Jarvis Landry.
Together, rookie wide receivers in 2019 gained 11,653 receiving yards in 2019–the second-most by any rookie class all-time, second only to the 13,765 yards recorded in 2014. Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and with the knowledge of a full season out of this group, I revisited the 2019 class and updated my Dynasty rankings.
5. MARQUISE BROWN, BALTIMORE RAVENS
2019 Pre-Draft Rank: WR7
Hollywood Brown was a wide receiver I studied a lot prior to my rookie drafts, and I liked a lot of what I saw of him at Oklahoma. The reason I didn’t have him higher in my pre-draft rankings was because I was concerned about his size, I disliked his landing spot, and he was in the process of dealing with a foot injury.
Brown was the first wide receiver drafted in 2019, and it turns out that he probably had one of the best landing spots. He finished the season eighth in receiving yards among rookie WR’s (584).
In 2019, Brown ranked first in passer rating when targeted (134.4) and 11th in fantasy points per route run (0.45). He didn’t have a lot of catches (46), but he made the ones he did have count.
Brown spent much of the offseason rehabbing from Lisfranc surgery and spent nine of 16 games on the injury report listed as questionable. During the regular season, he played just 58% of Baltimore’s snaps. During the postseason, Brown played 85% of the snaps–turning 11 targets into 126 yards. The game script played a role in that productivity. Lamar Jackson, to put it into perspective, had 59 pass attempts.
It is possible that Brown may always struggle with injuries (remember my concerns with his size). He was super-efficient in college, and he was super-efficient in his rookie season. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s playing with the league’s reigning MVP for the foreseeable future. As long as he can stay healthy, the future is very bright.
4. D.K. METCALF, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
2019 Pre-Draft Rank: WR1
DK Metcalf is a beast. He was arguably one of the most physically gifted wide receivers to ever participate in the NFL Combine. His upside was never in question. What was a question — a fairly common one — was if he could ever be a complete wide receiver, or something more than a straight-line deep threat.
Based on my pre-draft ranking, I wasn’t concerned with his ability to play at the NFL level and I certainly wasn’t swayed by his 3 cone drill results at the combine.
In Metcalf’s his final two seasons at Ole Miss, Metcalf totaled 71% of his yards on the go route and the hitch. With the Seahawks, those two routes comprised of only 38% of his 900 yards, thus illustrating that he can succeed at the NFL level. It’s likely that we still haven’t witnessed Metcalf’s true potential.
From Week 10 until the end of the regular season, Metcalf out-targeted Tyler Lockett 46 to 38. It’s possible that DK could be pushing for WR1 duties in 2020. The number one in the Seattle offense has historically been an efficient role, but one that typically lacks volume. Over the past nine seasons, Seattle’s WR1 has averaged 6.32 targets per game, eclipsing 7.25 targets per game only once. To put that into perspective, in 2019, those numbers would have ranked just 44th and 29th, respectively.
I remain high on DK Metcalf, but there are three wide receivers that have passed him in my rankings entering 2020.
3. DEEBO SAMUEL, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
2019 Pre-Draft Rank: WR8
Deebo Samuel, to be truthful, wasn’t on my radar entering the 2019 rookie draft season. I knew who he was and that he excelled at South Carolina, I just wasn’t enamored with his landing spot and questioned if his game could transition to the pro level.
It turns out that what we saw from Samuel in his rookie season was an extension of what we saw from him in South Carolina. Deebo is a dynamic playmaker skilled at making defenders miss. Samuel forced 18 missed tackles on 57 receptions. On a pre-reception basis (0.32), this ranked fifth-best by any 50-catch receiver this past decade. He also averaged 8.49 yards after the catch per reception, which also ranked fifth-best this past decade.
From Week 10 until the end of the regular season, Samuel ranked 14th among all wide receivers in fantasy points per game (16.1). It is possible that his play was enough to supplant free agent Emmanuel Sanders as the team’s WR1.
Working against Samuel is his relatively advanced age (24 years old), San Francisco’s run-heavy offense, and that George Kittle is truly the Niners WR1.
2. TERRY MCLAURIN, WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Pre-draft Rank: WR13
“Scary” Terry McLaurin was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookie wide receiver in 2019. Not only was he the highest-graded rookie last season, but he was also their second-highest-graded rookie wide receiver this past decade. PFF graded McLaurin out at 86.5. That trails only Odell Beckham Jr’s 91.2 in 2014.
His numbers are all the more impressive when considering Washington’s 2,812 passing yards ranked 32nd in 2019. McLaurin’s 93 targets and 58 receptions were 19% and 19.5% of the Redskins’ team’s totals respectively. Terry is a true WR1 – he accounted for 32.7% of Washington’s total passing yards and he accomplished this in only 14 games. The 32.7% of his teams total ranked fifth in the NFL in 2019 and the most by any rookie since Odell Beckham Jr.
At this point in the offseason, it doesn’t appear that Washington’s offense is going to be a whole lot more productive heading into 2020. The addition of Ron Rivera and Scott Turner brings with them structure and optimism.
McLaurin looks like a truly special talent. I am betting on talent. Talent produces targets and targets provide opportunity. I expect Dwayne Haskins to improve in 2020 and beyond and that is especially good news for the soon to be second-year wide receiver.
1. A.J. BROWN, TENNESEE TITANS
Pre-draft Rank: WR6
When I researched A.J. Brown’s 2019 rookie season, the following statistics simply could not be ignored.
According to Pro Football Focus;
Best Yards per Route Run Seasons (2010-2019)
- Odell Beckham Jr., 2014 (2.76)
- A.J. Brown, 2019 (2.67)
- Tyreek Hill, 2016 (2.30)
- Doug Baldwin, 2011 (2.24)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, 2017 (2.16)
- A.J. Green, 2011 (2.13)
- Julio Jones, 2011 (2.10)
The names on this list are elite. Among all 79 wide receivers to see 50 or more targets, Brown ranked second in yards per route run (2.67), second in passer rating when targeted (127.6), second in missed tackles forced per reception (0.31), first in yards per target (12.5), first in yards after the catch per reception (8.88), and first in yards after contact per reception (5.02).
Terry McLaurin impressed me in 2019, but Brown, who is two years younger, is the man I want to own going forward.
In addition to the PFF grade, Brown stood out in almost every other metric statistically significant for wide receivers in fantasy. He didn’t just stand out; he recorded a historically great number, led the league, or almost led the league.
As noted A.J. Brown was my 6th ranked rookie WR entering 2019. Remember when we were all downgrading Brown due to his Tennessee landing spot? Well, that impacted me as well. Lesson learned. Since the transition to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and establishing himself as the WR1 in Tennessee, the landing spot doesn’t look that bad.