NFL Draft: How do the top WR prospects fit in Fantasy?
There weren't a ton of first-round wide receivers this year, but we still saw plenty come off the board with the potential to make an impact later on
Here are our outlooks on the short- and long-term prospects of the top wide receiver prospects taken in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ravens take Marquise Brown in Round 1, No. 25 overall
Brown fits in the mold of T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson — a diminutive speedster who can make plays deep, break into the open field, and not get caught on short routes. He won't win many 50-50 balls and isn't a massive red-zone threat, but he's a speed demon who can line up everywhere and make defensive backs look silly.
So why is his fit in Baltimore a bad thing for Fantasy? One: Brown will catch passes from Lamar Jackson. I really wanted to get this right, so I went back and tracked all of Jackson's deep throws from his starts last season -- he completed 9 of 27 with 13 attempts considered poor throws. Many were overthrown and out of bounds.
Two: The Ravens have admitted to being a run-focused offense, so the targets heading Brown's way won't be as plentiful as we had hoped if he landed elsewhere. Maybe he gets 100 targets.
Finally, Brown's threatening speed will force defensive backs to respect the pass, meaning that Brown might have more impact on the Ravens' run game being successful than his own.
58 catches, 807 yards, five touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Did I mention he's coming back from a broken foot?
I liked Brown a lot coming out of Oklahoma and believed he had Pro Bowl potential. I don't believe he will get there with Jackson as his quarterback.
I suppose he's worth a pick around 100th overall on Draft Day in seasonal leagues, both non-PPR and PPR, but it should be done with almost no major expectations. He'll move into the middle-to-late rounds in long-term formats, but not any higher than, say, 90th overall. Be patient if you draft him.
Brown will slide a bit in rookie-only dynasty drafts too, but not past eighth overall.
It's big news in Fantasy Football whenever the Patriots add a skill-position player. Remember how nuts we went for Josh Gordon?!
It should come as no surprise that N'Keal Harry just became Fantasy relevant because he landed in New England and will begin his career catching passes from Tom Brady.
Not that he wouldn't have been relevant anyway. Harry was one of the best big-bodied receivers in the draft. At 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, he brings a very physical game with nice route-running skills to the New England offense. He's smart, he's savvy, he can leap and high-point tall throws, and he's a tough guy to bring down. About the only knock on him is his speed, which is solid, but you won't mistake him for a burner.
47 catches, 655 yards, four touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projections
Now the only question is just how much he'll play, and how often will he get targeted.
It's clear the Patriots have some targets to divvy up with Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan off the roster, as well as no Gordon. Harry must compete in training camp for a large role, but his competition for snaps along the outside are Demaryius Thomas, who's coming back from an Achilles injury and is a declining player, and the ever-invisible Phillip Dorsett, and Gordon, who might be suspended for a while longer. Harry's going to have a great chance to play.
Just remember that the Patriots don't tend to over-use or over-target their outside receivers. That'll change if Harry really impresses, but let's not jump to that spot just yet. Maybe in August. But definitely not now.
I am sure he'll get picked in every single Fantasy draft this summer but it shouldn't be with anything more than a late-round pick. He'll be a middle- to late-round choice in long-term formats and enters the top-five conversation in rookie-only drafts.
51 catches, 669 yards, 5 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Samuel is a nice pick for the 49ers. He has a thick upper body with strong legs that help him accelerate and perform as a solid route-runner. He lined up everywhere and his specialty seemed to be going over the middle. Maybe he lands a slot role and pushes Dante Pettis to the outside. Maybe they'll rotate and keep defenses guessing.
Moreover, Samuel's a physical receiver who can pick up yards after the catch and help block in the run game. He can also return kicks and play on special teams as a gunner. I wouldn't expect Fantasy managers to rush into drafting him right away but he'll pick up value as a Round 2 pick in rookie-only drafts.
The Titans take A.J. Brown in Round 2, No. 51 overall
This pick has a chance to be money for the Titans, but it's dependent on a bunch of things.
53 catches, 710 yards, 5 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Brown was a slot specialist at Ole Miss, doing most of his damage lining up near the big guys and taking defensive backs behind the woodshed with a polished route-running skill set. I'm not sure if the Titans view Brown as a Day 1 slot guy, particularly since they just signed Adam Humphries to a nice contract this offseason. And, it might not matter because Marcus Mariota hasn't been a king-maker for his receivers through four seasons. So it's kind of heartbreaking to see Brown end up with the Titans.
Until we get a better idea of what role he'll play, Brown's just not quite worth taking in seasonal leagues. Those with an eye toward the long-term can go after Brown with a late-round pick in dynasty start-ups and a late first-round pick in rookie-only drafts.
51 catches, 762 yards, 5 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Mecole Hardman was not a receiver I expected to be excited about on Friday night. I'm still not sure I am, but catching passes from Patrick Mahomes can change a lot of things. Hardman hasn't shown a great grasp of the route tree but he's blazing fast. That speed, combined with his size, will draw Tyreek Hill comparisons, and it seems likely the Chiefs view Hardman as their Hill replacement.
It's worth remembering that Hill was not a complete receiver when he came into the league, and Hardman isn't either. There's enormous upside here because of the speed, fit and quarterback but Hardman has a very low floor.
Hardman's worth a speculative pick in the double-digit rounds of a redraft league and a late-second round pick in a rookie-only draft.
Eagles take J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in Round 2, No. 57 overall
Arcega-Whiteside could be a cheat code with the Eagles. That's because he's a giant receiver (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) who has the traits of a power forward that can go up and high-point a pass and be an easy red-zone dominator. He had 14 touchdowns on 63 catches for 1,059 yards with the Cardinal last season, throttling over slower and shorter competition. Putting it another way, he's better than 50-50 to catch 50-50 jump balls.
The kid has work to do when it comes to route running and learning how to separate against top-level competition, but for now the Eagles can deploy him as a mismatch. How the heck are defensive coordinators going to match up against him, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert at the same time?! The pick makes me like Carson Wentz a little more.
I might consider Arcega-Whiteside with a late pick in seasonal leagues but I'll be more interested in taking him late in dynasty/keeper leagues and with a top-20 pick in rookie-only drafts.
51 catches, 768 yards, 6 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Parris Campbell may not be the most polished receiver in the draft but there are few prospects with better athleticism and upside. Pairing that upside with Andrew Luck and the Colts' high-powered offense is certainly exciting.
Campbell could definitely beat out Devin Funchess everywhere but the red zone and earn the second-most targets in the Colts receiving corps. Long term he has the upside to be Andrew Luck's No. 1 receiver once T.Y. Hilton begins his decline.
Campbell is worth a mid-to-late round pick in redraft leagues and a late-first round pick in Dynasty.
44 catches, 616 yards, 4 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Andy Isabella is a track star who landed in an offense that values speed above all other things. That's the positive. The negative is his size and his inability to overcome physical play from DBs.
If Kliff Kingsbury's designs can consistently get him in space, Isabella could be a major problem for opposing defenses. Initially I expect him to be fourth at best in the Cardinals pass attack and a non-factor in redraft leagues. In rookie-only leagues he's worth a third-round pick.
If Kyler Murray hits and Kingsbury's offense works Isabella could make this writeup look way too pessimistic.
Seahawks take D.K. Metcalf, Round 2, No. 64 overall
49 catches, 730 yards, 5 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
I think the Seahawks got themselves a steal. Metcalf fell in the draft because of concerns about his neck injury and a skill-set that doesn't include a refined route tree. He's stiff, but he's got great straight-line speed to go with rare size.
After watching Tyler Lockett make a bunch of circus catches last year, it's not a stretch to say Metcalf can do the same and be a red-zone monster for the Seahawks to boot. All that said, he still needs coaching in a major way.
If expectations are kept low, he won't hurt your Fantasy team and will offer nothing but upside. I'm buying into Metcalf as a wait-and-see bench receiver with a late-round pick in seasonal leagues. I'll also ticket him with a middle- to late-round dart in dynasty/keeper start-ups and a top-12 pick in rookie-only drafts.
49ers take Jalen Hurd, Round 3, 67th overall
My hunch is that Kyle Shanahan couldn't help himself and saw a high-upside project in the rusher-turned-receiver.
25 catches, 230 yards, 1 TD; 87 rush yards, 1 rush TDHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
At 6-foot-4 3/4 and 226 pounds, Hurd offers a giant blank canvas for Shanny to mold into a contributor, even if it takes a season or two. And not only is he big, but he's a long-striding runner who plays faster than his timed speed (4.63). He's a leaper and a bold, physical, balanced player with the ball in his hands. He specialized in the slot at Baylor.
There are injury concerns -- he tore his labrum in high school and his knee last November. There are also skill-set concerns -- not only is he inexperienced but he's a limited route-runner without much fluidity in his routes. Ultimately, there's a lot of potential here, even if he's relatively new to the position after playing running back his whole life until 2017.
Hurd will be worth speculating on with a late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a top-30 choice in rookie-only drafts.
33 catches, 393 yards, 3 touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
Diontae Johnson was someone who was interesting as a long-term project, but with the Steelers drafting him in the third round we have to take a deeper look. Pittsburgh has had great success drafting receivers in the past, but it's really hard to see how Johnson makes an immediate impact.
He needs work on his route running and technique and doesn't have great size. You could use a fourth round rookie pick on him, maybe even third if you just want to bet on Pittsburgh's ability to scout this position.
Terry Mclaurin is a classic example of a receiver who may not have been drafted if not for his work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. It also probably didn't hurt that his former teammate Dwayne Haskins was lobbying for him. Neither of these things make me want to invest in Mclaurin in either re-draft or Dynasty.
There is certainly opportunity is Washington with their dearth of talent at receiver, I'm just not sure he changes the talent level in the receiver room. Monitor his progress in training camp, he could be worth an early waiver wire add if he's earning rave reviews.
Miles Boykin is a very good route runner who had arguably the most impressive showing at the NFL Combine for any receiver. He ran a 4.42-40, leaped 43.5 inches in the vertical and was much more impressive than D.K. Metcalf in the 3-cone and 20-yard-shuttle. He'll be teamed with Lamar Jackson and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown in Baltimore, which will likely cause most Fantasy players to bury him in their rankings.
I maintain that we still don't know if Jackson can be a good NFL passer, but most have decided that case. If you don't believe he can, you can pass on Boykin in redraft, though I may be willing to spend a very late speculative pick on him. In rookie drafts he's worth a late-first or early-second round pick. If Jackson makes progress as a passer, this Ravens offense could be outstanding.
Cardinals take Hakeem Butler, Round 4, No. 103 overall
I don't think anyone realizes just how good this pick is. Butler has imposing, rare height (6-foot-5 3/8) with good strength, solid speed and good quickness to help him get open and make plays after the catch. That's very ideal for what the Cardinals offense will transform into. He has experience lining up all over the field but did most of his work along the outside, which is an area of need for the Redbirds. He's a good route-runner with smooth feet and loose hips to get a half-step on non-pressing DBs. He can also use his power to buy a little space and turn quickly. Butler's large hands and rare wingspan gives him enormous catch radius, which is icing on the cake.
He does need some coaching to improve his high-pointing technique -- believe it or not, he didn't always use his height to his advantage. But he's a solid receiver with potential to be Arizona's best once Larry Fitzgerald hangs up the cleats. It's going to take some strong preseason reports for Butler to materialize in seasonal redrafts, but bank on him getting picked late in dynasty/keeper leagues and with a top-15 pick in rookie-only drafts.
Seahawks take Gary Jennings, Round 4, No. 120 overall
Jennings is a well-built, fast receiver who can play anywhere on the field. At 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Jennings displays good speed but leaves a lot to be desired in his technique. He had a bunch of drops and had a tendency to jump when trying to catch a football, even if he didn't need to. Seattle can install Jennings as a backup receiver to begin his career with potential to blossom. He's worth taking with a late pick in rookie-only drafts.
Ridley is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. The Coconut Creek, Fla., native is the brother of Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, but isn't quite as fast. However, he is adept at every single aspect of football -- he has solid hands, solid blocking ability and a world of experience after playing in a bunch of high-profile games for the Georgia Bulldogs. He's one of those receivers who feels like a contributor who will see a nice dose of playing time over his career and help on special teams, but not become a Fantasy mainstay. He's worth taking with a late pick in rookie-only drafts and will get chosen late in dynasty/keeper leagues too.
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