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Rookie Wide Receiver Breakouts – 7 Key Stats to Know About an Accelerating Trend

Rookie wide receivers tend to struggle in redraft. Dave Caban recently showed that even first-round picks are rarely startable in their initial campaigns. The numbers for second-rounders are far worse. We know second-year WRs are the class to target, and rookies don’t break out as frequently as the third-year players either. However, rookies aren’t worthless by any stretch, and the receivers who do emerge go on to better NFL careers than any other group.

Since 2001, 18 rookie WRs have crested 200 points. Owners who hit on those players were well on their way to fantasy titles.

Rookie Wide Receiver Breakouts

PlayerYearDraftRookieYear 2
Anquan Boldin200354286.8124.6
Michael Clayton200415244.369.4
Marques Colston2006252221.8281.7
Dwayne Bowe200723199.5230.2
Eddie Royal200842229.971.6
Mike Williams2010101225.5160.4
A.J. Green20114216.9301.8
Julio Jones20116203261.8
Keenan Allen201376224.3179.3
Odell Beckham Jr.201412297319.7
Mike Evans20147245.1213.1
Kelvin Benjamin201428227.80
Jordan Matthews201442202.2232.7
Sammy Watkins20144200218.8
Amari Cooper20154215.9226.9
Michael Thomas201647259.7258.5
Tyreek Hill2016165201.6239.2
Calvin Ridley201826208.8NA


  • Ten of the 18 WRs who broke out were first-round picks. This is intuitive and completes our understanding of the relationship between breakout year and draft status. For context and contrast, remember that Year 3 breakouts were largely second- and third-round picks, while Year 5 breakouts were mostly late-rounds and former UDFAs.
  • Only three rookie breakouts were selected after the first 100 picks (Marques Colston, Mike Williams, Tyreek Hill).
  • Eleven of 16 receivers with a second season hit 200 points again as sophomores.
  • Unlike Year 2 breakouts, the rookie class didn’t feature any 300-point scorers, but Odell Beckham (297) and Anquan Boldin (286) got close.
  • Excluding Kelvin Benjamin who was injured before the season, this group averaged 212 points in Year 2, easily the best of any breakout group.
  • Rookie breakouts are becoming more frequent. Thirteen of these breakout seasons have occurred since 2010.
  • Prior to the A.J. Green injury, eight former rookie breakouts were going in the first three rounds of 2019 drafts.

Who to Target in 2019

Last year our breakout targets went on a scorched earth campaign that fueled RotoViz users to fantasy titles. We’ll start our in-depth analysis of 2019 targets next week, but as we’ve done throughout the series, we’ll take a quick look at ADP to whet our appetites.

Three of the first five WRs selected took off like rockets after the draft. A.J. Brown was the most glaring exception. Drafters don’t like the fit in Tennessee, and missing most of the first week of camp hasn’t helped his case.

N’Keal Harry and Marquise Brown both project well in the rookie model and have little competition for targets. Fantasy owners will want to see good camp reports as these youngsters try to incorporate themselves into their respective offenses.

The next five receivers taken in the reality draft have generated more buzz. D.K. Metcalf has been a puff piece All-Star and faces little competition for the No. 2 role. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Parris Campbell enter more crowded depth charts but created wow moments at will during the offseason. Andy Isabella is one of the best rookie values in memory.

It’s a deep group, and even Diontae Johnson has an outside shot of making noise behind Donte Moncrief and James Washington.

If you’ve been reading our developmental dynasty gurus Jordan Hoover and Travis May, or sampling the Wrong Read from our draft analytics maven, Blair Andrews, then you’re already partially up to speed on the key advanced stats and our rookie projection system. We’ll dive into the details in Part 2.

Image Credit: Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Calvin Ridley.

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