The 2020 WR Class Doesn’t Quite Match the Epic Group from 2014, But There Are Still 5 Rookies You Should Be Stockpiling in Redraft
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Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Odell Beckham.

The wide receiver class of 2020 is very good and very deep. Devy owners have been looking forward to their arrival, while dynasty owners are loading up in rookie drafts. In the Black Crown startup, I prioritized rookie picks, and then I selected six WRs during the rookie draft. Still, this class has an almost impossible task if they want to match the 2014 group.

In today’s exercise, we’ll compare the two classes to find out just how close they were before entering the NFL, we’ll look at the epic rookie seasons from the 2014 class to help us determine redraft value, and then we’ll take a global look at the impact of rookie WRs in redraft. Finally, we’ll look at points implied by current ADP and decide which rookie WRs to target.

2020 vs. 2014

The WR Prospect Lab gives us a projection for a receiver’s first three seasons using a combination of draft position and advanced stats.

 
2014 Proj Percentile 2020 Proj Percentile
Sammy Watkins 98 Jalen Reagor 93
Odell Beckham Jr. 94 CeeDee Lamb 92
Jordan Matthews 94 Brandon Aiyuk 89
Mike Evans 92 Justin Jefferson 89
Brandin Cooks 90 K.J. Hamler 86
Marqise Lee 88 Laviska Shenault 86
Davante Adams 84 Jerry Jeudy 85
Jarvis Landry 80 Michael Pittman 84
Paul Richardson 80 Henry Ruggs 83
Allen Robinson 79 Tee Higgins 80
Donte Moncrief 78 Denzel Mims 80
Kelvin Benjamin 75 Chase Claypool 78
Cody Latimer 74 Bryan Edwards 74

The 2014 class owns a strong advantage at the top end. They have three players with superior projections to anyone from the 2020 class and five players who earn a projection above the 90th percentile. The two classes are very comparable the rest of the way, with the 2020 class actually gaining an advantage by placing more prospects above the 80th percentile. If Jerry Jeudy and Michael Pittman want to end up as better NFL players than Davante Adams and Jarvis Landry, they’ll have to be borderline hall-of-famers, but they hold the slight edge as prospects.

How Did The 2014 Class Perform as Rookies?

Seven years later, the 2014 class is still heavily represented in the top-10 WRs by FFPC Redraft ADP. Adams trails only Michael Thomas and slides into the back end of the first round. Given the early fireworks from this class, it’s surprising that their current leader didn’t do much for his first two seasons. The same cannot be said for the rest.

Since 2001, 19 rookies have crested 200 points, a threshold roughly equivalent to a WR2 season. Five of those campaigns occurred in 2014.

2014 Rookie WR Fantasy Scoring

PLAYERPPRreYDreTDGames
Odell Beckham Jr.29713051212
Mike Evans245.110511215
Kelvin Benjamin227.81008916
Jordan Matthews202.2872816
Sammy Watkins200982616
Jarvis Landry189.4758516
Allen Hurns154.7677616
John Brown147696516
Brandin Cooks139.3550310
Martavis Bryant130.1549810
Allen Robinson116.8548210
Taylor Gabriel105.1621116
Davante Adams100.6446314
Donte Moncrief96.1444314
Marqise Lee85.5422112
Corey Brown70.7296211
Paul Richardson62.1271111
De'Anthony Thomas55.9156012
Albert Wilson4226007
Bruce Ellington336227
Michael Campanaro23.210214
Kevin Norwood19.210206
Josh Huff18.59809
Robert Herron17.85816
James Wright17.191010
Corey Washington16.25213
Ryan Grant13.86805
Cody Latimer4.32303
Devin Street3.81804
Jeff Janis3.61601
Solomon Patton1.9001
Jalen Saunders1.7701
Freddie Martino0001
Isaiah Burse0001

Looking at the full season may even underestimate their immediate production. Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin all averaged over 14 PPG over the first half of the season. Brandin Cooks was injured in Week 11, but he averaged 13.9 PPG to that point. He then went on to four consecutive 200-point seasons.

The numbers were even more spectacular over the second half of the season.

2014 Rookie WR Per Game Production – Second Half of Season

PLAYERPPRreYDreTDGames
Odell Beckham Jr.28.6133.219
Mike Evans19.479.41.19
Jordan Matthews14.966.60.79
Jarvis Landry14.755.90.49
Kelvin Benjamin12.854.60.58
Martavis Bryant11.653.20.68
Allen Hurns9.940.40.48
Sammy Watkins9.1490.18
Marqise Lee8.6420.17
Corey Brown7.830.50.36
John Brown7.742.20.19
Albert Wilson6.641.506
Donte Moncrief6.528.50.28
Taylor Gabriel6.333.80.19
Paul Richardson6.126.40.18
Davante Adams5.526.10.17

Beckham and Evans maintained their 14-plus pace and were joined by two of their compatriots. Jarvis Landry began the ridiculous reception run that gave him 400 catches over his first four years, a number only bested – and annihilated – by Thomas. Jordan Matthews paid off Chip Kelly’s enthusiasm. It’s easy to forget now, but before injuries destroyed his playmaking ability, Matthews was one of only 11 rookies this century to begin his career with back-to-back 200-point seasons.

Beyond the immediate production, the 2014 class is notable for its career hit rate. Although it took a few of the players a little longer, the only real disappointments from this group were Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson, Donte Moncrief, and Cody Latimer.[1] The WRs from the 2014 draft entered the NFL as elite prospects, but they proceeded to destroy any realistic expectations.

It’s fun to dream about this happening again in 2020, even in what promises to be an unusual year, but we probably need to be prepared for a different outcome.

What can we expect from early-round WRs as rookies?

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 And the latter two were more in the speculative range.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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