Let’s take a look at what to expect from this year’s top rookie wide receivers from a fantasy perspective. Some could be solid sleeper picks. With others, you should probably stay away.
Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
At Ohio State, Campbell was a slot receiver who excelled on mid-range routes to help pick up first downs for the Buckeyes on a consistent basis. He’ll now have one of the league’s most consistent QBs, Andrew Luck, throwing his way.
Campbell will likely be a solid mid-to-late round selection based on Luck’s ability to reliably get him the ball for short-to-medium gains. Campbell will probably be the best performer from this year’s rookie class. He’ll make a fine starter, particularly in points-per-reception leagues.
D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
At 6’3″ and 228 lbs., D.K. Metcalf is a big target for Russell Wilson to hit. He’s also very fast, running a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine. Metcalf is a bit of a project, though, as he did not put up big numbers at Ole Miss.
His reception totals for his freshman, sophomore, and junior years were 2, 39, and 26 respectively. Metcalf may develop his raw talent under Pete Carroll’s tutelage, but the Seahawks will likely bear that fruit in future seasons down the line. As far as 2019 is concerned, it’s difficult to see him as a sure-thing for fantasy production.
N’Keal Harry, Jr., New England Patriots
N’Keal Harry, Jr. possesses a bright upside, and the Patriots are in dire need of a bigtime receiver to step up with Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. It doesn’t look great here for Harry from a fantasy perspective, however.
The Pats don’t tend to have one receiver emerge as the dominant option (Gronk notwithstanding), especially rookies. While Harry may get a chance to shine, the odds of him being a top fantasy receiver aren’t great. New England’s tendency to spread the ball around makes this too dicey of a pick.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Marquise Brown is under 5’10” and weighs 166 lbs. Receivers that small typically have a hard time staying healthy (Brown suffered a fractured foot last season at Oklahoma). Brown is quick, but with the Ravens signing Mark Ingram and going all-in on Lamar Jackson, it’s clear that the running game is where they’re focused.
Brown could be a solid third receiver or flex option with the right matchup – it’s easy to see him scoring more than a few deep touchdowns this year as he flies by a less than stellar secondary. But as a week-to-week option, he’s probably not a solid bet.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
A great route-runner out of South Carolina, Deebo Samuel may succeed in San Francisco due to Jimmy Garoppolo’s lack of other viable options in the receiving game. Samuel had 62 catches for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Gamecocks last season.
If Garoppolo can stay healthy and Samuel emerges as a down-field passing threat in Kyle Shanahan’s pass-happy offense, there’s a legitimate opportunity for him to become a fantasy superstar.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are taking an “all hands on deck” approach for replacing superstar Antonio Brown, and consider Diontae Johnson one of those hands they’ll look to. While Juju-Smith Schuster is the clear number one receiving option, they still need a number two.
James Washington is getting strong consideration, but looking at some of the monster numbers Johnson put up at Toledo (career totals of 135 catches for 2,235 yards) and his blazing speed gives him a chance to win the job as well. Watch how Johnson performs in the preseason. He could be a solid mid-to-late round pick who emerges as a starter during the season.