Since the 2014 wide receiver draft class, we have all been way too bullish on rookie wide receivers. 2014 was an anomaly. There were 12 wide receivers drafted during the first two rounds, and a whopping five of them finished their rookie seasons as a top 25 fantasy wide receiver; Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Mike Evans, and Sammy Watkins. That draft also featured Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson who quickly became household names and have each had at least one season finishing as a top 12 wide receiver. Since then however, only three rookie wide receivers over the last three years have cracked the top 25 in their respective rookie seasons; Amari Cooper (2015), Michael Thomas (2016), and Juju Smith-Schuster (2017).
There were eight wide receivers drafted in 2018. Which of them has the best chance at cracking the top 25 this year?
Moore was the first wide receiver off the board at the 24th pick of the first round. His upside in Carolina is fantastic. They are looking to preserve Cam Newton better this year, so expect many quick strikes to Moore. He’s both physical and quick and isn’t afraid to go over the middle for the ball. I think Moore will become the safety net/possession receiver for Newton and will be peppered with targets. His value in PPR leagues will be even greater.
Taken just two picks after Moore at 26th overall, Ridley was the most NFL-ready wide receiver in the draft. He can run a full route tree and create separation with his polished technique. He landed in a perfect spot in Atlanta, where defenses will have to keep their focus on Julio Jones. Ridley has a slightly lower ceiling than Moore, but top 25 numbers are within his reach.
Similar to Ridley, Miller is a dynamic second option receiver who was drafted into a starting role alongside a prototypical “X” receiver. Everything about his situation, though, is slightly worse. He’s not quite the route runner that Ridley is, Mitch Trubisky isn’t the quarterback that Matt Ryan is, and Allen Robinson isn’t exactly Julio Jones. That being said, many are expecting a big step forward for Chicago’s offense this season under new head coach Matt Nagy, so Miller has plenty of upside and potential.
Kirk has an outside chance at breaking into the top 25. He’s going to be the best wide receiver in Arizona after Larry Fitzgerald, but unlike Ridley and Miller who were paired with outside “X” receivers, Kirk and Fitzgerald both play in the slot. It may sound simple enough to just move Kirk to the outside, but players don’t often fare well when forced to play something other than their natural position. The Cardinals also have one of the worst overall offenses in the league and will likely be at the bottom in terms of scoring, limiting Kirk’s opportunity to rack up points.
I don’t think any of the remaining four wide receivers have a shot at top 25 numbers, but Pettis would be my dart throw prediction. Pierre Garcon will be 32 this season and they don’t really have much proven talent behind him. Marquise Goodwin had a great second half last season but the 49ers moved up to draft Pettis and I think they’ll want to see what he can do.
*Michael Gallup would make this list but he was drafted in round three