Rookie Report Card: Wide Receivers Part 1

Dan Meylor


Throughout the season, the Rookie Report Card has covered some of the biggest rookies and not only looked at their performance to date – but also their long term upside. Now that the regular season has wrapped up and fantasy owners are looking towards the future, we have an opportunity to take one last look at the 2015 season and assess the rookies – A final report card if you will. I already covered the quarterbacks and running backs so let’s move on.

We covered 25 rookies throughout the season, including 12 wide receivers. Let’s put a bow on the season by taking one more look at those pass catchers’ first shot at catching the ball on Sundays, as well as a quick glimpse into their futures in part one of the Final Rookie Report Card – Wide Receivers.

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Nelson Agholor, WR PHI
Season Stats: 23 receptions, 283 receiving yards, one touchdown reception

Agholor entered his rookie season with high expectations – partially due to his pedigree as a quality route runner, good burst off the line of scrimmage and excellent hands, and partially due to him falling into what was believed to be an ideal landing spot with Chip Kelly and his high octane, no-huddle offense in Philadelphia. Fast forward eight months and now Agholor will be a part of Doug Pederson’s presumed run-heavy, west coast offense.

There are question marks surrounding Agholor going into his second season but he still carries WR2 upside due to strong routes, great hands and electric skills after the catch – which makes him an excellent trade target. Most of Agholor’s dynasty owners invested a mid-first round rookie pick in him and won’t sell him for less. If I could get a discount on that price tag, I’d be buying.


Kenny Bell, WR TB
Season Stats: none

A fifth round pick by the Buccaneers, Bell entered the league as a strong route runner with good hands that could make contested catches, but lacks elite size (6-foot-1, 197 pounds) or top end speed. When he landed in Tampa Bay, he landed on a roster with a strong nucleus in place and in desperate need of a third wide out behind Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. A hamstring injury kept him from getting on the field as a rookie though.

Word out of Tampa Bay is that Bell is already at 100% and ready for off-season activities. With Jackson becoming more and more unlikely to return in 2016, Bell could be in position to possible compete for a starting job. As Jaron Foster pointed out when he penned a feature on him in early January, Bell is an excellent trade target this off-season for those looking for relatively cheap upside at wide receiver.


Sammy Coates, WR PIT
Season Stats: one reception, 11 receiving yards, zero touchdown receptions

Those looking at Coates’ rookie year stats and writing him off as a player that didn’t live up to expectations and can be forgotten should take a closer look at the rookie out of Auburn. Although he caught only one pass for 11 yards during his rookie season, he also filled in admirably against the Broncos in the playoffs, catching two passes for 61 yards and drawing a long pass interference penalty.

All reports out of Pittsburgh are that Coates has been making plays in practice throughout the second half of the season and that Ben Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin are smitten with his upside. Despite being stuck behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, he should get the opportunity to compete with Markus Wheaton for the No. 3 job in Pittsburgh’s offense that regularly fields three wide outs.

With an excellent combination of size (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) and speed (4.43), Coates has the vertical skills to be a playmaker for the Steelers and his fantasy owners. He’s another excellent trade target for those looking for upside at receiver.


Chris Conley, WR KC
Season Stats: 17 receptions, 199 receiving yards, one touchdown reception

Conley is a workout warrior, posting eye popping numbers at the combine including a 4.35 40-time and 45 inch vertical, but those measurables didn’t transfer into success on the field during his rookie campaign. Much of that can be attributed to playing in an offense that doesn’t push the ball down the field and with a quarterback that insists on checking the ball down rather than giving his downfield wide outs a chance to make plays. Unfortunately, Conley is one of those downfield wide outs.

Although he still carries WR3 upside, dynasty owners shouldn’t be looking at Conley as anything more than a WR5 going into his second season.


Amari Cooper, WR OAK
Season Stats: 72 receptions, 1,070 receiving yards, six touchdown receptions

Those that spent a top rookie pick on Cooper had to be ecstatic with his production in the first half of 2015. After catching 45 passes for 662 yards and four touchdowns over his first eight games, he grabbed just 27 passes for 417 yards and two scores over the last eight. He appeared to hit the rookie wall late in the season.

No matter his late-season struggles, Cooper proved himself as an elite route runner with powerful explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and knee buckling moves at the top of his routes. He holds elite WR1 upside with the potential to catch 100-plus passes and double digit touchdowns. He belongs in the middle of the first round of startups.


Jamison Crowder, WR WAS
Season Stats: 59 receptions, 604 receiving yards, two touchdown receptions

I featured Crowder in the week 17 edition of the rookie report card. In that article, I wrote that many of Crowder’s biggest plays during his late season success came on plays specifically designed to get the rookie the ball, such as bubble screens. This means head coach Jay Gruden sees Crowder as a playmaker – which can mean nothing but good things for Crowder’s fantasy upside.

Crowder showed very good quickness off the line of scrimmage, shiftiness at the top of his routes and good hands to make the catch whether he’s wide open or in traffic in the middle of the field. Overall, he showed potential as a possession slot receiver throughout his rookie season and proved that he should – at the very least – enter 2016 as the Redskins’ primary receiver in the slot.

Crowder has WR3 potential in PPR leagues and is an ideal depth wide out going into next season, but his dynasty upside is capped by his lack of size (5-foot-8, 185 pounds). If somebody was willing to give a low-end second round rookie pick or equivalent player for him, I’d take it in a heartbeat.


Stefon Diggs, WR MIN
Season Stats: 52 receptions, 720 receiving yards, four touchdown receptions

Diggs was my favorite late-round rookie pick last year and greatly outperformed his draft position as a rookie. A good route runner with quick feet in and out of his breaks, he was able to get separation throughout his rookie season and was a playmaker with the ball in his hands after the catch. Although his rookie season got off to a great start, catching 25 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns over his first four games, Diggs’ production tailed off considerable for the rest of the year as he didn’t have more than 66 receiving yards in a game over the last nine weeks of the season.

Some of those struggles can be attributed to the erratic play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well as Minnesota’s run first offense. Neither of which are likely to change in 2016. Because the rest of the team is likely to continue to hold him back, Diggs shouldn’t be depended on as anything more than a WR3 in 2016 – but still carries WR2 upside.


Phillip Dorsett, WR IND
Season Stats: 18 receptions, 225 receiving yards, one touchdown reception

Not a big part of the Colts’ offense as a rookie, Dorsett disappointed dynasty owners everywhere. Fourth on the depth chart and struggling with injuries for parts of the season, he saw sporadic playing time and didn’t make much of an impact when he did see the field despite his breathtaking speed and separation abilities.

Although he figures to have a bigger role in the offense next year with Andre Johnson likely to be cut, he’ll still be playing behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief on the depth chart. His top-end speed and explosiveness make him a threat at any time to be a fantasy contributor and he still carries WR2 upside if he ever gets regular playing time, but it’s difficult to trust Dorsett as anything more than a depth WR5 for the immediate future.


Devin Funchess, WR CAR
Season Stats: 31 receptions, 473 receiving yards, five touchdown receptions

After starting slow, Funchess became more and more of a factor late in the year despite being a reserve for a majority of the season. He had a breakout game in week 17 against the Buccaneers, catching seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Using his size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) to his advantage on multiple occasions, he used his large frame to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and won jump balls in the red zone.

At this point it’s very difficult to project Funchess as we don’t know how he’ll be used in the future but the best guess is that he’ll line up opposite Kelvin Benjamin next season – which would give him the opportunity to take a sizable leap forward for his fantasy owners in 2016. With WR2 upside, he’s a strong hold for dynasty owners and could be a trade target for those sold that he’ll blend well with Benjamin.


Dorial Green-Beckham, WR TEN
Season Stats: 32 receptions, 549 receiving yards, four touchdown receptions

Another rookie wide out that started slow but began to show his upside late in the season, Green-Beckham displayed that his elite size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and athleticism could transfer well to the NFL as a vertical threat and red zone target despite playing in Tennessee.

Green-Beckham was featured in the week 15 edition of the rookie report card, where I concluded…

“There’s a good chance that Green-Beckham’s dynasty value goes up drastically over the off-season (particularly if he finishes the season strong.) It wouldn’t be surprising to see his value spike much like Davante Adams and Allen Robinson’s values spiked a year ago. While it’s unknown if he’ll soar like Robinson or plummet like Adams, he certainly has the upside to take the next step in his second year. He should be squarely on every dynasty owners “buy” list this off-season.”


Rashad Greene, WR JAX
Season Stats: 19 receptions, 93 receiving yards, two touchdown receptions

After catching seven passes for 28 yards and a touchdown in week one, Greene caught just 12 more balls for 65 yards and one more touchdown over his other eight games. After featuring him in the rookie report card back in week one, I suggested selling Greene ASAP as we likely saw his best game of the season and perhaps his career. Now buried behind Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Julius Thomas, both his short and long term upside are bleak at best.


Check back in the coming days for part two of my look at the 2015 rookie wide outs.


dan meylor