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 2018 season and assess the rookies – A final report card if you will.
We covered 34 rookies throughout the season, including 12 wide receivers. Let’s take one more look at eight of those pass catchers’ first season, as well as a quick glimpse into their futures.
Marcell Ateman, WR OAK
Season Stats: 15 receptions, 154 yards, one touchdown
Ateman had a nice finish to his rookie campaign, recording all of his production in the Raiders’ final seven games. Although he didn’t look particularly fast or athletic, he showed a killer instinct to attack the ball in the air and good hands when he got opportunities down the stretch of the season. While he’s far from a guarantee to see any kind of playing time in 2019 and beyond, Ateman showed enough to be on dynasty owners’ radars throughout the off-season and is worthy of a roster spot in deep leagues because of his size (6’-4”, 216 pounds) and upside as a red zone target.
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Antonio Callaway, WR CLE
Season Stats: 43 receptions, 586 yards, five touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Two
Callaway had a good rookie season and finished strong once the new coaching staff took over, catching 22 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. He showed off his blazing speed and incredible athleticism throughout his rookie campaign, with highlights that included toe-tapping sideline catches and big plays including a lightning quick 77-yard touchdown catch in week 13 that was called back due to holding that shouldn’t be forgotten.
The chemistry between Callaway and fellow rookie Baker Mayfield grew throughout the season and the pair looked especially in sync on “scramble drill” plays when Mayfield was creating time behind the line of scrimmage with his legs.
Considering Callaway missed his entire final season of college football due to off-the-field issues, he looked impressive to say the least and proved that the sky is the limit for his upside. While those problems outside the lines (as well as some problems with drops) should be a concern, dynasty owners should see Callaway as a breakout candidate going into 2019.
D.J. Chark, WR JAC
Season Stats: 14 receptions, 174 yards
After being the talk of the Combine by posting a 4.34-second 40 time and 40-inch vertical, Chark disappointed as a rookie – even by Jaguars standards. Despite that athleticism and ideal size (6’-3”,200 pounds), he failed to make an impact and if anything, frustrated fans and dynasty owners with dropped passes and an inability to climb a depth chart that included the likes of Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook.
While owners should continue to have patience and try to hold onto optimism that the skills Chark showed in Indianapolis a year ago will translate to the field, it’s difficult not to feel like he might be another SPARQ star who is more athlete than football player.
Keke Coutee, WR HOU
Season Stats: 28 receptions, 287 yards, one touchdown
Coutee had a really nice rookie season when he was on the field. His 28-287-1 stat line was piled up in just six games and doesn’t even include the 11-catch, 110-yard outing against the Colts in the playoffs that included mostly underneath route running, great run-after-the-catch ability and a six-yard touchdown catch out of the backfield.
Appearing to be the Texans’ version of the speedy, versatile weapon we see across the league a la Tyreek Hill, Coutee is excellent running drags over the middle because of his speed after the catch and should have an opportunity to have an expanded role with Houston’s coaching staff’s willingness to use motion and place him in the backfield to get the ball in his hands in space.
Although injuries are a very big concern with Coutee, who missed 10 games as a rookie in two separate spurts, the sky is the limit for his dynasty upside – particularly in PPR leagues. Currently the WR46 in DLF ADP, he’s a big upside lottery ticket for those looking for youth at receiver this off-season.
Robert Foster, WR BUF
Season Stats: 27 receptions, 541 yards, three touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week 12
Foster was one of the biggest rookie surprises of the season, averaging 20 yards per catch and posting four games with at least 94 receiving yards. Those are impressive numbers for an undrafted rookie, despite playing his college ball at Alabama.
Entering the league with a reputation as a deep threat that lacked attention to detail and wasn’t always willing to give full effort, he appeared to be the exact opposite on Sunday’s in the second half of the season.
Foster’s speed (4.41-second 40 time) combined with Josh Allen’s arm strength creates an intriguing potential going forward but with the Bills undoubtedly looking to add talent at receiver this off-season, it’s unclear what kind of opportunity Foster will get in 2019 and beyond. Nevertheless, that big play upside will keep him roster worthy at least into next season until we know how big his role will be.
Michael Gallup, WR DAL
Season Stats: 33 receptions, 507 yards, two touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Seven
Throughout the regular season, it felt as if Gallup was on the field for the Cowboys but not making much of an impact. Constantly catching between one and three passes per game, he was there. He just wasn’t doing anything noteworthy.
Then the postseason came and after catching a touchdown (albeit in another two-catch effort) against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, he exploded for 119 yards and another score on six catches against the Rams in the divisional round.
A deep threat (4.51-second 40 time) with good size (6’-1”, 205 pounds) and athleticism, Gallup profiled as the second receiver on an NFL team coming into the league so it wasn’t surprising that he wasn’t a very big part of the Cowboys’ offense in the first half of the season. Following the addition of Amari Cooper, however, he made a handful of big plays and his production began to spike.
I concluded the week seven edition of the Rookie Report Card by comparing Gallup to Cooper’s former teammate in Oakland, Michael Crabtree, and mentioned his ultimate upside lies in the WR2 range but dynasty owners need to be patient. Nothing’s changed since then.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR DEN
Season Stats: 30 receptions, 243 yards, two touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week 14
Coming out of college, I questioned if Hamilton had the speed and quickness to make an impact as an NFL slot receiver despite being a quality college wideout. In his four-game audition in the final month of his rookie season, however, he looked the part – at least to some extent.
Catching 25 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns in those four games, Hamilton had a knack for finding openings in zone coverages and giving Case Keenum a target to dump the ball to, but averaged just 7.2 yards per catch over that stretch.
Certainly not explosive or dynamic out of the slot, it’s questionable whether the Broncos would be comfortable entering 2019 or any season with Hamilton as their primary slot receiver. Dynasty owners shouldn’t feel comfortable entering the year with him as anything more than an end-of-bench stash in a deep league.
Christian Kirk, WR ARI
Season Stats: 43 receptions, 590 yards, three touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Five
Considering the offense he played in and the quarterback struggles the team endured, Kirk’s rookie season was about as good as any of us could have expected. While he was far from consistent, he flashed good route running and a knack for getting a good release against press coverage and even made a few plays downfield which wasn’t necessarily what dynasty owners expected from him coming out of Texas A&M.
The likely successor to Larry Fitzgerald in the slot in Arizona, Kirk was forced to play throughout the formation as a rookie and will most likely do the same as a sophomore with the news that Fitzgerald is returning in 2019. And while the vet’s return will keep Kirk from playing his best position full time once again, the opportunity to learn from one of the best big slot men in the game for another year will be invaluable to his heir apparent.
Despite a broken foot (which is always difficult to come back from even in an off-season) putting an end to his rookie season early, a coaching change and an undeniable lack of talent on the Cardinals’ roster, the future is bright for Kirk. Dynasty owners should remain patient in 2019 and keep in mind that Kirk may be more likely to be a year three breakout candidate.
Check back in the coming days for grades on the remainder of the 2018 rookie class of wide receivers.
Find Dan on Twitter at @dmeylor22
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