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 these rookies – A final report card if you will.
We covered 34 rookies throughout the season, including 12 wide receivers, and gave final grades on eight of those receivers last week. Let’s look one more look at the rest of those pass catchers’ first season, as well as a quick glimpse into their futures.
Anthony Miller, WR CHI
Season Stats: 33 receptions, 423 yards, seven touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week 10
Although his numbers might not suggest he had a great rookie season, anybody who watched Miller play in 2018 would be hard pressed to not come away fascinated with his upside. He was as advertised as a slot weapon, running lightning-quick short to intermediate routes and displaying an aptitude for finding space against zone coverage – particularly in the red zone.
Miller’s second-half numbers dipped off following a 5-122-1 performance against the Lions in week 12, which is a concern, and the Bears’ offense spreads the ball out as well as any in the league so dynasty owners shouldn’t be convinced Miller will take an enormous leap forward in 2019. With that said however, Miller going forward should be one of the main weapons in a Matt Nagy offense that was impressive in 2018.
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D.J. Moore, WR CAR
Season Stats: 55 receptions, 788 yards, two touchdowns, 13 carries, 172 rushing yards
Rookie Report Card: Week Eight
It was an up-and-down rookie year for Moore but overall, dynasty owners should be pleased with what he did in 2018. It appeared to take some time for him to get up to speed (and even longer for the Carolina coaching staff to learn how to use his skills properly) but by the time mid-season rolled around, Moore appeared to be a relatively big part of the Panthers’ game plan on a weekly basis and was taking advantage.
Used throughout the formation as both a receiver and runner on end-arounds, Moore showcased his blazing speed (4.42-second 40 time) and cutback quickness all over the field. Catching simple screens, hitches and drags along with seem routes and quick slants, he showed improved route running as the season went on and despite some forgettable moments (like his fumble in week 15 against the Saints), showed he can be a dynamic playmaker at this level.
Although at least some of his 2019 value will be tied to Cam Newton’s health, dynasty owners should be prepared for Moore to take a step forward as a sophomore. He has fringe WR1 upside and could produce at that level as soon as next year.
Dante Pettis, WR SF
Season Stats: 27 receptions, 467 yards, five touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week 13
Pettis was one of my favorite second-round targets in rookie drafts last season and is one of my favorite trade targets going into the off-season after averaging 17.3 yards per catch as a rookie and finishing the season with a string of quality performances.
Clearly the best wideout on the roster and a favorite of head coach Kyle Shanahan, Pettis projects to be a big part of the 49ers’ offense in 2019 due to his crisp route running, excellent hands and great speed. With a full off-season under his belt and the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looming, Pettis has the potential to take a massive leap forward in year two and could reach his WR2 upside sooner rather than later.
Calvin Ridley, WR ATL
Season Stats: 64 receptions, 821 yards, 10 touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Two
If you listen to the DLF Dynasty Podcast, you know I’ve been completely convinced Calvin Ridley is a superstar in the making since he started his final year of college and there was very little from his rookie campaign that made me think otherwise.
Combining elite route running with electrifying run after the catch ability, Ridley showed throughout the season (and particularly early in the year when he scored six touchdowns in three games) that he can score from anywhere. Wicked hesitations and jab steps at the line of scrimmage to get inside on a slant route were followed regularly with a sharp double move to get on top of coverage for a big play on the very next drive.
It was difficult not to question why Atlanta’s coaching staff insisted on playing Mohamed Sanu (78.3%) more than Ridley (60.75%) but dynasty owners should expect that going into 2019, those roles should at the very least be reversed.
Currently at WR24 in ADP, Ridley’s high-end WR1 upside makes him one of my best bargains in dynasty right now. Even with Julio Jones getting the alpha treatment, I expect another big leap forward in 2019 from Ridley.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR NO
Season Stats: 28 receptions, 427 yards, five touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Nine
Smith showed the upside that dynasty owners were so excited about a couple of times during his rookie season but week five against the Redskins and week 11 versus the Eagles notwithstanding, had a pretty disappointing rookie campaign. Those two games accounted for 13 of his 28 catches, 268 of his 427 receiving yards and three of his five touchdowns –or 57.4% of his fantasy points.
Despite the lackluster production for much of his rookie season, Smith is still dripping with upside due to his size (6’-2”, 200 pounds), speed (4.49-second forty time) and ability to high point throws. Even with the ultimate potential to someday become a WR2 for dynasty owners, it’s a tad worrisome that he wasn’t able to post better numbers catching passes from Drew Brees and that the Saints were consistently trying to replace him in their lineup with guys like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Keith Kirkwood. Hopefully, he takes a step forward in 2019.
Courtland Sutton, WR DEN
Season Stats: 42 receptions, 704 yards, four touchdowns
Although Sutton never had a true breakout game as a rookie, only catching more than three passes three times and never eclipsing 85 receiving yards, he averaged 16.8 yards per reception and surprisingly, played the role of vertical threat in Denver which wasn’t a big expectation of the so-called“possession receiver” coming out of SMU. Unfortunately for Sutton owners, he also struggled with drops at times as a rookie and didn’t always seem to be on the same page as quarterback Case Keenum, who routinely missed him with what appeared to be inaccurate throws.
With Emmanuel Sanders a year older and coming off a major knee injury, Sutton will have every opportunity to take over as Denver’s top option in the passing game. And if he’s able to get on the same page with Keenum (or whoever is under center) and can clean up his issues with drops, he could begin to deliver on the WR2 upside he was drafted to be by dynasty owners.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR GB
Season Stats: 38 receptions, 581 yards, two touchdowns
Rookie Report Card: Week Five
Considering Valdes-Scantling was drafted in the fourth round of most rookie drafts, he was a pleasant surprise for anybody that invested in him. Appearing to be the quickest of the three Packers rookie wide receivers to get in lockstep with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he took over as Green Bay’s third receiver behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb after Geronimo Allison went down with a season-ending injury. And while he was able to take over for Allison’s production immediately after the injury, that surge lasted only a handful of weeks.
With Cobb sure to depart in free agency, there will be opportunities going forward on Green Bay’s perimeter to catch passes from Rodgers, but with Allison back at full health, another year for the other two 2018 rookies Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore to improve, and the possibility (if not probability) that the Packers’ new coaching staff brings in more playmakers at the position this off-season, there are no guarantees Valdes-Scantling will produce anything in 2019. Honestly, nobody should be surprised if his rookie season goes down as MVS’s best.
James Washington, WR PIT
Season Stats: 16 receptions, 217 yards, one touchdown
Playing behind Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Washington didn’t get regular opportunities to make an impression as a rookie. And being a healthy scratch on multiple Sundays wouldn’t usually be anything to overlook when projecting a player’s dynasty future – particularly for a player picked in the top 60 picks of the NFL draft. But I’m going to look past all of that and chalk 2018 up as a redshirt year for Washington.
The problem for dynasty owners looking forward though is that unless the tension surrounding Antonio Brown actually boils over to the point that the front office in Pittsburgh decides they’re sick of the drama and moves on from their star, the same situation is likely in store for Washington in 2019 and perhaps beyond.
Although it’s not what dynasty owners ever want to hear, Washington will likely continue to be a firm hold for the foreseeable future. Barring Brown moving on or an injury, we’ll have to continue to hold onto the quickness, separation skills and high pointing upside he showed entering the league as proof that we might have something.
Check back next week for the final installment of the Rookie Report Card when we cover the tight ends.
Find Dan on Twitter at @dmeylor22