Five Undervalued Rookie Wide Receivers to Target this Off-Season

Jacob Frank

The fantasy playoffs are here, but in just a few weeks, the dynasty football off-season will come. Each and every year, second-year players who didn’t quite “break out” see their market values drop prior to the NFL Draft. That, my friends, is the perfect time to strike a deal.

Many wide receivers don’t break out until their second, third or even fourth years (hello Corey Davis). But early success of breakout rookies often clouds the judgment of fantasy owners. Instant gratification is nice, but as we all know, things change quickly in the NFL.

This article will dive into five rookie wide receivers with high-end potential, whose values are lower than they should be. Most have dealt with early injuries, some have had underwhelming production, and others just are not getting the respect they deserve. Let’s dive in.

Denzel Mims, NYJ

Mims flew under the radar during the NFL draft. When he landed with the Jets, he became an afterthought to many fantasy owners. The knock on Mims has always been his hands. He had a little bit of a problem in college dropping the ball. However, many don’t know that he played through a broken hand his junior year, which should account for at least part of the problem. If that wasn’t enough to suppress his value, the Jets’ second-round selection injured his hamstring early in the season.

Mims didn’t see the field until week seven, but since then he’s been a top option for the Jets. Since his debut, the Jets’ rookie receiver has received no less than 40 yards in a game, and has been targeted at least seven time in four of six contests. While those numbers are far from eye-popping, the consistency and target share are worth noting. Moreover, it’d be hard to expect much more from any receiver who’s forced to catch balls thrown by Sam Darnold. Coach Adam Gase isn’t exactly an offensive mastermind either.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that Mims has shown impressive hands in his rookie year. He’s had no problem securing the ball, mitigating prior concerns. He’s very athletic and has all the tools necessary to be a very good all-around receiver. His raw numbers are artificially low due to his early-season injury and the Jets’ poor quarterback play upon his return. However, Mims has a clear path to becoming the number one receiver on his team, and next year, there should be a new quarterback throwing him the ball. The winless Jets are well-positioned to land either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL draft.

Last off-season, Mims was a mid to late second-round rookie selection. Now, he can be had for an early to mid-second-round pick. With his potential, the ability he’s shown, the likely improvement at the Jets’ quarterback and coaching positions, and his clear pathway to be his team’s top receiver, Denzel Mims is an excellent target as an undervalued rookie entering his second year.

Laviska Shenault, JAC

Shenault has had a very quiet, yet very good rookie year despite battling injuries. In 11 games, Shenault has 42 receptions for 441 yards. That’s good for a 61-reception, 642-yard pace over 16 games. That’s pretty impressive for a receiver who has been catching balls thrown by Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon!

The Jaguars’ second-round pick fell in the draft due to injury concerns. The Colorado product sustained a core injury in college that required surgery and sidelined him for a number of weeks. But despite those concerns, the incredibly athletic rookie has remained mostly healthy this year, playing in 11 or 13 contests thus far.

Like Mims, Shenault should see a better quarterback behind center next year. The Jaguars have only one win on the year, putting them in great position to land one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. It’s possible the Jaguars go a different direction and sign a veteran quarterback, but either way, it’s more likely than not that next year, Shenault will have a much better passer throwing him the ball.

Shenault has incredible strength and hands. There have been ridiculous plays this year where he’s been sandwiched between two defenders, and he still managed to not only catch the ball, but gain extra yardage. In fact, half of his yards have come after the catch! He’s proven to be much more than a gadget player, with solid route-running ability and strong hands. His incredible strength and athleticism make him a huge contested-catch threat, which bodes well for future red zone opportunities.

It’s easy to forget about a young player on a struggling team; however, Shenault’s situation is likely to improve and he’s shown plenty to believe in the talent. He cost about a mid-second in 2020 rookie drafts, and could likely be had for a late first or an early second now. With his ability, role and improving situation, I would not hesitate to spend that on the undervalued Laviska Shenault.

Henry Ruggs, LV

Ruggs was the first wide receiver selected in the stacked 2020 NFL draft. Taken 12th overall, many were surprised that the speedy receiver was taken over the likes of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson. But Ruggs was the player Raiders coach Jon Gruden identified as the best fit for their offensive scheme.

Ruggs’ season has been somewhat disappointing, but that may have more to do with other rookies blowing past expectations, than his own shortcomings. Through 14 weeks, the first-year receiver has posted 23 receptions for 414 yards in 11 games. That’s a pace of 33 receptions for 602 yards over 16 games. In any other year, those numbers would be considered decent, even pretty good – for a rookie. But the argument for Ruggs does not come from his numbers. Instead, we turn to missed opportunities, and his future outlook regarding his situation and role to see why the Raiders young receiver is undervalued.

First and foremost, Ruggs has been underutilized. While he’s managed to consistently see the field, he’s not seeing the target volume we had hoped for. This has been incredibly frustrating for his owners, especially because he seems to always be open. Whether it’s downfield on a deep crosser or a drag route underneath, he’s creating tremendous separation. Unfortunately, the targets just have not come his way early in his career. Gruden has seemingly used him to open up the offense for more experienced receivers rather than running the offense through him. However, as Ruggs continues to make big plays, like the game-winning catch against the Jets, he will continue to see more opportunities. Gruden is notorious for moving slowly with his rookies, so I would put more weight on his tape than raw numbers, and the tape clearly shows that he is getting open time after time.

Ruggs is not just a speed receiver. He’s a very underrated route runner with quick feet. More than that, he’s got good hands and a great contested-catch ability. He’s made a few brilliant sideline grabs and catches over defenders. He wasn’t drafted 12th overall just for his speed.

On top of that, the Raiders’ wide receiver target share is completely up for grabs. Not many young players have a clear path to becoming their team’s top receiver. Top pick Ruggs definitely does. The Raiders have an unimpressive veteran group of Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, and Tyrell Williams. While Agholor has stepped up this year, he should not be considered a threat to Ruggs’ emergence. Jones is a nonfactor. Williams is an intriguing deep threat, but has never been anything more than that. Williams has been injured this year, and if he returns next year, he could be used to open up the field for Ruggs, just as Ruggs has been doing this year for his teammates.

Having invested their 2020 first and third-round picks on receivers, I’d be surprised if the Raiders used early draft capital on another, especially considering their glaring needs on defense and their offensive line. As a fantasy manager, I’d be comfortable with Ruggs’ competition moving forward, and excited about the tremendous room for his role, usage, and production to expand.

Considering all of his tools, his elite speed, the investment the Raiders made, and his room for growth, it’s hard to imagine a world where Gruden and Carr don’t find a way to make Ruggs a main feature in their passing game. He likely can be had at or below his rookie draft price, which was a late first-round pick to mid-second-round pick. With his rookie year behind him and a lot of reasons to be excited about his future, Henry Ruggs is an undervalued rookie receiver to target in the off-season.

Jalen Reagor, PHI

Fortunately for Reagor, he missed much of Carson Wentz’ abysmal season. Unfortunately for us fantasy owners looking to buy shares, that likely shielded his value from collapsing. The Eagles selected Reagor in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, and with Jalen Hurts now behind center, we may finally be able to see why.

Many fantasy owners had Reagor as one of their top three rookie receivers, and he landed in a great situation. The Eagles lack any sort of depth at the receiver position. Their former top option, Alshon Jeffery, is a shell of himself after suffering countless injuries. The Eagles 2019 second-round selection, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, has been a complete bust. Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham, while solid options, lack the talent and upside of Reagor. It’s more of an expectation than a possibility that the Eagles’ rookie receiver becomes their top passing option.

In eight games this year, Reagor has posted 22 receptions for 302 yards. That’s good for a 44 reception, 604-yard pace over 16 games. When viewed in its proper context, that is extremely impressive. The rookie has battled injuries and poor quarterback play throughout the year, preventing him from really coming into his own. With Hurts, a quarterback actually capable of throwing in the general direction of his receivers, expect more consistency moving forward. His talent has never been in question, and his upside is far too great to pass up at his current value.

The Eagle’s first-round pick went in the mid to late first round in most dynasty rookie drafts. He likely could be had at or even below that same value. If so, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to trade for Reagor, who I’d take over all but two receivers in this upcoming class.

Darnell Mooney, CHI

Mooney is my pick to be the dark horse receiver of the draft. He has been extremely impressive, already passing Anthony Miller as his team’s number two option. With Allen Robinson set for free agency, it’s quite possible Mooney becomes his team’s top option sooner rather than later. That being said, if Robinson stays, Mooney still has the talent to be a difference-maker for your team.

Mooney was largely overlooked in the NFL draft, going in the fifth round to the Chicago Bears. Consequentially, he was available in the late third, even fourth round of rookie drafts. In some leagues, he did not even get drafted. His small stature may have scared some teams away, but it didn’t take long for quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles to find out what their young weapon was capable of.

What the fifth-round receiver lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and intelligence. He also displays a strong route-running ability and very soft hands. He’s faster than Diontae Johnson, and unlike Johnson, Mooney doesn’t struggle with drops. While he has top-end speed, Mooney uses his intelligence to control his speed. He’s got several tricks up his sleeve, whether it’s a false step, quick twitch, or slowing down just to burst past the defender. Mooney’s intelligence also allows him to play bigger than his size. He has great special awareness, allowing him to give himself advantageous positioning. By getting in great position to catch the ball, Mooney is able to catch the ball at its high point, or in the alternative, catch the ball with less contention.

With 42 receptions and 450 yards over 13 games (seven starts), Mooney enjoys a 52 reception, 550-yard pace over 16 games. That is nothing to scoff at for a fifth-round selection who not many expected to do much in his rookie year. The speedy wide receiver should get even more involved in the Bears’ offense as the year goes on, leading into next year.

Just like the other receivers on this list, the Chicago rookie also suffers from putrid play from his quarterbacks. Many expect a new signal-caller in Chicago next year, and that would certainly help. Regardless, Mooney has already flashed a really exciting skillset, and he likely could be had for a mid to late second-round pick. With his ability, I’d expect his value to increase as he continues to develop.


All of these rookie receivers have had to overcome quarterback play that has been underwhelming at best. Yet all five of these receivers have managed to put together respectable rookie years, and they all have flashed very impressive skillsets. With their prices artificially suppressed by a multitude of factors, this off-season presents a great opportunity to target these exciting undervalued rookie wide receivers.