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2023 Rookie Wide Receiver Best Ball Primer

rookie wr primer

This rookie wide receiver primer will help you with your rookie research, as well as any upcoming Underdog Fantasy best ball drafts.

Josh Larky, Ryan Reynolds, and Jordan Vanek walk you through the top-15 WRs based on Underdog ADP. Josh (plain text) primarily focuses on ADP game theory and their statistical profile, while Jordan (bold text) and Ryan (italics) focus more on what they've seen on film, along with ideal team fits.

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Rookie WR Expectations

The below table is the average outcome (50th percentile) for rookie WRs from 2016 onward, separated by NFL Draft round. You'll notice that none of these numbers are particularly exciting. Rookie WRs are historically good bets in best ball tournaments, since most of their production occurs in the second half of the season and into the fantasy playoffs — where the majority of money is actually won on Underdog.

Scroll to the bottom of this article to see the 25th percentile, 75th percentile, and 90th percentile outcomes for rookie WRs since 2016 to better understand their scary floors but tantalizing ceilings. The 90th percentile outcomes table is the very reason that rookie WRs with high draft capital are excellent best ball targets early in the offseason.

Round Sample Size Tgt Rec Yards TD
1 27 73 46 584 3
2 36 63 37 485 2.5
3 25 23 15 198 1
4 24 17 10 99 0.5
5 22 15 10 164 1.5
6 21 12 7 104 0
7 17 11 6 73 0

All ADPs are from Underdog Fantasy, and all projected draft slots are from the NFL Mock Draft Database.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR) — ADP 56

College: Ohio State

Projected Draft Slot: Round 1, Pick 19

  • He had 95 receptions and 1,606 receiving yards as a sophomore playing alongside Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave
  • He had fewer than 50 receiving yards in his freshman and junior seasons
  • He is an early declare who carries some draft-slot risk, and his ADP likely stagnates or he falls down a round or two
  • Primarily a slot player in college that got it done after the catch and comes from an NFL level route tree
  • He could mimic Amon-Ra St. Brown’s rookie year production, but my concern is you’re nearly buying that best-case scenario outcome at current ADP
  • He’d be a good fit in New England’s traditional slot-heavy role

Jordan Addison (WR) — ADP 75

College: USC

Projected Draft Slot: Round 1, Pick 15

  • He had 114 receiving yards per game as a sophomore at Pitt, before putting up nearly 80 yards per game in his first and only season at USC as a junior
  • He is a dynamic player with 147 rushing yards and 18 punt returns in college
  • If he goes in the middle of Round 1 in the NFL Draft, his ADP likely rises about a round
    • Drake London's ADP was in the low 70s last year despite a horrible rookie-year landing spot in Atlanta
  • He doesn’t slow down in or out of his breaks on routes and is popularly compared to Calvin Ridley

Quentin Johnston (WR) — ADP 82

College: TCU

Projected Draft Slot: Round 1, Pick 13

  • His counting stats aren’t impressive, but he had 25% and 24% target shares as a sophomore and junior, respectively
  • His 1,069 receiving yards as a junior were over 450 more than any of his teammates
    • Half those yards came after the catch
  • Like Addison, his ADP should rise a round after the NFL Draft
  • He's the most athletically gifted wide receiver in the draft, but there are concerns with the route tree and how much he can get off press coverage at the next level

Zay Flowers (WR) — ADP 96

College: Boston College

Projected Draft Slot: Round 1, Pick 29

  • He had at least 740 yards receiving in each of the past three years, including a 78-1,077-12 campaign as a senior last season
  • He's the type of athlete you manufacture touches for so he can make an impact in space
  • His current eighth-round ADP is a little high for me
  • He's a small but fast four-year college player with at least a 28% target share in each of his final three seasons
  • He's unlikely to rise too much in ADP, even if he gets drafted in Round 1, due to size — think Diontae Johnson or Andy Isabella stature

Josh Downs (WR) — ADP 111

College: North Carolina

Projected Draft Slot: Round 2, Pick 46

  • He had 101 receptions for 1,335 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns as a sophomore
  • He had 94 receptions for 1,029 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns last year as a junior
  • He returned 27 punts over the last two years
  • He's an explosive player with difference making speed and quickness
  • UNC used him almost exclusively a slot receiver
  • Dallas would be a great landing spot
  • His ADP is currently ahead of Jalin Hyatt, who likely goes in Round 1, and I don’t expect Downs’ ADP to rise since he’s roughly 5-foot-10, 175 pounds and should go in the middle of Round 2 of the NFL Draft

Jalin Hyatt (WR) — ADP 117

College: Tennessee

Projected Draft Slot: Round 1, Pick 27

  • He had 67 receptions for 1,267 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns last season
  • He also had fewer than 25 receptions and 300 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons
  • He's an explosive vertical threat with an incomplete route tree
  • He could be a difference-making field stretcher for the Bills or Chargers
  • He played in a very wide receiver-friendly offense in college and has speed that can’t be taught. Hyatt needs a big arm at quarterback
  • The underwhelming production profile is concerning, but a speedy, early declare WR who should get drafted in Round 1 likely goes in the 80s during the summer. Make sure to draft him early and often right now

Kayshon Boutte (WR) — ADP 131

College: LSU

Projected Draft Slot: Round 2, Pick 55

  • There are injury and character concerns, and he could fall entirely out of Day 2 of the NFL Draft
  • In 2020 as a freshman, Boutte had a three-game run with 111 yards receiving against Alabama, 108 against Florida, and a staggering 308 against Ole Miss
  • He's a vertical threat that’s usable on the perimeter and in the slot
  • There's a scary floor, but he's an interesting ceiling prospect in best ball
  • Boutte is the type of player that will either rise a couple rounds or fall precipitously in best ball drafts. I’d take a couple shares this spring, but wouldn’t go overboard due to the high risk

Rashee Rice (WR) — ADP 205

College: SMU

Projected Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 67

  • He had at least 670 yards receiving as a sophomore and junior
  • He also had 96 receptions for 1,355 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns as a senior last year
  • He's an inconsistent receiver, with a well-rounded skill set
  • I have some interest at his current ADP, with the expectation that rookie year playing time could be limited
  • He's one of the best contested catchers in the entire draft, athletically gifted, and a physical wide receiver, but he will likely have a limited route tree in Year One
  • His big breakout campaign came as a senior, which often leads to mixed results in the NFL
  • Among the 25 WRs drafted in Round 3 since 2016, just three of them topped 525 receiving yards
    • However, eight WRs had at least 425 receiving yards, so there’s a roughly one in three chance that Rice can give you a few useable spike weeks next season; he should he get drafted in Round 3

Rakim Jarrett (WR) — ADP 231

College: Maryland

Projected Draft Slot: Round 5, Pick 143

  • Jarrett was one of the most highly recruited players coming out of high school, and that hype is leading the way on Underdog 
  • I simply cannot get excited about a player currently projected to go Round 5 in the upcoming NFL Draft
  • He should be going after the other WRs projected to go on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) of the upcoming draft
  • Should his draft stock rise, I’ll become more interested and would be willing to pay a slightly steeper price if needed

Cedric Tillman (WR) - ADP 233

College: Tennessee

Projected Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 77

  • Five-year college players rarely pan out in the NFL, so I’d rather take shots on the younger WRs also projected to go Round 3 in the upcoming draft
  • Playing in a very wide receiver-friendly offense, Tillman got it done down the field, but I am worried about how he will separate on the outside and his route tree for Year One

Marvin Mims (WR) — ADP 235

College: Oklahoma

Projected Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 94

  • Mims is a field-stretcher who got it done down the field, but he is undersized and didn’t run an NFL route tree at Oklahoma
  • He's a small, early declare who put up 610 receiving yards and nine TDs as a freshman
  • He returned 33 punts and three kicks during his college career, showcasing his abilities there
  • He's worth a final-round flier as someone who can enter your optimal best ball lineup on just one catch

Nathaniel Dell (WR) — ADP 238

College: Houston

Projected Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 89

  • Dell is a speedy slot wide receiver who is explosive off the line of scrimmage. He needs to be drafted into a creative play caller that can get the most out of him
  • He had 1,329 receiving yards as a sophomore when no other receiver at Houston reached 500 yards
  • He also had 1,398 yards and 17 TDs as a junior
  • He's worth the dart throw in the final round of your best ball drafts

Parker Washington

Parker Washington (WR) — ADP 238

College: Penn State

Projected Draft Slot: Round 3, Pick 100

  • He had 820 receiving yards as a junior playing alongside Jahan Dotson
  • He led the team with 611 yards as a junior
  • He returned 24 career kicks in college, showcasing some ability there
  • It’s a tough prospect profile to envision having Year One fantasy relevance
  • He has a running back's build at the wide receiver position and is a player who can get it done after the catch, but I would be surprised to see Day 2 draft capital

A.T. Perry (WR) - ADP 238

College: Wake Forest

Projected Draft Slot: Round 4, Pick 121

  • He's a big-bodied wide receiver that at the next level needs a big arm at quarterback, but will win down the field. Think Gabe Davis
  • Perry is a four-year player with nearly 2,400 combined receiving yards and 26 TDs in his final two seasons
  • Draft capital leads me to focus on other WRs at this stage of the offseason, but he's a deep threat is a decent profile for the last round in best ball

Xavier Hutchinson (WR) - ADP 239

College: Iowa State

Projected Draft Slot: Round 4, Pick 105

  • He's a smooth route runner and can play in the slot or out wide, but isn’t an elite athlete. Think Jakobi Meyers
  • Hutchinson's a three-year player with good size who started every year at Iowa State
  • 107 receptions in 12 games as a junior demonstrates his ability to handle high volume
  • He’s unlikely to rise in ADP, but is worth an occasional dart throw in best ball drafts

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25th Percentile Outcomes (Since 2016)

Round Sample Size Tgt Rec RecYds RecTD
1 27 53 32 405 1
2 36 31 21 225 1
3 25 11 7 82 0
4 24 7 6 43 0
5 22 6 4 25 0
6 21 5 3 36 0
7 17 4 4 33 0

75th Percentile Outcomes (Since 2016)

Round Sample Size Tgt Rec RecYds RecTD
1 27 109 68 891 5
2 36 81 54 688 6
3 25 48 33 446 3
4 24 46 29 300 1
5 22 68 40 499 2
6 21 20 13 187 1
7 17 13 9 130 1

90th Percentile Outcomes (Since 2016)

Round Sample Size Tgt Rec RecYds RecTD
1 27 126 82 1066 7
2 36 102 60 904 7.5
3 25 82 48 618 5
4 24 60 40 538 4.7
5 22 77 49 604 4
6 21 35 21 304 1
7 17 32 17 167 1

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We hope you enjoyed reading through this rookie WR primer. Be on the lookout for more best ball articles coming soon, along with full rankings next week.