Fantasy Football: Top 10 rookie WR landing spots

No rookie WR made found better fantasy landing spot than Falcons' Ridley

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The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone. Now, with the draft in the background, it is that time of the year where we start to turn our attention to the thing that really matters: Our fantasy football drafts.

It’s never too early to start looking for your “sleeper” or the rookie receiver who is going to help you win your league. Today, we are going to examine the top-10 receivers from the 2018 draft class (in the order in which they were drafted) to see if their stock improved or dropped depending on where they landed.

Where players land is important to their immediate and long-term fantasy value. Talent rules in the NFL, but opportunity matters to fantasy players. A player like Anthony Miller would be more valuable in a place like New England or Green Bay, rather than in Chicago for obvious reasons. Let's dive into this rookie class to see how each player's destination may impact their fantasy value.

D.J. Moore, Carolina

The Panthers desparetly lacked speed in their receiving corps and needed another option in the passing game opposite of Devin Funchess. In order to fill that need, the Panthers spent the 24th overall selection on D.J. Moore from Maryland.

On the field, the fit makes a ton of sense. Moore can operate as the "Z" receiver and win in the short-to-intermediate parts of the game. The Panthers needed more receivers who could create quick separation with their routes and win after the catch. Those two skills are where Moore thrives.

But for Moore’s production, it’s not the greatest of landing spots for a few reasons. The first being that his ceiling may be capped for a while. With Cam Newton absorbing so much of the red zone offense, Moore might not have the touchdown potential that other receivers have. The Panthers run a ton in the red zone, and when they do throw, it usually goes to Devin Funchess or Greg Olsen. Moore might be able to make enough big plays down the field to keep some fantasy value, but this wasn’t a great landing spot for his stock.

Calvin Ridley, Atlanta

For most of the draft process, wide receiver Calvin Ridley was thought of as the consensus No.1 receiver and a lock top-15 selection. But after concerns about his athleticism and ceiling in the NFL arose, he ended up sliding to the end of the first round to the Atlanta Falcons.

On the surface, this may look like a poor landing spot for Ridley. His target share will always be limited due to the target-hog that is Julio Jones. He’s also on a roster that has a dynamic rushing duo in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. However, Ridley really couldn’t have landed in a better spot for his skill set. He was never going to be a No.1 receiver in the NFL, even if he would’ve landed in, let’s say, Buffalo or Baltimore. He is more useful as a team’s second option in the passing game, rather than a featured weapon.

One of the concerns about Ridley was his age coming out of Alabama. He will be 24 during this upcoming season, and though that could limit his upside long term, it might help him quickly transition to NFL. Expect Ridley to instantly become a high-end WR2 for the Falcons and a possible WR3 or flex option in fantasy during his rookie season.

Courtland Sutton, Denver

Womp. Womp. Womp. This was one of the times when a player’s fantasy value takes a major hit because of where he landed. Throughout the draft process, Courtland Sutton was thought of as a potential first-round pick who had the physical profile of a No.1 receiver. However, he landed in one of the worst spots for his fantasy outlook for the upcoming season. Not only is he blocked by a still-productive Demaryius Thomas, but Sutton is on a roster that is loaded at receiver with Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Henderson, DaeSean Hamilton, etc.

His value in redraft leagues or in daily fantasy football is nil, but dynasty owners shouldn’t be scared off. According to OverTheCap.com, Thomas has an expected cap hit of over $17 million in 2019. He will turn 31 this season, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he is still on the roster at this time next season. If that is indeed true, Sutton would likely fill his void as the "X" receiver and inherit his target share. Sutton still has long-term value for dynasty fantasy player, but his 2018 outlook is less than exciting.

Dante Pettis, San Francisco

Draft capital matters in fantasy football. NFL teams typically give high picks multiple chances to “prove” they were correct with their player evaluation. That matters for us who play fantasy football. While talent obviously trumps draft position, it does matter where players are drafted. In the case of Dante Pettis, not only was he a mid-second round pick, he was also a player whom the 49ers traded up for.

Playing with one of the most brilliant minds in all of football in Kyle Shanahan and with an exciting, young quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, Pettis could quickly rise up the depth chart. While both of these are reasons to be excited, the biggest reason to be excited about Pettis is that the 49ers love to throw the ball. In 2017, the 49ers threw the ball more than 600 times. They finished just one attempt short of leading the league (New York Giants with 608). If Pettis is on the field, he should see a heavy amount of targets. With the 49ers’ depth chart looking awfully bare, don’t be surprised if he finishes second in targets in their offense, trailing only Pierre Garcon.

Christian Kirk, Arizona

Evaluating Christian Kirk’s fantasy value post-draft may be one of the most difficult to project among rookie wideouts. Miller was a top-50 selection, but it’s fair to wonder where he fits in with the Arizona offense. Kirk is primarily a slot receiver, but the Cardinals have one of the best slot receivers of all-time in Larry Fitzgerald. 2017 third-round pick Chad Williams is expected to get a chance to win one of the outside receiver spots, as well as veterans J.J. Nelson and Brice Butler.

Even if Kirk becomes an instant starter, he would likely be third in the pecking order for targets behind Fitzgerald and David Johnson. Kirk will likely need an injury or retirement from Fitzgerald to have any sustained fantasy value in the near future.

Anthony Miller, Bears

On film and production alone, Anthony Miller was one of the most impressive receivers in the class. Over the past two seasons at Memphis, Miller racked up nearly 2,900 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns, including 11 red zone touchdowns in 2017. However, there were questions about his durability after dealing with shoulder and foot issues in the past. Despite the concerns, Miller still went in the second round (No. 51 overall) to the Bears, who traded a 2019 second-rounder to New England to move back into Day 2 and pluck Miller.

Miller will likely slide right into the No. 2 receiver role in Chicago with Allen Robinson as the team’s "X" receiver. Miller should be on the field a ton as both an outside receiver and as a slot weapon. However, Miller’s overall ceiling may be capped due to how the Bears want to play offense. Chicago has a young quarterback, a stellar offensive line and two dynamic running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. They threw the ball just 473 times in 2017, the fewest in the league.

Under new head coach Matt Nagy, that number should increase, but make no mistake about it, this is a run-heavy offense. Miller should see a high percentage of the Bears’ targets, but that still may not be enough for him to be fantasy-relevant for the foreseeable future.

James Washington, Pittsburgh

Most believe that James Washington lost value when he landed in Pittsburgh with two established veterans already on the roster. But with Pittsburgh’s strong history of drafting receivers, it shouldn’t be a shock if Washington becomes a productive player sooner rather than later.

Washington also enters an ideal offense to fit his skill set. In 2017, the Steelers threw the ball 590 times, the sixth-most in the NFL. Despite all of the weapons they have on offense, there are enough targets to support multiple fantasy-relevant receivers.

Washington was selected by a team that uses a lot of receivers, which should help him get on the field right away. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Steelers were in '11' personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers) on 71 percent of their offensive plays in 2017. With Martavis Bryant now out of the picture, and no other real threat to steal snaps, Washington is expected to play right away in Pittsburgh. Washington is in a pretty good situation for instant success, despite what may look like a crowded receiver room in Pittsburgh.

D.J. Chark, Jacksonville

D.J. Chark landing in Jacksonville wasn’t a surprise — some believed he was a potential target for the Jaguars in the first round. Instead, the Jaguars were patient and waited until the second round to select the draft’s premier deep threat in Chark.

On the surface, the fit doesn’t seem ideal. He is in a run-first offense with an incredibly inconsistent quarterback. Chark lacks the refinement in his routes to be a starting receiver in the NFL, but his speed should allow him to make big plays pretty consistently.

Chark never had WR1 upside in fantasy, but he did land on a team that has shown it wants to throw the ball down the field at a high rate. If Chark can connect on just one of these plays a week, he will be an every-week starter in your fantasy lineups.

Michael Gallup, Dallas

Michael Gallup landed in the perfect situation. He is on a team that lacks a No.1 receiver, has no real threat at tight end and is looking for a go-to wideout in the red zone. Dallas has already lost 258 targets in one offseason and desperately needs a player to step up and take a chunk of this workload.

Could Gallup pick up the slack left behind by Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Brice Butler? It’s certainly possible. Gallup was just one of three receivers to catch at least 100 passes in 2017 and finished as Pro Football Focus’ highest graded receiver in the 2018 draft class:

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While they have a lot of “names” in their WR room, the Cowboys are somewhat short on talent. It shouldn’t be a shock at all to see Gallup rise up the depth chart quickly and lead the team in targets. Despite Dallas being a run-first offense, this is still a good unit with a young, franchise quarterback that supports a No.1 receiver. Look for Gallup to be a useful fantasy player halfway through his rookie season.

Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans

The 10th receiver selected in the 2018 NFL draft class was Central Florida’s Tre’Quan Smith, the 91st overall pick, by the New Orleans Saints. For Smith, the landing spot is ideal for a number of reasons. The first is that he is a big-play threat (averaged 19.8 yards per reception in his final collegiate season) and he landed with one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL in Drew Brees. While Ted Ginn is still on the roster, at 33, he is a limited player. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smith passed him on the depth chart halfway through the season.

There are other players on the roster who are slated to get chances before Smith, such as Ginn, Cameron Meredith and Brandon Coleman, but none have the ceiling that he possesses. As of 2018, Smith looks like he is blocked on the roster from playing a ton of snaps. However, if and when he does see the field, he could be one of the most productive receivers in this class given his landing spot and his ability to make plays down the field.

Pro Football Weekly