Best and worst landing spots for rookie wide receivers

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The 2014 draft class will always be known as one of the best wide receiver classes in history. Their class contained nine players with at least one 1,000 yard season. Players from this draft include Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans. This year’s wide receiver class has a chance to join them as one of the best wide receiver classes ever.

It’s no question that this draft is loaded with talented wide receivers, but destination can dictate early success in a budding star’s career. The team that drafts a receiver is just as important as the talent they possess when it comes to maximizing potential.

Poor coaching and inconsistent quarterback play can stunt a rookie’s growth when entering the league. Allen Robinson is an elite receiver who hasn’t been able to generate consistent production in his first five years due to a combination of these factors. Other players like Michael Thomas have landed in a wide receiver’s paradise and have found instant success.

Last season’s rookies were no different — Terry McLaurin looks like a promising stud that’s currently in a tough situation. Meanwhile, DK Metcalf is in a prime position to be one of the top wide receivers in the league thanks to his circumstances in Seattle.

With a deep class of receivers, many teams will be looking to solidify their WR1 or WR2 spot. Some teams are better suited than others to immediately start a rookie and support a productive debut campaign.

 

Ideal Destinations 

Aaron Rodgers is starving for a reliable wideout to play opposite of Adams. The last full season Rodgers had with Jordy Nelson and Adams was 2016, where they combined for 172 catches, 2,254 yards and 26 touchdowns. Since then, the receiver behind Adams has failed to reach 600 receiving yards or score more than three touchdowns in a season. Expect the Packers to spend an early pick on one of these bright, incoming rookies. The player Green Bay selects will see plenty of high quality targets from one of the best quarterbacks in the league. 

The Raiders are still in the market for a WR1 and they have the 12th and 19th pick this year. Experts expect them to draft either Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb with one of their first round picks. Derek Carr hasn’t had a true WR1 since the departure of Amari Cooper. Cooper saw back to back 130 target seasons in his rookie and sophomore campaign with Carr and the Raiders. Both seasons saw him accumulate over 1,000 receiving yards and earn Pro Bowl selections. The wideout they draft to be their new WR1 will be expected to produce immediately.

Minnesota is another wide receiver’s paradise. Stefon Diggs had 149 targets in 2018 and 94 targets in 2019. Those targets are up for grabs now after Diggs’ move to Buffalo. Adam Thielen missed some games last year due to injury, but Olabisi Johnson failed to impress in his six starts. The Vikings have a great opportunity to find Diggs’ replacement in the draft. Their next WR2 will be locked in for at least 80 targets, so expect big things if it’s one of these talented rookies.

Other favorable destinations: Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans 

 

Unappealing Situations

The New York Jets finished 7-9 last season and struggled offensively in head coach Adam Gase’s first year, finishing No. 31 in the league in points per game. Le’Veon Bell’s total yards from scrimmage, touches and touchdowns decreased in his first season under Gase. After Gase’s tenure with the Dolphins, players like Kenyan Drake and DeVante Parker reached career-highs in total offensive yardage. The Jets need a star wideout, especially with the departure of Robby Anderson, but the targets may be inconsistent and inaccurate at times. A rookie wide receiver needs stability.

Indianapolis will probably try to upgrade their WR2 position in the draft. They recently inked Philip Rivers to a one-year deal, which should improve their passing game. The problem is there’s no telling if Rivers will return. A rookie wideout would benefit from building a rapport with his quarterback over a couple seasons together. While Rivers is known for his arm and passing ability, the Colts love to run the football, ranking No. 5  in rushing play percentage last season. The combination of a heavy rushing offense and the uncertainty of who will be the quarterback after this season leaves little to be desired for a rookie wide receiver.

Denver will probably be looking to add a wideout opposite of Courtland Sutton. While Drew Lock played very well in his five starts, he isn’t able to produce a season for two prosperous receivers. In Lock’s five starts, Sutton accounted for 40 targets, while the other receivers totaled 50 targets combined. I expect Sutton to vacuum around 130 targets in 2020, leaving the opposite receiver with a light workload on a run-first team.

Other unfavorable destinations: Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins

Nico Alba covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].