I’m excited about quite a few pass catchers this year. Typically tight ends are not very productive in year one so it is tough to recommend any rookies, but I do have one that stood out to me which I’ll touch on.
Hayden Hurst – TE – Ravens
Tight Ends may not typically produce in their first year but I think Hayden Hurst could be an exception.
Joe Flacco (and John Harbaugh for that matter), love their tight ends. Don’t believe me? Here are the tight end targets over the last 6 years starting in 2012: 145, 128, 115, 118, 152, 134. In 2016 where there were 152, 121 went to Dennis Pitta who was the team leader in targets. In 2017 there were 134 of which 79 went to Ben Watson who is no longer on the team.
The hold over from last year with the most targets is Nick Boyle(37). You also don’t take a tight end at pick 25 in the first round to sit him on the bench. Hunter Henry type fantasy numbers in his first year are not out of the realm of possibility, where Henry put up a modest 36/478 but with 8 touchdowns. I’m not sure he can duplicate those touchdown numbers but he can certainly exceed the catch and yard marks. All in all, if you’re in a large league(12+) or you want to wait on the tight end position and want a deep sleeper Hayden Hurst is your guy.
DJ Moore – WR – Panthers
With Kelvin Benjamin off catching passes from…Nathan Peterman?…(just kidding), there are definitely targets to be had in the panthers offense. Devin Funchess was pretty good in 2017, albeit still with a case of the dropsies(56.8% catch rate). So a speedy potential slot receiver for quick passes could benefit Cam Newton. I also think he could steal some targets from Christian McCaffrey who saw a team high 113 last year.
I believe he’ll easily be the #3 receiver and could certainly be the number 2 by years end, with only an aging Torrey Smith in his way. I believe he can get between 70-80 targets and around 600 yards. Not bad for a rookie you can get in the 11th or 12th round.
Calvin Ridley – WR – Falcons
Calvin Ridley is an elite talent, but what’s going to hurt him is landing on a roster with Julio Jones and a quarterback who has a good connection with Mohammed Sanu. So, while in football terms, he’s going to be great, I believe in his first year he may be a disappointment, for lack of a better word.
At least in 2018 I believe he takes a back seat to Sanu, and assumes the Taylor Gabriel role which last year was about 50 targets and 400 yards. But in 2019 he could supplant Sanu when Sanu’s dead cap hit drops to $2.8m. And that, is the reason I put him on this list. In a keeper league, he is a perfect candidate to make a huge leap in year two. If you can snag him on the cheap, do it. And if you can’t, drive the price up for everyone else.
Christian Kirk – WR – Cardinals
What better player to shadow and mentor you than Larry Fitzgerald? A clearly talented receiver, what’s more than that he’s also a talented returner and should make an impact on special teams right away giving him some more opportunities for fantasy value.
Being from New England, and seeing Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and even Deion Branch, you can’t help compare Kirk’s style of play and football sense to them.
Check out these highlights from his time and Texas A&M. Smart with his routes, looks great in screens and short crossing routes, and as mentioned an excellent returner:
Kirk’s going to get opportunity in a wide receiver corp that is weak outside of Fitzgerald. In previous offenses Bradford did well with short to intermediate passes and if they make the switch to Josh Rosen you can expect a lot of screens and outlet passes which should benefit Kirk and David Johnson.
Anthony Miller – WR – Bears
Miller is banana’s with the ball in his hands and has a pretty good week 15/16 schedule(GB & SF). Allen Robinson is coming off of injury but the nice thing is, if healthy, he will draw coverage away from the rookie. Robinson has always been more of stretch the field kind of guy and I can see Miller taking a more Cameron Meredith type role.
What makes me hesitate is his QB, subpar offensive line, and new coaching system. And that’s a lot of flags. But Anthony Miller should be on your waiver wire speed dial or on your late round board in deeper leagues.
James Washington – WR – Steelers
Whoever is scouting wide receivers for the Steelers needs to be hired off as GM. All the dude does is churn out talented wideouts. With Martavis Bryant now gone and Antonio Brown still being Antonio Brown, it opens up the potential for Washington to carve out a role for himself. With Juju Smith Schuster in front of him it limits his value slightly, however Schuster and Bryant had about the same amount of receptions last year with Juju getting the edge in touchdowns 7 to 3. Juju should see some regression there and if those end up in the hands of Washington you could have a nice sleeper on your hands.
The guys over at Pro Football Focus put together a great scouting profile for James Washington back in April, take a look here:
Equanimeous St. Brown – WR – Packers
Another product of opportunity, St. Brown steps in to a roll where Jordy Nelson is gone and Randall Cobb is a year older, leaving only Davante Adams should Cobb experience any injuries. Nelson’s leaving frees up 88 targets, while Davante Adams already had 117 last year and Cobb had 92. There’s a very good chance those 88 targets are mostly heading for St. Brown.
Aaron Rodgers does seem to be hesitant with rookie wide receivers, for example Davante Adams only saw 38 catches in his rookie year, however he may not have a choice this year. The rest of the wide receiver corp is lacking and St. Brown is a fast tall receiver with great hands who could quickly take over that Jordy Nelson role.