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Rookie wide receivers prove to be league-winning difference-makers every year. The unproven floor often associated with this player pool results in easily exploitable mid-to-late-round average draft positions (ADPs), and it is crucial for savvy drafters to target these ascending pass-catchers as frequently as possible.
Below are three rookie wide receivers who have a good chance of finishing as top-24 scorers in points-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.
Seattle’s first-round rookie wide receiver earned a 70.3 PFF grade in his NFL debut. He lined up in the slot on 87.5% of his snaps, a near-perfect match to the 88.6% slot rate from his dominant 2021 college season.
Smith-Njigba’s 2022 campaign was derailed by a recurring hamstring strain, but his 2021 season offers the perfect dataset when it comes to predicting Smith-Njigba’s 2023 situation, where he'll be playing alongside two excellent perimeter wide receivers in Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Ohio State wide receivers: PFF receiving metrics and rank among 26 Power Five wide receivers with at least 100 targets
|Metric||Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Garrett Wilson||Chris Olave|
|PFF receiving grade||91.9 (No. 1)||84.5 (No. 10)||79.9 (T-No. 18)|
|Targets||112 (T-No. 15)||102 (No. 23)||101 (No. 24)|
|TPRR – YPRR||0.281 (No. 11) – 4.01 (No. 1)||0.289 (No. 6) – 3.00 (No. 5)||0.248 (No. 23) – 2.29 (No. 20)|
|aDot||9.3 (No. 19)||11.6 (No. 11)||14.7 (No. 2)|
|Yards after catch/Rec.||8.3 (No. 3)||6.0 (No. 11)||4.3 (No. 21)|
|Slot Target %||25.9% (No. 2)||6.2% (No. 19)||6.6% (No. 17)|
|20-plus-yard tgt. %||16.1% (No. 20)||17.6% (No. 18)||23.8% (No. 8)|
|Passer rating when targeted||141.8 (No. 2)||141.7 (No. 3)||121.5 (No. 6)|
|15-plus-yard plays||43 (T-No. 1)||27 (T-No. 9)||19 (T-No. 20)|
*TPRR = Targets per route run; YPRR = Yards per route run
Even with Wilson and Olave excelling in the intermediate and deep target depths, Smith-Njigba led all Power Five wide receivers in 15-plus-yard pass plays, impressively doing so with a mid-tier average depth of target (aDot).
This catch-and-run skill set is the missing piece for Seattle’s offense. Both Metcalf (12.2 yards) and Lockett (11.1 yards) earned intermediate-to-deep aDots while running routes lined up on the perimeter (84.5% and 56.9%, respectively) a majority of the time. Though both are terrific players, both pass-catchers averaged less than 3.2 yards after the catch per reception.