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Fantasy Football: 3 rookies who can finish as WR2s, including Seahawks' Jaxon Smith-Njigba

2R1B2J5 Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) handles the football during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

• WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks: The former Ohio State standout appears set to be the NFL’s next great power slot receiver.

• WR Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers: Johnston has the potential to become L.A.’s No. 1 wide receiver in his rookie season.

WR Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs: Rice's reported first-team participation indicates he is a candidate for the starting lineup come Week 1.

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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.

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks

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.

In his 2021 Ohio State season, Smith competed with eventual 2022 first-round draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who carved up opponents on the outside.

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.


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