This year's crop of rookie wide receivers has the potential to produce strong 2021 fantasy football results. A handful of talented names were drafted into intriguing scenarios, including Philadelphia’s DeVonta Smith, Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase and Baltimore's Rashod Bateman. Let's dig further into the top-15 rookie wide receiver situations heading into the 2021 NFL season.
All average draft position (ADP) info is sourced from Underdog Fantasy.
1. DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles: WR38 (77.5 ADP)
Philadelphia got very little production from its receivers in 2020. No Eagles wideout crossed the 80-target threshold last season, and Travis Fulgham led the team with just 539 receiving yards. While the situation may not sound intriguing, Smith is likely to enter this season as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Smith is a totally different prospect than the Eagles are used to. The Alabama product dominated college football in his final season (playoffs included):
- 145 targets (1st)
- 117 receptions (1st)
- 1,856 receiving yards (1st)
- 23 touchdowns (1st)
- 4.39 yards per route run (4th, min. 25 targets)
He also won nearly every award possible, including the Heisman Trophy. Smith should be the unquestioned top receiver for quarterback Jalen Hurts, who averaged the second-highest average depth of target (10.1 aDOT) among quarterbacks with 100-plus attempts last year.
Everything is lined up for Smith to have a monstrous season. PFF’s strength of schedule metric ranks the Eagles' wide receiver schedule as the easiest in the NFL.
2. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals: WR21 (43.6 ADP)
Chase was the highest-drafted receiver in this class, and deservedly so — his collegiate numbers were otherworldly. He ranked second in receiving yardage, first in touchdowns and seventh in yards per route run (3.93 YPRR) among all receivers with 25-plus targets in 2019.
Cincinnati already has two established receivers in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, so Chase will need to battle for snaps and opportunities from the get go. But the departure of A.J. Green frees a strong 18.3% target share (101 targets) — there is a legitimate path to immediate production.
In the games Joe Burrow played (Weeks 1-11), the Bengals had the 12th-most passing yards and eighth-most deep pass attempts (20-plus yards). Those kinds of opportunities can sustain three productive receivers. PFF’s fantasy projections agree, as Chase is the top-ranked rookie receiver and the overall WR28.