Today I look at the 2019 rookie wide receivers and which ones have the best potential to achieve rookie receiving records. (Update: 7/29 Adjusted DK Metcalf’s projection to break a rookie record).
The late Terry Glenn holds the record for wide receiver targets in a rookie season with 167. Glenn was a tough small receiver chosen by the Patriots with the 7th overall pick of the 1996 draft. He was chosen on Bob Kraft’s decision overriding head coach Bill Parcells. Glenn won over Parcells through an outstanding rookie season in which he made the All-Rookie Team. In the final game of the regular season the Patriots fell behind the Giants 22-0 late in the third in a game the Patriots needed to clinch a playoff spot. Glenn went on to have six receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Giants. After the game Parcells told Glenn in front of the team – ‘I’m proud of you. You showed me that you’re a player.’ The rookie top ten for targets are shown in the following table.
The Cardinals selected receiver Andy Isabella in round two of the draft. Like Terry Glenn, Isabella is also a small receiver at 5’9″ and 188 lbs. Isabella had the third most targets per game in the NCAA in 2018 with 12.6. His speed and change of direction skills make him difficult to cover. At the combine Isabella was tie for the fastest wide receiver in the forty. He was sixth in the three-cone and short shuttle. In 2018 Andy Isabella led all wide receiver draft prospects in receiving yards team market share with a 47.5%. The next closest receiver was over 5% less.
Arizona new head coach Kliff Kingsbury was head coach of Texas Tech from 2013 to 2018. During that period Texas Tech was in the top six teams in passing attempts per season. Three of those seasons they were number two. In 2013 with Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield at quarterback Texas Tech ran passing plays nearly 65% of the time which was the fourth highest in the NCAA. I see Isabella being one of the three Cardinals starting receivers along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
According to ESPN.com out of all NFL receivers only three in 2018 passed Terry Glenn’s rookie target record. The top targeted receiver, Julio Jones, only passed Glenn’s record by three targets. Sixteen receivers would have cracked the top ten of rookie target records if they were rookies. I see Isabella cracking the top ten of rookies for receiving targets but Terry Glenn’s rookie record would appear to be out of reach. It has been over three years since a rookie made the top ten. Amari Cooper on the Raiders got to number eight with 130 targets in 2015. Kyler Murray to Andy Isabella should make for exciting football.
The rookie record for receptions by a wide receiver was set in 2003 by Anquan Boldin on the Cardinals with 101. For receptions per game (minimum 25 receptions) the record is Odell Beckham with 7.6 receptions per game. Boldin is second with 6.3.
Anquan Boldin was one of the toughest players at wide receiver. In 2008 he suffered a brutal helmet to helmet hit that required seven metal plates and 40 screws in his face. He missed just two games. Boldin retired in 2017 after 14 years in the NFL. In Boldin’s words – “At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life’s purpose is bigger than football”. Boldin has founded the Anquan Boldin Foundation to help educational and life opportunities of underprivileged children. He has traveled to Ethiopia to volunteer with Oxfam America. Here are the top ten all-time in receptions.
|Rk||Player||Year||Age||Tm||G||GS||Tgt||Rec||Yds||Y/R||TD||Y/G||Ctch%||Y/Tgt||Rec per game|
Marquise Brown was the first receiver chosen in round one of the 2019 draft. He is projected to be a slot receiver on the Ravens due to his size of 5’9″” and 170 lbs, his speed, shiftiness, toughness and fearlessness. Brown had a 74% catch rate. That was best among the top targeted college receivers. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s passing strength was passes to the middle of the field. That fits nicely with Brown’s skills as a slot receiver. Brown could easily be the number one wide receiver on the Ravens in 2019.
I project Marquise Brown to have the most rookie receptions with 64. It will not challenge Anquan Boldin’s rookie record nor even crack the top ten rookie records. However it will tie Calvin Ridley for the tenth highest of the last five seasons. The basis of the projection starts with Lamar Jackson’s desire to be more of a passing quarterback. In his rookie season Jackson had 24.3 pass attempts per game which was the lowest among starting quarterbacks. Projecting a 10% increase in pass attempts puts him at 428 for the year. That would be 28th among the 2018 quarterbacks. Projecting Brown as the WR1 on the Ravens I used the average team target share for a wide receiver one which was 23% for the 2016 season according to nfl.com. That gives Brown 98 targets. Lastly I use a projected catch rate. Brown had a 74% catch rate his last year. I used a 65% catch rate. That would be tenth best among 22 rookie receivers over the last five years with 80+ targets. Two Ravens receivers had a 65% or better with Jackson quarterback. Willie Snead had 65.4% on 26 targets over Jackson’s seven games. Chris Moore had 70% on 10 targets over those seven games.
It will be interesting to see if Lamar Jackson improves as a passer from year one and if Jackson hooking up with Marquise Brown improves on an already exciting run game.
The rookie record for receiving yards was set by Bill Groman in 1960 on the Houston Oilers with 1,473 yards in just a 14 game season. In his six years of professional football, Groman played on four AFL championship teams, the only man ever to do so. Groman is the only player in pro football history to have more receiving touchdowns (27) within the first 25 games of his career than O’dell Beckham. After college Groman was teaching eighth grade science when a lunch with a fellow teacher and her husband got Groman hooked up with the head coach of the newly formed Oilers in the AFL. The rest is NFL history. Here is a table of the top ten rookies for receiving yards.
Andy Isabella had the most receiving yards in 2018 topping the next player by over 200 yards with one less game. His 1,698 yards in 2018 is eighth most in a season since 2000. Isabella also is the active career leader in receiving yards in the FBS with 3,526. Isabella can stretch the field. In 2018 he was second in receiving plays of 10+, 20+ and 30+ yards. He is first in receiving plays of 40+, 50+ and 60+ yards. Isabella accounted for 47.47% team market share of receiving yards for UMass. That was the tops among 2019 draft prospects.
Quarterback and 2019 rookie Kyler Murray was third in the FBS in passing yards with 4,361. Over the last 10 years eleven quarterbacks have started all 16 games their rookie season. The average passing yards of these 11 rookies is 3,600 yards The average of the top five is 4,000 yards. I see Kyler Murray as hitting 4,000 passing yards and Isabella getting one third of that. This would put him in the top five of all-time rookie receiving yards. Here are the eleven starting rookies over the last ten years.
|Average Top 5||3983|
In 2018 Arizona was last in the league in passing yards with only 2,523. The high was set by Tampa Bay with 5,125 and the average was 3,804. The potential receiving yards turnaround of Arizona and rookie receiving yard records will make following the Cardinals an interesting story-line in the 2019 season.
Yards per Reception
The record rookie yards per reception is held by Bucky Pope. Pope set the record in 1964 on the Rams with 31.44 yards per reception on 25 receptions. Pope was tall at 6’5″ and fast. He also had 10 receiving touchdowns that rookie year which stands at tie for tenth all-time by a rookie wide receiver. Pope turned out to be a one year wonder as his career was cut short due to injury. In 1965 after fulfilling his six month reserve duty for the army, Pope rushed back to help the Rams as they depended on him. He was not ready and injured his knee real bad in an exhibition game for which he was paid only six dollars. Pope missed all of the 1965 season and was never the same after the injury. He wound up playing 19 games over three years before hanging it up after the 1968 season. Here are the top ten rookies in yards per reception with a minimum 21 receptions.
Xavier Ubosi was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is his third signing since the 2019 draft. He was previously waived by the Patriots and the Jets. His 2018 yards per reception of 23.9 yards was first in the FBS. Ubosi is currently on injured reserve.
Darius Slayton was chosen by the Giants in round five of the 2019 draft. His 22.2 yards per reception in 2017 was second best among 2019 rookies and fifth best in the FBS that year. Slayton hit wide receiver targets for seven of his eight combine drills. He was third among wide receivers in the broad jump and vertical jump. Slayton currently is sidelined in training camp with a hamstring injury.
Hakeem Butler is third among signed draft prospects in yards per reception. His 21.97 yards per reception in 2018 was third best in the FBS. He made that average on 60 receptions which was the most receptions for the top fifteen players in yards per reception. Butler has exceptional measurements for a wide receiver. On mockdraftable.com charts he come in at the top 5 percentile in all measurements with height (6’5″), wingspan (83 7/8ths), arm length (35.25″) and hand size (10.75″) all being 98 percentile or better. He still meets wide receiver combine drill targets for the forty (4.48 s) and five additional combine drills for a total of six out of eight.
D.K. Metcalf had the sixth best yards per reception among 2019 NFL rookies. His 21.88 yards per reception in 2108 would be fourth in the FBS but he only played seven games due to a season ending neck injury. Metcalf is like a faster version of Hakeem Butler. D.K.’s physical measurements are in the top 5 percentile for weight, wingspan and arm length among historical combine wide receiver data. Metcalf met wide receiver targets for six of the eight drills. He was third at the combine among wide receivers in the forty (4.33), first in the bench press (27 reps), third in vertical jump and fifth in the broad jump.
Metcalf was selected in the second round of the draft by the Seahawks and is projected to be a starting receiver. Seahawks’ quarterback Russel Wilson was fourth in the league last year in 40+ passing plays with 13. His career yards per completion of 12.2 yards is tie for third among active quarterbacks. Wilson’s career 7.9 yards per attempt leads all active quarterbacks. Metcalf’s speed and vertical threat capability coupled with Russell Wilson’s ability to push the ball downfield make Metcalf my favorite to lead the rookie receivers in yards per reception.
In the last five seasons no rookie wide receiver even cracked the top ten in rookie yards per reception. This could be due to the league drifting more towards quicker short passes. In fact the latest date for a top ten player in yards per reception is 1993. It is highly unlikely a 2019 rookie breaks the top ten let alone upset Bucky Pope at number one. Here are the top ten 2019 rookies in college yards per reception.
|24||Hakeem Butler||2018||JR||Iowa State||ARI||13||60||1318||22||9|
|26||Olabisi Johnson||2016||SO||Colorado State||MIN||11||28||613||21.9||4|
|74||Terry McLaurin||2018||SR||Ohio State||WAS||12||35||701||20||11|
|182||Anthony Ratliff-Williams||2017||SO||North Carolina||TEN||12||35||630||18||6|
Randy Moss leads all wide receivers in rookie receiving touchdowns with 17 set in 1998 on the Vikings. Receiver Billy Howton leads all wide receivers in rookie receiving touchdowns per game set in 1952 on the Packers with 13 touchdowns set in 12 game season.
Billy Howton’s 13 touchdown receptions as a rookie held as number one from 1952 until Randy Moss broke it in 1998. To this day Howton remains as tied with one other player for second in rookie receiving touchdowns. This in spite of the league going to a 16 game season. When he retired after the 1963 season, Howton was the all-time leader in receiving yards. He held that position for three years. All other nine players that held all-time leader in receiving yards for 3+ years are in the Hall Of Fame. Randy Moss was inducted into the NFL Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Billy Howton has yet to be named a finalist in Pro Football Hall of Fame balloting. Howton is 89 years old and it would be the right thing to induct him into the Hall Of Fame. Here are the top ten rookies all-time for receiving touchdowns.
David Sills leads all 2019 rookies in college receiving touchdowns in a season with 18 he caught in 2017. He again appears on the list at number three with 15 touchdowns in 2018. David scored a touchdown once every 3.7 catches in his career. Sills was signed by the Bills as an undrafted free agent following the 2019 draft. Sills is tall at 6’3″ and one of the two tallest receivers on the Bills. Sills had the thirteenth best vertical jump (37.5) at the combine among wide receivers and the best combine vertical among Bills wide receivers. His draft profile on nfl.com lists his strength to elevate and high-point 50-50 balls. It also lists that Sills is a goal-line specialist winning with slants and fades. In his career at West Virginia David Sills had 27 red-zone receptions and came away with 22 touchdowns. In 2017 he had 12 touchdowns on 14 receptions in the red-zone.
The current experienced receivers on the Bills in 2018 all together had 52 targets in the red-zone, made 26 receptions (50%) and came away with 12 touchdowns (23%). Bills quarterback Josh Allen had 27 passing attempts in the red zone and came away with four touchdowns for a 14.8% conversion. That was the lowest in the league. I do not see Sills leading the rookies due to quarterback Josh Allen’s passing productivity especially in the red-zone.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside was tie for third in the FBS in receiving touchdowns with 14. In his college career Arcega-Whiteside has 27 red-zone receptions and came away with 22 touchdowns. No other draft prospect had more red-zone receiving touchdowns in 2018 than JJ’s nine. His 14 receiving touchdowns in 2018 was 48% of his team’s receiving touchdowns.
In 2108 Carson Wentz was third in the league in the percent of pass attempts inside the 10 yard line that scored touchdowns with 46%. Inside the 20 he was seventh scoring on 31% of his attempts. Arcega-Whiteside was a second round pick and should see significant playing time.
I project Arcega-Whiteside as leading the rookies in receiving touchdowns. Last year rookie Calvin Ridley broke into the top ten rookies in receiving touchdowns with ten. I see Arcega-Whiteside doing the same. Here are the top ten rookies for college receiving touchdowns.
|Rk||Player||Year||Class||School||2019 Team||G||Rec||Yds||Avg||TD||TD MS|
|5||David Sills||2017||JR||West Virginia||BUF||12||60||980||16.3||18||49.0%|
|20||David Sills||2018||SR||West Virginia||BUF||12||65||986||15.2||15||49.0%|
|32||Preston Williams||2018||JR||Colorado State||MIA||12||96||1345||14||14||56.0%|
|39||Gary Jennings||2018||SR||West Virginia||SEA||11||54||917||17||13||34.2%|
|49||Parris Campbell||2018||SR||Ohio State||IND||14||90||1063||11.8||12||23.5%|
Receiving Yards Per Game
Odell Beckham leads all rookies in receiving yards per game in their rookie year. He had 108.8 yards per game in 12 games in 2014. Here are the top ten rookies of all time for receiving yards per game.
Andy Isabella, the 2019 rookie leader in college receiving yards, is also the rookie leader in receiving yards per game. Here are the top ten 2019 rookies for college receiving yards per game in a season.
|Rk||Player||Year||Class||School||2019 Team||G||Rec||Yds||Avg||TD||Yds / game|
|29||Antoine Wesley||2018||JR||Texas Tech||BAL||12||88||1410||16||9||117.5|
|39||Preston Williams||2018||JR||Colorado State||MIA||12||96||1345||14||14||112.1|
|95||Scott Miller||2018||SR||Bowling Green State||TAM||11||71||1148||16.2||9||104.4|
|48||Hakeem Butler||2018||JR||Iowa State||ARI||13||60||1318||22||9||101.4|
The top three rookies all-time for catch rate are Kevin Norwood and Trey Quinn tied at 90% but for only 10 targets. They are followed by Antonio Brown at 84% on 19 targets. Here are the top ten rookies for catch rate with a minimum 10 targets.
The top 2019 rookie for college catch rate in 2018 was Parris Campbell with an 83% catch rate and 90 receptions. Campbell had the eighth most receptions (90) and the 25th most yards (1,063). His 11.8 yards per reception was 54th out of 74 players with a minimum 60 receptions. Nevertheless half of his receptions resulted in a first down.
Campbell’s 11.8 yard average would fall right in the middle of the top ten rookies for yards per reception. He can be a valuable short yardage receiver that can move the sticks. The Colts are excited about what Campbell has shown in training camp. Quarterback Andrew Luck had the 11th best completion percentage (67.3%) among quarterbacks with 8+ starts and the 22nd yards per attempt (7.19 yards). Colts receiver Chester Rogers had the ninth highest catch percentage (73.6%) among receivers with a minimum 32 targets. Out of the nine Rogers had the third lowest yards per reception (9.15). Campbell could easily fall into the same role. He is a good candidate to be the top rookie receiver in catch percentage. I can see him cracking the lower half of the top ten rookies of all-time for catch percentage.
Receiving Yards Per Target
The rookie leader for yards per target is Kenny Stills. In 2013 on the Saints Stills had a 12.82 yards per target average on fifty targets. The last two years rookies have come close to this record with Bills rookie Robert Foster with 12.3 in 2018 and Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster with 11.61 in 2017. Here are the top ten rookie records for yards per target.
The 2019 rookie leader for college yards per target is Terry McLaurin. However the numbers on the top three are very close. D.K Metcalf is third with 14.225 yards per target. Metcalf averaged 4.9 yards per target more than his teammates. Metcalf is on the Seahawks who have a much more stable quarterback situation than McLaurin will see on Washington. Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson will push the ball downfield as I detail above under Yards Per Reception. Seahawk receiver Tyler Lockett had 13.79 yards per target last year. Metcalf’s 21.9 yards per reception in 2018 was fourth in the FBS. I see Metcalf as the top candidate for taking the rookie record of yards per target from Kenny Stills. He should at a minimum crack the top ten. Here are the top ten 2019 rookies for 2018 college yards per target.
|WR||School||2019 Team||Targets||Yards||Yds / Tar|
|Terry McLaurin||Ohio State||WAS||49||701||14.306|
|D.K. Metcalf||Ole Miss||SEA||40||569||14.225|
|Gary Jennings||West Virginia||SEA||74||917||12.392|
|Hakeem Butler||Iowa State||ARI||111||1314||11.838|
|Antoine Wesley||Texas Tech||BAL||124||1404||11.323|
Here is a table summary of the receiver projections relative to rookie statistical records.
|Statistic||Record||Record Holder||Year Set||Team||Top 2019 Rookie Candidate||Team||Projection|
|Targets||167||Terry Glenn||1996||NWE||Andy Isabella||ARI||Top Ten|
|Receptions||101||Anquan Boldin||2003||ARI||Marquise Brown||BAL||No Change|
|Receiving Yards||1473||Bill Groman||1960||HOU||Andy Isabella||ARI||Top Five|
|Yards Per Reception||31.44||Bucky Pope||1964||RAM||D.K. Metcalf||SEA||No Change|
|Receiving Touchdowns||17||Randy Moss||1998||MIN||JJ Arcega-Whiteside||PHI||Top Ten|
|Rec Yards Per Game||109||Odell Beckham||2014||NYG||Andy Isabella||ARI||Top Ten|
|Catch Rate||90.00%||Kevin Norwood||2014||SEA||Parris Campbell||IND||Top Ten|
|Receiving Yards Per Target||12.82||Kenny Stills||2013||NOR||D.K. Metcalf||SEA||New Record|
I give D.K. Metcalf the best chance to create a new rookie record in receiving yards per target. Andy Isabella with a strong rookie season by Kyler Murray could break into the top five of rookie receiver yards. Then multiple potential new top ten rookie receiver lists .