It was pretty much impossible for the 2015 receiver class to match the unprecedented campaign set forth by the 2014 class of Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, and Martavis Bryant. But with the league being pass happy we expected rookie wide receivers to start making an easier transition to the NFL. Pump the breaks on that theory as the 2015 class struggled mightily with a rash of injuries and their inability to separate from NFL defenders. If your name wasn’t Amari Cooper you probably still have question marks coming into your sophomore season. Lets take a look at the sophomore wide receivers and discuss their fantasy outlook.
Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
2015 STATS: 72/1070/6
As soon as Amari Cooper set foot on the football field in Tuscaloosa we all knew that he was destined to become a star at the NFL level. Cooper’s route running prowess moving in and out of his breaks effortlessly, coupled with his dynamic play-making ability and top notch speed gave the Oakland Raiders offense exactly what it needed when they selected him with the 4th overall pick in the 2015 draft. The future is bright for Raiders fans as the Cooper and Derek Carr combination will be one of the best duos in the league for years to come. In a WR draft class that left a lot to be desired, Cooper led the bunch with 72 receptions, 1070 yards, and 6 touchdowns while battling a foot injury that left him unable to practice for the last 5 weeks of the regular season. Look for Cooper to lead his sophomore class yet again and put up big fantasy numbers this season, he has the potential to put up WR1 numbers.
Kevin White – Chicago Bears
2015 STATS: Injured
The excitement for Kevin White was sadly derailed with a season ending shin injury suffered in the Bears off-season program. What at first seemed to be a minor shin injury was later diagnosed as a stress fracture requiring surgery, costing White his rookie season. The 6’3 215 pound big bodied athletic 4.35 speed receiver will get a chance this season to live up to the hype after red shirting during the 2015 season. I believe White might struggle initially while he knocks off some of the rust but the pairing with pro bowl receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who will garner most of opposing defenses coverages will make White an enticing option later in your drafts. Don’t Sleep!
DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins
2015 STATS: 26/494/3
The third WR taken in last year’s draft DeVante Parker faced obstacles in his rookie season including a setback with his surgically repaired foot. Although facing an uphill battle similar to White, Parker actually got on the field last season and finished the season strong with 22 catches 445 yards and 3 touchdowns in his last 6 games. Now with new head coach Adam Gase’s offensive minded pedigree calling plays in Miami and the reliable and electrifying Jarvis Landry manning the slot, the sky is the limit for the former Louisville standout. The only question mark I have for the talented sophomore will be if QB Ryan Tannehill can get him the ball down the field. Parker had flashes of greatness last season with Tannehill but can the Dolphins quarterback consistently deliver accurate passes to his young stud? You should bet on talent in your upcoming draft and target the explosive receiver as he is a good bet to challenge for double digit TDs with potential WR2 upside.
Nelson Agholor – Philadelphia Eagles
2015 STATS: 23/283/1
Let me start out by saying that I missed on Nelson Agholor last season. Leading up to the draft I boldly stated that Agholor deserved mention with the Top 3 receivers in the class. As he got selected in the first round by Chip Kelly in a Philadelphia Eagles’ offense that produces big chunks of yards after the catch, I felt even more confident that Agholor would have a big rookie season. You can chalk it up to a poor overall season for the Eagles franchise where all fantasy relevant players struggled and/or Agholor’s learning curve at the next level, but it was an overall bad rookie campaign in which he caught a mere 23 passes for 283 yards and 1 TD in 13 games. The rookie seemed out of place in Kelly’s offense and struggled to create separation (which was a strength of his coming out of college) at the NFL level. There is an opportunity this season for the sophomore receiver to bounce back after his rookie flop due to a lack of quality wide outs on the Eagles roster but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet with less than desired quarterback play and a new coaching regime in which Agholor will have to learn yet another playbook.
Breshad Perriman – Baltimore Ravens
2015 STATS: Injured
The Breshad Perriman mystery still continues as the suspense has me on the edge of my seat waiting for the plot twist. Here is what I know so far: he played his collegiate football at the University of Central Florida; he broke out in his junior season for 1,044 yards and 9 TDs; he didn’t participate in the NFL combine because of injury; he killed his pro-day running a sub 4.3 40-yard dash prompting the Ravens to select him in the first round, and I haven’t seen him on the football field since. Adding more injury to insult, Perriman suffered a partially torn ACL in OTAs on June 11th and his football season is in doubt once again. After receiving a stem cell injection and a knee scope Perriman is now likely to play this season but the mystery continues and I would not feel safe drafting Perriman on any fantasy teams.
Phillip Dorsett – Indianapolis Colts
2015 STATS: 18/225/1
The University of Miami speedster was buried on the Indianapolis depth chart behind T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Andre Johnson last season. Secondly, the injury and struggles of quarterback Andrew Luck played a major factor in the diminution of fantasy production for the Colts receivers including Dorsett. Lastly, Dorsett’s own health, fracturing his lower left leg in the middle of the season further handcuffed his rookie output. Does the departure of Johnson and the improved health of his quarterback make Dorsett an improved player in his sophomore season? The simple answer is, “it has to.” But, I believe Dorsett will be a boom or bust fantasy option each week as the Colts offense still has a plethora of talent that Luck has more rapport with.
Devin Smith – New York Jets
2015 STATS: 9/115/1
There is a common theme with the 2015 wide receiver class. INJURIES. And Devin Smith had no shortage of injuries in his rookie season suffering broken ribs, partially punctured lungs, and a season ending ACL injury after battling his way back on the field. Smith finished his tumultuous rookie season with just 9 catches 115 yards and 1 touchdown. There is still no timetable on Smith’s return because of the timing of his knee injury in December. The recovery process is still on-going and you should avoid drafting Smith in re-draft leagues.
Dorial Green-Beckham – Tennessee Titans
2015 STATS: 32/549/4
The former five-star, highly recruited high school prospect out of Missouri stayed home and played his collegiate football for the Missouri Tigers until he was dismissed from the University in 2014. Talent has never been the question for the 6’5 240 pound mammoth on the outside but his off the field behavior has set him back from being the star he seemingly is destined to be. Currently Green-Beckham is locked in a position battle with the Titans 2016 5th round draft pick Tajae Sharpe for first team reps which is cause for concern for Green-Beckham’s 2016 fantasy prospects. Another cause for concern is playing with quarterback Marcus Mariota who demonstrated some progression transitioning to a pro-style offense but was still the NFL’s least efficient passer on deep balls. Green-Beckham still has a way to go in mastering the offensive playbook and his route running but once he does that I am a strong believer in his talent. I would target Green-Beckham in keeper/dynasty leagues but will approach him with caution in re-draft leagues.
Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers
2015 STATS: 31/473/5
The former tight end turned wide receiver had a solid second half of his rookie season for the Carolina Panthers. Used mainly as a fourth receiver behind the likes of Tedd Ginn Jr., Philly Brown, and Jerricho Cotchery, Funchess could not gain traction in the first half of the season which was disappointing for fantasy owners who drafted him with hopes capitalize on the absence of the Panthers’ number 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the fold. It didn’t go according to plan but Funchess got better as the season went along finishing with 31 catches for 473 yards and 5 touchdowns on 63 targets. With a healthy Benjamin drawing opposing defensive coverages and a second year leap for Funchess, expect those numbers to double in a break out performance for Funchess. He should move up to second on the Panthers WR depth chart and will be an intriguing selection come draft time.
Tyler Lockett – Seattle Seahawks
2015 STATS: 51/664/6
Finally we get to the guy I’m targeting and you should too in your fantasy drafts. Behind Amari Cooper he is the next best guy on the sophomore receiver list that will give you immediate fantasy production. The explosive Tyler Lockett didn’t break through immediately as a wide receiver last year but showed his play-making ability in the return game where he showcased his open-field prowess and game breaking speed. I am all in with the Seahawks’ passing game without Marshawn Lynch on the roster as Russell Wilson threw for 24 touchdowns and 1 interception in the Seahawks last 7 regular season games. Last year’s breakout receiver Doug Baldwin will secure the slot receiver role in the offense but Lockett will be the deep ball threat as he caught 6 of his 7 TDs after the Seahawks Week 9 bye with a robust 14.1 yards per reception. Could be coincidental but I beg to differ. The Seahawks passing offense emerged when they inserted Lockett more regularly in the offense. Expect more of the same in the 2016 season as Lockett will be this year’s breakout player and a household name before season’s end, book it!
Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
2015 Stats: 52/720/4
The Vikings’ Stefon Diggs was a healthy scratch for the first 3 weeks of his rookie season before bursting on the scene in Week 4 catching 25 passes for 419 yards in his first 4 games of his NFL career. He was a must own fantasy addition as it seemed the Vikings finally had a go-to receiver after the disappointments of Cordarelle Patterson and Charles Johnson. Hopefully Diggs does not follow those previous 2 Vikings receivers as wide outs who flashed substantially before sputtering once given the opportunity to claim stake to the number 1 wide receiver spot. After his initial 4 week output Diggs fell off considerably catching only 27 balls for 301 yards in his final 9 games in the Vikings run-first conservative offense. With a new season on the horizon and first round draft pick WR Laquon Treadwell in the fold I believe this improves Diggs’ fantasy outlook as defenses will not be able to focus on the sophomore receiver as much. The sooner Treadwell gets acclimated to the professional level the quicker Diggs will be able to comfortably assert himself as the Vikings number 2 with his polished technical route running and dynamic after the catch abilities. Diggs can be a solid WR4 with potential to become a WR3 on your fantasy roster.
Other notable sophomore receivers with potential fantasy impact:
- Jaelen Strong – Houston Texans
- Sammie Coates – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
- J.J. Nelson – Arizona Cardinals