Fantasy owners are also looking for the next big thing, so which rookie could step in and make an immediate impact? Who could emerge by year’s end? Let’s take a look:
- N’Keal Harry – New England Patriots – A team that is always looking for wide receiver help may have found a long-term solution. They did add Demaryius Thomas as well, but Harry should get an opportunity to start immediately and with Tom Brady still under center he could flourish. He’s a big receiver (6’4”, 213 lbs.) who can make plays, and it’s hard not to envision big results.
- D.K. Metcalf – Seattle Seahawks – Doug Baldwin was forced to retire, leaving a gaping hole in the Seahawks’ receiving corps. While Tyler Lockett could get the lion’s share of the opportunities, the team used a second round selection on Metcalf. That should mean instant opportunity, as he could function as the team’s #2 receiver from Week 1.
- Marquise Brown – Baltimore Ravens – There are always going to be questions about the number of opportunities any Ravens’ receiver will get, as they will go with a run heavy offense behind Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. That said there’s little question that Brown, selected 25th overall, will function as the team’s top receiver. He’s a big play risk every time he touches the football, and Baltimore could look to simply get the ball in his hands using screens (as well as the deep ball), making him a significant threat.
- Andy Isabella – Arizona Cardinals – He’s going to step in and start opposite Christian Kirk, after being selected in the second round of the draft. He could be used both on the outside and in the slot, and he’s proven capable of running the football (as well as returning kicks). He has the potential to make an impact in a variety of ways and with a coaching staff who likely drafted him with a plan, he could be an impact option immediately.
- Deebo Samuel – San Francisco 49ers – There’s going to be a lot of hype, considering the questions facing San Francisco’s receiving corps. It makes sense, especially since he could start opposite Dante Pettis and will have Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the football. Still the offense should be built around a talented running game as well as TE George Kittle.
- Mecole Hardman – Kansas City Chiefs – His potential value was tied to the possible suspension of Tyreek Hill. That’s not to say that Hardman won’t carve out a role in Kansas City, in an offense that always finds ways to put playmakers in a spot to flourish. With Hill reportedly avoiding suspension the outlook for Hardman drops, slightly, but don’t be surprised if he still finds a way to make plays.
- A.J. Brown – Tennessee Titans – There’s a lot of upside for Brown, but this wasn’t the ideal landing spot to thrive. That’s not to say that he can’t emerge, but Corey Davis should be the lead receiver and Marcus Mariota is no guarantee to continually put him in the best position to thrive.
- Hakeem Butler – Arizona Cardinals – Could he make a bigger impact than fellow rookie Andy Isabella? He has the prototypical size for a top receiver and showed in college that he can make plays. He’ll have to battle for opportunities, but the upside is there.
- Parris Campbell – Indianapolis Colts – He didn’t post big numbers in college, at least until his senior season (90 catches, 1,063 yards, 12 TD). We’ve seen him compared to a Percy Harvin type, which means there could be a lot of boom or bust to his game. With Andrew Luck at QB there could be a few big days in his rookie year, but he’ll be behind T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess and others.
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles have Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor, as well as Zach Ertz, so it’s hard to envision Arcega-Whiteside emerging as a trustworthy option in 2019. That said he has the potential to be a red zone factor immediately and start on the outside (with Agholor working in the slot). In a year or two don’t be surprised if he’s one of the better receivers from this class.
Other rookies to watch:
- Diontae Johnson – Pittsburgh Steelers
- Jalen Hurd – San Francisco 49ers
- Miles Boykin – Baltimore Ravens
- Kelvin Harmon – Washington Redskins
- Riley Ridley – Chicago Bears
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 preseason rankings: