Looking Back at the History of Rookie Wide Receivers

Well, we officially now know that the rookie class of 2016 wide receivers was just a mere shadow of what the 2014 version was, but we knew that all along, didn’t we?

Even with the amazing year that Michael Thomas had in New Orleans, and Tyreek Hill‘s out-of-nowhere effort in Kansas City, they pale in comparison to some of the other rookie classes, as you’ll learn in our discussion about the history of rookie wide receivers. They both landed among the 25 best Fantasy Football rookie wide receivers ever, but Sterling Shepard was the only other rookie among the top-60 wide receivers last year.

I always like to take a look back – not just at last year’s rookie wide receivers group or the amazing 2014 class – but at the history of rookie wide receivers in Fantasy Football altogether.

You’ve no doubt been sick of hearing how great the 2014 class was, but you’ll hear about them again and again until another class outperforms them (that’s not going to happen in 2017).

And while the NFL is leaning on rookie wide receivers more now than in years past, you still want to be careful not to look at the upcoming 2016 class of rookie wide receivers in that same vein.

History of Rookie Wide Receivers

We’ve looked back over the past 27 seasons, dating back to 1990, which is close to the emergence of the Fantasy Football hobby. The way I broke all of this down was, rather than look at straight Fantasy points, I noted every rookie wide receiver that posted either 70 catches, 700 receiving yards or seven touchdown passes.  


  • Michael Thomas, New Orleans: 92 rec., 1,137 rec. yards, 9 touchdown catches
  • Sterling Shepard, N.Y. Giants: 65-683 rec-8















  • Donte Stallworth, NO – 74-894-2













You might have noticed that in no season before 2014 did we see more than four wide receivers register either 70 catches, 700 receiving yards or seven touchdown catches. But in the 2014 season, we had SEVEN of them do it. There were as many to hit those numbers that year as there were in the previous two years combined!

As I said in the beginning, the last few classes of rookie wide receivers came up short in comparison to 2014, but we’ll see if the 2017 set of rookie WRs can come closer.

Top 35 QuarterbacksTop 60 Running BacksTop 75 Wide ReceiversTop 30 Tight Ends
Top 30 KickersTop 32 DefensesTop 250 OverallTop 30 Overall Rookies
Top 8 Rookie QBsTop 15 Rookie RBsTop 12 Rookie WRsTop 6 Rookie TEs
Top 20 IDP Def. LinemenTop 30 IDP LinebackersTop 20 Def. BacksTop 50 IDP Overall

The history of rookie wide receivers shows us that there should be a handful of Fantasy worthy starters come out of nearly every class. That remains to be seen for 2017, as we found in our 2017 Fantasy Football Rookie Wide Receiver Rankings.

Photo Credit: ELZ473

David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 45 Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online You can contact David Gonos here.

By | 2017-06-21T21:02:25+00:00 June 19th, 2017|Fantasy Football|


  1. […] you invest in a rookie wide receiver? DavidGonos.com looks back at the history of first-year wide receivers in the […]

  2. […] David Gonos wrote a great piece chronicling rookie wide receivers as far back as 1990. It's a really interesting overlook, and I highly encourage everyone to check it out. I'm going to focus on a few players who stood out to me, but I'm also attempting to gain a better understanding if this type of production from rookies is just a trend, or something that every Fantasy Football player should be focusing on more. […]

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