Fantasy Football

Looking Back at the History of Rookie Wide Receivers


Well, we officially now know that the rookie classes of 2016 and 2017 wide receivers were just mere shadows of what the 2014 version was, but we knew that all along, didn’t we?

Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster led all Fantasy rookie wide receivers last year, and Cooper Kupp wasn’t too far behind as a top-30 WR. Even with the amazing year that Michael Thomas had in New Orleans a couple years ago, and Tyreek Hill‘s out-of-nowhere effort in Kansas City, those classes pale in comparison to some of the other rookie classes, as you’ll learn in our discussion about the history of rookie wide receivers.

Smith-Schuster landed among the 25 best Fantasy Football rookie wide receivers ever, but Kupp and Keelan Cole lasty year, along with Thomas and Sterling Shepard from the year before were the only other rookies among the top-60 wide receivers over the past two years.

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 2018 class of rookie wide receivers in that same vein.

History of Rookie Wide Receivers

We’ve looked back over the past 28 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.  


  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers: 58 rec., 917 rec. yards, 7 touchdown catches
  • Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: 62-869-5
  • Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars: 42-748-3


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















  • 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 2018 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 2018 Fantasy Football Rookie Wide Receiver Rankings.

Photo Credit: ELZ473

David Gonos spent 5 years as a Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on,, FanDuel, and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.


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