From 2019 to 2021, 13 wide receivers were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Some of these recipients, namely Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle, debuted in historic, record breaking campaigns and rose to the top tier by the end of their first years. Others like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith had slightly above average rookie seasons but have since grown into high-profile rookies. Of course there were some perceptible misses among the group, but for the most part, first-round rookie wide receivers are scoring earlier than at any time in NFL history.
It’s still early, but the 2022 first round receiver class looks like another special one. Over the course of two weeks, the quintet (excluding 12th pick Jameson Williams, who is arguably the most talented rookie this year but will be in IR for at least week 4 as he recovers from an ACL tear) averages just under eight goals, five receptions and 64 receiving yards per game, while demonstrating uncanny talent that led call Staff writer Ben Solak concluded in April that “there will never again be a weak draft class in the receiving position.”
As we head into Week 3, let’s take a closer look at the performances of these five rookies and see what their stats might look like by the end of the season.
No. 8 Drake Peak London, Atlanta Falcons
Statistics for two weeks: 19 targets, 13 receptions, 160 yards, 1 touchdown
Full season pace: 162 targets, 111 receptions, 1,360 yards, 9 touchdowns
The USC product was the first receiver developed in April, and for good reason. At 6’4″ and 213 pounds, London has been compared to Mike Evans, another big former basketball player with an almost unparalleled ball reach. Atlanta’s new receiver X currently leads all rookies in Pro Football Focus receiving ratings, receiving and receiving yards, and according to TruMedia, he also manages 33 percent of his team’s total goals, the highest in two weeks among all the newbies since Larry. Fitzgerald in 2004.
London’s FBS’ 19 contested catches last season were seen as a red flag by some drafting pundits, and his lack of straight-line speed has often been cited as the reason he’s had to contend for so many contested balls in college. However, so far in the NFL, he has achieved above-average results. 3.8 yards breakaway per route and consistently generated extra yards after a catch despite not having the wheels of some of his fellow draft picks.
Check out the clip below from week one against the Saints, when the rookie found a weak spot in the defensive zone and was 12 yards overfield with one shot:
London ended the game with a truck stick, but note that he also had the presence of mind to immediately run back to the line of scrimmage to give Atlanta a chance to play one more game before halftime. That’s first-class awareness for a receiver playing his first career game.
However, its early development does not end there. The rookie showed a similar mind during his grapple practice with Marcus Mariota against the Rams in Week 2:
Sure, Mariota’s mobility may have kept this game alive, but it would be nothing without the freelancer’s clever London zig-route and nimble sideline grab. It’s this type of smart, subtle play against a strong defense that makes London look like a future star.
After two games with the Falcons, it was clear that London was more than a limited-speed jumpball threat. Right now, he looks like the better half of Atlanta. “Twin Towers” and is in no way inferior to other receivers of this class. Falcons fans can only hope Kyle Pitts joins in on the fun soon.
10th Pick Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Statistics for two weeks: 22 targets, 12 receptions, 154 yards, 2 touchdowns
Full season pace: 187 targets, 102 receptions, 1,309 yards, 17 touchdowns
The former Ohio State star hit Cleveland last weekend with incredible speed and trail running skills that made him Best Receiver Danny Kelly ahead of the 2022 draft.
First, let’s take a moment to appreciate his ultra-twisted route map from the Jets vs. Browns:
Wilson finished the contest with 102 yards and two touchdowns, including this disappearance at the goal line after he kicked out fellow rookie Martin Emerson Jr. at the line of scrimmage:
What stands out about Wilson’s game in Week 2 is how successful he was despite Joe Flacco’s accuracy issues throughout the game. Wilson consistently outperformed the Browns with quick shots, but Flacco’s passes were often a step behind or over the rookie’s head. According to the PFF, three of Wilson’s 14 targets were missed due to inaccurate passes, including one that would have given him his third touchdown of the day:
But don’t worry, Jets fans. Flacco replaces
rising superstar Zach Wilson … who led League by number of missed shots last season. Okay, maybe there’s a problem with the quarterback in New York that will affect Wilson’s short-term and long-term prospects. And heck, maybe he’ll be subjected to bad quarterback play throughout his career, à la Allen Robinson II. However, even in this scenario, it’s hard to imagine a flawless Wilson, who currently leads the NFL with eight targets in the red zone, including seven within the 10-yard line, failed.
In the meantime, we should celebrate the Jets’ selection of a really good wide receiver who only scratches the surface of his potential. We can save the quarterback questions for another day.
11th pick Chris Olav, New Orleans Saints.
Statistics for two weeks: 16 targets, 8 receptions, 121 yards, 0 touchdowns
Full season pace: 136 targets, 68 receptions, 1,029 yards, zero touchdowns
It’s clear the Saints want to challenge the 6-foot speedster that the Saints wanted to draft so badly they essentially traded five choices for the opportunity to select him in the April draft.
Within two weeks, Olav leads all receivers on targets by 20-plus yards and is averaging an astonishing tally. 38.7 air courts on such plays. It also ranks fourth among recipients in terms of route completion percentage (perhaps both a blessing and a curse), and ninth in command airfield share.
Since TruMedia began tracking the stats, Olav’s 334 air yards in Week 2 was the third-most receiving and most since DeAndre Hopkins’ 22-target game in 2015. They were also the best rookies during this period, ahead of Odell Beckham. Jr.’s 322 yard mark, though Olav hit eight fewer goals than OBJ last week in that game.
Simply put, Jameis Winston is losing to this dude. It’s a good news.
The problem is, well, Winston. On Sunday, Winston missed Olawa five times, the second most inaccurate passes by a specific receiver in a game in two seasons.
New Orleans may want force-feed Olave, but no matter how many looks the newbie gets, he does nothing with passes like these:
Olav will only go as far as the quarterback leads him – which is often too far with deep passes! – and early returns are not promised. Some accuracy issues may be due to Winston playing with multiple spinal fractures (how? Why?), but he also didn’t look much better in 2021 than he did during his last full season as a starter when he scored 30 goals. . interceptions and led league in inaccurate passes.
Receivers with Olav’s athletic profile – his vertical jump and height rank respectively at the 12th and 35th percentiles in mcdraftablePlayer Database – You can’t expect him to win dropped balls regularly, especially with a quarterback who can’t get the ball right on target.
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. could have developed faster-paced routes to get the ball into space for the rookie, but it may be better for Olav’s statistic than for offense. After all, despite his speed, Olav wasn’t the most electrifying player since catching the ball in college, and he probably stretched the defense best to divert safety nets from Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry.
With Sean Payton no longer leading the offense and Winston playing the offense, the Ohio State rookie may not have the instant impact that Mickey Loomis and Co. hoped for when they turned heaven and earth to get him. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Olav continues to take over the air courts at breathtaking speed.
16th Pick Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
Statistics for two weeks: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 99 yards, 3 touchdowns
Full season pace: 85 targets, 60 receptions, 842 yards, 26 touchdowns (LOL!)
Very few pundits foresaw it, but Dotson’s early-season use is off the charts in Washington, where the former Nittany Lion, along with Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, are part of a triple corps of receivers that looks to be one of the best in football. Dotson’s 93 routes in his first two weeks is the most by a rookie in their first two games since 2013, with his 141 snaps ranking first. third among all wide receivers in the NFL that season.
Dotson was arguably the most impressive rookie in Week 1, as two of his five goals went for touchdowns. He caught another touchdown in the second week…