Analyzing 2020 Rookie Wide Receivers – Part Three

by Corbin Young · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

In case you missed PlayerProfiler’s 2020 rookie wide receiver reviews, check out part one and part two here. All of these receivers in part three missed time due to injuries this past season. Fantasy managers should attempt to acquire these receivers in dynasty leagues or salivate over their redraft ADP in 2021. Michael Pittman, Denzel Mims, Jalen Reagor, and Henry Ruggs all have solid college prospect profiles and displayed enticing athleticism. However, each have a different team dynamic, offense, and quarterback situation. After diving into the season-long advanced metrics and game-by-game information, we consider what to expect heading into next season.

Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts

FFPC 2020 ADP: 179

The Colts have an underrated and athletic wide receiver on their hands in Michael Pittman. He came into the NFL with a 111.2 (93rd-percentile among qualified wide receivers) Speed Score, 122.6 (57th-percentile) Burst Score, 32.8-percent (60th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, and 20.9 (39th-percentile) Breakout Age. Overall, a bit of a mixed bag with mostly above-average metrics and a standout Speed Score. Unfortunately, he only finished with two top-24 performances in 13 games. He missed a few weeks with a compartment leg syndrome injury that required surgery. Given the lack of opportunities and efficiency, it’s no surprise that he struggled as a rookie.

Michael Pittman Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Pittman finished with 60 (No. 71) targets, a 13.8-percent (No. 85) Target Share, 518 (No. 83) Air Yards, and a 16.5-percent (No. 82) Air Yards Share. Again, not surprising, but he didn’t produce much with 40 (No. 68) receptions, 503 (No. 69) receiving yards, and one (No. 108) touchdown. He totaled 223 receiving yards and his only touchdown during Weeks 9-11, or 44.3-percent of his season-long numbers. Outside of those three weeks, he averaged 28 receiving yards. Yikes.

Efficiency & Early 2021 Outlook

The Colts averaged 28.7 (No. 10) Team Run Plays per Game and 35.9 (No. 23) Team Pass Plays per Game. It’s hard to be productive as a receiver given that combined with a lack of efficiency. Michael Pittman ended with cringe-worthy efficiency metrics, including a -10.7 (No. 73) Production Premium, 8.4 (No. 51) Yards per Target, 0.28 (No. 83) Fantasy Points per Route Run, and 1.65 (No. 76) Fantasy Points per Target.

With that said, Pittman projects as the team’s top wide receiver since T.Y. Hilton is an unrestricted free agent. The Colts also have question marks at the quarterback position with Philip Rivers announcing his retirement. He should earn more opportunities, but temper expectations based on his team being run-heavy and having an uncertain quarterback situation. 

Denzel Mims, New York Jets

FFPC 2020 ADP: 245.75

With Adam Gase out and Robert Saleh in, Denzel Mims’ stock moves up, up, up. He came into the NFL checking a ton of boxes, highlighted by a 115.6 (96th-percentile) Speed Score and 131.0 (90th-percentile) Burst Score. Even his 10.34 (95th-percentile) Catch Radius showed up in 2020 when he made some jaw-dropping catches. His juicy profile also boasted a 42.3-percent (85th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, 25.1-percent (63rd-percentile) College Target Share, and 19.9 (67th-percentile) Breakout Age.

Unfortunately, the landing spot with the Jets and Sam Darnold appeared less than favorable. However, Mims earned seven or more targets in four out of nine games with a decent Air Yard total, even if the results didn’t end up as we’d like. Keep in mind that he missed time with a hamstring injury, and hopefully he comes into 2021 healthy and ready to thrive. Interestingly, the Jets averaged 33.9 (No. 28) Team Pass Plays per Game, but ranked middle of the pack with a 2.25 (No. 15) Pace of Play average. Even with a consistently negative Game Script, the Jets barely threw the ball.

Denzel Mims Target Share & Air Yards Share: seven-plus Target Games

Take Mims’ season-long numbers with a grain of salt, but we have a few reasons for optimism. On the season, he finished with 45 (No. 93) targets and a 19.0-percent (No. 44) Target Share, with 634 (No. 73) Air Yards and a 30.3-percent (No. 30) Air Yards Share. With a full season, his Target Share would bump up, evidenced by his opportunity metrics (listed in the above table) in the four games where he earned seven or more targets.

Efficiency & Early 2021 Outlook

Though Denzel Mims didn’t see enough work for his -23.3 Production Premium to qualify for a ranking, he did finish near another 2020 rookie wide receiver who did qualify in Jalen Reagor, who finished with a -20.9 (No. 87) showing. Mims did finish with averages of 15.5 (No. 17) Yards per Reception and 7.9 (No. 62) Yards per Target. Although the YPR mark looks juicy, he lacked efficiency with averages of 0.24 (No. 99) Fantasy Points per Route Run and 1.30 (No. 104) Fantasy Points per Target.

Check out Denzel Mims on PlayerProfiler’s New DYNASTY DELUXE Rankings:

It’s hard to glean too many conclusions given the limited opportunities and a weak Jets offense. However, I’m ready to buy back into Mims in 2021 redraft leagues and buy low in dynasty leagues. Without Adam Gase as the head coach, it’s stock up for all Jets players, particularly Mims since Gase tends to tank a player’s value. Fantasy managers will likely draft him near his 2020 ADP, so eat that draft value up all day. Even if he jumps up into the top 200 picks, he should still be targeted in drafts. 

Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles

FFPC 2020 ADP: 128.25

Similar to Denzel Mims, Jalen Reagor came into the NFL with tantalizing workout metrics and a solid prospect profile. He boasted a 100.4 (70th-percentile) Speed Score and a 140.4 (98th-percentile) Burst Score, with a 36.7-percent (72nd-percentile) College Dominator Rating, 32.6-percent (92nd-percentile) College Target Share, and 18.7 (96th-percentile) Breakout Age. Like Mims, we can arguably toss out Reagor’s 2020 rookie season due to the injury and inefficient quarterback play. However, we’ll note the season-long stats while also digging into the game logs. 

Jalen Reagor Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

On the season, Reagor finished with 54 (No. 81) targets and a 14.4-percent (No. 74) Target Share on an Eagles team that averaged 41.4 (No. 4) Team Pass Plays per Game with a 2.41 play per minute (No. 3) Pace of Play. He drew 724 (No. 63) Air Yards and had a 21.1-percent (No. 60) Air Yards Share with a 13.4 (No. 20) Average Target Distance mark. It’s safe to imagine he would earn more opportunities over a full season. Next, let’s look at his game logs and compare some games to his season-long opportunity metrics. When looking at the five weeks where he earned at least six targets, here’s how his Target and Air Yards Shares shook out:

analyzing 2020 rookie wide receivers

Reagor Target Share & Air Yards Share

Sure, we’re picking five out of the 11 games he played. However, the Opportunity Shares in those five games provide us with hope moving forward that he should serve as the top Eagles wide receiver in 2021, even with aging players in DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery returning. No matter who plays quarterback, Reagor should bounce back. 

Efficiency & Early 2021 Outlook

Jalen Reagor averaged 12.8 (No. 52) Yards per Reception and 7.3 (No. 84) Yards per Target, finishing with a -20.9 (No. 87) Production Premium, 0.25 (No. 93) Fantasy Points per Route Run, and 1.47 (No. 95) Fantasy Points per Target. Again, no surprise given the lack of opportunities and production. I’ll buy back into Reagor heading into 2021 since his ADP should fall and the Opportunity Share should increase given his talent and athleticism. Even in dynasty leagues, look to acquire him while his stock is low in hopes for a bounceback second season. 

Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders

FFPC 2020 ADP: 120.75

One of the fastest and most explosive 2020 rookie wide receivers, Henry Ruggs didn’t meet expectations at all. Coming into the NFL, he rocked a 110.0 (90th-percentile) Speed Score and 136.9 (97th-percentile) Burst Score. With such a loaded receiver group at Alabama, he only managed a 17.5-percent (16th-percentile) College Dominator Rating and a 14.2-percent (13th-percentile) College Target Share, yet averaged 17.4 (82nd-percentile) yards per reception. Oddly, the Raiders didn’t give him the ball much in 2020 given the draft capital and breakaway speed. He separated with his elite speed in college, and hopefully that happens more often in 2021. What’s the saying, speed kills? However, it’s not the only attribute that makes a wide receiver relevant for their real-life and fantasy squads.

Sometimes when a team’s quarterback plays well, it translates into production for the pass-catchers. However, outside of Darren Waller and Nelson Agholor, no one earned opportunities. Through 13 games, Ruggs received 43 (No. 97) targets, a 10.3-percent (No. 98) Target Share, 748 (No. 60) Air Yards, and a 20.7-percent (No. 61) Air Yards Share. When digging into the game logs, he received four or fewer targets in 11 of 13 games and had eight games with less than three. Overall, ugly usage and opportunity, even if he did boast a 17.4 (No. 2) Average Target Distance. 

Lack of Production & Efficiency

Not even sure it’s worth mentioning the gross production for Henry Ruggs, but he finished with 26 (No. 100) receptions, 452 (No. 77) receiving yards, and two (No. 82) total touchdowns. It’s not a surprise given the production, but Ruggs averaged 17.4 (No. 5) Yards per Reception and 10.5 (No. 9) Yards per Target. Outside of those metrics, he lacked efficiency with a 0.0 (No. 42) Production Premium, 0.25 (No. 93) Fantasy Points per Route Run, and 1.96 (No. 29) Fantasy Points per Target.

Early 2021 Outlook

With Nelson Agholor a free agent, can Henry Ruggs solidify himself as the Raiders’ WR1? As long as Darren Waller hangs around, Ruggs likely won’t earn enough targets to warrant a roster spot outside of deeper leagues. Contrary to Jalen Reagor, I have a hard time buying back into Ruggs for next year. Even in dynasty leagues, I’m not actively looking to acquire him unless it’s as a throw-in or at a significant discount.