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NFL rookie WR outlook: Are Drake London, Garrett Wilson, others already their team’s No. 1 receiving option?

The NFL has embraced the move to a more pass-happy offense. The league’s receiving leaders are dotted with freshman and sophomore players such as Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and others. A year ago, Chase became the first wide receiver to win Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.

For two games of the 2022 regular season, it looks like the youth movement will continue with some very talented pass catchers – even if Jameson Williams of the Lions remains sidelined with an injury sustained during the College Football Playoff.

CBSSports.com looks at the production of rookie wide receivers early in the season and their places on their respective rosters:

Atlanta’s pass game comes down to two players: tight end Kyle Pitts and London. Each has tremendous size, exposure to frontier playing and production. A year ago, Pitts became the second tight end in NFL history to surpass more than 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, in addition to the record of Julio Jones’ franchise rookie reception. Through two games, he has only four receptions for 38 yards. Meanwhile, London has clearly established itself as the best receiving option for quarterback Marcus Mariota.

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London has been the target of 19 of Mariota’s 59 pass attempts (32.2% target share). He has 13 receptions for 160 yards and one touchdown. The USC product was CBSSports.com’s third highest-rated broad-reception talent available in the 2022 NFL Draft and the No. 12 prospect overall. If the Falcons are able to get a top quarterback prospect and wide receiver Calvin Ridley rejoins the equation, Atlanta could have one of the most promising skill groups in the NFC.

verdict: Top goal

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Going into the season, many expected sophomore wide receiver Elijah Moore to break out and emerge as the team’s main outlet. Moore’s season-opening numbers are respectable, but the rookie may have hindered him in the eyes of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. Wilson was the target of 22 of Flacco’s 103 pass attempts (21.4%) and leads the team in touchdown receptions (two). His footwork to quickly create separation made him difficult to defend in the red zone. There were a few opportunities to update his stats, but Flacco was on a different page.

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The potential Mento in the bottle of Coke could come in a few weeks when Zach Wilson is expected to return. Will the sophomore quarterback continue to favor the rookie, or will his relationship with Moore lead to a target share increase for the latter? Ultimately, Wilson’s confidence and footwork will make him the worst-case second option for the AFC East franchise. He was CBSSports.com’s top-rated wide receiver in draft and number 7 prospect overall.

Verdict: Top Goal

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New Orleans has given up a lot to make Olave’s roster possible, but how would it work with Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry? The veterans have earned their living catching slopes and sitting in zones. Out of necessity, Olave should be almost the vertical option. The assumption turned out to be correct, as the rookie averages 15.13 yards per catch, which is the number 20 of all passcatchers with at least four touches. Landry (12.64) and Thomas (11.09) score lower. Despite a clear role, the goals for those three players are relatively equal. Each has between quarterback Jameis Winston’s 14-17 goals.

The most likely outcome is that Thomas and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Landry, will be Winston’s main target for most of the season. Large pieces of Olave are scattered along the way.

Verdict: secondary goal

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Target share has been a defining statistic used in the article so far, but instinct plays a role in commanders. A healthy Curtis Samuel has been the target of 20 of Carson Wentz’s 87 passes. Five other players have between 10-12 goals, Dotson being one of them.

Three of Dotson’s seven receptions have gone for touchdowns. Strong hands and a large catch radius were two notes taken while studying the Penn State product ahead of the 2022 NFL draft. It’s safe to say both translated to the professional level.

Verdict: secondary goal

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AJ Brown’s trade cast high hopes on Burks before ever setting foot on the team’s headquarters. It was a bit of a rough start for the rookie during training camp, but Tennessee forced him out early in the season. He leads the team with 11 goals, seven of which have been converted in 102 yards. This year, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 53 passes. Team identity is all about running, but Burks is responsible for keeping the defense honest. He is the best receiving option in Tennessee. He must be. Who else would take on that role: fellow rookie Kyle Phillips or Robert Woods? Dotson and Wilson are better at creating chances for themselves, but Burks gets his chances.

Verdict: Top Goal

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