Rookie Season Props: WRs and Defense

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Rookie Season Props: WRs and Defense

Rookie season prop bets have been trickling out at various sportsbooks since the end of the draft in late April. Let’s dive into them to see if there’s any value on these initial lines. Wagering your hard-earned money in May and waiting for bets to be settled in seven to eight months — if we’re fortunate this season — isn’t the easiest pill to swallow. Nevertheless, if we’re able to get the best of the odds before the markets fully mature in the near future it will make the wait until the conclusion of the season worth it in the long run.

If you can, make sure to shop around for the best lines and odds. You’re likely to see more volatility between books in the off-season than you’ll see on game lines during the season. Let’s see if we can find some value in these rookie season props.

Rookie Season Props

Note: I’m leaning toward betting unders on most of the rookie season props this season. Rookies face a steep learning curve transitioning to the league in a normal off-season, but the curve could be even steeper this summer because of the current pandemic. It could take most rookies even more time to learn the ropes with off-season practices going virtual and with training camp and preseason action potentially getting condensed. In general, under bets will be more in play even if it takes just one or two extra weeks for certain rookies to get on the field to make an impact.

Wide Receivers

CeeDee Lamb (Dal)

  • Receiving yards: 700.5, DraftKings (46.9 yards per game)

  • Receiving TDs: 4.5, bovada.lv (.28 TDs per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 850 receiving yards, 6 receiving TDs

There’s no clear-cut WR1 among this year’s rookie WRs for the upcoming season, but Lamb is my slight favorite because of his landing spot in one of the league’s elite passing attacks. The Cowboys must have huge expectations for their first-round pick since they assigned the legendary No. 88 to Lamb, which has been worn by previous Cowboy greats like Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, and Dez Bryant. Lamb projects to see significant snaps out of the slot this season, a spot vacated by Randall Cobb (Texans). He left behind 83 targets for 55/828/3 receiving in 15 games and starting TE Jason Witten (Raiders) also left behind 83 targets. Lamb will have to contend for targets with a pair of 1000-yard receivers from 2019 in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Ezekiel Elliott is also a good bet for 350+ opportunities again if he’s healthy.

Even with Dallas’ current big three players hogging quite a bit of work, there should still be enough targets for Lamb to make a similar impact as Cobb did last season unless Blake Jarwin and/or Tony Pollard throw a wrench into the plans with huge roles this season. It should be mentioned that Mike McCarthy used 11 personnel (three-WRs) heavily in Green Bay, including the second-highest rate (77%) in his final season with the Packers, behind only Sean McVay’s Rams at 89% in 2018 (per Sharp Football). The Cowboys used 11 personnel 67% of the time last season, so Lamb could see more playing time than Cobb’s 69% snap rate from last season. I like Lamb’s chances of clearing his yardage total, but I’d avoid his TD total.

Jerry Jeudy (Den)

  • Receiving yards: 900, betonline.ag (56.3 yards per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 855 receiving yards

Jeudy was my favorite rookie WR in this year’s class before the draft, but I hated his landing spot with the Broncos. Denver’s offense is led by second-year QB Drew Lock, who averaged just 6.5 YPA and 204.0 passing yards per game in five starts at the end of 2019. Jeudy joined an offense with two ascending talents at receiver in third-year WR Courtland Sutton and second-year TE Noah Fant. The Broncos also drafted slot WR K.J. Hamler in the second round, and he figures to get his share of targets each week, as well.

At least for this season, Jeudy will likely step in behind Sutton as the #2 receiving option in this offense, and Fant could even have something to say about that. Barring an injury to Sutton, I believe a bet on Jeudy to go over his total is essentially a bet on Lock to take a major step forward in his sophomore season. That isn’t a bet I’m willing to take at this point unless I see some evidence of Lock drastically improving this preseason.

Henry Ruggs (LV)

  • Receiving yards: 800, betonline.ag (50 yards per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 755 receiving yards

In a mild upset, the Raiders made Ruggs the first WR off the board during the 2020 draft even though he ranked behind Jerry Jeudy during their time together at Alabama. The Raiders coveted his unique speed (4.27 40-time) and explosiveness (42-inch vertical), skills the offense lacked at WR after Antonio Brown turned into a lunatic last summer. The Raiders are banking on Ruggs having some untapped potential coming into the league, and he should be the featured WR in this offense as a rookie.

My problem with his yardage total is that he’s going to be hindered by limited downfield passers in Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. Carr (9.4%) and Mariota (8.8%) finished near the bottom of the league in 20+ yard attempts last season (per PFF). The Raiders are also suddenly congested at receiver with Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Jason Witten, and Lynn Bowden each fighting for targets. I don’t completely trust Ruggs and this pass-game environment overall so I’m leaning toward the under on his receiving yards.im

Justin Jefferson (Min)

  • Receiving yards: 800.5, bovada.lv (50.0 yards per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 725 receiving yards

Jefferson landed in a great receiving corps to make an impact in right away after the Vikings shipped Stefon Diggs out of town to Buffalo. Diggs accounted for 30% of the team’s receiving yards and 20% of their receptions during his final season in Minnesota. Adam Thielen did spend the majority of the second half of last season laboring through a hamstring injury, which inflated Diggs’ numbers a bit. The Vikings still aren’t exactly flush with options behind Thielen and Jefferson heading into 2020 with Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe looking like the top reserves.

Minnesota will be one of the run-heaviest teams this season after they attempted the third-fewest passes per game last season (29.2), even with a switch from Kevin Stefanski (Browns HC) to Gary Kubiak. Jefferson also lined up exclusively in the slot last season at LSU, and he’ll have to play on the perimeter since the Vikings will be among the league leaders in two-TE sets. Jefferson has a real chance to go over his total if he can quickly prove he’s more than a slot WR this season. Jefferson could command 6-to-8 targets per game by the end of the season, but I’m expecting him to have a bit of a learning curve facing perimeter CBs early in the season. His 800-yard total opened higher than I was expecting so

Jalen Reagor (Phi)

  • Receiving yards: 700.5, DraftKings (43.8 yards per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 875 receiving yards

The Eagles had the worst wide receiver depth chart in the league by the end of last season, and they didn’t address their glaring need during free agency. They surprised many by drafting Reagor 21st overall, and the Eagles continued revamping their WR corps throughout the draft by selecting and trading for three other speed WRs (John Hightower, Quez Watkins, and Marquise Goodwin). Veterans DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery remain at the top of the Eagles WR depth chart for now, but they simply can’t be trusted to stay healthy and productive in their 30s after injury-riddled campaigns.

Reagor has arguably the highest ceiling of this year’s rookie WRs because he has a path to the top of this WR corps after the Eagles invested a first-round pick in him. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll have an MVP-caliber quarterback at the helm in Carson Wentz in an offense that’s going to throw it more downfield this season. I do worry that Reagor isn’t going to command a large weekly target share with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert still in the mix here, which will make this yardage total a little harder to reach. I do think he could average north of 14 YPR as a rookie, though, which would require him to get to 50+ catches to reach the mark. I lean more toward Reagor topping 700+ receiving yards, but I’m not sold enough on it happening to place a bet.

Denzel Mims (NYJ)

  • Receiving yards: 699.5, bovada.lv (43.7 yards per game)

  • Receiving TDs: 5.5, bovada.lv (.34 TDs per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 605 receiving yards, 5 receiving TDs

Mims received some first-round buzz after testing well at the Combine, but he fell to the bottom of the second round because of the quality depth at the position in this year’s draft. He dropped to the perfect team to make an immediate impact in Year One. Mims has a great chance to step into the Z-receiver spot next to Jamison Crowder in the slot and Breshad Perriman at the X.

Crowder and Perriman are actually ADP bargains in the WR4 and the WR5 range, respectively, but that’s because Sam Darnold doesn’t have a slam-dunk top receiver heading into 2020.

I don’t mind throwing a late-round dart on Mims in best-ball drafts on the off chance he comes in as a rookie and becomes Darnold’s go-to target in a thin receiving corps. I think it’s a long shot it actually happens though. There’s a much better chance he comes in and has a relatively quiet rookie campaign behind Crowder, Perriman, and Chris Herndon before emerging as a sophomore. I’d take the under on Mims’ wagers.

Defense

Chase Young (Was)

  • Sacks: 8.5, bovada.lv (.53 sacks per game)

  • Fantasy Points Projection: 9.1 sacks

Young is looking to follow the lead of former Ohio State EDGE defenders Joey Bosa and Nick Bosa, who totaled 10.5 and 9.0 sacks during their rookie seasons, respectively. Young racked up 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss during his final season in Columbus. The Redskins are projected to be one of the league’s worst teams with a win total sitting at 5.5, which could limit his pass-rushing opportunities if they’re consistently losing in the second half. He also joined a pretty loaded defensive line with Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne, which could make it a little more difficult for him to stand out. It also could lead to more one-on-one opportunities on the edge, which could help him get up over the top of 8.5 sacks. I lean with our Fantasy Points projection to a slight over, but I don’t feel confident in it.

RECAP: BETS TO CONSIDER

  • CeeDee Lamb (Dal) over 700.5 receiving yards (DraftKings)

  • Jerry Jeudy (Den) under 900 receiving yards (betonline.ag)

  • Denzel Mims (NYJ) under 699.5 receiving yards (bovada.lv)

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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