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Rookie wide receiver – how much does a proven quarterback help?

Rookie wide receiver – how much does a proven quarterback help?
Rookie wide receiver – how much does a proven quarterback help?

Factoid

July 11, 2024

How much does a proven QB help?

A reader recently asked a question about rookie wide receivers. He’s seen many catching 7-10 touchdowns lately (guys like Jordan Addison, Jayden Reed and Rashee Rice last year) and wondered what difference it can make to have a rookie paired with an established quarterback.

My first thought was there probably wasn’t much to it. Rice worked with Patrick Mahomes, but a year earlier, Skyy Moore (who was drafted one pick earlier than Rice) did nothing. Addison was probably keen on Kirk Cousins, but Reed worked with Jordan Love, a first-year starter.

But I looked at the records and did some numbers. Looking at the last 15 years, I found 43 wide receivers who scored 7 or more touchdowns as rookies. What did they use as quarterbacks?

By my count (and there’s room for debate on some of these guys), 26 of the 43 (60 percent) were working with proven, established quarterbacks. I’m not sure that’s a large enough percentage to pursue in drafts — it’s reasonable to assume that 60 percent of the quarterbacks that started in the league over the last 15 years were proven, established quarterbacks — but maybe a large enough percentage to favor Marvin Harrison over Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze. But we were already doing that anyway.

But if we look at weaker rookie wideouts, then maybe Jermaine Burton (working with Joe Burrow) or Roman Wilson (working with Russell Wilson) are better than Ja’Lynn Polk (working with a combination of Jacoby Brissett and Drake Maye) or Xavier Legette (working with Bryce Young).

Below are the 43 wide receivers who have scored at least 7 touchdowns as rookies over the last 15 years. Their quarterbacks this season are in the last column, the guys I considered proven, established starters are in bold.

ROOKIE WIDE RECEIVER WITH OVER 7 TDS, 2009-2023
Year player Recommended. Yds TD Rk quarterback
2021 JaMarr Chase, Cin. 81 1455 13 5 Joe Burrow
2014 Odell Beckham, NYC 91 1305 12 8th Eli Manning
2014 Mike Evans, TB 68 1051 12 13 Josh McCown/Mike Glennon
2016 Tyreek Hill, Kansas 61 593 12 18 Alex Smith
2010 Mike Williams, TB 65 964 11 16 Josh Freeman
2020 I’m Claypool. 62 873 11 23 Ben Roethlisberger
2018 Calvin Ridley, Atlanta 64 821 10 20 Matt Ryan
2023 Jordan Addison, Min. 70 911 10 23 Kirk Cousins
2023 Jayden Reed, UK 64 793 10 25 Jordan Love
2016 Michael Thomas, NO 92 1137 9 7 Drew Brees
2014 Kelvin Benjamin, car. 73 1008 9 16 Noun Newton
2019 AJ Brown, ten. 52 1051 9 22 Ryan Tannehill
2013 Cordarrelle Patterson, Min. 45 469 9 38 Christian Ponder
2022 Christian Watson, UK 41 611 9 42 Aaron Rodgers
2013 Keenan Allen, SD 71 1046 8th 18 Philippe Rivers
2017 JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt. 58 917 8th 20 Ben Roethlisberger
2011 Julio Jones, Atlanta 54 959 8th 21 Matt Ryan
2009 Percy Harvin, Min. 60 790 8th 23 Brett Favre
2014 Jordan Matthews, Phil. 67 872 8th 25 Nick Foles/Mark Sanchez
2012 TY Hilton, Ind. 50 861 8th 28 Andrew Luck (Newbie)
2016 Sterling Shepard, NYG 65 683 8th 36 Eli Manning
2019 Darius Slayton, NYG 48 740 8th 37 Eli Manning
2015 Tyler Lockett, sea. 51 664 8th 41 Russell Wilson
2010 Dez Bryant, Dallas. 45 561 8th 42 Tony Romo/Jon Kitna
2014 Martavis Bryant, Pitt. 26 549 8th 61 Ben Roethlisberger
2020 Justin Jefferson, Min. 88 1400 7 6 Kirk Cousins
2021 Jaylen Waddle, Mia. 104 1015 7 12 Tua Tagovailoa
2011 AJ Green, Cin. 65 1057 7 17 Andy Dalton (Newcomer)
2020 CeeDee Lamb, Dall. 74 935 7 22 Daniel Prescott
2023 Rashee Rice, Kansas City 79 938 7 27 Patrick Mahomes
2019 DK Metcalf, Sea. 58 900 7 29 Russell Wilson
2009 Austin Collie, Indiana. 60 676 7 29 Peyton Manning
2019 Terry McLaurin, was. 58 919 7 30 Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins
2023 Tank Dell, Hou. 47 709 7 39 CJ Stroud (Newcomer)
2022 Jahan Dotson, was. 35 523 7 51 Carson Wentz/Taylor Heinicke
2020 Brandon Aiyuk, SF 60 748 7 35 Jimmy Garoppolo/Nick Mullens
2020 Gabe Davis, Buff. 35 599 7 57 Josh Allen
2019 Marquise Brown, Balt. 46 584 7 46 Lamar Jackson (first-year starter)
2019 Mecole Hardman, KC 26 538 7 59 Patrick Mahomes
2018 Anthony Miller, Chi. 33 423 7 60 Mitchell Trubisky
2013 Marlon Brown, Balt. 49 524 7 48 Joe Flacco
2011 Torrey Smith, Balt. 50 841 7 30 Joe Flacco
2010 Jacoby Ford, Oak. 25 470 7 56 Jason Campbell

–Andy Richardson

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