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NFL rookie pass-catching debuts that deserve attention

Sep 10, 2019

NFL NationESPN

Several rookie pass-catchers stood out in Week 1, producing at a level few could have seen coming so early in their careers. It was only one game, though -- can they keep the good times rolling?

Our NFL Nation reporters take a look at each performance and at each player's outlook moving forward.

Week 1 stats: Four receptions, five targets, 147 yards, two touchdowns

Assets: Brown has that elite, strike-fear-in-defenses type of speed. On his 47-yard touchdown, Brown showed the ability to break away from defenders after catching a short slant. On his 83-yard score, Brown used that burst to get behind the Dolphins' defense and catch the deep ball. He became the first player in NFL history with multiple 40-plus-yard touchdown catches in a debut, and he accomplished this on his first two receptions. This type of deep weapon was lacking last year for quarterback Lamar Jackson and his big arm. Considering how defenses have to respect Baltimore's rushing attack, Brown should get opportunities for big plays downfield because safeties will bite on Jackson's play-action passes.

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown dazzled in his debut with 147 receiving yards and two touchdowns. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Obstacles: Physicality and durability. Defenses are going to see whether the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown can hold up. To try to stop him from getting a clean release, bigger cornerbacks will look to get their hands on him at the line. The challenge for Brown is whether he can beat press coverage. With teams getting more physical with Brown, he'll have to prove he can get healthy. Brown is still dealing with pain from his surgically repaired left foot, and the Ravens have been extra cautious with him. Brown played only 14 snaps in the season opener. Baltimore is going to need to get more from him in bigger games ahead. -- Jamison Hensley

Quote: "You all seen the speed -- you all seen it, right? I didn't have him during OTAs, got him toward the end of camp. We didn't really have chemistry; some plays he didn't like because we weren't completing them. But [Sunday], I guess he liked the plays -- we scored on them." -- Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Updated 2019 fantasy projections: 39 receptions, 72 targets, 613 yards, four touchdowns

Week 1 stats: Six receptions, nine targets, 131 yards, one touchdown

Assets: Hockenson worked his way into the offense from the day he was drafted, becoming a reliable red zone threat for quarterback Matthew Stafford with some of the surest hands on the team. What he showed Sunday, though, was an ability to get downfield and make plays in the intermediate passing game, which can open up a new dimension to Detroit's offense going forward.

Obstacles: Playing tight end in the NFL is hard, and making the transition from college is one of the roughest tasks for players to pull off successfully. While Sunday was clearly an up day for Hockenson, there will be typical rookie pitfalls he'll have to deal with as the season progresses. He appeared to block well, but that can improve as he gets used to the speed of NFL players. -- Michael Rothstein

Quote: "He's a beast. He's been working really hard. He got a taste of what the NFL is all about today, and he's a great player, great teammate, and I'm excited to see what he does." -- Lions WR Danny Amendola

Updated 2019 fantasy projections: 50 receptions, 78 targets, 628 yards, four touchdowns

Week 1 stats: Five receptions, seven targets, 125 yards, one touchdown

Assets: McLaurin's speed didn't show at Ohio State until last season, but it was evident in his first game with Washington. He has also become a stronger route runner, as he's learned how to run routes with more balance, getting defensive backs to lean one way while he cuts another.

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Obstacles: None, at least not on the roster. McLaurin will continue to be the Redskins' starting X receiver -- they cut Josh Doctson in large part because of McLaurin. But the main obstacle now will be teams finally having seen him play in a game; McLaurin, a third-round pick, did not play during the preseason. It'll be tough to duplicate these numbers now that defenses know more about him. -- John Keim

Quote: "He's made plays like that all camp. To see him running down the field, streaking down the field open like that -- those are plays you dream about as a quarterback. I'm looking forward to his progression." -- Redskins QB Case Keenum

Updated 2019 fantasy projections: 47 receptions, 88 targets, 717 yards, three touchdowns

Week 1 stats: Three receptions, four targets, 100 yards

Assets: Brown worked extensively with receivers coach Rob Moore on being more sudden with his release off the line of scrimmage. It paid off on Brown's first catch, on which he was immediately able to get inside position against the defensive back. He has also learned to sell his routes, as shown by how his subtle lean turned the safety around on his 47-yard reception. Brown's improvement at the line also showed on his 51-yard reception, on which he turned the cornerback around as he came off the ball.

Obstacles: The main obstacles for Brown will come when cornerbacks start to press him at the line. Brown said he notices a different degree of strength from NFL cornerbacks but is confident he can win against press coverage. -- Turron Davenport

Quote: "Whenever my number is called, I'm trying to make plays. I was joking on the sideline and was like, 'In college, I would have scored.' I realize at this level, these guys are fast. It was a blessing to come out there today and do that." -- Brown, on posting 100 yards receiving in his first game

Updated 2019 fantasy projections: 40 receptions, 65 targets, 545 yards, three touchdowns

Week 1 stats: Four receptions, six targets, 89 yards

Assets: The 25-yard catch Metcalf made on a scramble throw into traffic was a sign of the trust he has developed with Russell Wilson, something that hasn't always come easily for rookie receivers. He should have his share of one-on-one opportunities if defenses pay as much attention to Tyler Lockett as the Bengals did Sunday. Metcalf has the speed to win those, as he reminded everyone on his 42-yard catch down the sideline. Metcalf played 41 of 53 offensive snaps, a workload that seems to say he won't be limited by the knee surgery he had 19 days before the opener.

Obstacles: David Moore's return from a shoulder injury -- which could come within the next couple of weeks -- would logically cut into Metcalf's share of targets. His six targets Sunday were four more than those of Lockett, who was presumed to be the No.1 option. Of the four receivers who were active for Seattle, those were the only two Wilson targeted. Hard to imagine that pattern repeating itself. -- Brady Henderson

Quote: "That's a great start for him. You can see why we are fired up about him." -- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll

Updated 2019 fantasy projections: 42 receptions, 76 targets, 621 yards, six touchdowns

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