Rookie receiver race: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Trent Taylor start to push Cooper Kupp

It was a bad week for rookie wide receivers -- unless you’re one of three first-year players who have become consistent options for their teams.

While Tennessee WR Corey Davis and Cincinnati WR John Ross (both first-rounders) were inactive and second-round WR Zay Jones continues to struggle despite having a bunch of early opportunities in Buffalo, three rookies are starting to stand out.

It starts with Cooper Kupp, the Rams rookie from Eastern Washington who was the seventh receiver taken in April; he has been the best week-to-week option in this class. Kupp continues to lead rookie wide receivers in receptions and yards. (Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen leads all rookies with 24 receptions; Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey leads all rookies in receiving yards with 206.)

Kupp has some company, though. Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster was the No. 62 pick in the draft, and he was the receiver drafted before Kupp. Over the past two weeks, Smith-Schuster has become a legitimate No. 3 receiver in a good Pittsburgh offense. It’s giving him more chances for routes, targets and receptions.

Then there’s San Francisco’s Trent Taylor, the fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech who had 10 targets on Sunday. He could push Kupp for top receiver marks.

A quarter of the way through the season, those three have separated themselves as early successes at the position.

Here’s a look at rookie wide receivers through four weeks in the NFL; every receiver targeted this year has been included (according to ESPN Stats & Information):

Corey Davis, Tennessee (YTD stats: 7 rec., 73 yards, 13 targets, 51 routes): Davis did not play Sunday against Houston.

John Ross, Cincinnati (YTD stats: 1 carry, 12 yards; 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 targets, 2 routes): Ross was again inactive (this time against Cleveland).

Zay Jones, Buffalo (YTD stats: 4 rec., 57 yards, 14 targets, 118 routes): He’s getting opportunities, but Jones hasn’t been able to do much with them. He had one catch for 18 yards against Atlanta but caught only one of his five targets -- an alarming trend for Jones in an offense in which he could thrive.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina (YTD stats: 4 rec., 12 yards, 8 targets, 40 routes): He was inactive against New England on Sunday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh (YTD stats: 8 rec., 102 yards, 2 TD, 14 targets, 102 routes): Smith-Schuster seems to be moving into the No. 3 receiver role in Pittsburgh -- a potentially medium-volume position. On Sunday, he scored for the second time this season, posting three catches for 47 yards on four targets. After Kupp, he might be the receiver making the largest impact.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 14 rec., 186 yards, 2 TD, 21 targets, 90 routes): Kupp is one of the rookie wide receivers with the most opportunities -- and he’s had by far the best season. In Week 4, Kupp again led rookies in receptions (tied with Trent Taylor) and yards with five catches for 60 yards plus his second touchdown of the year. He was targeted seven times in an emerging Rams offense.

Taywan Taylor, Tennessee (YTD stats: 5 rec., 72 yards, 7 targets, 48 routes): Taylor was targeted once Sunday by the Titans.

Kenny Golladay, Detroit (YTD stats: 7 rec., 102 yards, 2 TD, 14 targets, 79 routes): After battling a hamstring injury all week, Golladay was inactive Sunday against Minnesota. He’s tied for second among rookie wide receivers in yards this season.

Mack Hollins, Philadelphia (YTD stats: 3 rec., 32 yards, 3 targets, 26 routes): Hollins played but was not targeted in a win over the Chargers.

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 1 rec., 28 yards, 1 target, 12 routes): Reynolds played but was not targeted in a win over Dallas.

Amara Darboh, Seattle (YTD stats: 3 rec., 26 yards, 3 targets, 27 routes): He got a little more work against the Colts, being targeted four times and making two catches for 10 yards.

Chad Williams, Arizona (YTD stats: 2 rec., 23 yards, 3 targets, 17 routes): He was inactive against San Francisco on Sunday.

Trent Taylor, San Francisco (YTD stats: 11 rec., 93 yards, 1 TD, 19 targets, 93 routes): While Kupp has had the best season, Taylor is emerging as a player in San Francisco. He was targeted a rookie-high 10 times this week against Arizona, catching five passes for 47 yards.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay (YTD stats: 3 rec., 44 yards, 5 targets, 25 routes): Godwin was held without a catch or a target in a win over the Giants.

ArDarius Stewart, New York Jets (YTD stats: 3 rec., 34 yards, 5 targets, 35 routes): Stewart was not targeted in an overtime win over the Jaguars.

Isaiah McKenzie, Denver (YTD stats: 2 targets, 23 routes): He was targeted twice Sunday but did not catch a pass. He has played in every game and is the only rookie receiver with at least one target who does not have a reception.

Noah Brown, Dallas (YTD stats: 1 rec., 13 yards, 1 target, 3 routes): Brown was not targeted in Dallas’ loss to the Rams.

The following receivers have run routes but have yet to be targeted this season: the New York Jets’ Chad Hansen (12), Dallas’ Ryan Switzer (5) and Minnesota’s Stacy Coley (1).