Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer 345d

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Trent Taylor among rookie receiving midseason standouts

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It’s the midway point of the NFL season, and so far, no rookie receiver is on pace for 1,000 yards. None is on pace for even 60 catches.

But there have been some performances that indicate potential for the future. So here are the rookie receiver midseason awards through nine weeks and eight games for most teams -- at least from one person’s vantage point.

Rookie receiving MVP: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh. He started off slowly, but at the midway point, he looks like the breakout star of the class. He is tied for second among rookies in catches, leads in yards by 54 and has the most touchdown catches. He has been extremely impressive as the season has progressed, just edging Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp. Those two are the early stars of the class.

Biggest disappointment: John Ross, Cincinnati. Yes, Ross has dealt with a knee injury for most of the year, but he’s healthy now -- and he still was a scratch on Sunday against Indianapolis. That’s not a great sign, especially since the Bengals kept fellow rookie Josh Malone active. It’s still early in his career, though, and injuries clearly have been a hindrance.

Biggest surprise: Trent Taylor, San Francisco. The Louisiana Tech receiver was a fifth-round pick after posting two 1,000-yard collegiate seasons. He earned a chance early because of the Niners’ shaky receiving corps, and while he hasn’t been a big-time playmaker, he has been a contributor. His 24 catches are tied for second among rookies and his 204 yards are third.

The future star no one is discussing now: Ross, Corey Davis and Mike Williams were first-round picks, so I’ll go with Kenny Golladay from Detroit. He showed a lot of promise, before a hamstring injury essentially kept him out of the past five games. Despite that, he’s one of three rookie receivers with multiple touchdown catches, and with his size and speed, he has big-play capability. It might not come this year, but down the road, he has a chance to be special.

Here’s a look at every rookie receiver who has been targeted this season (statistics from ESPN Stats & Information):

Corey Davis, Tennessee (year-to-date stats: 7 receptions, 73 yards, 13 targets, 51 routes): After sitting out six weeks, Davis returned to the lineup against the Ravens and had two catches for 28 yards, while being targeted five times.

John Ross, Cincinnati (YTD stats: 1 carry, 12 yards; 0 receptions, 0 yards, 1 target, 6 routes): Ross was a healthy scratch this week for the Bengals, as his disappointing rookie season continues.

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (YTD stats: 2 rec., 22 yards, 5 targets, 25 routes): The Chargers were off this week.

Zay Jones, Buffalo (YTD stats: 16 rec., 168 yards, 1 TD, 39 targets, 243 routes): A little bit of progress for the Bills receiver after weeks of struggles. He had career highs of six catches and 53 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown. Considering the amount of playing time he has received, this is an early investment coming to fruition for the Bills.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina (YTD stats: 10 rec., 70 yards, 19 targets, 110 routes): Samuel should benefit from the Kelvin Benjamin trade; he had three catches for 23 yards against Atlanta and was targeted five times. Those are all career highs.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh (YTD stats: 24 rec., 424 yards, 4 TDs, 36 targets, 217 routes):.The Steelers were off this week.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 26 rec., 370 yards, 3 TDs, 47 targets, 204 routes): After a week off, Kupp again led all rookie receivers in yards -- three catches for 54 yards on five targets --

during the Rams’ rout.

Taywan Taylor, Tennessee (YTD stats: 11 rec., 174 yards, 17 targets, 120 routes): Corey Davis' return pushed Taylor back down the depth chart, and he had only one catch for minus-4 yards.

Kenny Golladay, Detroit (YTD stats: 7 rec., 102 yards, 2 TDs, 14 targets, 79 routes): Golladay remained inactive on Monday night.

Mack Hollins, Philadelphia (YTD stats: 9 rec., 172 yards, 1 TD, 10 targets, 59 routes): After having something of a breakout game last week, Hollins didn’t get much attention in the Eagles’ blowout win over Denver, with one catch for eight yards. There might just be too many receivers, at least for now, for Hollins to make a big difference. The potential is there, though.

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 1 rec., 28 yards, 2 targets, 25 routes): He was targeted once but didn’t catch a pass.

Amara Darboh, Seattle (YTD stats: 5 rec., 55 yards, 9 targets, 56 routes): Darboh ran five routes and was not targeted.

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

Trent Taylor, San Francisco (YTD stats: 24 rec., 204 yards, 1 TD, 38 targets, 236 routes): He had two catches for 22 yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with a rib injury. He didn’t return.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay (YTD stats: 8 rec., 83 yards, 13 targets, 67 routes): He continues a slow rookie year, with one catch for 9 yards against New Orleans.

ArDarius Stewart, New York Jets (YTD stats: 4 rec., 36 yards, 7 targets, 50 routes): Stewart did not catch a pass.

Isaiah McKenzie, Denver (YTD stats: 2 rec., 14 yards, 8 targets, 51 routes): McKenzie was targeted three times, catching one pass for 14 yards in the Broncos’ struggling offense.

Noah Brown, Dallas (YTD stats: 1 rec., 13 yards, 1 target, 9 routes): Brown was inactive on Sunday.

Stacy Coley, Minnesota (YTD stats: 1 target, 11 routes): The Vikings were off this week.

Ryan Switzer, Dallas (YTD stats: 2 catch, 9 yards, 2 targets, 15 routes): Switzer was active but did not run a route.

Josh Malone, Cincinnati (YTD stats: 3 rec, 48 yards, 1 TD, 8 targets, 38 routes): Ross might not be playing, but Malone is getting time. He had four targets on Sunday, catching one pass for 13 yards.

Jehu Chesson, Kansas City (YTD stats: 1 rec., 10 yards, 1 target, 3 routes): Chesson had his first career catch -- for 10 yards -- on his first career target.

New York Jets’ Chad Hansen has run 34 routes but has yet to be targeted this season.

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