Identifying and drafting undervalued talent is one key ingredient to fantasy football success. In 2019, Courtland Sutton, DJ Moore, Michael Gallup, and DJ Chark — all in their second seasons — emerged as game changers on the field and in fantasy lineups. Below you’ll find the wide receivers poised to do the same in 2020.
Note: Players listed in order of 2020 Average Draft Position (ADP) from FantasyPros.com.
AJ Brown, Tennessee Titans – ADP: 44 | 2019 Stats: WR21 – 52 REC – 1,051 YDS – 8 TD
Once Ryan Tannehill took over the Tennessee offense, Brown emerged as leading candidate to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. What he did from Week 12 to 17 is what stands out most. Brown caught five touchdowns, had four games with 114+ receiving yards, and was the second best fantasy receiver behind Michael Thomas. And per PFF, Brown’s 8.7 yards after catch was the second-most in a season since 2010.
The downside of Brown is his inconsistency early on and the Titans’ playing style. If you draft him, expect some serious volatility. I love AJ Brown as a WR2.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks – ADP: 55 | 2019 Stats: WR33 – 58 REC – 900 YDS – 7 TD
“Decaf” Metcalf, the seemingly lab-produced clone of Calvin Johnson, is going to shine in year two. After playing 83% of Seattle’s snaps and leading the NFL in end-zone targets, he has already shown a strong rapport with Russell Wilson. They are even putting in offseason work together.
My senses tell me Metcalf will be heavily targeted in fantasy drafts this year. I have him as an excellent flex play with WR2 upside.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins – ADP: 61 | 2019 Stats: WR29 – 58 REC – 919 YDS – 7 TD
Don’t tell your friends this, but Terry McLaurin actually outscored AJ Brown on a per game basis as rookies (13.7 to 13.6). McLaurin’s 10 end-zone targets and 10 yards per target were also 11th and ninth best in the league, respectively.
If you believe the Redskins will suck again, that is just another reason to draft him. He produced with Dwayne Haskins in college and will rack up garbage time points in the NFL. I grade McLaurin as a WR2 and would draft him ahead of Metcalf.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens – ADP: 74 | 2019 Stats: WR46 – 46 REC – 584 YDS – 7 TD
Marquise Brown is a sneaky good pick this year. As defenses place increased emphasis on slowing down the Baltimore run game, that will lead to countless opportunities for Brown to shred teams over the top.
After spending nearly an entire season on the injury report, Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman recently provided positive news on Brown, saying “he’s had a great offseason physically.” I want him as the third or fourth receiver on my roster.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers – ADP: 81 | 2019 Stats: WR31 – 57 REC – 802 YDS – 3 TD
After a slow start, Deebo Samuel took off in Weeks 10-17, scoring the ninth-most points for a receiver in that stretch. Effective as a pass-catcher, receiver, and runner — 159 yards, three TDs, and 11.4 yards per attempt — Samuel is an integral part of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
His foot fracture earlier this month gives me concern about taking him too early. Although whether he returns in Week 1 or Week 4, Deebo belongs in starting lineups week in, week out.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers – ADP: 103 | 2019 Stats: WR39 – 59 REC – 680 YDS – 5 TD
Here’s a stat to blow your mind: Diontae Johnson led the NFL in average yards of separation per route run, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. 59 catches and 680 yards is also wildly impressive considering the quarterbacks throwing him the ball last year.
I am circling Johnson in every draft. He has year-long flex potential with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger.
Darius Slayton, New York Giants – ADP: 115 | 2019 Stats: WR37 – 48 REC – 740 YDS – 8 TD
Highlighted in a previous post, Slayton flew under-the-radar in his rookie year and has a chance to break out in a major way with Daniel Jones. Slayton caught eight touchdowns as a rookie and is the primary vertical target in the Giants’ offense.
Like Diontae Johnson, I’ll be trying to draft Slayton as a sleeper in all of my leagues. He scored double-digit fantasy points in eight out of the 14 games he played in, including two 30+ point outings.
All three of these receivers should be drafted with a late-round flier. Here’s why:
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders – Renfrow’s 49-605-4 rookie splits were impressive. In the final two weeks of the season he scored a combined 45.9 fantasy points on 13 catches, 209 yards, and two touchdowns. But after the Raiders selected three receivers in the first three rounds, using Renfrow as a Week 1 starter feels risky.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs – Hardman played on just 44% of the Chiefs’ snaps in his rookie season. However, he took it to the house every 4.33 catches. With that type of big-play ability, Andy Reid is certain to use the former second-round pick much more in 2020.
Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins – Prior to tearing his ACL in Week 9, Williams led the Dolphins with 7.4 targets per game and was WR37 in fantasy. Assuming he’s healthy, the 6’5″, undrafted receiver out of Colorado State could usurp DeVante Parker’s role as Miami’s number one option yet again.
A podcast I’m listening to: Revisionist History by Pushkin Industries
Malcolm Gladwell brings his inquisitive mind to audio in season five of Revisionist History. In each episode, Gladwell “re-examines something from the past — an event, a person, an idea, even a song — and asks whether we got it right the first time.”
Two of my favorite episodes are about Wilt Chamberlain refusing to shoot free throws underhanded despite its obvious benefits and Elvis’s inability to remember the words of one specific song.
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