MUST Own Wide Receivers (Rounds 7-9) in 2020 Fantasy Football
Marquise Hollywood Brown was the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Ravens, an extremely well-oiled franchise, selected Hollywood as the first WR off the board, while he was dealing with a Lisfranc injury that forced him from testing at the NFL Combine. This team loves Brown. Because of the Lisfranc injury, Hollywood played his entire rookie year with a big ass screw in his foot. Which he had surgery to get taken out in February. The Ravens KNEW HE HAD TO PLAY ALL OF 2019 WITH A SCREW IN HIS FOOT. Harbaugh came out after the season admitting that Brown was playing well under 100% health for the entirety of the year and “he really couldn’t practice at all” in 2019.
They knew not to push the situation. Brown played on just 52% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps in 2019. While the volume wasn’t encouraging, the efficiency was top-notch. Brown ranked #6 in the NFL in QB rating when targeted and #8 in fantasy points per pass route courtesy of PlayerProfiler.com. I can’t wait to see this kid play on a fully healthy foot. We didn’t need to seem him run at the combine last year to know he runs in the 4.3’s, with potential to break that elusive 4.29 barrier. That speed doesn’t make him a one-trick pony.
Per Matt Harmon’s awesome work in Reception Perception (available in the Fantasy Footballer’s UDK), Brown was winning on nearly every route. Because of his speed, defenders don’t have the luxury of jamming him at the line – the main reason he ranked #4 among all NFL WRs last year in average “cushion” given by opposing coverages.
The other thing to consider here is the lack of competition. Browns raw stats weren’t there but in just 14 games played, Brown accounted for 41% of all Baltimore WR touchdowns and receiving yards, 40% of receptions, 37% of targets and 4-of-6 (67%) 40+ yard receptions. You want to talk about an impressive dominator rating – lawdamercy. They have almost nothing outside of Mark Andrews, so by default Brown is going to be the alpha on the outside in an offense with the reigning league MVP at quarterback, who led the NFL in scoring (31.9).
Brown gives you overall weekly WR1 upside – that’s not something you can say about almost any WR being picked in Round 8 of fantasy drafts. He finished as a WR1 in 3-of-14 weeks last season, I expect that to at least double in 2020 with far more weekly consistency. He saw a near 19% target share as a rookie, not healthy and playing on 51% of the snaps – that number is going to be close to 23-24% this year and given the ability to go fuckin yahtzee on any given play – idc that he might be boom or bust, you don’t have to draft him to depend on his production week over week, he’s the perfect upside flex play in 2020.
Tyer Boyd - Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off of back-to-back 1000 yard receiving seasons and he's just 25. There's a chance that we haven't seen Boyd's true ceiling. I think we've seen the last two years and automatically assume we're just going to get that again - but if Boyd finishes this year with 1200-1300 yards, are we really going to be surprised.
This Bengals offense is going to be different in 2020 - Joe Burrow's under center, A.J. Green is on the field, they get Jonah Williams back. It's going to be fun to watch. Lot to be excited about in Cincy. Now, it may seem like there's a lot of target competition in Cincy, but not really. Tee Higgins has missed all of training camp already - it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see him become a non-factor in his rookie season - rookie WRs rarely produce, ones that miss the summer? Fahhgettaboutit. John Ross - this dude misses games like Philip rivers wife misses her period - they declined his 5th year option - they have no allegiance to him at all to get him on the field and he left training camp to tend to his wife and kid who tested positive for covid. There's a strong chance he makes little noise in 2020.
Then you have A.J. Green - do we want to believe he's back, sure - is he. Who tf knows - a coin flip. Since John Ross entered the league in 2017, he's played in one fewer games than Green. He's got his own injury concerns, he's 32 people out here acting like we're getting 25-year-old Green back.
Tyler Boyd just saw 148 targets, the 7th highest number in the entire NFL. Over the last two years, Boyd is averaging over 8.5 targets/game.
There's a strong chance Boyd is just a very good slot WR, and he's about to enter his prime. I don't think he's a top-10 talent at WR, but like Cooper Kupp, you don't have to be that to be a top-10 fantasy WR - you just have to be at the right place, right time, and be really good at the job you're asked to do. We look at how much Burrow loved throwing to the slot at LSU - it was scary - it's why Justin Jefferson's numbers were thicc with 4-5 C's
Last year Boyd ran over 60% of his routes from the slot, which is a fine number, but the year prior, when Green was also on the field, Boyd was a 74.1% slot guy.
There were three games in 2019 that Boyd ran more routes from outside than he did in the slot - he averaged 8.5 targets, 5.3 receptions, 48.3 yards and scored 0 touchdowns. In the other 13 games, he averaged 9.5 targets, 5.7 receptions, 69.3 yards and scored all 5 of his touchdowns.
What's encouraging is Burrow's propensity to throw downfield, his air yards, even when targeting the slot. We don't think of Boyd as a big-play guy, but, over the last two years, Boyd has seen 25 deep targets (per PFF). Only 13 of them have been deemed catchable, he's hauled in every one of them. 13-for-13, for 433 yards. Just give the boy a chance, and with Burrow he should certainly get that.
I would say not only is there a chance, but I'd say Boyd is the easy favorite to lead this team in targets. It's really only AJ Green - there's not real TE for competition and just a bunch of ?? at WR3.
Edelman is definitely being slept on a bit. The same case I made for James White yesterday, Edelman is really the only other staple of this Patriots offensive system. His target numbers went absolutely stealth mode in 2019. A few weeks byke taking about Allen Robinson I said there were only two players who had more targets than he did in 2019 - Michael Thomas and Julio Jones - well there were only three players that had more targets last year than Julian Edelman - Allen Robinson, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones.
Another phenomenal season from Edelman, who has now averaged, over the last 3 years (that he's played - missed all of 2017 with the ACL tear):
- 9.6 targets/game
- 6.2 receptions/game
- 69.8 yards/game (would have been 3 straight 1000 yard seasons)
He's a PPR stud still, give me him in the 8th all day.
I have nothing profound to say here. If he's healthy, sure, whatever. He doesn't have 140-target upside - it's not who he is. But he's fun, and can be DeSean Jackson over a full season. Break off for 1200 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Durability is a skill so everyone can stfu.
Round 9 - Diontae Johnson
Johnson is the most typical storyline we see in fantasy football, every summer - the guy that people start to slowly recognize how good he was the year prior, gets ridiculous hype, then people come out and say now he's going to high I can't draft him, and then he finally starts to settle back down - that's where we are right now.
Johnson was a beast in his rookie year - overshadowed by the A.J. Browns and Terry McLaurin's, Deebos and D.K.'s. Johnson led the Steelers in targets, receptions, touchdowns, catches of 40+ yards, catch rate, RZ targets, and of course, fantasy points.
The list of rookies, that have done this since 2000 is impressive. A total of 727 rookie WRs have played in the NFL since 2000. Of the 727, the total number that have hit: 90+ targets, 55+ receptions, 650+ yards and 5+ TDs = 25. 3.4% of them. The list is pretty fucking impressive:
Of those WRs that played at least 12 games the following year (so take out anyone from 2019 obviously bc we don't have their 2nd year #s and players who were injured), we're left with 17 WRs. Of those:
- 13-of-17 (77%) had more receptions the following year (average increase of 11.5 receptions in year 2)
- 13-of-17 (77%) saw more targets in year 2 (averaged increase in 14.5 targets)
- 13-of-17 (77%) had more yards in year 2
If you did well in rookie year, it's usually because you're good at football. And I expect there to be more volume in the passing game. Obviously, the Steelers wanted to limit their QB throws given who they had throwing the ball last year. They threw the ball at a rate of 57.8% in 2019, ranked 23rd in the NFL. That's the lowest ranking for them since 2010. A typical Tomlin team has them comfortably inside the top-12.
Matt Harmon didn't hate him in reception perception either:
The dude is a legitimate route runner and has a lot of AB to his game.
He was also their punt returner - took one byke to the cribbo - love to see the versatility, the athleticism - when you can play return man, and do it well, it usually means they can use you all over the field offensively.
We just recently learned that he had been playing with a sports hernia last year - which happened in Week 2, had surgery after the year. So that's even more impressive.
All in all, the signs are everywhere for a breakout in year 2 for diontae johnson if they can get some consistent QB play here. Sure, JuJu is still the guy - but remember two years ago AB and JuJu ranked 3rd and 4th in targets.