Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
Everyone has their own theories on strategies that help them win in the fantasy football world. Well, if you’re a listener of the Blitzalytics “Fantasy Football Hotseat” podcast, then you’re already aware that I am a big fan of wide receivers that are entering their third season. By this point in their career, receivers will get the speed of the game down and fully understand their role within the offense. There are plenty of instances where this is proven, but let’s take a quick look at a few examples of growth over the past three seasons:
Chris Godwin (2019)
Year 1: 55 targets, 34 receptions, 525 yards, 1 touchdown (16 games)
Year 2: 95 targets, 59 receptions, 842 yards, 7 touchdowns (16 games)
Year 3: 121 targets, 86 receptions, 1,333 yards, 9 touchdowns (14 games)
Tyler Boyd (2018)
Year 1: 81 targets, 54 receptions, 603 yards, 1 touchdown (16 games)
Year 2: 32 targets, 22 receptions, 225 yards, 2 touchdowns (10 games)
Year 3: 108 targets, 76 receptions, 1,028 yards, 7 touchdowns (14 games)
Nelson Agholor (2017)
Year 1: 44 targets, 23 receptions, 283 yards, 1 touchdown (13 games)
Year 2: 69 targets, 36 receptions, 365 yards, 2 touchdowns (15 games)
Year 3: 95 targets, 62 receptions, 768 yards, 8 touchdowns (16 games)
It’s not a bullet-proof strategy, but more times than not receivers will see a bump in production in their third season. Even if that doesn’t lead to long-term success in their career like we have seen with Agholor. The 2018 NFL Draft saw 33 wide receivers selected, only 2 of those players were selected in the 1st round. Fast forward to the upcoming 2020 NFL season, I believe there are 15 receivers from the 2018 class that should be on your radar in Fantasy Football, here are my Top 5 players I know for sure I want on my roster in 2020:
1. Calvin Ridley (Falcons)
Year 1: 92 targets, 64 receptions, 821 yards, 10 touchdowns (16 games)
Year 2: 93 targets, 63 receptions, 866 yards, 7 touchdowns (13 games)
Ridley was 1 of the 2 receivers selected in the 1st round when Atlanta spent the 26th pick on him. He’s been consistent since he entered the league and is set to have a Year 3 boom. Austin Hooper left in free agency which leaves his 97 targets from the 2019 season unaccounted for. Despite the addition of Hayden Hurst, Ridley should receive an increase of attempts from Matt Ryan in 2020. With an increased role, he can get to 90+ receptions, 1,200+ yards, and 9+ touchdowns. He’s a WR2 entering the season, but I would not be surprised if he finishes as a WR1 and has a better season than Julio Jones. I’m betting on a big year from Ridley.
2. Courtland Sutton (Broncos)
Year 1: 84 targets, 42 receptions, 704 yards, 4 touchdowns (16 games)
Year 2: 124 targets, 72 receptions, 1,112 yards, 6 touchdowns (16 games)
Denver spent a 2nd round pick on Sutton and he has been worth it so far. Despite the turnover at the quarterback position, he was able to produce. He played second fiddle to Emmanuel Sanders as a rookie and for the first part of the 2019 season until the Broncos traded him to the San Francisco 49ers. Sutton embraced the #1 role and took that second-year leap. While the jury is still out on Drew Lock, he does give Sutton some consistency at the position for once in his career. If the two can develop some chemistry and connect on those missed targets, then he could have a Year 3 boom. Sutton is a WR2 with WR1 volume, if he can take the next step, he can be one of the top fantasy receivers in 2020.
3. D.J. Moore (Panthers)
Year 1: 82 targets, 55 receptions, 788 yards, 2 touchdowns (16 games)
Year 2: 135 targets, 87 receptions, 1,175 yards, 4 touchdowns (15 games)
Moore was the first receiver off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft when Carolina used the 24th pick on him. He’s shown steady growth in his career and has embraced his role as the #2 option behind Christian McCaffrey. Last year he was able to produce despite having poor quarterback play from Kyle Allen and Will Grier. This season he should see some more accuracy as the team has brought in Teddy Bridgewater. While Bridgewater isn’t known for throwing it all over the field, his short-range accuracy should benefit Moore’s skillset. I expect him to have similar numbers from Year 2, but with an increase of touchdowns. There’s a slight worry that Robby Anderson could take some of his targets, but he should still finish as a WR2 this year.
4. D.J. Chark (Jaguars)
Year 1: 32 targets, 14 receptions, 174 yards, 0 touchdowns (11 games)
Year 2: 118 targets, 73 receptions, 1,008 yards, 8 touchdowns (15 games)
Chark was selected in the 2nd round by Jacksonville which paid off last year as he took over as the lead dog in their receiving corps. After a very quiet rookie season, he embraced a larger role in the offense as he produced with Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew. He offers a high floor as a WR2 with WR1 volume. I just have major concerns with the Jaguars offense and how it will function in 2020. Is Minshew really their franchise quarterback? If he isn’t or gets hurt, Mike Glennon is the backup. Can anyone else consistently produce? Does that lead to him being double-teamed more often? He’s still worth a selection because of his floor and the potential of a Year 3 boom.
5. Anthony Miller (Bears)
Year 1: 54 targets, 33 receptions, 423 yards, 7 touchdowns (15 games)
Year 2: 85 targets, 52 receptions, 656 yards, 2 touchdowns (16 games)
Miller was a 2nd round selection by Chicago and he’s been a steady producer since joining the team. He’s carved out a small role in the offense over his short career, which should change in Year 3 as he doesn’t have much competition for targets. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be the #2 option behind Allen Robinson in the Bears passing attack. The biggest question is who will be throwing him the ball, Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles? If he can receive some consistent play from the quarterback position then he can take the next step in his career. He’s a WR3-4 entering the season but has the capabilities to finish as a WR2 if the offense can gel as the season goes along.
These players were heavily considered for the #5 spot, but in comparison to Miller, they have more competition for targets in each of their own offensive units. I still think all 3 are worth a selection.
Michael Gallup (Cowboys)
Year 1: 68 targets, 33 receptions, 507 yards, 2 touchdowns (16 games)
Year 2: 113 targets, 66 receptions, 1,107 yards, 6 touchdowns (14 games)
Dallas spent a 3rd round pick on Gallup and he has provided some value to their offense. His second-year leap showed that he could be a WR2 despite sharing an offense with Amari Cooper. Then the draft happened, CeeDee Lamb enters the conversation, that selection makes Gallup’s situation hard to figure out. Plus, the offense will look slightly different under Mike McCarthy. I view him as a WR3 entering the season but can be a WR2 if Lamb can’t pick up the offense quickly because of the lack of an offseason for a rookie.
Christian Kirk (Cardinals)
Year 1: 68 targets, 43 receptions, 590 yards, 3 touchdowns (12 games)
Year 2: 108 targets, 68 receptions, 709 yards, 3 touchdowns (13 games)
Kirk was a 2nd round pick by Arizona and he has been a reliable contributor since he entered the league. He’s in a pass friendly offense and could see an uptick in his production in Year 3. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins does have an effect on his potential targets, Larry Fitzgerald will still get his fair share of snaps, and there is plenty of talent in their receiving corps. He’s in that WR3-4 range for me but does offer a WR2 ceiling because of the offense he is in.
James Washington (Steelers)
Year 1: 38 targets, 16 receptions, 217 yards, 1 touchdown (14 games)
Year 2: 80 targets, 44 receptions, 735 yards, 3 touchdowns (15 games)
Pittsburgh selected Washington in the 2nd round and he has a chance to have a Year 3 boom because of the return of Ben Roethlisberger. After a disappointing rookie season, he was able to get some production in his second season despite the poor quarterback play from Mason Rudolph and “Duck” Hodges. He has heavy competition for targets from JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron. If Big Ben can remain healthy and Washington can carve out a chunk of the targets then he could put up great production in 2020.
I don’t condone drafting any of these receivers but they could be worth a speculative addition as a late roster spot in deeper leagues (12+ teams) or for owners in dynasty leagues. Without a regular preseason, these are players I would keep an eye on to see if they’re being used in their offense as the season progresses.
Allen Lazard & Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Packers)
Everyone expected that Green Bay would address the wide receiver position to help find someone to be the #2 option in their passing attack behind Davante Adams. That didn’t happen. Lazard and Valdes-Scantling have shown the ability to produce with Aaron Rodgers but they haven’t shown any consistency. Somebody has to emerge.
Trey Quinn (Washington)
Quinn has had a quiet career because of injuries that he has dealt with. He finds himself in a questionable offense that only has Terry McLaurin as a sure thing in their passing attack. If he can stay on the field then he could carve out a role in the slot and become a PPR machine.
Tre’Quan Smith (Saints)
Smith has been working in a small role in New Orleans’ offense and has quietly grabbed 5 touchdowns in each of his 2 seasons. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders doesn’t help him get a larger share of the targets, but if he does take that next step than he could potentially provide some value.
Dante Pettis (49ers)
After showing some flashes during his rookie season, Pettis is coming off a disappointing Year 2. He does have a chance to save his career, Deebo Samuel will miss the beginning of the season due to a foot injury, Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Saints, and it’s an open competition to be the lead dog while Samuel is out. The opportunity is there for him.
Keke Coutee (Texans)
Coutee is buried behind Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills in the passing attack but a couple of those guys have injury concerns. If something were to happen, then he would see an increased role in the offense. He’s produced before so I would keep an eye on if any injuries happen to this receiving corps at any point this season.
Auden Tate (Bengals)
After a quiet rookie season, Tate took advantage of the injuries to Cincinnati’s injuries to their receiving corps and showed he can produce during his second year. His situation is dependent on the health of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd’s targets, if John Ross can stay on the field, and how fast Tee Higgins can pick up the offense. There’s a scenario where he could have a larger role.
If you enjoyed the deeper dive, then stay tuned for Blitzalytics NFL Prospect Encyclopedia that is coming out at the beginning of September!