Best Matches for Rookie Wide Receivers (2020 Fantasy Football)
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On the final weekend of April, the NFL went forward with the draft despite incredible uncertainty surrounding the nature and existence of the upcoming season. Whether a season occurs — or in what capacity it does — remains to be seen. In the meantime, we have a bunch of new players entering the league with opportunities to make an immediate impact.
A whopping 16 wide receivers were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Since the focus here is on fantasy impact, this list will primarily include receivers from the first two days of the draft, as day three picks are extremely unlikely to matter, especially as rookies, barring some sort of injury or unforeseen event.
Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)
No one is suggesting that Justin Jefferson is the most talented wide receiver in this draft class. However, he undoubtedly landed in the best spot for fantasy purposes. Rookie wide receivers do not make as much of an immediate impact as rookie running backs. For rookie receivers, we need to look primarily at targets, and no rookie receiver is positioned to see more targets than Jefferson.
The Vikings have essentially operated with only two real wide receivers for the last five seasons. 2020 looks to be no different. The only change is that Stefon Diggs is now in Buffalo, and Jefferson will take his place opposite Adam Thielen. Jefferson had an absolutely absurd 91% catch rate on 122 targets in his junior season at LSU. He has better than 80th percentile speed and burst. Jefferson is a very solid receiver that, by all accounts, should be second on the Vikings in targets behind Thielen and ahead of Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph. Targets are the most important statistic for wide receivers in fantasy, and Jefferson would be my bet to lead all rookies in targets.
Jalen Reagor (WR – PHI)
Analysts were a bit disappointed when Jalen Reager only ran a 4.47, but a 70th percentile speed score is nothing to scoff at. Reagor’s 7th percentile agility score is embarrassing, but, overall, this is an explosive athlete joining a very good offense with the opportunity to play right away.
The Eagles finally jettisoned Nelson Agholor, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside is one of the least talented wide receivers I’ve seen in a long time. He has no business being in the NFL, and the Eagles know it. Reagor should immediately slot in at third on the depth chart behind Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.
Here’s the thing about Jeffery and Jackson — they’re old and busted. Jackson is entering his age 34-season and has a history of soft tissue injuries. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016. Jeffery is now 30 years old, and 2017 is the only year in the last five seasons that he’s played 16 games. It’s a certainty that Jackson and Jeffery will miss some time this season. Reagor may not contribute immediately, but he will have opportunities throughout the season to be a plug-and-play fantasy WR3 with room to grow.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF)
I am not Brandon Aiyuk’s biggest fan. I’ve just pretty much had enough of four-year receivers. If a prospect does not come out early, that’s a pretty big red flag. Hakeem Butler looms large. With that being said, Kyle Shanahan clearly likes Aiyuk, as evidenced by the first-round pick he spent on him. That matters. What also matters is the 49ers’ depth chart. Emmanuel Sanders is in New Orleans now. Deebo Samuel is clearly the WR1, but Aiyuk can very easily jump Kendrick Bourne for the WR2 role.
Aiyuk’s talent is a potential concern, but if he’s even marginally better than I think, the targets could be there. George Kittle will lead the 49ers in targets with Samuel second. Aiyuk has a real chance to be third, though. He’s not someone you should be aggressively targeting, but spending the type of late-round redraft pick on Aiyuk in 2020 that you did on someone like D.K. Metcalf in 2019 may be a prudent move.
CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
The reason CeeDee Lamb first showed up on this list now is because of available targets. Neither Jefferson, Reagor, or Aiyuk is the talent Lamb is, but all three of them have much clearer paths to targets than Lamb. The obvious benefit for Lamb is that the Cowboys’ offense projects to be the best in the NFC. The team has not been this loaded since the early Tony Romo years with Terrell Owens and a young Jason Witten.
Dak Prescott has been one of the most prolific quarterbacks since 2016. The Cowboys have an elite offensive line and a defense that is just “okay.” They should be in a lot of shootouts this season.
While Lamb is not jumping Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup on the depth chart, he has a great shot to be third on the team in targets. Witten is gone. Ezekiel Elliott’s target share dropped last year with a full season of Cooper and may drop even more. Randall Cobb, operating as the team’s WR3, saw 83 targets in 13 games last season. Cooper and Gallup can easily both see 120 targets with Lamb pushing 100. And there’s always the possibility that Cooper or Gallup misses games due to injury, thrusting more targets upon Lamb. Long-term, this landing spot is ideal. Short-term, Lamb has some roadblocks — but the path to upside is there.
Devin Duvernay (WR – BAL)
The Ravens are obviously not the ideal offense to target for wide receivers, but Devin Duvernay is exactly what Lamar Jackson needs. The Ravens deployed some of the worst receivers you’ll ever see in 2019. Jackson had a historic season without any real pass-catchers. Hollywood Brown will never be more than a stretch Z. The Ravens need that reliable underneath guy like Derrick Mason or Anquan Boldin.
Duvernay is fast, but he’s also technically sound. He is the perfect speedy slot receiver for Jackson, and he has a great chance to contribute immediately. Brown will stay on the outside, but I’d be very surprised if Duvernay couldn’t quickly beat out Willie Snead, Chris Moore, and Miles Boykin as the second receiver. Snead has never been more than a rotational guy. Moore is a special teamer. And Boykin is just very bad at playing wide receiver. Duvernay is a tremendous talent, and I would not be totally surprised if he ended up being the best receiver in this class.