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Wide Receivers to Target in Best Ball Leagues (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
May 16, 2020

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This is the second position group to go under the spotlight as best ball targets. As I noted in the running back targets piece, I’ve partaken in 18 best ball drafts this year. The following table showcases my draft slot in those 18 drafts. My favorite wide receiver targets are featured prominently in the forthcoming table of wideouts I’ve selected repeatedly.

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Draft Slot # Times
1 3
2 0
3 0
4 1
5 2
6 0
7 2
8 2
9 2
10 1
11 4
12 1

The average draft position (ADP) and running back ADP rank below are an average of MFL10 and RTSports.

Wide Receiver Ownership Table

Player Overall Best Ball Rosters Pre-Draft Best Ball Rosters Post-Draft Best Ball Rosters
Breshad Perriman 13 7 6
Terry McLaurin 12 9 3
DeSean Jackson 9 6 3
Brandin Cooks 8 5 3
Andy Isabella 8 6 2
Marquise Brown 6 2 4
Courtland Sutton 5 5 0
Robert Woods 5 2 3
Parris Campbell 5 2 3
Adam Thielen 4 3 1
Cooper Kupp 4 4 0
Hunter Renfrow 4 3 1

I’ve selected 36 receivers across my 18 best ball rosters. I took only a dozen of those receivers just once, meaning I took the other 24 receivers on my best ball more than once. The table above features all 12 receivers I’ve popped in four or more best ball drafts. I’ve already written about D-Jax here and the duo of Andy Isabella and Parris Campbell here, I’m still a fan of the trio in best-ball formats, and you can check out those two pieces for my analysis of them.

Robert Woods (WR – LAR): ADP — 50.5, WR20
After a ho-hum start to his career in his first four years with the Bills, Woods teased his true talent level in 2017 with the Rams. He’s fully blossomed over the last two years, though. Among receivers since 2018, Woods ranks seventh in targets (269), sixth in receptions (176), and ninth in receiving yards per game (75.9), according to Pro-Football-Reference. He also shares elite company in 15-plus yard receptions since 2018, as Pro Football Focus (PFF) pointed out in the following tweet.

The fly in the ointment in his statistics over the last two years is a modest eight receiving touchdowns. That puts him tied for just 41st at the position. Colleague Dan Ambrosino touted Woods as a positive touchdown regression candidate this season. I’m in lockstep with Dan regarding positive touchdown regression expectations for Woods this year. The following table showcases Woods’ targets, receptions, and touchdowns in the red zone in his three years with the Rams, per Lineups.

Year Red Zone (RZ) Targets RZ Receptions RZ Touchdowns
2019 10 7 2
2018 13 7 4
2017 8 6 3

Woods’ usage in the red zone last year was in the same vicinity as in previous years, yet he was a bit less fortunate when it came to finding pay dirt. Further, Woods added zero receiving touchdowns beyond the red zone after scoring a pair of non-red zone touchdowns in 2017 and another pair in 2018. Give me the over on two receiving touchdowns for Woods in 2020.

Finally, it’s easy to overlook Woods’ contributions as a runner. Don’t make that mistake. In 2018, Woods rushed 19 times for 157 yards and a score. Last year, he added 17 rushes for 115 yards and a score. Woods checks in as my WR17, a few spots higher than his WR20 ADP. While my ranking has him a bit short of being a top receiver in 12-team best-ball leagues, I’m comfortable waiting to make a selection at the position, selecting him as my top receiver, and pairing him with another top-shelf WR2 like the next guy in this piece.

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS): ADP — 73.5, WR28
McLaurin is the first of a pair of second-year receivers included in this piece, and he’s my favorite. I have him ranked a full 10 spots higher than his ADP as my WR18 after a superb rookie season. In Washington’s dismal offense, the rookie wideout emerged as the clear top pass-catching option.

Among rookie receivers over the last decade targeted at least 70 times, McLaurin’s 9.88 yards per target is the ninth-highest total, per Pro-Football-Reference’s Play Index Tool. During that same time frame, McLaurin ranked quite well against other rookie receivers in yards per route run, too, as Evan Silva of Establish The Run showcased in the following tweet.

McLaurin’s 2019 stats don’t just stack up well against other rookies over the last decade, they compare favorably to other receivers last season. Among qualified receivers and tight ends, he posted the sixth-highest Percentage of Team’s Targeted Air Yards (37.09%), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Further, his 23.1% target share last year was tied for the 20th-highest mark among receivers and tight ends targeted at least 60 times, per Sports Info Solutions (SIS).

In addition to being targeted often, his usage fits magnificently in best-ball formats. He was a deep threat, and out of receivers and tight ends targeted at least 60 times, his average depth of target of 13.8 yards was the 14th-deepest. Football Outsiders (FO) also graded him favorably, ranking him 13th in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) and 12th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) out of the 81 receivers targeted a minimum of 50 times last year. McLaurin’s a burgeoning stud who I’d feel comfortable having as my WR1 in best-ball formats, but I’ve been able to repeatedly draft him as my WR2 or WR3.

Marquise Brown (WR – BAL): ADP — 86.5, WR33
Brown’s rookie season last year was promising, but it was also marred by injuries. As Matthew Stevens pointed out for Ravens Wire, Hollywood Brown dealt with a nagging foot injury (that has since required offseason surgery to remove a screw previously used to repair a Lisfranc injury), a hip injury, and an ankle injury that resulted in him carrying a “questionable” designation on the final injury report seven times and two missed games. Brown posted multiple duds, but he also had a handful of blowup performances.

Perhaps Brown can smooth out some of the variance in his second season, but that’s less of a concern in best-ball formats, and his overall numbers were promising. His 8.23 yards per target ranked 33rd out of 61 receivers targeted at least 70 times. He also ranked 42nd in DYAR and 35th in DVOA out of 81 receivers targeted at least 50 times. The most impressive stat in Brown’s profile, however, is his 124.9 Receiver Rating — it was the third-highest out of receivers and tight ends targeted at least 60 times, trailing only Jared Cook and A.J. Brown.

The Ravens’ rushing ability took center stage last year, but they also led the NFL in offensive scoring at 33.2 points per game. Tight end Mark Andrews was the top option in last year’s passing attack, followed by Brown, and both figure to be the top-two options in Baltimore’s high-scoring offense again this year. Brown has untapped upside that makes him an appealing WR3/WR4 option in best-ball leagues.

Breshad Perriman (WR – NYJ): ADP — 150.5, WR55
Perriman is my most-rostered player at any position in best-ball leagues. The 26th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft failed to deliver the goods for the team that drafted him, but after flashing in 2018 with the Browns, he blew up down the stretch last year for the Buccaneers. He was the third receiver on the Bucs for most of last year, and his role grew near the end of the season as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin fell to injury. Despite the big finish, recency bias hasn’t driven his ADP into the top-50 receivers.

From Week 13 through the end of the regular season, Perriman scored the third-most fantasy points among receivers in point per reception (PPR) formats, according to our Fantasy Football Leaders page. During that five-game stretch, Perriman ranked second in yards per target (13.68) among players targeted at least 20 times. In that same time frame, he also ranked 27th in targets (37), tied for 19th in receptions (25), third in receiving yards (506) and yards per reception (20.24), and tied for first in touchdown receptions (five). He balled out, and he’ll have a path to a steady diet of work with his new team, the Jets.

The Jets inked him to a one-year deal, and his most notable competition for looks will come from the likes of third-year tight end Chris Herndon, running back Le’Veon Bell, slot receiver Jamison Crowder, and rookie wideout Denzel Mims. He has a legitimate shot at emerging from that group as the most productive player through the air. Additionally, his usage as a field-stretching option doesn’t necessitate hefty volume to routinely post fantasy-starter point totals.

Perriman’s average depth of target of 16.0 yards downfield last season was the second-deepest depth out of players targeted a minimum of 60 times. A little further down the list at fifth was Robby Anderson with an average depth of target of 15.1 yards. Anderson has been the Jets’ vertical threat during both of Sam Darnold’s seasons in the NFL. Interestingly, during Perriman’s heater from Week 13 through Week 17, Anderson ranked 16th in fantasy points among receivers in PPR formats. Looking at a larger sample size last year, from Week 6 through the end of the regular season, Anderson ranked 30th at wide receiver in PPR scoring. I specify that stretch of games because Darnold was out after Week 1 until Week 6 recovering from mononucleosis.

It doesn’t take much squinting to see Perriman filling Anderson’s vacated gig in the Jets offense. Perriman’s lack of even a full season of fantasy-relevant production means there’s some risk associated with drafting him in best-ball formats. Having said that, his upside far outweighs his modest cost.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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