Best Ball Wide Receiver Dart Throws (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Prior to the NFL draft, I offered three dart throws at receiver. This go-round, I’m offering three more dart throws at the position. The trio is headlined by a veteran field-stretcher. He’s joined by a second-year slot wideout who played well down the stretch, and a rookie YAC (yards after catch) monster rounds out the list.
DeSean Jackson (WR – PHI): ADP — 168.5, WR62
This is the second time this offseason that I’ve touted DJax in Best Ball formats. Back in early April, I voiced bewilderment about his average draft position (ADP) of 182.0 and his WR67 ranking. As you can see, he has moved up a bit, but he’s still a steal at his current cost.
As I expected when I penned my article back in April, the Eagles went on to add talent to their receiving corps. They spent a first-round pick on Jalen Reagor, a fifth-round selection on John Hightower, and a sixth-round pick on Quez Watkins while also adding speedster Marquise Goodwin via trade during the NFL draft. The additions do nothing to diminish my interest in DJax in Best Ball formats — especially at his cheap cost.
Circling back to Reagor, he’ll reportedly shadow Jackson and learn just one of the receiving roles. That’s not to say Reagor will spend the entire year behind DJax, but it appears that he’ll start there. Further, Eagles’ beat reporter Mike Kaye of NJ.com voices the expectation Jackson will be the top receiver for the team when healthy.
“When healthy” is an important caveat, as DJax missed 13 games in 2019 and four games in 2018. Jackson is recovering from core muscle surgery that he underwent last November, and Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out that Jackson “looks nimble” in the videos he’s posted of his rehab.
Before missing 17 games over the last two years, Jackson had missed only three games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined. He’s on the wrong side of 30, however, as he’s now a 33-year-old veteran, so injury concerns should be baked into his ADP. That said, you don’t have to go back too far to find a couple of mostly healthy seasons.
In his only fully-healthy game last year, Jackson barbecued Washington for an 8-154-2 line on nine targets. He was also quite sharp in his 12-game 2018 campaign. During that season, he led qualified pass-catchers in yards per reception (18.9), and he ranked 10th in yards per target (10.5), according to Pro-Football-Reference.
Jackson also acquitted himself well in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) metric, as he ranked 25th out of 84 receivers targeted a minimum of 50 times. Rounding his impressive 2018 numbers out, Jackson’s average depth of target of 18.6 yards downfield was far and away the deepest for all receivers and tight ends targeted at least 50 times, per Sports Info Solutions.
His deep ball usage makes him a boom-or-bust option, but that’s tailor-made for best-ball leagues. He should easily be a top-60 wideout in ADP. I’d pop him just inside the top-150 picks if he’s available and I’m in need of another receiver at that point in the draft.
Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV): ADP — 170.5, WR64
Renfrow enters his second season after a surprisingly good rookie campaign. He’s not oozing with athleticism, and the Raiders spent only a fifth-round pick on him. His season got off to a slow start, but he emerged as an efficient slot weapon as the season wore on.
From Week 8 through Week 17, Renfrow played in seven games — missing three contests from Week 13 through Week 15 — and balled out. Among all receivers during that stretch, he ranked 58th in targets (45), tied for 37th in receptions (35), 40th in receiving yards (490), and tied for 16th in receiving touchdowns (four).
He shined most from an efficiency perspective, as he ranked eighth with 10.89 yards per target. The total package from Week 8 through Week 17 amounted to 15.4 fantasy points per game in point per reception (PPR) formats, good for 18th among receivers during that stretch, according to our Fantasy Football Leaders page.
Getting back to his efficiency, even when factoring in his slow start to the season, he showed well. He ranked tied for 47th with 8.5 yards per target, and he ranked 27th among receivers in DVOA. Additionally, among receivers and tight ends targeted a minimum of 50 times, he ranked 21st in Receiver Rating (109.5).
Looking at his 2019 season through a different lens, he compared extremely well to fellow rookie receivers over the last decade. Evan Silva tweeted out an image of the 18 receivers in the last 10 years who’ve averaged over 2.0 yards per route run.
Only 18 NFL WRs have averaged over 2.0 yards per route run as rookies (min 40 targets) over the last 10 years. Pretty good group to be in.
The 18: pic.twitter.com/e6NZ9rbbKh
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) February 22, 2020
As you can see, Renfrow’s 2.09 yards per route run ranked ninth-best for rookie receivers in the last 10 years. Overall, it’s a loaded list of receivers, and it’s good company to keep. He’ll face more competition this year for targets with free-agent additions Nelson Agholor and Jason Witten and draft picks Henry Ruggs III, Lynn Bowden (who was announced as a running back when he was selected), and Bryan Edwards. Regardless, he’s being under-drafted relative to how well he played as a rookie and that makes for an attractive late-round pick.
Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR – JAC): ADP — 207.5, WR72
Shenault Jr. was the ninth receiver off the board in this year’s drool-inducing receiver class. The Jaguars snatched him up with the 10th pick in the second round. Coincidentally, NFL.com awarded him the ninth-highest grade at the position.
Pro Football Focus was much higher on him, ranking him as the 18th-best prospect overall and fourth among his receiving peers on their big board. Since the draft, Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus has ranked him seventh among his top 10 Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates in this piece ($). One eye-catching statistic that Treash presented was Shenault’s class-leading 44 broken tackles.
Laviska Shenault Jr has broken more tackles (44) over the past two seasons than any WR in the Draft.pic.twitter.com/S3o14bEXOc
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 24, 2020
His tackle-breaking ability lends itself to some creative usage, too. As NFL analyst Lance Zierlein pointed out in his scouting report, “evaluators get excited by his talent as a direct-snap runner.” A perfect example of his ability on direct snaps came on the following 49-yard touchdown run against USC in 2018.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 14, 2018
Zierlein also mentioned in his scouting report for Shenault that “he offers explosive playmaking potential with strength/wiggle to house a short catch-and-run throw or race and leap to pull in a bomb downfield.”
This old video on my phone is from the 2018 Colorado Spring game and was one of those plays where you spit out your coffee in disbelief. Sophomore Laviska Shenault sort of jump/levitates backwards like he’s Neo in The Matrix then runs away like he didn’t just break a natural law. pic.twitter.com/6gfQhnMRbZ
— Jordan Plocher (@PFF_Jordan) April 10, 2020
The video from the 2018 Colorado Spring game is a perfect example of the wiggle Shenault possesses.
.@RunRalphieRun's Laviska Shenault Jr. caught 🔟 passes for 1️⃣7️⃣7️⃣ yards and he had the game-winning touchdown.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 10, 2018
The first two highlights in this video show his ability to go up and haul in a jump ball as well as his ability to track and reel in a deep ball with a defender in his face. The highlights also concluded with another example of him making a play on a direct snap. In the following tweeted highlight, you can see him use his athleticism to create major separation from the defender by stopping on a dime and changing directions.
Laviska Shenault has been the forgotten man in this WR class. I'd still take the chance in round 1 with his physical tools. This ability to stop on a dime is rare for a dude that big and explosive pic.twitter.com/696mDQRKaP
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 21, 2020
Shenault Jr.’s isn’t without his faults, and durability issues are chief among them. He missed time with injuries in college and underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury he played through his final collegiate season back in early March. The good news is that he’s going through drills already and has received a favorable follow-up report from the core muscle specialist who performed his surgery, William Meyers.
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault six weeks removed from core muscle surgery going through drills. @RapSheet recently tweeted a letter from core muscle specialist William Meyers, who performed the surgery and noted Shenault looked “terrific.” Here’s a visual for you. pic.twitter.com/kZk8LeYCjN
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 21, 2020
Looking at last year’s rookie class, a couple of fellow YAC-monsters made waves in fantasy leagues with A.J. Brown ranking first and Deebo Samuel ranking second in YAC per reception (8.9 yards and 8.5 yards, respectively) among receivers and tight ends targeted a minimum of 50 times, per Sports Info Solutions. This isn’t to say that Shenault Jr. will match their rookie output, but the duo represent success stories as rookie receivers doing damage after the catch.
Shenault Jr. could have a clear path to a steady diet of touches in Jacksonville’s offense, too. D.J. Chark is a fantastic receiver coming off of a breakout year, but there are shaky options behind him. To that point, Dede Westbrook’s name and reputation outweigh his on-field production. Out of 81 receivers targeted at least 50 times last year, Westbrook ranked 75th in DVOA. It’s not hard to imagine Shenault Jr. quickly siphoning playing time and looks away from Westbrook. He’s a nifty option to select with one of your last few picks in best ball drafts.