Second-Year Wide Receivers Ready to Break Out (2020 Fantasy Football)
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As the dog days of summer roll on, it’s getting closer and closer to draft day in fantasy leagues. We all know the big names to take early, but fantasy experts will tell you that championships are won with sleepers in the later rounds. If you can find a stud amongst the lottery tickets going at the end of your draft, that will give you a sizable advantage over the competition.
To that end, there are several receivers entering their sophomore season that would fit the sleeper title. We all know the rookies that set the football world on fire last year — A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, and Terry McLaurin — but there were a lot more rookies who didn’t quite make the same impact. But that doesn’t mean those players can’t break out this year! Below are a few examples of second-year receivers who could soon become household names.
The highest-drafted player on our list, and inarguably the one with the least path of resistance to fantasy relevance this season, Parris Campbell went to the Colts in the second round of 2019. But Andrew Luck’s retirement complicated things, and Campbell missed all of training camp and most of the season with a myriad of injuries to his hamstring, abdominal and hand. In all, he played in just seven games and saw 24 targets, turning those into 18 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. While he added a few yards on the ground and in the return game, his rookie season was a massive disappointment.
But that was then, and this is now. Campbell is expected to dramatically improve in his second season. Of course, it helps to be healthy, which Campbell apparently has been for months. As for his role in the Colts offense, he’ll still receive decent volume in an offense that should pass quite a bit. If we use history as a guide, in the two seasons that new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers and Colts Head Coach Frank Reich spent together, Rivers threw a lot. In fact, two of Rivers’ top five passing attempt seasons came in the two years with Reich as his offensive coordinator!
So if we are to assume that T.Y. Hilton will again lead the team in targets, and that 2020 second-round pick Michael Pittman, slated to line up opposite Hilton on the outside, sees the second-most targets for a Colts receiver, we can safely slot in Campbell to see the third-most targets for a Colts receiver. Below are the third-most targeted receivers on the Chargers’ offense in the two years that Frank Reich worked with Philip Rivers.
So even if we account for potential time missed and treat him as the third receiver, Campbell should still be able to carve out a fantasy-relevant niche for the Colts this season.
Andy Isabella (ARI)
FantasyPros ADP: WR83, 252nd overall
A second-round pick last year who shot up draft boards after an explosive combine, Isabella failed to convert that momentum into a meaningful rookie season. He totaled just nine receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown with most of the damage being done over a two-game span in the middle of the season. It didn’t help that he fell behind during training camp and the preseason with a knee injury that kept him on the bench for most of the season. He has no excuse now, as he’s had an entire offseason to get healthy and learn the playbook.
As for the Cardinals’ passing game, they added one of the top players at the position in DeAndre Hopkins, and he will undoubtedly lead the team in targets. But if we use FantasyPros’ target tool, we can calculate the number of vacated targets. The Cardinals lost both Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd to free agency, and they accounted for 79 targets in 2019.
And let’s not forget that it’s a virtual guarantee the Cardinals pass now more than they did last year. The 34.6-per-attempts last year ranked just 18th in the league. The team that finished 10th in pass attempts last year — the Chargers — averaged 37.3 pass attempts last year. So the Cardinals could still finish just 10th but see almost 50 more targets over the course of the season, which means close to 600 total. That should be plenty to feed Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald, even on a reduced schedule — and it’s enough for Isabella to find a role, too.
You would think that a third-round rookie drafted by a team that finished the season with the league’s best offense would have had a more productive season yet, here we are. Miles Boykin was a third-round draft pick who was impressive in training camp, but he finished his rookie season with only 13 receptions for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He scored just once over the last 12 games of his season. He also finished just eighth on the team in targets in an offense that finished dead-last in pass attempts. But despite the disappointing rookie season, there is hope for Boykin’s sophomore season.
Boykin posted one of the highest SPARQ scores in combine history last year, and that alone makes him worth monitoring. The Ravens didn’t draft him in the third-round for nothing, and it would only make sense for them to get Boykin more involved next year.
As for the offense, no one should expect the Ravens to pass more frequently, but even so, Boykin can scoop up some of the vacated targets from players who left Baltimore in the offseason. Guys like Seth Roberts and Hayden Hurst, who didn’t contribute much to the passing game, still saw 74 targets between them. Add that to a reduced role for veteran Willie Snead — plus the 22 targets Boykin earned in his rookie year — and it’s easy to envision him taking a big leap.
Our last receiver is one that hasn’t even played the position that much. Jalen Hurd was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft after playing just one full season at the position at Baylor. Before that, he was ahead of Alvin Kamara on the running back depth chart for Tennessee. He’s a mismatch nightmare that could certainly make big plays, but can he make enough to be fantasy-relevant?
His rookie season didn’t give us any insight, as he missed the entire year with back issues. However, he’s now been cleared for physical activities, and he’s supposedly been catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason.
His timing also works out, as the 49ers have targets to fill. Between the departures of Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Breida, and Marquise Goodwin, nearly 100 targets are up for grabs. Although the 49ers drafted Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk with one of their first-round picks, neither him nor Hurd should step on each other’s toes for touches. Remember, Hurd could be used in the running game as well, and Breida’s 123 carries also need a home. That isn’t to say Hurd would be in line for all of them, but every little bit would help his fantasy stats.
And on top of all of this, we now have the injury to Deebo Samuel. Hurd was a break-out candidate prior to the injury to Samuel. Now he has even more of an opportunity for targets early in the season.