11 WR3s With WR1 Potential (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked into running backs and wide receivers that you should avoid at their current draft-day cost. Next up, we’ll mine for values, specifically, wide receivers outside the top 30 of our current Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) that have a shot at finishing as a WR1 in 2020.
Q: Which current WR3 based on ECR has the best chance to finish as a WR1 for the 2020 season?
Brandin Cooks (HOU): WR37
One player that’s being just about totally written off for fantasy purposes is Brandin Cooks. Now with the Houston Texans, Cooks is the WR34, according to our current FantasyPros ADP. After getting shipped off to Houston, he’s now with his fourth NFL team in his seventh year. Cooks is still fairly young for a wide receiver, but it seems like he’s been in the league forever.
The biggest issue fantasy players have with Cooks is his health, specifically concussions. Contrary to popular belief, Cooks has been active for the majority of his time in the NFL, missing just two full games in 2019 after playing all 16 games in four straight seasons. Cooks isn’t known for being the most consistent or dominant receiver, but he has quietly produced two WR13 seasons, a WR15, and a WR10 season in PPR scoring. In standard scoring leagues, he’s been a WR1 four times as well as the WR13 in 2018. Cooks continues to perform, though his production may not be the steadiest on a week to week basis.
His new teammate, Will Fuller, is getting more hype than Cooks despite never playing a full 16 games. His best fantasy season was in 2019, where he finished as the WR53 overall in both formats. Now in Arizona, DeAndre Hopkins leaves 150 targets up for grabs in 2020. Even if Fuller sees an uptick as well as either Keke Coutee or Kenny Stills, there are still going to be targets available, as Deshaun Watson has thrown 495 and 505 pass attempts in the past two seasons. Cooks may not be the sexiest name out there, but I’m willing to gamble on a past WR1 who was a borderline WR1/WR2 in three seasons as well.
– Aaron Schill (@aaron_schill)
I don’t understand why the industry seems to be down on Brandin Cooks. Prior to his injury-plagued 2019 season, Cooks had hauled in at least 65 passes, gained at least 1,082 yards, and scored at least five touchdowns in each of the last four years. Better yet, the trade to Houston actually helps him. Deshaun Watson is an obvious upgrade at quarterback. Plus, Cooks goes from competing with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee for targets to being the clear-cut No. 1 wideout on the Texans.
The incredibly injury-prone Will Fuller is the primary deep threat, and I’m sure Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee will eat into a bit of his target share. But Cooks is the best all-around receiver of the bunch. His concussion history is certainly a concern, but at WR37 in our ECR, I’m confident I can get Cooks at a price that reduces most of that risk. Cooks is one of few low-risk, high-reward fantasy options.
– Matt Barbato (@RealMattBarbato)
The Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, leaving a huge void at wide receiver and 150 targets up for grab for the Texans. To try and replace Hopkins as the No. 1 WR, Houston traded a second-round pick for Brandin Cooks. Coming off an injury-plagued 2019, Cooks was limited to 42 receptions for 583 yards and two touchdowns across 14 games for the Rams. It was the first time since his rookie campaign the 26-year-old failed to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a single season.
He is currently 37th among all wideouts in the latest ECR. If he can stay healthy, he has the best shot to record WR1 numbers. Cooks is expected to line up in the slot or be used as a deep-threat for star QB DeShaun Watson. He will have to compete with Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, and Will Fuller for targets, but given the price tag the Texans paid to acquire Cooks, expect the former 2014 first-rounder to play a key role in their offense. Cooks hasn’t lost a step phyically and has been an elite wide receiver in the past. If he can stay healthy, Cooks will have every opportunity to once again post WR1 numbers.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
Michael Gallup (DAL): WR31
Amari Cooper’s WR9 ECR of WR11 illustrates exactly why Michael Gallup is capable of finishing as a WR1 in 2020. Cooper’s 2019 line of 119 targets, 79 receptions, 1,189 yards, and eight touchdowns (207 fantasy points) is extremely similar to Gallup’s 16-game pace of 129 targets, 75 receptions, 1,265 yards and seven touchdowns (213 fantasy points). In fact, Gallup was on pace to finish as the WR7, and he still finished as the WR22 despite missing two games. Gallup’s 21.7% target share bested Cooper’s 20.7%. Cooper was ninth in yards per target, yet 22nd in yards per reception, while Gallup finished 12th in yards per target and 10th in yards per reception.
The Cowboys have the second-most vacated targets (190) and air yards (1,713) in the NFL, easing concerns about CeeDee Lamb’s addition. Dak Prescott threw the ball nearly 600 times in Kellen Moore‘s inaugural season as offensive coordinator, and new head coach Mike McCarthy’s heavy utilization of three-wide sets should ensure that Gallup sees the field enough to produce significantly this year. Gallup led all Cowboys receivers in snaps played per game last season, further demonstrating that he is unlikely to fade into the background. Free agent losses Randall Cobb and Jason Witten combined for 166 targets in 2019, supplying opportunity for Lamb and breakout candidate Blake Jarwin to succeed without limiting Gallup’s production. While it is unlikely he finishes as a WR1, the ideal mix of talent and opportunity exists to make Gallup an intriguing home run swing at his current ranking.
– Mark McWhirter (@mmcw19)
For half-point PPR, Michael Gallup is the most logical choice here. Coming off a breakout sophomore campaign that saw him eclipse 1,100 yards, Gallup’s role as a vertical threat in the Dallas offense is secure. A more consistent weekly performer than Amari Cooper, Gallup should thrive in Mike McCarthy’s system which should feature more three-receiver sets to stretch the field. Where some may see the presence of Cooper and 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb as a barrier to production, it is important to consider a couple of things here. Dallas was one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league in 2019, and with their defense being a sieve, that trend is unlikely to change. Additionally, opposing defenses will likely devote double coverages more often to Cooper and Lamb leaving Gallup in winnable matchups against a third cornerback. This is a situation where Gallup could be a source of consistent production sprinkled with week-winning blow-up games. If he can play 16 games and amass 130 targets, WR1 status is in the range of outcomes.
– Jason Kamlowsky (@JasonKamlowsky)
Will Fuller (HOU): WR35
There may not be a wide receiver in the entire NFL with more weekly upside than Will Fuller. Since entering the league in 2016, Fuller has become known for his dangerous speed and ability to take the top off a defense. Unfortunately, he’s also been known as a player who misses way too much time due to injuries that never allow him to reach his full potential. Now, as he enters the 2020 season, he’s fully healthy and the new number one option in the Texans’ offense with DeAndre Hopkins no longer hogging all the targets. His health will obviously play a huge role, but if Fuller manages to stay on the field, 2020 should be his best year yet.
– Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL)
Breshad Perriman (NYJ): WR59
Perriman has an opportunity to make himself a significant chunk of change — and help fantasy rosters immensely — playing on what’s basically a one-year prove-it deal with the Jets after an electric finish to last season. Perriman is a burner with good size (6’2″, 215 pounds), who rose to the occasion after the injury bug ravaged Tampa Bay’s receiver depth chart last year. In short, he played like the player the Ravens likely thought he’d blossom into when using the 26th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Over the last four weeks (Week 14 through Week 17) of the 2019 regular season, Perriman finished second to A.J. Brown among receivers in half-PPR scoring. I firmly believe Sam Darnold has only scratched the surface, and he’s already demonstrated the ability to support a field-stretching receiver, Robby Anderson, in fantasy football. If Darnold elevates his game even a bit, he can help push Perriman to new heights.
– Josh Shepardson (@BChad50)
Jalen Reagor (PHI): WR57
Reagor finds himself way down at WR55 based on ECR, but there’s a strong chance he blows that ranking out of the water. The Eagles, who clearly needed an upgrade in the receiving corps, spent a first-round pick for his services. With Alshon Jeffery on the mend from Lisfranc surgery and DeSean Jackson perennially injured, available targets should be plentiful. Carson Wentz‘s career 16-game pace is 587 pass attempts, and he should throw about that many in 2020. If Reagor can command even a 20 percent target share, he’s looking at nearly 120 targets. I expect Zach Ertz to lead Philly in targets and receptions this season, but the talented rookie from TCU has a navigable path to success.
– Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster)
Jamison Crowder (NYJ): WR43
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine where Jamison Crowder’s 2019 season went off the rails. After coming out the gates in Week 1 as Sam Darnold’s go-to-receiver (17 targets, 14 receptions, 99 yards), Crowder’s following month was truly abysmal. Darnold missed the next three games recovering from mononucleosis, and the Jets’ offense fell off a cliff. Crowder’s three games without Darnold: 14 targets, eight receptions, 75 yards, zero touchdowns. Yowza.
In Darnold’s first game back from “the kissing disease” in Week 6, it was business as usual for Crowder, who torched the Dallas Cowboys to the tune of six catches for 98 yards on nine targets, en route to the Jets’ first win of the year. Over 13 games last year with Darnold as his quarterback, Crowder impressed with 108 targets, 70 grabs, 758 yards, and six touchdowns. That’s a 16-game pace of 133 targets, 86 catches, 933 yards, and seven trips to paydirt.
It’s no secret that Crowder has been inserted into the same slot receiver role that Jarvis Landry had overwhelming success in for head coach Adam Gase’s offense during their time in Miami. Over the course of their three seasons together in South Beach, Landry averaged 147 targets per year. With the Jets electing to let Robby Anderson walk, Crowder’s immediate competition for targets is far from daunting. With Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims joining Crowder in the Jets’ receiver room, I’m betting the house that Crowder reaches 130+ targets in 2020 with relative ease. Currently going as the WR43, who else can provide you with a steady diet of targets this late in your draft(s)? As long as Darnold can stay upright, Crowder will continue to serve as a reliable, high-floor role player with tremendous upside due to his volume. Just entering his prime at 27 years old, 2020 is shaping up to be a career year for Crowder.
– Rob Searles (@RobBob17)
Steven Sims (WAS): WR91
Let’s get a little bold. Steven Sims has an extremely high ceiling at his criminally low ADP. He is ranked as the WR91 in the half-PPR expert consensus and will likely begin the season on the waiver wire in most leagues. Sims started the 2019 season primarily as a special teams weapon, and at the end of the season played fewer overall snaps than Kelvin Harmon, Paul Richardson, and Trey Quinn. He still saw 56 targets on a severely low 36.8% snap share.
It was not until the final four games of the season he received the opportunity to flash his potential. Over those four games, he recorded 20 receptions for 230 yards and four touchdowns on 36 targets (ranking top 10 in target share). With a little extrapolation, that pace puts him at 80 receptions for 920 yards on 144 targets.
While it is unrealistic to expect that massive target-share pace to hold, Washington is in dire need of offensive weapons to step up, meaning the opportunity for Sims to become a consistent weapon is there. Most importantly, Dwayne Haskins has shown he likes throwing Sims the ball. Assuming Haskins takes a step up in his second season, Sims should convert on more of his opportunities. Last season, his true catch rate was 79.1% on an abysmal 76.8% catchable targets and a target quality of 4.8. Additionally, his combination of speed and polished route running is shown by his top-10 finish in target separation. Sims lined up in the slot on 72.8% of snaps, which provides him more favorable matchups. Lastly, he averaged 0.58 fantasy points per route, which was good for seventh in the league.
Again, if there is an improvement in overall targets and quarterback play, there is no doubt Sims has massive hidden upside at his ADP. Not to mention he provides some value in the running game and on special teams. There has been a lot of hype in Washington around Sims coming from Haskins and Terry McLaurin Definitely take a late-round swing for the fences on Sims.
– Brandon Torricella (@Btorricella3)
Darius Slayton (NYG): WR42
Darius Slayton came out of nowhere in 2019 to produce decent numbers despite working with a rookie quarterback in his own rookie season. His offense also had a terrible offensive line that dealt with a number of injuries. The Giants have Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard to compete with Slayton for receptions, but neither of those two wideouts have the upside Slayton has. The awkward part for the Giants is that all three are probably best suited for work in the slot. Slayton, however, is most likely to emerge as a WR1. There are some questions given the new head coach and offensive coordinator, but Slayton’s upside remains. If 2019 was just a preview of his potential, 2020 could be when he emerges as a fantasy stud.
– Mike Maher (@MikeMaher)
Marquise Brown (BAL): WR33
The notion of Baltimore’s offense regressing in 2020 is an idea you’re going to hear a lot this summer, and for good reason. Historically great seasons are historical for a reason — they’re hard to repeat. Is Lamar Jackson going to post a 9.0 TD% again this year? The odds are very against it. The Ravens were wildly efficient in 2019, which will be tough (impossible?) to duplicate. That said, a decrease in efficiency on a team level could lead to an uptick in opportunity for sophomore wideout Marquise Brown. The 2019 first-round pick erupted onto the scene in Week 1, totaling 147 yards and two touchdowns. Brown later admitted he wasn’t 100 percent last year, and the 23-year-old never quite matched the highs of that Dolphins game. Heading into 2020, Brown is established as the clear top option among receivers in Baltimore (though Mark Andrews might be viewed as Jackson’s number one pass-game weapon). Equally important, he is now healthy. Add in the potential for more opportunity, and we could see a year-two eruption from Brown.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
CeeDee Lamb (DAL): WR47
There are a number of reasons why I think Lamb has as much upside as any fantasy wide receiver in the NFL this year. Most wide receivers picked in the first round join a team with a bad quarterback situation or lacking supporting cast. Lamb does not have that problem; he is joining an offense that was sixth in points scored and first in yards gained last season. He joins an established quarterback in Dak Prescott, an established wide receiver in Amari Cooper, and a great running game centered around Ezekiel Elliott.
Defenses won’t be able to double-team or put their best defensive back on Lamb. The result will be a lot of single coverage in the slot against the opposing team’s second or third-best cornerback. That’s a mismatch nightmare, as the 6’2″, 198-pound Lamb can both fly down the field and make big plays in space. Single coverage by an inferior defender against Lamb’s talent is going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Lamb is going to have as much big-play upside in that type of coverage as any receiver in the NFL.
Lamb probably will not see double-digit targets most games given all the other players that will demand the ball in that offense, but he also may need only five-seven targets per game to have a huge fantasy impact. I could see him starting the season as a WR3 or WR4 and emerging as a WR2 or WR1 later in the year. Prescott is going to have a blast feeding the ball to Lamb in mismatches created by the wealth of talent on the Dallas offense.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)
Tyler Boyd (CIN): WR30
Tyler Boyd has finished as a top-25 receiver each of the past two seasons, and now he gets to catch passes from the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Sure, it’ll take time for Boyd and Joe Burrow to develop chemistry, but I’m not worried about too much since Boyd operates mostly out of the slot. In fact, he played over 60% of his snaps in the slot in 2019, and Burrow had an affinity for throwing to the slot receiver at LSU. In his two years with the Tigers, he threw to the slot guy on over 20% of his passes. The recipient of many of those targets, Justin Jefferson hauled in 111 catches — 27 more than teammate Ja’Marr Chase, a projected 2021 first-round pick — last season as the Tigers’ primary slot receiver. If Burrow wants to succeed early and often in the NFL, you better believe he’ll look Boyd’s way a ton.
The Bengals have upgraded their receiving corps heading into the 2020 season, but A.J. Green and Tee Higgins should actually provide more space for Boyd to operate, as they draw the safety away from the middle of the field. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think Boyd could see 150 targets on his way to over 100 catches this season. Yet in order to become a true WR1, he’ll have to up both his yardage and touchdown totals from years’ past. He’s never gone over 1,046 yards or seven touchdowns in a season. In half-PPR leagues, Boyd will likely need to crack the 1,100-yard mark with at least seven TDs to become a top-12 WR, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility this season. Operating with a rookie quarterback certainly brings about some risk, but there’s also a golden opportunity for Boyd to become Burrow’s go-to option very quickly. Of all the receivers ranked outside the top-30 (as of writing, he’s the ECR’s WR30 in half-PPR leagues, so I’m reaching), Boyd genuinely has the best shot to become a WR1 this season.
– Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler)