Players to Target as Your WR2 and WR3 (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Wide receiver has evolved into the deepest position in fantasy football as teams rely more on personnel sets with multiple wideouts on the field.
Per Sharp Football Stats, NFL teams utilized 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) on 60% of their plays in 2019. That same year, 34 pass catchers scored at least 150 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues, the most since 2016.
There’s a gold mine of high-quality, productive receivers ranked outside the top-12 studs. Here are my favorite values in the WR2/WR3 range based on our Expert Consensus Rankings and Average Draft Position in half-PPR formats.
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D.J. Moore (WR – CAR)
Current ECR: WR14
Current ADP: WR15
Moore should be going as a WR1. He’s a talented route runner who can make plays at all three levels and finished 2019 as the WR18 despite having Kyle Allen as his quarterback for most of the season. Teddy Bridgewater was very good in relief of Drew Brees last season and should serve as a significant upgrade under center. Bridgewater’s career 7.2 yards per attempt might limit Moore as a deep threat, but the Maryland product should mesh with Bridgewater on short and intermediate throws.
Even more exciting is the arrival of Joe Brady in Carolina. Brady transformed LSU’s stale, pro-style offense into an aerial juggernaut and played a major role in helping Joe Burrow win the Heisman Trophy. Moore is also due for some positive touchdown regression in 2020 after scoring only four times on 135 targets last year. Try to get him at this value while you still can.
Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
Current ECR: WR24
Current ADP: WR29
I love, love, love, McLaurin as my top breakout receiver in 2020. The fact that he’s being drafted 29th among wide receivers is criminal. I’ll let McLaurin’s talent do the talking:
CATCH OF THE YEAR MATERIAL FROM TERRY MCLAURIN 😮 #SCtop10
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 8, 2019
McLaurin finished as the WR28 as a rookie while racking up 919 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on 93 targets. Defenses will now focus their attention on stopping him, but I’m confident he’s only scratching the surface as a legitimate stud receiver.
The only thing that could hold McLaurin back is his quarterback play. Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily during his rookie campaign, but shouldn’t be written off. Plus, Haskins has a rapport with McLaurin that dates back to their time as teammates at Ohio State. McLaurin was the WR36 from Weeks 9-16 with Haskins as Washington’s full-time starter.
With an increase in target volume and improved quarterback play, McLaurin should serve as a strong WR2 with plenty of weekly WR1 upside.
Marquise Brown (WR – BAL)
Current ECR: WR33
Current ADP: WR33
It’s odd to me that the most explosive receiver in one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses is being so undervalued. Brown flashed his playmaking ability as a rookie and scored seven times despite catching only 46 passes. Consistency will be the key to a successful sophomore year.
Part of the problem was Baltimore’s dominance on the ground. The Ravens rarely trailed for extended periods of time last season and only threw the ball 440 times, the fewest attempts in the league. Those pass attempts will likely increase as defenses will emphasize slowing down Baltimore’s dynamic rushing attack.
The hope is that Brown can stay healthy this season after undergoing off-season surgery to remove a screw from the Lisfranc foot surgery he underwent the year before. If he stays on the field, he should see more than 16% of the team’s target share, which means even more opportunities for big plays. I view him as a boom-or-bust WR3 with potential to be a steady WR2 with more consistency.
Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU)
Current ECR: WR36
Current ADP: WR36
Other than his concussion history, why is everyone underestimating Brandin Cooks? He’s finished as a top-14 receiver every year from 2015-18. He’s gone from competing with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles to becoming the clear-cut top receiver in Houston. And, he’s going from Jared Goff to Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Feels like a win-win to me.
Cooks being traded from L.A. was more because of salary constraints than it was an indictment of Cooks’ talent. Even though Will Fuller will be the team’s primary deep threat, Cooks is still the most complete pass catcher on the roster. Presuming he avoids another concussion, you won’t find many better options for a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3.
Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
Current ECR: WR43
Current ADP: WR44
It’s understandable why people might have given up on Shepard. The former second-round pick has failed to reach his full potential despite having an abundance of talent and plenty of opportunities to be New York’s top receiver. Shepard’s best finish in fantasy came in 2018 when he was WR30.
Now, he’s falling under the radar completely and is currently ranked and being drafted behind his teammate, Darius Slayton. Slayton impressively finished as the WR35 in 2019 despite only starting nine games last year. Slayton’s emergence was tied to the extended absences of Shepard, Golden Tate, tight end Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley last season.
The Giants have some sneaky upside offensively if Daniel Jones can take the next step. Out of all the receiving weapons, I still like Shepard the best from a talent perspective. If he can stay healthy and return to his proper role in the slot, he could be a great bounce-back candidate and a steady WR3.
Christian Kirk (WR – ARI)
Current ECR: WR38
Current ADP: WR37
If Arizona’s offense is supposed to be prolific, why can’t it support two receivers? Kirk will likely see fewer targets than originally expected thanks to the DeAndre Hopkins acquisition. However, I don’t view Hopkins’ arrival as a death blow to Kirk’s fantasy outlook.
Kirk is only 23 years old and is coming off a sophomore season where he saw increases in catches and receiving yards. He profiles best as a complementary slot receiver alongside Hopkins and likely won’t see the end zone a ton. However, there should be plenty of work for him over the middle of the field. Yes, Larry Fitzgerald is still on the roster, but it would be irresponsible to stunt Kirk’s development back to get the future Hall of Famer extra playing time.
The Cardinals shouldn’t give up on Kirk and neither should fantasy owners. If Kyler Murray takes the leap that many expect him to, then there will be plenty of targets to go around.
Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)
Current ECR: WR49
Current ADP: WR55
Jefferson was one of my favorite receivers in this year’s draft class, and he enters a much better situation than some of other members of his draft class. Jefferson will start his career behind Adam Thielen on the depth chart, but he could be a starter right out of the gates. The only real competition he has to playing time is Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe.
It’ll be interesting to see how Jefferson is utilized during his rookie season, considering he profiles best out of the slot. That overlaps with Thielen, which means we might see both receivers take turns running routes out of the slot and on the outside.
While fellow 2020 draftees CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are being drafted ahead of him, I’m confident Jefferson has a clearer path to immediate playing time and targets. He’s got great hands and should quickly earn the trust of his coaches and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.