Ranking Third-Year Wide Receivers (2020 Fantasy Football)
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By a football player’s third season, we have a good idea of how great they can be. Assuming their health has held up, we have dozens of actual games and tons of data to parse. To wit, 2020’s crop of third-year receivers already includes multiple Pro-Bowlers but also those who have yet to break out. Below are 10 third-year receivers ranked, include both studs and potential studs, along with what kind of value they bring with their current FantasyPros ADP.
1. DJ Moore (WR – CAR)
While Moore’s current ADP is spot-on with where he finished in fantasy scoring, it may be too low when you consider he notched his first 1,000-yard season last year while catching passes from perpetual backups Kyle Allen for 12 games and Will Grier for two more. And while he’s no Cam Newton, the Panthers did sign Teddy Bridgewater to stabilize the quarterback position. But the most exciting development for Moore is the new coaching staff and specifically new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Brady just finished a coaching stint at a little place called LSU where he was passing game coordinator to Heisman winner Joe Burrow. All Burrow did under Brady’s play calling was set the NCAA record for touchdowns in a season and post the third-most passing yards in a season. And the receivers? Two of them finished with over 1,500 yards which means they averaged more than 100-per-game. So as Carolina’s top receiver, Moore could be in for a big year.
2. Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL)
If he hadn’t missed the last three games of the 2019 season, Ridley would have easily finished his first 1,000-yard season. But alas, he had to settle for an extremely similar stat line to his rookie season – 63 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns. Nonetheless, the future is bright for Ridley now that fellow Falcons receiver Julio Jones is one year older while the Falcons failed to bring in any competition for targets. This despite the loss of tight end Austin Hooper who saw an obscene 97 targets last season. Hooper’s replacement, Hayden Hurst, could siphon most of those but it’s a sure thing that Ridley will see even more targets and be even more productive. He’s a value at his current ADP.
3. Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN)
Even though Sutton finished slightly better in fantasy scoring than his ADP reflects, his WR24 ranking looks high. Yes, he had a breakout season last year, notching his first 1,000-yard campaign and scoring six times while acting as the only real threat in the passing game. But Denver went above and beyond in adding pieces to the offense to give quarterback Drew Lock all the help he can get. First, they signed running back Melvin Gordon who has seen at least 50 targets in each of his last four seasons. They then drafted Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy with the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft. They took two more receivers too, KJ Hamler in the second and Tyrie Cleveland in the seventh, in addition to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth. It’s possible Denver throws more this season with Lock under center but even making the target pie bigger won’t give Sutton great odds on seeing the 124 targets he did last year.
4. Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
Before digging into the numbers, I was expecting Michael Gallup to be too rich for his WR31 ADP. The arrival of first-round pick CeeDee Lamb has given most fantasy players the impression that Gallup will be completely removed from the game plan, making his 2019 breakout season a fluke. But when you consider the Cowboys are bringing back the same quarterback (at least for this year) and offensive coordinator that led the team to finish second in passing yards and fifth in touchdowns, it’s not unreasonable to expect Gallup to repeat. As the second-leading receiver for the Cowboys, Gallup saw 113 targets and caught 66 of them for 1,107 yards. If the addition of Lamb makes you think there won’t be enough target to go around, recall that the third-leading receiver for Dallas last year, Randall Cobb, saw 83 targets and caught 55 of them for 828 yards. If Lamb can replicate that, Gallup should be able to maintain his status as the N0. 2 for now, and again finish as a low-end WR2, making him a value.
5. DJ Chark (WR – JAX)
Another third-year receiver with an ADP that reflects his fantasy finish last year, Chark has, possibly, the easiest road to repeat that success. After totaling just 174 yards his rookie season, Chark broke out as the Jaguars top receiver in 2019, topping 1,000 yards and scoring eight times despite missing a game. The Jaguars did add pieces to the offense, but neither should cut into Chark’s workload. Second-round receiver Laviska Shenault should be classified as just an offensive weapon as he’s expected to line up all over the field instead of strictly at receiver. Free agent signee Tyler Eifert should be an upgrade at the tight end position but assumes the soon-to-be 30-year-old can put up back-to-back healthy seasons after only playing in 14 total over the previous three campaigns. If Chark can hold those two off, he should be able to repeat his 2019 numbers and finish as a low-end WR2 which would make his current ADP just right.
6. Christian Kirk (WR – ARI)
It seems as if we’ve been predicting the Christian Kirk breakout for some time, but there are no more excuses heading into 2020. Second-year quarterback Kyler Murray has a full season of experience under his belt and Head Coach Kilff Kingsbury seemingly has the personnel he needs to run his four-wide offense like he did at Texas Tech. Case in point, the addition of DeAndre Hopkins in the off-season and retention of running back Kenyan Drake. Between those two and keeping on Larry Fitzgerald as a safety valve, Kirk is in a perfect position to get his fair share of targets and finish as more a WR2/3 in fantasy scoring as opposed to his current WR3/4 ADP.
7. Allen Lazard (WR – GB)
Allen Lazard’s 35 receptions for 477 yards may not seem impressive but keep in mind he didn’t see a single target in six of the Packers 16 games last year, including the first five contests. But with last year’s second receiver incumbent, Geronimo Allison off to Detroit and former starting tight end Jimmy Graham off to Chicago, there’s a whole lot of targets to ensure Allison doesn’t go target-less in 2020. Between those two now-former Packers, that’s 115 targets up for grabs on top of Lazard’s 52 he had. Even if you account for the Jace Sternberger/Josiah Deguera combo at tight end splitting Graham’s 60 targets, that still leaves Allison’s 55 up for grabs between Lazard and free agent signee Devin Funchess. If Lazard’s experience in Green Bay can withstand the threat of Funchess, it could put Lazard in the 100-target range and make his current ADP a bargain.
8. James Washington (WR- PIT)
There’s no doubt James Washington took a big step in his sophomore season, upping his yardage total from 217 in his rookie season to 735 last year. Yet, Washington’s improvement and 2020 outlook has been surpassed by the attention paid to, seemingly, every other Steelers receiver. JuJu Smith-Schuster is returning from an injury that completely sapped his fantasy value last year; the emergence of third-round pick Diontae Johnson in Schusters absence has made him a Twitter darling this off-season; and even the fact that the Steelers used a second-round pick on SPARQ stud Chase Claypool has gotten more notice than Washington. But at his ADP, I would gladly take a third-year receiver that totaled more than 700 yards last year as my WR5/6. That’s a deal when you consider quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected back this season.
9. Russell Gage (WR – ATL)
This one is easy. After the trade that sent Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots, Russell Gage stepped into the third-receiver role and totaled most of his 49 receptions and 446 yards. On those numbers alone, he finished as a low-end WR6 in fantasy scoring. But if you were to add Sanu’s numbers with the Falcons into what Gage did after Sanu left, you’d have an additional 33 receptions for 313 yards which would bring up Gage’s fantasy scoring rank to the WR4 range. Either way, the Falcons have done nothing to knock Gage out of the third receiver role where he should far exceed his 104 ADP. He’s a huge bargain.
10. Anthony Miller (WR – CHI)
2019 was supposed to be such a better year for Anthony Miller. He finished his rookie campaign in 2018 scoring seven times while ranking as a WR4/5 in fantasy scoring and was projected to only get better. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Miller and the Bears offense (except Allen Robinson, who can do no wrong) took a step backward. In Miller’s case, while he managed to total more receiving yards, he only scored twice, and his fantasy ranking remained in that WR4/5 category. 2020 doesn’t look to be any better as the Bears will either trot out Mitchell Trubisky again at quarterback or veteran, and quarterback for four other teams before Chicago, Nick Foles. The one good thing Miller has going is Chicago didn’t bring in any competition for targets so he’s a safe bet to repeat what he did last year and reach his ADP.