Top Wide Receivers Outside the ECR’s Top 50 (2020 Fantasy Football)
This may be the year of the fantasy wide receiver. The position’s incredible depth is causing many drafters to go with some sort of Zero-WR strategy. While some may “value-enforce” a wide receiver in the first few rounds, more and more drafters are looking to load up at running back before picking their spots with the unprecedented bounty of options at wideout this season. This is especially true in Superflex leagues.
The list below will help to accentuate that plan, as each of the players discussed currently lands outside of our Expert Consensus Rankings’ (ECR) top-50 receivers (half-PPR). Every single one of them should finish above their current ECR and ADP in total fantasy points and fantasy points per game. Let’s take a look at the names.
Justin Jefferson (MIN): WR51 ECR
Now that Justin Jefferson is confirmed for the slot role, he may just have the best season of any of this year’s rookie wide receivers. Adam Thielen moved to more of an outside role last season than what he saw in 2018, and he is now expected to see even fewer snaps inside after the Vikings drafted Jefferson in the first round.
Minnesota’s slot produced only 37 receptions for 478 receiving yards in 2019, but slot receivers saw 105 receptions for 1,089 receiving yards in 2018 (including a 68-712-7 slot line from Theilen). Jefferson is going to have a massive season, but his ECR (51) and ADP (54) have not caught up to his projected production. Pounce on him on draft day. He is going to be special.
Henry Ruggs III (LV): WR55 ECR
Henry Ruggs III is set to step into a massive role for the Las Vegas Raiders. The rookie is expected to be an immediate starter and is likely to take over as the team’s number one receiver. Tyrell Williams is still a good deep threat, but Ruggs brings more to the table. While the first wideout drafted in 2020 offers explosive downfield ability, he can also contribute at or behind the line of scrimmage, as well as on short and intermediate routes. A home run threat whenever the ball is in his hands, it would be a shock if Ruggs did not post multiple 100-yard receiving games in his first season.
The important thing to realize is that Ruggs, despite his truly elite speed, is much more well rounded than many give him credit for. At 52nd in ECR with a high of 34, Ruggs is ready to show the world why the Raiders selected him before tantalizing talents like Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. Ruggs is a tremendous value at this point of the offseason.
Jalen Reagor (PHI): WR57 ECR
An explosive deep threat, Jalen Reagor is set to take the NFL by storm as a rookie. While at first glance it may seem like the Philadelphia Eagles went all in on speed receivers in the NFL Draft, Reagor offers much more than just vertical ability. He can take snaps out of the backfield, break off big runs on end-arounds and sweeps, and utilize his explosiveness on passes at or behind the line of scrimmage.
DeSean Jackson (who is also on this list) will likely function as the team’s top downfield target, which will leave Reagor free to put his playmaking skills to work all over the field. There is a growing sentiment that with Alshon Jeffrey slated to open the season on the PUP list, and with Jackson focusing on lower efficiency go routes, Reagor will emerge as the Eagles’ number one receiver. There is absolutely no reason he should be outside the top 50 (57th) in ECR or the 55th receiver off the board based on consensus ADP.
N’Keal Harry (NE): WR56 ECR
N’Keal Harry got a major value boost when Cam Newton signed with the New England Patriots, but his positional ECR (56) and ADP (61) have not followed suit. Ranked as high as WR31 (I have him 33rd), Harry should be able to sleepwalk to WR3 value if he makes it through the season healthy.
His rookie season was marred by injury and disappointment, but he is still the most talented receiver on the roster. His plus size and contested-catch ability also mesh well with Newton’s game. Although the Patriots will likely be a run-heavy offense this season, there will be more than enough targets to go around for both Harry and Julian Edelman to finish as WR3s or better.
DeSean Jackson (PHI): WR60 ECR
Despite Jackson’s anti-Semitic comments, plenty of fantasy players won’t ignore screaming values on the virtual gridiron due to detesting what a particular player stands for or believes in. (Yes, I would still draft Drew Brees, Antonio Brown, Joe Mixon, or Tyreek Hill.) This is especially true when it involves a player who — when healthy — will produce at a WR2 level, but is available at a WR5 cost as the 59th receiver off the board.
Jackson will wildly out-produce the expectations set by his ECR (WR60, high rank of 21) and ADP (WR59). He showed a strong connection with Carson Wentz when on the field last season and will operate as the team’s top receiver, as far as opposing defenses are concerned. Zach Ertz, and possibly Reagor could end up with more receptions, but Jackson is a strong bet to lead the Eagles in receiving yards thanks to a high yards-per-reception mark. Reaching 1,000 receiving yards seems like a forgone conclusion for the talented wideout.
Breshad Perriman (NYJ): WR54 ECR
Breshad Perriman finally made good on some of the immense potential he entered the league with, and he will now have the opportunity to take over as the New York Jets’ number one receiver. It is fair to wonder how he will fare if opposing defenses start to treat him as someone worth shadowing, but the promise he showed late last season accentuates his upside.
Sam Darnold should post plenty of garbage-time production this season, and Perriman figures to be the main beneficiary. Although the Jets drafted Denzel Mims to eventually start, he may be more of a rotational player as a rookie. Perriman is a more established receiver who should open the season as a two-wide starter opposite Jamison Crowder. Perriman can be had as the 66th wide receiver based on the consensus ADP.
Michael Pittman Jr. (IND): WR66 ECR
While T.Y. Hilton will be viewed as the number one receiver in name and defensive attention, Michael Pittman Jr. may quickly become the true apple of Philip Rivers’s eye. Though Hilton is more than just a deep-route specialist, he does not offer the possession or jump-ball skills that Pittman boasts.
Pittman, ranked 66th among WRs (high of 24), could very well lead the Colts in receptions this season. He has the size, separation skills, catch radius, and hands to become the preferred target on short and intermediate routes. The rookie could also function as a high-level downfield receiver. Despite his WR62 ADP, it would be an absolute shock if Pittman did not put up WR3 level fantasy numbers this season.
Robby Anderson (CAR): WR53 ECR
Drafters leaving Robby Anderson for dead is one of the offseason’s more curious storylines. Reuniting with Temple head coach Matt Rhule, Anderson is almost certain to elevate to the number two receiver role in Carolina. D.J. Moore, who has shown more in the NFL, will likely function in the Ja’Marr Chase role in Joe Brady’s offense. Anderson, who is too good on the outside to spend all of his time in the slot, will likely split the Justin Jefferson role with Curtis Samuel.
Blessed with one of the easiest wide receiver schedules on a team that projects to play from behind more often than not, Anderson is a lock to outperform his current ECR (WR53) and ADP (WR52). Remember his name when considering your fourth to sixth receiver; Anderson could return huge dividends for such a low-risk investment.
Sammy Watkins (KC): WR59 ECR
We all know how it works. Fade a receiver, watch him break out. Watkins has never lived up to the immense upside he displayed as a Buffalo Bill in his sophomore season, but he may finally be ready to do so now that he’s playing for a new — and possibly his last — long-term contract. Watkins flashed tantalizing upside in Week 1 of the 2019 season (11-198-3), but didn’t really show up again until averaging 96 receiving yards per contest in the playoffs.
If this is the season where Watkins finally shows up consistently, he is going to be the steal of every single fantasy draft. He has WR1 tools and upside due to playing with Patrick Mahomes, but unfortunately offers WR5-level consistency. His past production profile necessitates more of a WR3/4 or flex option label, but his upside is undeniable. The ECR’s WR59 with a high of 41 (by our very own Bobby Sylvester), Watkins is the consensus ADP’s WR50. Sleep on him at your own peril. He is not the type of wide receiver you want rival managers stealing late and eliminating you from the playoffs with.
Laviska Shenault Jr. (JAC): WR79 ECR
Laviska Shenault Jr. could have a monster season in store for fantasy managers. D.J. Chark will function as the team’s number one receiver, but Shenault may finish the season with more fantasy points. In addition to starting wide receiver snaps, he will take snaps in the backfield as a Wildcat quarterback, as well as playing at tight end. Chark saw 677 of his 1,001 receiving yards come 10 or more yards downfield in 2019. However, Gardner Minshew went just 70-for-141 on his passes of 10 or more yards, with his other 329 pass attempts traveling fewer than 10 yards. Chark saw 56 of his targets travel less than 10 yards last season, but he offered almost nothing after the catch, averaging 3.3 yards after the catch on those receptions.
Shenault may not be as reliable as Chark downfield, but he is the ideal type of receiver for a rhythm passer like Minshew to lean on. Built like a running back (he is heavier than Leonard Fournette), Shenault specializes in picking up yards after the catch. Think a more talented Deebo Samuel. Landing Shenault as the 81st receiver off the board is downright criminal. Be sure you are the one to pull off this heist.
Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR – WAS): WR106 ECR
An immensely talented wide receiver who showed that he is ready for prime time despite playing at Liberty, Antonio Gandy-Golden is set to be thrust into a high-value role due to Washington losing Kelvin Harmon for the season with a torn ACL. Always one of Washington’s top two talents at the position, Harmon was expected to open the season as a two-wide starter. He could have rotated slot snaps with Terry McLaurin when Steve Sims was not on the field, but now Gandy-Golden has a path to 80-percent or more of the weekly snaps. With McLaurin on the team, AGG will never see a double-team in his rookie season.
The poor state of Washington’s secondary behind Kendall Fuller and Landon Collins may lead to more than a few shootouts this season, something that is music to the ears of potential Gandy-Golden fantasy managers. Situated all the way down to 106th in the ECR with a high of 51 (by Kyle Yates), Gandy-Golden is a favorite of the tape and analytics community alike. He has 1,000-receiving-yard upside this season. However, players like Jackson and Reagor — who will catch passes from one of the league’s top quarterbacks — sit outside the top 50 in ECR. That means Gandy-Golden, who is a small school rookie catching passes from a quarterback many are down on in Dwayne Haskins, has no chance at cracking the top 50. Perhaps the only receiver on this list who belongs outside the top 50, AGG should nevertheless provide WR4 value at worst.
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