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Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between – Wide Receivers (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 5, 2020

Julio Jones is continually underappreciated in fantasy football

Boom, bust, and everything in between. What does that mean, exactly? If this is your first time reading this piece, you might be wondering that.

When someone mentions that “Player X recorded five WR1 performances last year,” it irks me a bit. It’s like saying something to the effect of “A.J. Brown finished as the WR15 last year, so he was a WR2.” Ask anyone who owned him in fantasy last year if he was the 15th best wide receiver. He was dropped and didn’t produce the first half of the season. Stating where someone finished for a particular week doesn’t do us any good, either, because variance is a real thing.

To better help you understand what I’m talking about, the average top-12 wide receiver performance in 2019 was 19.7 PPR points. What you don’t know is that Terry McLaurin scored 23.5 PPR points in Week 1 but wasn’t awarded a WR1 performance because it just happened to be a high-scoring week for wide receivers. On the flip side, Jaron Brown scored 17.9 PPR points in Week 6 and was awarded with a WR1 performance because it was a low-scoring week for wide receivers.

The player’s performance should not be graded on a curve, because we have no control on predicting what that curve is for any particular week. Our goal as analysts is to predict who will have WR1 performances in any given week, which stood at 19.7 PPR points in 2019.

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The numbers vary from year-to-year, which is where the research comes into play. While the WR2 number was 15.3 PPR points in 2017, it lowered to 14.9 PPR points in 2018, then 14.5 PPR points in 2019. Every position is different, but know that I’ve gone through each year, each position, and each player, charting how many top-12, top-24, top-36 performances they’ve had according to that year’s stats. Not just that, though, as I’ve added boom and bust categories, which showcases their ceiling and floor on a week-to-week basis. This research is done on PPR leagues because it’s the format that presents the most consistency, which makes it the most predictable.

The number to achieve boom or bust status varies per position, as some have it harder than others. With wide receivers, the number to “boom” wound up on 25.0 PPR points because it would have amounted to eight receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. That number can obviously be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but again, we just want them to reach that number. A “bust” on the other hand amounted to less than 8.0 PPR points. Below, you can find the chart with the parameters for each position.

Position Boom Bust
QB 26.0 13.9 or less
RB 25.0 6.9 or less
WR 25.0 7.9 or less
TE 20.0 6.9 or less

 

To give you an idea as to something you may find below, here’s an example: Jamison Crowder performed as a WR2 or better in 43.8 percent of his games, yet is going as the WR48 in drafts, while Jarvis Landry hit that mark in just 31.3 percent of his games, but is going inside the top-30 wide receivers.

For the fourth time, welcome to Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between. Here are the wide receivers, while the other positions will be released throughout the rest of the week. You’ll be able to find the links below once they go live.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends

Wide Receivers

Top-10

Let’s start by taking a look at the target hog receivers being taken inside the top-10, highlighting which ones stand out, as well as which look like they don’t belong. It’s important to note that for a player to accumulate a game played in this study, they had to garner at least one target. If he was on the sideline starting the year and not getting any targets, it shouldn’t affect his percentages.

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
1 Michael Thomas 11.6 62.5% 87.5% 87.5% 50.0% 6.3%
2 Davante Adams 10.6 41.7% 66.7% 66.7% 8.3% 8.3%
3 Tyreek Hill 7.4 33.3% 41.7% 66.7% 25.0% 16.7%
4 DeAndre Hopkins 10.0 33.3% 73.3% 80.0% 26.7% 13.3%
5 Julio Jones 10.5 33.3% 66.7% 80.0% 33.3% 6.7%
6 Chris Godwin 8.6 35.7% 50.0% 78.6% 35.7% 7.1%
7 Kenny Golladay 7.3 31.3% 56.3% 56.3% 18.8% 25.0%
8 Mike Evans 9.1 30.8% 38.5% 53.8% 23.1% 15.4%
9 Allen Robinson 9.6 31.3% 62.5% 81.3% 12.5% 12.5%
10 Amari Cooper 7.4 31.3% 50.0% 62.5% 18.8% 31.3%

 

We all know Michael Thomas had a great year, right? Well, what if I told you that Davante Adams‘ 2018 season may have been better? Here’s a look at the two side-by-side.

Player WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
Davante Adams 2018 60.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.0% 0.0%
Michael Thomas 2019 62.5% 87.5% 87.5% 50.0% 6.3%

 

What this shows is that it’s definitely not crazy to think about choosing Adams over Thomas in drafts this year. However, after those two, there’s a clear drop-off in production. Did you know that Tyreek Hill has produced WR2 or better numbers in just 26-of-49 (44.1 percent) career games? His ‘boom’ performances are massive, but is it worth sacrificing the weekly floor of someone like Julio Jones, who’s posted WR1-type numbers in 42.4 percent of his career games and WR2 or better numbers in 64.8 percent of them? Probably not.

After seeing the running back charts last week, you know that you’re looking for your top running back to post RB1-type numbers about 50 percent of the time. Wide receivers aren’t that lucky. If you can find someone who hits WR1-type numbers 33 percent of the time, it’s decent. If they’re above 40 percent, they’re in the elite tier. Since I started tracking Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between, there are just four players who’ve posted WR1 numbers in at least 40 percent of their games: Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham.

Even Chris Godwin, who finished as the No. 2 wide receiver last year, posted WR2 or better numbers just 50 percent of the time. Crazy, right? Look a little further down at his teammate Mike Evans. Everyone will point out the fact that he finished as a top-12 wide receiver despite missing three games, but posting WR2 or better numbers in just 38.5 percent of his games? He wasn’t a WR1. He was a boom-or-bust WR2, at best.

It should also be a bit worrying to those considering Kenny Golladay in the second round, as his 56.3 percent rate of being a WR3 or better was worse than Cole Beasley and Tyrell Williams. Sure, he lost his quarterback halfway through the season, but Matthew Stafford is already on the COVID list and has back injuries to worry about (they can flare up at any point, take it from someone – me – who’s had major back surgery).

It’s also not wise counting on Amari Cooper as a WR1 in fantasy, as he doesn’t get the target share necessary to be consistent. What’s crazy is if you compare his numbers with Tyreek Hill, you might be shocked.

Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
Tyreek Hill 7.4 33.3% 41.7% 66.7% 25.0% 16.7%
Amari Cooper 7.4 31.3% 50.0% 62.5% 18.8% 31.3%

 

Bottom line is that Michael Thomas and Davante Adams are in a tier of their own, while Julio Jones isn’t far behind. DeAndre Hopkins is going to a new team with what’s likely to be a lesser target share. Everyone else in this list sort of blends together, as they all have scabs to pick through.

11-20 Range

This seems to be the range where most fantasy owners believe a player will take a leap in production, as they’re drafting them as WR2s most of the time. But when you select someone in a draft, you’re looking for equity in the pick to grow, so they almost need to have top-10 upside to be justified.

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
11 Adam Thielen 4.8 20.0% 30.0% 50.0% 10.0% 40.0%
12 Odell Beckham Jr. 8.3 12.5% 31.3% 56.3% 6.3% 25.0%
13 Cooper Kupp 8.4 31.3% 56.3% 68.8% 25.0% 12.5%
14 A.J. Brown 5.3 31.3% 37.5% 56.3% 12.5% 37.5%
15 D.J. Moore 9.0 20.0% 60.0% 80.0% 6.7% 13.3%
16 Calvin Ridley 7.2 30.8% 61.5% 69.2% 7.7% 30.8%
17 Courtland Sutton 7.8 12.5% 43.8% 62.5% 0.0% 6.3%
18 JuJu Smith-Schuster 5.9 8.3% 25.0% 41.7% 0.0% 58.3%
19 Keenan Allen 9.3 25.0% 50.0% 68.8% 12.5% 18.8%
20 Tyler Lockett 6.9 18.8% 43.8% 62.5% 18.8% 25.0%

 

The No. 1 thing that stands out to me in this territory is that six of the 10 receivers produced WR2 or better numbers in less than 44 percent of their games. There were 20 wide receivers who hit that mark in 2019, so it’s clear you’ll find some more consistent options later in the draft. Should you sacrifice it for these players’ upside?

To know that A.J. Brown had a 31.3 percent WR1 rate while starting just 10 games and seeing 84 targets on the season is rather impressive. He clearly comes with some bust potential (just one game over 8 targets), but if you have stability at your WR1 position, he makes for a fine WR2. Everyone talks about D.J. Moore potentially taking that next step, but Calvin Ridley has done more with less the last two years, as evidenced here. Still, both are fine WR2s to have.

Seeing this, you likely understand why JuJu Smith-Schuster is falling in drafts, but here’s his first two years with Ben Roethlisberger under center:

YEAR WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
2018 37.5% 56.3% 75.0% 18.8% 6.3%
2017 30.8% 46.2% 61.5% 15.4% 23.1%

 

There’s a reason many were drafting him as a top-three receiver last year, but injuries and poor quarterback play proved to be too much for the now 23-year-old. There are question marks surrounding Roethlisberger’s arm and if he’ll return as the same player, but if he is, Smith-Schuster is being underdrafted.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… Do not sleep on Odell Beckham Jr. Don’t do it. He’s one of the best wide receivers all-time based on this series. Sure, his 2019 season was less than ideal, but it was a bad season for essentially all Browns players. Here are Beckham’s career numbers; I’ll let them speak for themselves.

YEAR WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
2019 12.5% 31.3% 56.3% 6.3% 25.0%
2018 41.7% 66.7% 83.3% 16.7% 0.0%
2017 50.0% 75.0% 75.0% 25.0% 25.0%
2016 37.5% 68.8% 68.8% 25.0% 6.3%
2015 53.3% 73.3% 73.3% 40.0% 6.7%
2014 58.3% 83.3% 91.7% 41.7% 8.3%

 

21-30 Range

We’re now to the point where you’ll see some of the more consistent options who may not have the WR1 upside that those in the 11-20 range do, but they are typically the receivers who come with a better floor.

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
21 T.Y. Hilton 6.8 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% 10.0% 50.0%
22 D.K Metcalf 6.3 12.5% 25.0% 62.5% 6.3% 25.0%
23 D.J. Chark 7.9 26.7% 46.7% 46.7% 13.3% 33.3%
24 DeVante Parker 8.0 31.3% 56.3% 75.0% 6.3% 12.5%
25 Stefon Diggs 6.3 20.0% 46.7% 53.3% 6.7% 33.3%
26 Robert Woods 9.3 33.3% 53.3% 60.0% 20.0% 26.7%
27 Terry McLaurin 6.6 21.4% 50.0% 57.1% 7.1% 28.6%
28 A.J. Green DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
29 Deebo Samuel 5.4 20.0% 40.0% 60.0% 0.0% 33.3%
30 Michael Gallup 8.0 28.6% 50.0% 64.3% 7.1% 14.3%

 

The only player who’s seen more than 8.0 targets per game in this tier is Robert Woods, who just happened to post what might be the best numbers in this tier of players. To know that he hit WR1-type numbers 33.3 percent of the time while scoring just two receiving touchdowns is massive. It tells me that he’s about as safe as they come as a WR2, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Brandin Cooks is out of town.

DeVante Parker was right in the same territory as Woods last year, even while seeing 1.3 fewer targets per game. The good news is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to be the starter, a quarterback we know can support fantasy wide receivers. It does hurt that Preston Williams will return, but Parker is the clear-cut No. 1 option.

D.J. Chark was someone who had some extremely impressive performances last year but was also someone who left you out to dry a bit too often, as he failed to reach WR3-type numbers in 53.3 percent of games. He’s still a young receiver, so there’s hope for a breakout, but prepare for some bumps in the road.

31-40 Range

It’s tough to say what owners look for in this range, as some like to play it safe with a veteran who’s a lock for seven targets per game, while others are willing to take their shots on players who offer week-winning upside, even if it means sacrificing a fantasy floor.

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
31 Jarvis Landry 8.6 18.8% 31.3% 75.0% 6.3% 18.8%
32 Marquise Brown 5.1 14.3% 35.7% 42.9% 7.1% 57.1%
33 Tyler Boyd 9.2 18.8% 31.3% 62.5% 12.5% 25.0%
34 Julian Edelman 9.6 31.3% 62.5% 75.0% 12.5% 18.8%
35 Will Fuller 6.5 18.2% 18.2% 18.2% 9.1% 36.4%
36 Brandin Cooks 5.1 7.1% 14.3% 28.6% 0.0% 57.1%
37 John Brown 7.7 13.3% 26.7% 73.3% 13.3% 6.7%
38 Darius Slayton 5.9 14.3% 28.6% 35.7% 14.3% 35.7%
39 Marvin Jones 7.1 30.8% 30.8% 46.2% 15.4% 23.1%
40 Christian Kirk 8.2 7.7% 38.5% 46.2% 7.7% 23.1%

 

It’s crazy to see the Texans top two receivers in this range. It’s also crazy to see just how bad both were in 2019. Will Fuller is known as someone who’ll bust at times, but judging from last year’s numbers, he busted twice as often as he finished as a WR3 or better. Brandin Cooks had always been someone who posted solid WR2/3-type numbers, but the concussions clearly influenced him. Now going to a new offense, there are a lot of question marks.

Remember when Jarvis Landry finished as the No. 13 wide receiver last year? You know how many point out that he’s been a top-24 receiver every year… well, you can clearly see he was a WR3 last year based on what he offered your fantasy team. John Brown fits into the same mold as Landry, as he finished as a WR3 or better 73.3 percent of the time, which ranked 11th among wide receivers, but he finished as a WR2 or better just 26.7 percent of the time, which ranked 51st among receivers. He was clearly not the WR2 he finished as at the end of the year.

It’s pretty crazy to see Julian Edelman all the way down here. With the numbers next to his name, those are of a wide receiver who’d be drafted inside the top-10 with ease. Does the loss of Tom Brady hurt him that much? The team will certainly throw the ball less often, but it’s hard to say he’ll miss Brady’s 6.6 yards per attempt from last year. Tyler Boyd saw a ridiculously high 9.2 targets per game in Zac Taylor’s offense. The return of A.J. Green will hurt his target share, but he’s been much more efficient with Green in the lineup.

41-60 Range

If you’re taking the Zero WR or modified Zero WR approach, this is the range you’ll be piling up some wide receivers. Oddly enough, you can find some safe options in this range.

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
41 Emmanuel Sanders 5.7 17.6% 29.4% 35.3% 11.8% 47.1%
42 Mike Williams 6.0 0.0% 13.3% 46.7% 0.0% 26.7%
43 Diontae Johnson 5.8 6.3% 31.3% 31.3% 0.0% 50.0%
44 CeeDee Lamb DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
45 Jerry Jeudy DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
46 Mecole Hardman 2.6 0.0% 13.3% 40.0% 0.0% 46.7%
47 Sterling Shepard 8.3 20.0% 40.0% 50.0% 10.0% 10.0%
48 Alshon Jeffery 7.3 33.3% 33.3% 55.6% 11.1% 33.3%
49 Jamison Crowder 7.6 25.0% 43.8% 43.8% 6.3% 43.8%
50 Sammy Watkins 6.4 7.7% 7.7% 23.1% 7.7% 38.5%
51 Henry Ruggs DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
52 Robby Anderson 6.0 12.5% 25.0% 43.8% 6.3% 50.0%
53 Golden Tate 7.7 18.2% 45.5% 81.8% 0.0% 18.2%
54 Justin Jefferson DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
55 Jalen Reagor DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
56 Anthony Miller 5.3 12.5% 12.5% 31.3% 6.3% 50.0%
57 DeSean Jackson 5.0 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 50.0% 50.0%
58 Curtis Samuel 6.6 6.3% 31.3% 43.8% 0.0% 50.0%
59 Preston Williams 7.5 12.5% 12.5% 37.5% 0.0% 12.5%
60 Larry Fitzgerald 6.8 6.3% 31.3% 56.3% 6.3% 31.3%

 

It’s not sexy, but Sterling Shepard is a stable option that can be had in the double-digit rounds. He only “busted” 10 percent of the time and averaged a stable 8.3 targets per game. The same can be said about Jamison Crowder‘s targets, though he did bust a bit more often than Shepard. Still, he’s the only starting receiver returning to the lineup for the Jets, so his targets should be safe.

Call me crazy, but I think Sammy Watkins was playing hurt last year. Remember the impact he had in the playoffs and Super Bowl in particular? If you tell me I get a former first-round pick (that has been hyper-efficient outside of 2019) that gets six-plus targets per game from Patrick Mahomes in the 12th round, I’m about that life. Prior to 2019, he’d been a WR3 or better at least 40 percent of the time in four of the previous five seasons.

61-80 Range

ADP Player Tgts/gm WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
61 Hunter Renfrow 5.5 15.4% 30.8% 38.5% 0.0% 53.8%
62 Michael Pittman DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
63 N’Keal Harry 3.4 0.0% 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 71.4%
64 Tee Higgins DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
65 Breshad Perriman 5.0 14.3% 28.6% 42.9% 7.1% 57.1%
66 Allen Lazard 4.3 0.0% 27.3% 27.3% 0.0% 54.5%
67 Tyrell Williams 4.6 7.7% 23.1% 61.5% 0.0% 38.5%
68 Brandon Aiyuk DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
69 Antonio Brown 8.0 0.0% 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
70 Dede Westbrook 6.7 6.7% 33.3% 46.7% 0.0% 33.3%
71 John Ross 7.0 25.0% 37.5% 37.5% 12.5% 62.5%
72 Denzel Mims DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
73 Parris Campbell 3.4 0.0% 0.0% 14.3% 0.0% 71.4%
74 Corey Davis 4.6 13.3% 13.3% 13.3% 0.0% 66.7%
75 James Washington 5.3 6.7% 20.0% 26.7% 0.0% 53.3%
76 Kenny Stills 4.2 0.0% 23.1% 38.5% 0.0% 46.2%
77 Randall Cobb 5.5 13.3% 20.0% 40.0% 0.0% 40.0%
78 Bryan Edwards DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
79 Cole Beasley 6.9 6.7% 40.0% 60.0% 0.0% 20.0%
80 Laviska Shenault DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

 

This is the range you’re often looking for your final round lottery ticket. It’s John Ross for me. Not only did he produce the highest WR1 rate of this group, he also saw 7.0 targets per game, which was also the highest if we remove Antonio Brown‘s one-game sample size. He now gets a massive upgrade at quarterback, and it’s not like teams will be able to shift coverage his way with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd on the field.

If there’s anything you can learn from this tier of players, it’s that Derek Carr can support a semi-consistent WR3, as Tyrell Williams posted WR3 or better numbers 61.5 percent of the time. That was the 23rd-highest rate among wide receivers.

What We Learned

It’s extremely rare to find wide receivers who’ll produce WR1-type numbers more than 33 percent of the time. Heck, there were just three of them in all of 2019. It was a down year for wide receivers as a whole, though. Going back to 2018, there were 12 wide receivers who hit at least 40 percent. Still, that’s not as consistent as running backs.

Is this a sign of the way the NFL is trending? More three- and four-wide receiver sets, spreading out the wealth of a passing attack? It’s possible, but we don’t want to jump to conclusions with such a limited sample size. Still, you should be aiming for a WR1 that hits those numbers at least 33 percent of the time, a WR2 that hits those numbers (or better) at least 50 percent of the time, and a WR3 that hits those marks (or better) at least 55 percent of the time.

Some of the players who stood out here in this article (based on where they’re being drafted) were Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, DeVante Parker, Robert Woods, Michael Gallup, and Julian Edelman. There are some changing factors with some of them, but the discount appears to be enough to make up for that.

Some of the players who don’t look so great when compared to their ADP include Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, JuJu Smith-Schuster, T.Y. Hilton, D.K. Metcalf, Will Fuller, and Brandin Cooks. Does this mean all of them will fail to live up to their ADP? No, but they should come at a bit more of a discount considering their performances in 2019.

If you’d like to check out the sortable charts for Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between, our amazing developers have put together the data for you based on any scoring setting (STD, Half PPR, Full PPR). You can check that out right here.

 


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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