Zero WR Strategy: Early, Middle, Late Round Targets (2020 Fantasy Football)
Between the Zero RB and Zero WR strategy, I have found that I have used a hybrid version of the Zero WR the most in drafts. There is a lot of talent at the wide receiver position and you can snag better receivers in the later rounds than you can the running back counterparts. For example, a WR2 on an offense generally has more opportunity for fantasy production than a team’s RB2.
I previously covered Zero RB Strategy: Early, Middle, Late Round Targets if you are interested in pursuing that strategy. As always, I encourage you to be fluid and flexible when you draft. Be ready to adapt by mock drafting with your league’s settings and have tools like the tiered rankings handy to help avoid the dreaded draft tilt.
Remember that ADP (Average Draft Position) is constantly changing and each analyst has a different opinion of these players. Check out Zero WR Strategy: Early, Middle, Late Round Targets by Paul Ghiglieri for the early August edition of this topic. See also Alternate Draft Styles: Zero WR by Sam Hoppen and Ideal Lineup for Zero Wide Receiver for more analysis.
Zero WR: Do not draft a WR until the 6th Round at the earliest.
Early Round Targets: Draft Positions 1 – 4
Remember that with the Zero WR strategy, we are not picking a wide receiver until Round 6, at the earliest. That means that Terry McLaurin and Keenan Allen could be our first option as our team’s WR1. I will be honest, I really like both of these prospects at the WR1 position for 2020. In fact, I like all of these wide receivers in each round of the early targets.
Allen and McLaurin are both victims of sub-par quarterback performances that are leaking into the 2020 season. For the Chargers, deep-threat Mike Williams has suffered a shoulders sprain in training camp, leaving more targets to be distributed among the receivers. TE Hunter Henry will see some of those looks as will RB Austin Ekeler, but Allen remains the primary wide receiver to see the lion’s share of the volume. McLaurin is also the target volume leader in Washington with sophomore QB Dwayne Haskins under center. In his rookie year, and through rotating quarterbacks, McLaurin posted 58 receptions on 93 targets for 919 yards and seven touchdowns last year. If Haskins and McLaurin can keep the chemistry going, he should see most of the targets in 2020.
Rounds 7 and 8 are made up primarily of deep threat receivers in Marquise Brown, Will Fuller, and Stefon Diggs. Michael Gallup is falling to the 8th Round in most drafts, and he is the wide receiver I am targeting in that class. Brown, Fuller, and Diggs are more cloudy. Brown is projected to have a breakout season in the Baltimore offense with phenom QB Lamar Jackson, but there is no guarantee he will be consistent. The same holds true for Fuller and Diggs in Houston and Buffalo respectively. If you want a piece of that Houston WR corps, but miss out on Fuller, Brandin Cooks can be drafted in the next round. Buffalo isn’t exactly known for its high passing volume, but Diggs was brought into the offense to make the deep ball part of the offense. If you draft Diggs, you are relying on QB Josh Allen for targets who rushed 109 times for 510 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019.
I am concerned for Jarvis Landry this year, despite the Browns’ heroic attempt to fix the offensive line. There are too many mouths to feed in the offense like WR Odell Beckham Jr., TE Austin Hooper, and RB Kareem Hunt. Plus, new head coach Kevin Stefanski is a run-first and keep running type of play-caller, making me wary of all of the pass-catching pieces in Cleveland.
Middle Round Targets – Draft Positions 5 – 8
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
Julian Edelman (WR – NE)
Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT)
As you can see, there isn’t much available in those 5th – 8th position picks in the 6th Round and on. Hilton’s injury concerns scare me for his sustainability as my team’s WR1. Plus, there are several alternatives on the Colts who can step up and take his place should he go down. DeVante Parker and Julian Edelman are both interesting but also both have issues heading into this season. Parker had a break out second half of the year due in part to WR Preston Williams’ absence in the offense. Williams is healthy this year, so I do not know how this will affect Parker’s volume no matter who is at quarterback for Miami. For Edelman, I will be much more inclined to draft him if I knew for sure that QB Cam Newton was starting and on his game after a year on the sidelines from injury.
Out of all of these players, Diontae Johnson is the most exciting to me. He saw 92 targets, 59 receptions, 680 yards, and five touchdowns as a rookie with two backup QBs making their NFL debut in 2019. If he can be that productive under those circumstances, I want Johnson on every one of my teams with QB Ben Roethlisberger back at the helm. In 2018, the Steelers led the NFL in attempts, completions, and yards per game with around 65% of the passing targets going to the wide receiver position. Johnson is a steal in the 9th Round, in my opinion. He is being drafted as a WR3 or worse when he has WR1 potential.
Late Round Targets – Draft Positions 9 – 12
Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN)
A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
Tyler Boyd (WR – CIN)
Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)
In previous Zero WR articles, we have mentioned that this strategy is generally the best when you are drafting from the early positions. You can take stud RBs and grab an elite TE, and the options for your first WR1 are generally better.
With that being said, the wide receivers toward the late-round are definitely worth keeping your eye o, particularly Courtland Sutton and Tyler Boyd. Denver’s QB Drew Lock is an untested quarterback, seeing only five games in his rookie year last season. He threw 100 completions on 156 attempts (64% completion rate) for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s nothing to sneeze at in only five games. He needs to work on his accuracy, but that is to be expected from a rookie. Sutton is the undisputed WR1 on that offense and saw 40 targets, 22 receptions, 280 yards, and two touchdowns with Lock at QB.
Boyd disappointed fantasy GMs last year who had high hopes of him taking over the WR1 role in Cincinnati with A.J. Green sidelined. However, Boyd did the opposite of stepping up to the plate, regressing in his production without Green there to take away coverage. Of course, a lot of Boyd’s woes can be attributed to poor QB play, but his poor 2019 shows that he needs a true WR1 on the field to have a significant fantasy impact. With rookie QB Joe Burrow, there could be some growing pains, but the Bengals have taken the improvement of the offensive line very seriously. With the addition of rookie WR Tee Higgins and returning players like Auden Tate, John Ross, and Green, Boyd should feast much as he did in 2018. Green has been struggling with injuries during camp, so it’s something to keep a close eye on as you near your drafts.
Like Green, Deebo Samuel has been suffering an injury that has kept him limited or off the field entirely during training camp. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is optimistic he will be available for Week 1, but regardless, he is falling down draft boards as a result of the news. Samuel is still the WR1 in front of Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk. Snagging the 49ers top receiver in the 9th Round seems criminal, and I would not hesitate to grab him.
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