Who Will Be the Next Chris Godwin & Calvin Ridley? (2021 Fantasy Football)
Two years ago, Chris Godwin was a popular name in the fantasy football community as a third-year wide receiver that could produce a breakout season. Godwin would proceed to accrue 86 receptions for 1,333 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, allowing him to finish as WR2 in PPR leagues during the 2019 season. Just this past season, it was Calvin Ridley that finally had his breakout season for the Atlanta Falcons in his third year in the league. Ridley won a ton of people their fantasy leagues as he corraled 90 catches for 1,374 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, which was good enough for WR5 in PPR formats.
After watching Godwin and Ridley burst onto the scene in their third seasons in the NFL, people are anxious to find the next third-year wideout that is on the cusp of greatness. Besides the talent the player possesses, sometimes a favorable situation can lead to success when it comes to the wide receiver position. Also, I refrained from listing Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, and A.J. Brown as they’ve already solidified themselves as stars at the position. By taking into account the skills and situation of wide receivers from the 2019 NFL Draft heading into the 2021 season, these are some third-year wide receivers who could join the cool kid’s table alongside Godwin and Ridley.
Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT)
Drops, drops, and more drops were an overlying theme for Diontae Johnson during his sophomore season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Regardless of what site you utilize to gather statistics, Johnson led the league in drops. But despite his inability to get a hold of the ball this past season, it’s hard to ignore the workload that Johnson is given in Pittsburgh’s aerial attack.
Even with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool commanding a combined 237 targets in 2020, Johnson led the Steelers with 144 targets, which was the eighth-most in the NFL. Johnson concluded his second year in the NFL as WR21 in PPR leagues after catching 88 passes for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. What makes Johnson someone who could take the next step in his third year – besides improving in the drop department – is the fact that it has been well-known that Smith-Schuster is expected to depart in free agency.
With Ben Roethlisberger set to return for another season, Johnson has an opportunity to see 160+ targets and an uptick in touchdowns in 2021. While Claypool and James Washington are poised to see increased roles as well, it’s obvious that Johnson is Roethlisberger’s favorite weapon, making him a valuable asset in fantasy football next season.
Marquise Brown (WR – BAL)
When you’re the No. 1 wide receiver for a team with Lamar Jackson as your quarterback, you would assume that player is a viable option in fantasy football, right? However, the Baltimore Ravens have shown no interest in altering their offensive system to aid Jackson, which has simultaneously limited the ceiling of Marquise Brown. Brown isn’t in the same class as some of the other wide receivers from the 2019 NFL Draft, but he could still be a talented wideout moving forward.
The Ravens have made it known that they aren’t going to go out of their way to secure an elite wide receiver this offseason. Though, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of them adding a veteran wideout this offseason or selecting one of the many intriguing prospects available in the 2021 NFL Draft. With that being said, Brown still figures to have a decent-sized role in Baltimore’s offense, even if Greg Roman refuses to improve his passing scheme – which we can only hope is modified for the sake of Jackson’s career.
Brown, who was the first wide receiver taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, has proven to excel as a vertical threat in the NFL. The Oklahoma product has averaged 13 yards per reception in his first two seasons and has totaled 15 receiving touchdowns. If Brown can garner more than the 100 targets he saw in 2020, there’s a chance he severely outplays his ADP in 2021.
Mecole Hardman (WR – KC)
Before the 2020 season began, I was in the group of people that believed Mecole Hardman was positioned to have a breakout season in his second year with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former second-round pick out of Georgia would see an inconsistent role in Kansas City’s high-flying offense as he failed to increase his offensive snap share from his rookie season, which was 45 percent. Even after the dud he churned out in 2020, maybe I was a year early on the Hardman hype train?
Following Kansas City’s collapse in the Super Bowl, reports are floating around that the Chiefs are interested in adding another pass-catcher to the offense. In all likeliness, unless someone is willing to take a pay cut to catch passes from Patrick Mahomes – which is definitely possible – then the Chiefs could be doing their homework on the incoming rookie wide receivers. That could possibly give Hardman one more year to prove that he’s worthy of more playing time in Andy Reid’s fantasy-friendly offense that averaged 39.3 pass plays per game in 2020 (third-most in the NFL).
Hardman’s ability to stretch the field, evidenced by his career 16.4 yards per reception, is a vital reason why he is an ideal fit for the Chiefs. Of course, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are going to be the main weapons in Kansas City’s passing game. But if Hardman can carve out a more defined role for the Chiefs, then there’s a chance he explodes in year three.
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