The 2020 NFL Draft was heralded as the best wide receiver class in recent history. It says something as well when this year’s class had the most wide receivers taken since 2003. There are a lot of players that demand your attention when it comes to fantasy football. This is the second part of a dive into some of the bigger names at wide receiver and whether they hold any fantasy value for the upcoming season. For Part 1 go HERE.
The Newest Crop Of Fantasy Football Rookie WRs: Part 2
Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
You can go ahead and wash out last season’s passing offense. The loss of Ben Roethlisberger led to inconsistent play from the back-ups. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges filled in well, but not well enough where you could trust the Steelers receivers for fantasy purposes. Going into 2020, Roethlisberger is healthy and trying to put together a couple more solid years before finally hanging up his cleats. While the number one receiver duties are clear cut for JuJu Smith-Schuster, the supplementary receiver duties are up for grabs.
Claypool has his work cut out for him but has as good a shot as anyone on the roster. Dionte Johnson, James Washington, and Donte Moncrief were the primary receiving options in 2019. Moncrief is no longer with the team, so it just boils down to the other two guys and now Claypool.
Claypool is a big receiver, but then wowed us all at the NFL Combine by posting a 4.42 40-yard dash time. That sort of size and then combining that kind of speed could be dangerous at the professional level. Claypool should figure into the offense right away, but it may take some time before he grabs a larger share of the targets in the offense. This offense should rotate Johnson, Washington, and Claypool early in the year and see who can separate themselves from the others. In all likelihood, Claypool’s size and speed will help him win out and this will relegate Washington and Johnson to slot and third receiver duties.
While Claypool will see the field early and often in his rookie year, as mentioned it might take some time before he becomes a reliable fantasy player. While his long-term prospects are great, his redraft value is middling.
Keep in mind that Pittsburgh went out and signed Eric Ebron to shore up the tight end position. He should figure into the offense greatly as Ebron will give this offense a legit weapon and the first time since the team had Heath Miller on the team.
Claypool will be worthy of drafting on your team but there is no need to waste a high pick for him. Grab him for your bench as one of your last picks and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go undrafted either. A good mid-season addition to your team if he does go undrafted and a worthy week-to-week streamer as well. Claypool could turn in a monster rookie season, just don’t expect it to happen until the season is half over.
Projected Stat-line: 55/736/5 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams haven’t had a first-round pick since selecting Jared Goff first overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. They built their team through acquiring players by trade and one of those players was Brandin Cooks. While he was a great player for the team, he had a large price tag associated with the production he’s been able to have in the NFL.
Los Angeles has been cash strapped for the past two seasons and they decided to move on from Cooks and shed his contract from their books. Los Angeles likes to operate with three wide receiver sets and the loss of Cooks meant they had a hole to fill. Jefferson was selected in the second round and will have a good chance of pairing up with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to lead this passing offense.
Jefferson went a little higher than people expected, but the Rams must have fallen in love with his natural hands and great route-running skills. He will compete with Josh Reynolds for the third receiver duties and has a good shot of beating him out. The problem for Jefferson becomes the usage of twin tight ends.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are going to become a bigger part of the offense after having good seasons the past two years. This might limit how much they actually end up using three-wide receiver sets. While they are one of the teams in the league that operate a good portion of their offensive snaps from that set, things could change going into 2020. Also with no notable additions to the offensive line, the offense will only produce if Goff can remain upright. So while this offense still threw the ball 60% of the time last season, it’s best to temper expectations for the former Florida Gator.
For dynasty leagues, Jefferson is a good addition as he should be able to secure the third wide receiver duties rather quickly. Plus if the Rams need to create more cap space, then Woods might become expendable and will allow Jefferson to see more playing time.
In redraft leagues, Jefferson is a good addition but could take time to become a fantasy-relevant player. He’ll be eased into his offensive role and then he could steadily take off as the season goes on. He may not have as much value as Claypool or Michael Pittman Jr. because of the addition of Cam Akers to the offense.
While the Rams will probably play it smarter and not grind Akers into the ground, he is still a reliable playmaker that will eat into overall touches in the offense. Jefferson could be worthy of a pick toward the end of the draft, but it might be better to let him fall into the waiver pool. There are a ton of fantasy wide receiver options that are more reliable and Jefferson could become a great addition halfway through the season. So if you play in a heavy skill position league, he’s worth selecting at the back-end of your draft. Otherwise, let him fall into the waiver pool and watch his production for a waiver wire add later in the year.
Projected Stat-line: 46/489/2 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Denzel Mims, New York Jets
This is the second year of the Jets being led by Adam Gase and it’s a bit of a make or break year. There were a lot of rumors that the Jets might let Gase go after one season, but they held onto him heading into 2020. This season it’s crucial that the offense makes some more noise or Gase could find himself looking for a job again.
While the Jets front office ended up letting Robby Anderson sign with Carolina, they felt confident with Jamison Crowder as their leading receiver. Gase likes to work receivers out of the slot and Crowder fits in that mold perfectly. Still, Crowder is not going to be enough for this offense to do damage in a now wide-open AFC East. Sure they signed Breshad Perriman, but drafting Mims out of Baylor is going to give Sam Darnold an extra weapon in the passing game.
Mims had an interesting college career. While he played well in his sophomore and senior seasons, his junior season was not so stellar. This led a lot of front office members around the league to think which version of Mims would they get.
Gase and company thought they could replicate the good version of Mims and ended up drafting him in the second round. Now right away, Mims will come in and compete for targets in the offense. As mentioned, Crowder will be the main target but the secondary receiver role is up for grabs. They did sign Perriman, but his production last season with the Buccaneers was a little skewed. It’s saying something when the two starting receivers get hurt at the end of the season and you’re able to rack up so many yards and touchdowns based on being the primary target. His numbers in those final three games amassed 54% of his receiving yards for the season and four of his six total touchdowns. Where was the production when Mike Evans and Chris Godwin weren’t on the field? This is where Mims has a step-up in the competition because his talent should be able to overcome Perriman.
Mims is going to be a red-zone target machine in this offense. This will help him rack up touchdowns, but he needs to develop his route tree a bit before he can be a more dangerous threat in the passing game on a regular basis. He has the home run threat speed and the great catch-radius but once he can run something besides a deep route, watch out for this guy. He can become a great receiver in the long-term, so he has great dynasty league value. In redraft leagues, exercise some caution as we just need to see how he adjusts to the offense in the NFL. He can become a great producer later on in the season, but his early-season projections should be low.
Still, because there are no other options in this passing offense that are reliable, Mims should be drafted to your fantasy roster. He should see at least 70 targets in this offense and he should be able to convert the majority of them into receptions. Select Mims towards the end of the draft and his targets coming by force should lead to Mims being a worthy streamable player and possible starter towards the back half of the season.
Projected Stat-line: 49/640/5 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders
If there was one thing the Las Vegas Raiders were poised to do in the offseason it was bringing in more offensive weapons. They used their first-round pick on Henry Ruggs to bring some speed to the offense. Afterward in the second round, they drafted Lynn Bowden as a versatile playmaker and then just one pick later they took Edwards as a legit receiver for the offense.
Edwards could have gone in the first round if he didn’t have a foot injury that prevented him from participating in the NFL Combine. Still, he has an impressive college resume and set numerous records for the University of South Carolina, including most receiving yards and most receptions.
So stepping into the wide receiver room for the Vegas Raiders, Edwards will have to compete with a lot of young talent. As mentioned, they took Ruggs in the first round and highly expect him to take a lot of targets in the offense. Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams were the starters in this offense last year and they also signed Nelson Agholor in the offseason. So clearly there is going to be a lot of competition for targets in the passing offense.
One thing that separates Edwards from all the other receivers is that his skill set is suited for the West Coast offense that Jon Gruden likes to run. He’s able to shed tackles at his size and really rack up the yards after the catch. This style of play could lead to Edwards seeing the field more and more and lead to fantasy relevance in his rookie season.
So while the possibility of Edwards gaining a good share of the passing targets is good, keep in mind all the other weapons. Josh Jacobs ran for over 1,000 yards in his rookie year, so he’ll command touches. Ruggs, Renfrow, Williams, and Agholor will, of course, compete for their share of the passing workload, and don’t forget about the breakout season by tight end Darren Waller.
So competition is there for Edwards and his ability to understand the offense and more importantly stay healthy is crucial. If he can get these two things under control, he could become a future starting receiver for this team. In dynasty leagues, he is worth drafting and could become a great addition in the long-term. For redraft leagues and 2020 especially, he becomes another player that we just need to use the wait-and-see approach. There are a lot of other options at wide receiver that you don’t need to use a draft pick to get. Just keep an eye on this Raiders offense and he could become a valuable waiver wire pickup for your team.
Projected Stat-line: 30/368/2 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington Redskins
There’s a new regime in town for the Washington Redskins. Ron Rivera has taken over head coaching duties and has employed Scott Turner as his offensive coordinator. The Redskins have a lot of young players on this team and it will be interesting to see how they develop with this new leadership.
Dwayne Haskins is going to be the quarterback for the future and he needs some weapons around him to become more effective. Terry McLaurin was a revelation in his rookie season and Steven Sims also provided some good production towards the end of the year. Besides that, there was inconsistency from the other players and this led the Redskins offense to rank dead last in total points and second-to-last in total yards.
Going into the 2020 NFL Draft, they needed to add some more playmakers to get out of its rut. They added Antonio Gibson, who figures to be a versatile threat but more of a running back. The real difference maker is going to be Gandy-Golden.
Coming from a smaller school like Liberty, Gandy-Golden was not a highly-touted prospect coming into this year’s draft. There was buzz around him, but the question was always can he make plays against tougher opponents? Gandy-Golden may not have played against premier competition in his college career, but he brings something to this offense that the Redskins could use.
Gandy-Golden measures at 6’4 while both starting receivers Sims and McLaurin are 6’0 or smaller. Gandy-Golden should be a shoo-in for those red-zone targets and can easily bully smaller defensive backs for those contested catches. Also, he’s great with the ball in his hands and can be a dangerous threat to make something out of nothing.
Gandy-Golden has excellent long term and short term value. He could develop into a starting receiver in this league for many years to come, which is good for all you dynasty players.
In the short term, he could be a valuable FLEX player for your team and an eventual starting receiver. As mentioned though, the only thing that can hasten these plans is if the competition is too tough for him at the next level and he has a hard time getting open against professional defenses. Even if he struggles with that, he should be a good target for red-zone fade routes and could become a touchdown vulture. While being a touchdown vulture may not be the best for traditional PPR leagues, he could provide value if you need a spot start during those bye weeks. So target Gandy-Golden with one of your last picks and just stash him on your bench. He could very well end up in the waiver pool to start the year, but he has a good shot at becoming a waiver wire darling if that’s the case.
Projected Stat-line: 43/429/6 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is going to be quite an offense in Tampa Bay. Last season it was pretty dynamic but it definitely had its faults with the turnovers and the lack of a consistent running game. While the running game might be a question mark still, the turnovers should be under control. Tom Brady is going to be more careful with the ball compared to former Buccaneer, Jameis Winston. While this might limit the aggressiveness of the offense, the entire coaching staff would sacrifice the aggressiveness if it means the turnovers drop dramatically. Not only that but with the firepower this passing offense has, there’s no need to be aggressive as these guys will get open for easy pitch and catch.
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate can find the holes in the defense together and make this passing offense very dangerous. While there are plenty of weapons for Brady, the rookie Johnson was drafted in the fifth round as an extra piece to a possible championship roster.
Now there are a lot of playmakers and that could very well limit Johnson’s value. Consider this thought though. In 2013, the Patriots offense led by Tom Brady had six players with at least 65 targets and two running backs had at least 150 rushing attempts. The offense was spread among the entire team and this led to that team being third in total points scored and seventh in total yards from scrimmage.
The top three targets in this offense will easily be Evans, Godwin, and Gronkowski. Howard and Brate should split the remaining time as the second tight end, but that third wide receiver could be featured heavily too. Johnson could easily take that role as the competition for the targets after Godwin and Evans will be non-existent. Johnson is a sneaky good addition to this offense as he has great value, even as a fifth-round pick. Coming from a basketball background, Johnson is great at positioning his body to make catches, has a great knack at high-pointing the ball, and can easily come down with the contested catch. With most rookie receivers, he could use some work with his route running and being better at gaining initial separation from the defender.
So is Johnson a player that will make the difference for you and your fantasy roster in redraft leagues? Probably not, but he could be a serviceable streaming option and is a high-end handcuff should Evans or Godwin miss time in 2020. Also, if Tampa Bay decides to make that tight end room smaller, his targets could increase if Howard or Brate end up on other teams at the trade deadline or offseason.
A great pick for dynasty leagues as he has great long-term value in this offense. For redraft leagues, it would be a good pick for the back end of your draft or a must-add for your watch list if he goes undrafted. Johnson is on a high-scoring offense and he should see a fair amount of targets that justify grabbing him with one of your last picks.
Projected Stat-line: 46/489/4 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
Isaiah Coulter, Houston Texans
When you trade away DeAndre Hopkins, you need to find some players to replace him. The big part of that trade was David Johnson becoming a member of the Houston Texans. This doesn’t exactly solve the passing game situation though. The Texans did add Randall Cobb in the offseason and also acquired Brandin Cooks via a trade a couple of weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft. Those two guys should take the top two receiver spots in the offense, but everything behind them should be up for grabs. Coulter is a raw prospect that could become a great receiver in the league, but he’ll need to work at it.
Coulter has a lot to work on to become a more polished receiver but has the potential. He played his college ball at the University of Rhode Island, which is a school in the FCS so it doesn’t get a ton of attention. His play did speak volumes as he lit up Virginia Tech for nine receptions and 152 receiving yards. He can play against the big boys and just needs a little work to become an all-around talent at the NFL level.
While he needs to put in work on his game, he also needs to put in work to beat out his competition. Along with Coulter, Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, and Will Fuller will be fighting for the additional targets in the passing game. While that’s a lot of people to worry about, there are some injury concerns for these guys. Stills has been able to stay on the field, but Coutee and Fuller have dealt with injuries that opened up the door for other receivers to climb the depth chart. So it’s not impossible for Coulter to become a good fantasy player in his rookie year.
If Coulter can put it all together, then he is worth a pick in redraft leagues. He holds better value in dynasty leagues because of the long-term aspect of him becoming a better receiver. For the 2020 season, he has a good shot of seeing the field as the likelihood of Coutee and Fuller missing time is high. Coulter’s fantasy value will not come early in the season but he becomes a great stealthy pick off the waiver wire as you make a fantasy playoff run. Also if the Texans decide to use Cobb out of the slot to best use his skill set, then Coulter has a higher chance of seeing the field as there could be a rotation between Fuller, Stills, Coutee, and Coulter.
While you might not want to use a draft pick on Coulter in redraft leagues, he is worthy of being added to your watch list. As soon as you hear that Coutee or Fuller is going to miss time, that’s the time to swoop in and add him to your roster.
Projected Stat-line: 38/397/2 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
James Proche, Baltimore Ravens
Over the last 10 years, SMU has produced a good amount of receivers that have transitioned well into the NFL. Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders are the obvious receivers worth noting from that group, but Aldrick Robinson was a dependable receiver as well. Let’s not forget about “Mr. Irrelevant” from the 2018 NFL Draft, Trey Quinn, who has found himself on the Washington Redskins main roster with his solid play as well. So for the Ravens to use one of their final two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft on Proche, you know he’s going to be a reliable receiver in the league.
Proche was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and he’ll compete for targets right away. The NFL’s best rushing team in 2019 just added a great receiver to help move the chains and keep drives alive on offense.
Back at SMU, Proche finished his college career with exceptional junior and senior seasons. In his junior year, he racked up 93 receptions, 1,199 receiving yards, and 11 receiving touchdowns. To top that season, in his senior season he totaled 111 receptions (tied for FBS lead), 1,225 receiving yards, and 15 receiving touchdowns. The guy can produce and should be able to translate those skills in the NFL.
Now stepping into the wide receiver room for the Ravens, he’ll have to compete for targets with Miles Boykin, Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and fellow rookie Devin Duvernay. Boykin and Brown are more deep threats, so they should share the field with Proche. The thing that is more concerning is that the passes in this offense tend to go to the tight end, which led to Mark Andrews having a breakout season in 2019. If you look at the target comparison for all tight ends and all receivers in the offense last season, the split was 180 to 182. Receivers only had two more targets compared to the tight ends.
So why does Proche deserve more attention for fantasy players? He’s not a speed threat like a lot of the other wide receivers in this offense. He will help this offense move down the field with short receptions as an extension of the running game. His long-term potential for dynasty drafts is stupendous, but for 2020 redraft leagues the value drops a bit.
He has great potential for PPR leagues as he’ll be able to rack up points on receptions alone, but the lack of touchdowns will hurt him. Those touchdown touches will most likely go to the running game or on passes to Andrews and other tight ends. So let Proche slip into the waiver pool, but he is worthy of adding to your watch list. He has a great future in this offense and could become a new favorite weapon for the reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson.
Projected Stat-line: 54/460/2 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)
K.J. Hill, Los Angeles Chargers
Hill is a reception machine. He’s the new owner of the Ohio State career reception record. Yes, the same Ohio State that had such great receivers like Cris Carter, David Boston, and the NFL single-season reception record holder Michael Thomas. While he is a great grabber of footballs, his ability after making catches is lackluster. This led to him sliding all the way into the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft and the Los Angeles Chargers selected him with the 220th overall selection.
Coming to the Chargers, Hill should become the starting slot receiver for the offense. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will remain starters on the outside, but Hill will become a good complementary piece to the passing offense. Joe Reed was also taken by the Chargers in the 5th round, but the two receivers have different skill sets.
Hill is a natural route-runner and catches everything thrown his way. As mentioned though, his lack of ability to break tackles or do much with the ball in his hands led to him becoming a day three pick during the draft weekend.
While that may be something he may never add to his arsenal, his ability to get open in the middle of the field, having an extensive route tree, and being a natural pass-catcher will lead to him finding immediate success in the NFL. Plus his competition for targets from other receivers is not going to be something he needs to worry about.
Hill has great value in both dynasty and redraft leagues. With his ability to catch everything and play the middle of the field with no fear, Hill can earn himself a lot of targets. Allen and Williams will command the most targets in the passing offense, but whatever is leftover will easily fall into Hill’s lap. This offense could become more wide open and employ shotgun and pistol formations to better suit rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert. This makes his dynasty value great as Herbert and Hill will be forming a very quick connection in their transition to the NFL.
In redraft leagues, similar to Proche, he should see a high number of targets and those will lead to receptions. The problem becomes not scoring enough touchdowns because Allen and Williams have the size and physical nature to come down with those red-zone grabs. Hill is a worthy selection at the end of your fantasy draft and should be a high-end handcuff should Williams or Allen miss time.
Projected Stat-line: 57/558/3 (Receptions/Receiving Yards/Receiving Touchdowns)