Fitz on Fantasy: 2020 Wide Receiver Rankings, 31-70
Pat Fitzmaurice finished second out of 160 experts in FantasyPros’ 2019 preseason rankings accuracy contest, and he’s now No. 1 in multi-year preseason rankings accuracy for 2017-2019. Fitzmaurice’s full 2020 redraft rankings are posted here, but this series of articles helps explain the thinking behind the rankings. Be sure to check out his already released explainers:
For more personalized advice, be sure to check out Pat’s Patreon page where you can have direct access to Pat for your specific fantasy dilemmas.
31. Michael Gallup, Cowboys
On talent alone, Gallup deserves to be ranked with some of the other studly young WRs – D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Chark et al. Thing is, Gallup already had to share targets with Amari Cooper, and then the Cowboys added first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, possibly the best receiver in a draft class brimming with WR talent.
Gallup turned 113 targets into 1,107 yards last season, so it’s not as if he needs to be an alpha receiver to have fantasy value. But Gallup’s target total probably isn’t going up, and after averaging 16.8 yards per catch and 9.8 yards per target in 2019, he might not be quite as efficient this year.
I want to like him more, but the opaque target picture warrants caution.
32. Brandin Cooks, Texans
Cooks sustained two concussions in a span of 25 days last year, and he had sustained three concussions prior to 2019. That’s a little troubling, no question, but it should be noted that the two games Cooks missed last year were his first absences since he was a rookie in 2014
Before last year, Cooks had rattled off four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Now paired with Deshaun Watson, Cooks has an excellent chance to hit the 1,000-yard mark again if he plays 16 games, yet he can typically be grabbed in the eighth round of 12-team drafts.
33. Marvin Jones, Lions
I have a theory that players with boring names tend to be underdrafted, and vice versa. Jones provides boring value year after year, while fantasy managers fall all over themselves in pursuit of a Jamison Crowder breakout season that never comes.
A shady porch on a late-summer afternoon … a good book and a glass of wine on a Friday night … the first cup of coffee on a Sunday morning: The boring stuff can be pretty rewarding sometimes. It’s not too late to cultivate an appreciation for the unexciting value of Marvin Jones.
34. Jarvis Landry, Browns
He’s six games into his NFL career and hasn’t missed a game. Still, it’s slightly worrisome that Landry had hip surgery in early February.
We should probably worry about a dip in targets, too. Landry hasn’t seen fewer than 131 targets in a season since he was a rookie. He had 138 targets last year, but Odell Beckham was playing hurt, and new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has a reputation of being run-heavy.
A dip in targets paired with a dip in efficiency could make Landry a bit of a value trap. He averaged 8.5 yards per target in 2019 after averaging 7.0 over his first five seasons. Say he averaged 7.0 yards per target on 130 targets. That works out to 910 yards – and we know Landry hasn’t exactly been a prolific TD scorer.
I started out about 7-8 spots higher on Landry during the rankings process, but I’m starting to get cold feet.
35. A.J. Green, Bengals
He missed all last year with an ankle injury, he missed almost half of 2018 with a toe injury, and he’s already dealt with a hamstring issue in training camp. Green is 32 now, and with the recent injury history, I’m just not interested in him at his ADP of WR30.
36. Diontae Johnson, Steelers
The 2019 rookie receiver class was a good one, and Johnson somehow led the class with 59 receptions despite the Steelers’ QB situation turning into a dumpster fire after an elbow injury knocked Ben Roethlisberger out for the season. Johnson’s talent is legitimate, but the Steelers have a lot of promising pass catchers, and they probably aren’t going to be pass-happy this year since their defense should be among the best in the league. Don’t overpay.
37. Anthony Miller, Bears
After Taylor Gabriel sustained a season-ending injury in Week 12, Miller’s stat lines in Chicago’s next three games were 9-140-0, 3-42-1 and 9-118-1. (He then laid an egg in Week 16 and barely played in Week 17.) Gabriel is gone, so Miller should be a full-timer in 2020. Talented and able to play outside or in the slot, he’s an appealing third-year breakout candidate.
38. Christian Kirk, Cardinals
I like this guy and want to like him even more, but I’m not sure we get the inevitable Kirk breakout in 2020. The offseason arrival of target hog DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t necessarily kill Kirk’s fantasy value, but the combined presence of Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald is problematic. Better to jump on the Kirk bandwagon in 2021, when Fitz is (presumably) retired, sipping mai tais on a beach somewhere, allowing Kirk to become a full-time slot receiver.
39. Julian Edelman, Patriots
It’s not that Edelman is 34. It’s not that the injuries – knee, shoulder, ribs, foot – have been piling up in recent years. The reason Edelman ranks well below ADP and expert consensus for me is the departure of Tom Brady.
The appeal of having Edelman on your roster was getting those games where Brady targeted him 16 times and Edelman had 12 or 13 catches for 140 yards. If you had Edelman on your roster in that kind of a week (especially in a PPR league), you almost felt as if you were cheating. If you were going against Edelman in that kind of a week, you wanted to throw your shoe through the TV screen as you watched the receptions and yardage pile up.
Will we see those types of games out of Edelman now that Cam Newton will be quarterbacking the Patriots? Unlikely. The Brady-Edelman chemistry was the product of thousands of reps and hundreds of practices. It takes years for a quarterback and wide receiver to sync up to the degree that Brady and Edelman had. Newton and Edelman won’t have that mutual sense of timing. Newton has always been more of a “see it, throw it” passer than an anticipatory passer.
It’s hard to envision any 12- or 13-catch games for Edelman this year, and without that high weekly upside, it’s going to be hard for him to return a profit even on a WR3 price.
40. Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
Most fantasy analysts who do player rankings also do stat projections. I don’t do stat projections, and players like Hardman are the reason why.
A set of 2020 projections for the Chiefs will have Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins playing a full or nearly full season, and if that happens, it’s hard to project Hardman for significantly more than the 41 targets he had last season. And if Hardman has 50 or fewer targets, it’s going to be nearly impossible to finish as a top-40 receiver – especially when his 2019 efficiency numbers (20.7 yards per catch, 13.1 yards per target) are unsustainable.
But what if Kelce goes down? What if Sammy Watkins has foot problems again? What if Tyreek Hill gets hurt or has a new set of legal problems? Any disruption to the Chiefs’ pass-catching hierarchy would almost surely mean greater opportunity for Hardman, and we saw last year how electrifying this dude can be. Put the ball in his hands and try to follow the blur.
Just one injury to a Kansas City pass catcher could turn Hardman into a weekly must-start. John Daigle of Rotoworld compared Hardman to a straight-flush draw in poker: He doesn’t have much tangible value at the moment, but there are lot of “outs” that could give Hardman’s fantasy managers a huge hand.
41. Jalen Reagor, Eagles
It’s hard to rank the rookie receivers for redraft leagues, but Reagor is my favorite at the moment. The Eagles’ offense had a screaming need for a speedy outside receiver, and Reagor brings the goods. He’s also reportedly tearing up his first NFL training camp.
42. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys
Lamb was my favorite rookie receiver going into the NFL draft. (For an idea of what he’s capable of, just Google “Lamb Oklahoma-Texas 2019” … sorry, Longhorns fans.) It’s not ideal that he’ll have to share targets with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, but it doesn’t suck that Lamb will be catching passes from Dak Prescott.
43. John Brown, Bills
Seemingly past the health issues related to the sickle cell trait that troubled him during the latter part of his four-year run with the Cardinals, Brown topped the 1,000-yard mark last season and managed to average 9.2 yards per target – which is a hell of a feat when so many of those “targets” are errant throws from Josh Allen.
The arrival of Stefon Diggs kills some of the appeal, but Brown is a talented dude with home-run capability, and he could offer value if he starts sliding in your draft.
44. Mike Williams, Chargers
He would have ranked 5-6 spots higher, but a shoulder injury leaves his Week 1 availability in doubt. Once healthy, Williams could be hindered by subpar QB play. The talent is intoxicating, but Williams isn’t a buy for me this year.
45. Sterling Shepard, Giants
It’s hard to sort out the Giants’ top three receivers in terms of fantasy value. Whichever way you want to order them, I’m not sure I can make a compelling argument against you. For me, it’s kind of a “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” thing: Tate is too old, Slayton is too young, and Shepard is just right.
Well, it’s not just that, and I don’t know that any of these guys are “just right.” Tate may end up the most valuable because he’s likely to get the most slot snaps, and we know that slot usage can be a path to fantasy value. But I like that Shepard was targeted 83 times in his 10 games last year and seemed to be the crutch on which young QB Daniel Jones leaned.
46. Henry Ruggs III, Raiders
In a draft loaded with WR talent, Ruggs was the first receiver to come of the board, going to the Raiders with the 12th pick. The consensus was that Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb would have been better choices for Oakland. Maybe that’s why Ruggs has been getting surprisingly little love in dynasty rookie drafts, often falling to the late first or early second round.
Ruggs never had more than 46 catches or 746 receiving yards in any of his three seasons at Alabama, but he scored 25 touchdown on 98 career receptions and two carries – so he found pay dirt 1 out of every 4 times he touched the ball. Ruggs has freaky, Tyreek Hill-caliber speed, and if you’ve seen the highlight reel from his high school basketball days, you know how athletic he is. I don’t mind betting on a guy with this much big-play potential late in a draft.
47. Preston Williams, Dolphins
After inexplicably going undrafted last year, Williams put up a 32-428-3 stat line in eight games before tearing his ACL. He’s reportedly looked good in training camp and is on track to play in Week 1, so there may be less of an injury discount than speculators might have hoped.
48. Golden Tate, Giants
You know the deal: limited ceiling, sturdy floor. It’s not a sexy profile, but in the year of COVID-19, a receiver who has a good chance to get you at least 10 PPR points in any given week might be more valuable than he would be otherwise.
49. Deebo Samuel, 49ers
Samuel was so good and so entertaining as a rookie that it was a gut punch when we learned in the offseason that he’d suffered a Jones fracture in his foot. Not only did he post a 57-802-3 season as a receiver, he rushed for 224 yards over his last eight games (playoffs included).
Were it not for the foot injury, I probably would have had Samuel grouped with some of the other promising young WR2s – maybe somewhere between Courtland Sutton and Michael Gallup. The 49ers are reportedly “hopeful” Samuel will be able to suit up in Week 1, but foot injuries are worrisome, and it’s usually prudent to fade injury optimism in fantasy football.
50. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers
As a one-year wonder from a Pac-12 school, Aiyuk wouldn’t have been that enticing to me if not for the Deebo Samuel foot injury. There could be a significant role for Aiyuk right away, but he’s dealing with a hamstring injury as of this writing. If there’s any word that Aiyuk’s Week 1 availability is in doubt, I’ll immediately drop him at least 10 spots.
51. Breshad Perriman, Jets
A first-round pick of the Ravens in 2015, Perriman was vexed by injuries early in his career before showing life late in the 2018 season for the Browns. He then exploded last December for the Buccaneers, catching 25 passes for 506 yards and five TDs over his last five games as Chris Godwin and Mike Evans dealt with injuries.
Perriman has an excellent chance to emerge as the No. 1 receiver for Sam Darnold, who could be on the verge of a breakout. But beware: Perriman will face a murderers’ row of opposing cornerbacks over the first half of the season, so it could be a bumpy ride early on.
52. Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
Jeudy fans couldn’t have been pleased with his landing spot. He’ll have to share targets with Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and fellow rookie K.J. Hamler, and young QB Drew Lock might not be ready to elevate his pass catchers after only five NFL starts. Jeudy is a first-rate prospect, but we might not get much fantasy value out of him in Year 1.
53. Emmanuel Sanders, Saints
Some rankers have Manny as a top-40 receiver. He’s had a nice career, but I’m finding it hard to be enthusiastic about a 33-year-old who’ll have to subsist on Michael Thomas’s leftovers.
54. Darius Slayton, Giants
A relatively unheralded member of last year’s rookie WR class, this fifth-round pick from Auburn had 48 catches for 740 yards and eight TDs. Slayton had two TD catches in three different games, including a 10-121-2 outing against the Jets and a 5-154-2 performance against the Eagles.
It was an impressive debut, but Slayton packed a lot of his production into a handful of games, and his “meh” college numbers make me wonder if his rookie season was somewhat illusory. I suspect I won’t end up with him in any of my drafts.
55. Justin Jefferson, Vikings
The rookie from LSU had 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs in his final season in Baton Rouge and was a first-round selection of the Vikings, who had a big need at receiver after dealing away Stefon Diggs. So what’s not to like?
Well, one potential issue is that Jefferson was used almost exclusively as a slot receiver at LSU, and the Vikings might not have a lot of slot snaps available, since they don’t use as many three-WR sets as other teams, and since they’ve given Adam Thielen slot snaps in the past. There’s target opportunity for Jefferson, but there’s also some square-peg potential here.
56. Jamison Crowder, Jets
He’s never had 850 receiving yards in a single season, and he’s scored 20 touchdowns in 72 career games, yet there’s enthusiasm for Crowder every year. He’s a 177-pound slot receiver whose best-ever fantasy finish in half-point PPR scoring was WR30. No thanks.
57. Sammy Watkins, Chiefs
I know, I know. He’s let us down every which way over the last six years. But Watkins is a big, fast former first-round pick who plays with the best pure passer in football, Patrick Mahomes. That’s worth something, right?
No? OK … let’s just move on.
58. Laviska Shenault, Jaguars
This is one of my favorite ways to spend a late-round pick. I fell in love with Shenault when he was a sophomore at Colorado. He’s a 227-pound brute who’s tough to bring down and faster than his timed speed. Shenault can line up anywhere – out wide, in the slot, at running back, as a wildcat QB. I don’t think it’s going to take much time for Shenault to establish himself as the Jaguars’ No. 2 pass-catching threat behind D.J. Chark. Get in on the ground floor, because I think Shenault is going to be a fun player to have on your roster.
59. Curtis Samuel, Panthers
Samuel finished in the top 10 in air yards last season but ended the season with only 627 receiving yards. That’s what happens when those air yards are coming from the likes of Kyle Allen and Will Grier. It’s an abnormality that suggests Samuel is due for a breakout this season, and maybe he is, except …
Well, Teddy Bridgewater might be a below-average starting quarterback, and he’s never been a vertical passer. D.J. Moore is a star. The Panthers brought in Robby Anderson in the offseason. There simply might be too many obstacles blocking the path to a Samuel breakout.
60. Allen Lazard, Packers
He’s Green Bay’s No. 2 receiver by default. Even though I’m a Packers fan, I still have no idea whether Lazard is any good. But Aaron Rodgers seems to like him, and that counts for a lot, since Rodgers has been known to freeze out receivers he doesn’t trust.
61. Parris Campbell, Colts
Hamstring injury, abdominal strain, broken hand, broken foot – Campbell’s rookie season was an injury-plagued mess. A second-round pick from Ohio State, Campbell has lethal 4.3 speed, and at 6-0, 205 pounds, he’s not small. Campbell is likely to be the Colts’ primary slot receiver, and he’s very inexpensive in drafts right now.
62. N’Keal Harry, Patriots
Harry had a nice prospect profile coming out of Arizona State, but his rookie season was a washout due largely to ankle and hamstring injuries. The 6-2, 228-pound Harry has good hands, he was terrific at the catch point in college, and he’s surprisingly nimble after the catch, even though he lacks exceptional speed. It’s still unclear what sort of pro he’s going to be, but his size and his first-round draft capital make it tempting to toss a coin in the wishing well.
63. Michael Pittman Jr., Colts
Remember Vincent Jackson? He was a big, fast receiver who had six 1,000-yard seasons over a seven-year stretch from 2008 to 2014. His first three 1,000-yard seasons were with the Chargers, and Philip Rivers was always happy to throw downfield to big V-Jax and let him use his size to try to make a play. Pittman might be Rivers’ new Vincent Jackson.
Jackson was 6-5. Pittman is 6-4 and not quite as fast, but he’s known for his physicality and terrific hands. If the kid can make a few plays for Rivers early on, maybe the old quarterback will keep throwing to him.
The Colts figure to be run-heavy, and T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell are vying for targets too, but I think Rivers is really going to like Pittman.
64. James Washington, Steelers
Washington is sort of an odd duck – a vertical receiver who isn’t especially fast and is built more like a running back than a wideout. Like Dionte Johnson, Washington turned in a pretty good season in 2019 despite the lousy quarterbacking the Steelers got after Ben Roethlisberger went down. Washington averaged 16.7 yards per catch and 9.2 yards per targets – impressive numbers when you’re trying to catch balls from Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
There’s a lot of target competition in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers might not throw the ball around a lot this season. It might take an injury to another receiver for Washington to pop.
65. John Ross, Bengals
The Bengals have a crowded WR room with Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, Auden Tate, rookie Tee Higgins and Ross. That sort of intramural target competition discourages investments in the lower-rung guys, but man, Ross is a big play waiting to happen.
His 2017 rookie season was a disaster, and he’s dealt with a litany of injuries since entering the league, but Ross has scored 10 TDs in 21 games over the last two years, and in 2019 he averaged 18.1 yards per catch. In deeper leagues, I don’t mind making an investment in a dude with 4.2 speed.
66. Robby Anderson, Panthers
Carolina seemed to be a curious free-agency destination for Anderson, who would appear to be caught in a target squeeze with D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel already on hand. But Anderson had played for new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule at Temple. When Anderson was dismissed for failing to meet academic standards, Rhule fought for Anderson’s reinstatement, convincing Temple to change a punitive policy that made students wait five years before they could return to the university after an academic dismissal.
It’s a nice story, but the target squeeze remains. I’m down on Anderson’s fantasy value, but Rhule might be motivated to keep him involved in the offense.
67. Steven Sims, Washington
An undrafted free agent from Kansas, Sims got a chance to be Washington’s slot man after the coaching staff realized Trey Quinn wasn’t any good, and Sims had 20-234-4 over the last four games of the season. He’s small (5-9, 184) and slow (4.61), but Sims has route-running moxie. He also has ample opportunity on a team that has little at wide receiver beyond Terry McLaurin.
68. Randall Cobb, Texans
Apparently Cobb is magnetically drawn to star quarterbacks. He spent the first eight years of his career with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, played with Dak Prescott in Dallas last year, and now joins Deshaun Watson in Houston. Cobb had 55-823-3 for the Cowboys last year and could be similarly useful to the Texans.
69. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
It’s been wrongly said before, but this is probably the last ride for this future Hall of Famer. Last year he turned 109 targets into a 75-804-4 stat line. Fitz may not see 100 targets if DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk stay healthy all year, but he should still be able to provide useful depth in PPR leagues.
70. Corey Davis, Titans
I suppose we can still hope that Davis follows the DeVante Parker career path and eventually starts paying off on a first-round draft investment. But Davis has been a bust to date, and now A.J. Brown is the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Tennessee. Davis looks like the clear No. 2, but that might not mean much on one of the NFL’s run-heaviest teams.