Fantasy Football Longshots – Wide Receivers – 2020
Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook – Jacksonville Jaguars
The co-number two receivers for the Jaguars each have one glaring flaw. Chris Conley had a very low reception to target conversion rate (52%) in 2019 but does more with each catch (16.8 yards per catch). Conley is a big target which certainly garnered more attention in Jacksonville than in Kansas City with career highs in every meaningful category. We must also keep in mind the conversion rate is a tandem effort but is interesting how different three receivers (Chark Jr included) on the same team can be over the course of a season.
Dede Westbrook had a high reception to target conversion rate (65%) but did much less with them (10.0 yards per catch). Westbrook is very active after each catch but doesn’t seem to get much additional yardage for his efforts. It is fun to watch as he weaves through congestion on the screen pass but so far, the big play has been elusive. The outlook for Conley and Westbrook is injury based. If Chark Jr, Conley or Westbrook go down, it’s logical to believe that the other two will snag the remaining targets. If all three are on the field, then Chark Jr is the only reasonable fantasy starter. Laviska Shenault Jr comes in as a 2nd round pick and muddies the waters even more for Conley and Westbrook, but his impact will likely be felt next year.
Don’t forget to check out our other Fantasy Football Longshots!
Marquise Brown – Baltimore Ravens
Brown was the leading receiver, well at least the leading wide receiver, for the Baltimore Ravens in 2019. The 5’9” 170-pound 1st round pick had a huge start to the season with 147 yards and 2 TD’s in his first NFL game. Brown is the primary deep threat and has “take it to the house” ability from anywhere on the field. After week two, Brown topped 80 yards only once, had a few single digit games and even one negative two-yard output. He ended the season with 7 scores and for a rookie WR in a run dominated offense, that isn’t too shabby.
The question coming into 2020 is how many shots Jackson will take or need to take. The short RB/TE passing game is the staple of the offense and deep ball attempts are often not required, especially when you’re up by three TD’s in the second half. WR’s make great strides in years two and three and by then you usually know what their career will be like. You can’t teach speed and Brown has plenty of it. With Hayden Hurst traded to Atlanta there are about 40 targets in play, however Jackson likes to spread the ball around. Brown is worth an early season roster spot to see if targets are concentrated to fewer guys.
Preston Williams – Miami Dolphins
Williams was probably ecstatic to be drafted into the NFL and join the Dolphins in the tropical Miami climate. Who wants to play in the frozen tundra anyway? Williams is a beast at 6’5” who needed every inch to survive an obviously tanking Dolphins team in search of their next franchise QB. With limited opportunities, he demonstrated the ability to find space and get open, not to mention excellent sideline awareness. A big body like Williams expands the field a couple more yards as he can snag passes outstretched over the sideline. In 8 games, he had 60 targets with 428 yards and 3 scores.
It’s not as simple as doubling the output based on a full 16 games season, but 100 targets, close to 1,000 yards and 4-6 touchdowns is not unreasonable. Unless major improvements are made to the offensive line and defensive unit, expect Miami to have a lot of second half comeback scenarios. DeVante Parker and Williams could get a lot of game situation opportunities to pad the stats. That’s really all we want in fantasy football, so a reserve bench spot is worth it early in the season to see how it plays out.
Cole Beasley – Buffalo Bills
The compact slot receiver from Buffalo had the typical tale of two seasons for a #2 WR on a run focused offense. At times the pass offense ran though Beasley, who is very shifty in traffic and makes the tough catches over the middle. He was Allen’s safety net and when needed reached double digit targets. Other games he disappeared with five or less. The yards per catch average is concerning. Beasley had only two 100 yard receiving games and one game with 8 receptions but only 48 yards. He did have two sets of three games in a row with a TD and matched Brown for the team lead.
The addition of Diggs really dampens expectations for Brown but Beasley I’m not so sure. He wasn’t on the verge of becoming a #1 WR anyway. He is solidified in the slot receiver role with two deep threats outside. Will that open the middle of the field for him? I think so and he will still be Allen’s go to guy under pressure. But let’s be clear, we are talking about Beasley’s usefulness as a #3 WR on the bye weeks of your top guys. I think there is a role for him on your fantasy bench and identifying match-ups that could be advantageous.
Mecole Hardman – Kansas City Chiefs
Hardman was a contributing factor for the Super Bowl champs as a rookie second round pick out of Georgia. He is as fast as anyone on the field. With Tyreek Hill also on the field your heartless not to be sympathetic for defenses who don’t have two track stars in their secondary. Hardman is of the few who can completely reverse the field when pinned 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and simply out run everyone. Most guys just lose another 10 yards. The final tally was 538 receiving yards, 6 TD’s and a whopping 20.7 yards per catch.
It’s all about opportunities in this offense and there are a lot of mouths to feed. Hardman is an all or nothing receiver. As a number three or four fantasy receiver, having five weeks with double digit fantasy points are golden and another two weeks over eight fantasy points is a pleasant surprise. The challenge comes in having 6 games with less than 2 fantasy points. Andy Reid will toss in the occasional jet sweep catching the D by surprise but it’s not a play call you can count on.
Demarcus Robinson had similar numbers as Hardman in 2019 but almost 50% of his yards (449) and 75% of his TD’s (4) came in a two-game span. Hardman is the more explosive and dynamic wide receiver. He is worth a roster spot to see if he can turn some of the goose-egg weeks into a minimal production so you can enjoy the 80-yard touchdown days.
Emmanuel Sanders – New Orleans Saints
Sanders has shuffled around the league during his 11-year career and now finds himself as the #2 wide receiver on the Super Bowl contending New Orleans Saints. After 4 injury riddled and certainly forgettable seasons, maybe it’s time for one last gas. Sanders peaked in 2014 as the featured receiver for the Denver Broncos but has struggled as of late.
For Sanders, health, not ability will determine his success. There will be plenty of balls to go around as the Saints running game, is largely a short passing game. Sanders is a sure handed slot receiver and should fit nicely into that scheme. Consistent #3 wide receiver numbers are well within the realm of possibility.
Christian Kirk – Arizona Cardinals
Kirk is the biggest wild card in the Arizona offense due to the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins. In his second season, Kirk emerged as the teams #2 wide receiver with 68 receptions on 107 targets for 709 receiving yards and 3 TD’s. He did this in only 13 games so extended for a full 16 games season, he becomes the Cardinals leading receiver.
Kirk is smaller receiver standing at 5’11” 200 pounds but makes up for it with toughness and sure hands, with only 4 drops (Fitzgerald had no drops so Kirk still has some work to do). With Hopkins on one side and Fitzgerald on the other, expect Kirk to find single coverage from the nickel or safety in the box. There may not be room for a viable third fantasy receiver in this Cardinals offense but if Hopkins or Fitzgerald are out of the lineup, then Kirk is a valuable fill in.
Michael Pittman Jr – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are heading in a different direction offensively and Michael Pittman Jr will be a center piece moving forward. Pittman Jr is a big body receiver, standing at 6’4” 223-pounds and regularly overpowers defensive backs. He’s been described as a defensive back coverage nightmare, especially around the goal line. He doesn’t have breakaway speed so I wouldn’t expect many 75 yards sprints for a score but once the wheels get going, he’ll run over a defensive back or two for another five yards.
Philip Rivers has had big receivers to play with most of his career like Vincent Jackson and more recently Mike Williams. Pittman Jr fits into the same mold. Rivers knows how to utilize the goal line jump ball and Pittman Jr has the tools to dominate in that role. He is a longshot to have fantasy value this season, but as Jacob Eason assumes the starting role, Pittman Jr will be on the 3rd year receiver breakout list.
Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
Davis is still young and has all the tools to be a good NFL WR but he took a step back in his third season. Tennessee drafted A.J. Brown and added Adam Humphries to shore up the wide receiver position. Along with the emergence of tight end Jonnu Smith, the competition for balls just got crowded and Davis was running routes with no reward.
By no means should we be giving up on Davis (though the Titans not picking up his 5th year option should tell you something), but the Titans do run the ball 50% of the time. The Titan’s defense keeps games in check so they’re rarely playing 2nd half catch-up. Davis is a longshot to maintain relevance in this offense.
Deebo Samuel – San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are clearly a running team but that doesn’t mean you can’t find value in the fantasy wide receiver position. Deebo Samuel had an outstanding rookie year. He stands at 6’0” 215 pounds but plays a lot bigger and is very aggressive after the catch.
The occasional end around attempts reap rewards as well. With 14 rushing attempts, Samuel converted for 159 rushing yards and 3 TD’s. Samuel compiled 57 receptions for 802 receiving yards for 3 additional TD’s. The foot injury to Samuel is a major blow to the 49ers passing offense. If Samuel can come back by mid-season, he is worth stashing on your bench for the fantasy playoffs.