Fantasy Football Under the Radar – WR – 2020
DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins
DeVante who? Parker came out of nowhere to have a career year in the fifty-car pileup that was the Dolphins offense last season. Five years in Miami and the highest output before 2019 was a 744-receiving yard, 4 TD sophomore year. At 6’ 3” 216 pounds, Parker dominates DB’s on jump balls, usually sourced from a QB running for his life.
Tua Tagovailoa will be better than any QB Parker has seen in his five years, but the usual rookie struggles will limit potential. He was highly targeted both in the short and long game and reached pay dirt 9 times. If you had the guts to acquire and start Parker during the fantasy playoffs, then Bravo! Week 15 with 72 yds and two scores and week 16 with 111 yds and another score, capped off a great fantasy stretch.
Don’t forget to check out our other Fantasy Football Under the Radar Players!
Brandin Cooks – Houston Texans
It’s difficult to understand what is going on in the mind of coach and general manager Bill O’Brian. Maybe he knows something we don’t and by midseason his trade of Deandre Hopkins and acquisition of Brandin Cooks will be considered the genius move of the offseason. The wins and losses are irrelevant in the fantasy world, so I’ll let others debate the changes at the wide receiver position and evaluate what is.
Cooks has been very productive in four of the last five years. The 2019 Los Angeles Rams season was rough on Cooks but the previous four he topped 1,000 yards in each and averaged 7 TD’s. Health is an issue for the entire Texans receiving core and Cooks is no exception. As much as Cooks appear on the injury report however, he rarely misses games. Cooks has played in 16 games four of the last five years and missed just two last season. O’Brian didn’t exactly make up for the production loss after trading Hopkins, but Cooks will get a huge share of Hopkins 150 targets.
Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
The future hall of famer is lacing up the cleats for at least one more season as Kyler Murray continues his maturing process as an NFL quarterback. 16-years with multiple 1,000 receiving yard and double-digit TD’s seasons makes Fitzgerald one of the top five receivers of all time. He’ll be 37 years old when the season starts and shows no physical signs of slowing down. His numbers have suffered over the last two years with Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray under center but he’s only three years removed from 1,156 receiving yards and 6 TD’s.
For a player with quite possibly the best hands the NFL has ever seen, Fitzgerald will be relegated to a #2 wide receiver role with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. This is a positive development for the fantasy prospects of Larry Fitzgerald. No longer will he be the single focus of pass defensive schemes and will have more opportunities to dice up one on one coverages. Despite having a rookie quarterback, the Cardinals threw the ball over 58% of the time. Even with the re-emergence of Kenyan Drake, the offense will live and die on the effectiveness of Kyler Murray right arm. They will continue to throw the ball a ton and Fitzgerald will receive plenty of targets to be a productive #2 wide receiver and a steal as your #3.
Allen Robinson II – Chicago Bears
It’s easy to overlook a player on a horrendous passing team and Allen Robinson II slid under the radar most of the last season. You never knew when a complete meltdown would occur with Trubisky under center and trusting Robinson II was a struggle. He has excellent hands and makes the tough catches.
Robinson II is fearless when going after bad throws (which was the norm) and is very good at setting up defenders to find a seam for the back-shoulder throw. If you would have said at beginning of the season that Robinson II would have a very statistically similar year as DeAndre Hopkins, Julian Edelman and Keenan Allen, you would have been laughed out of the fantasy draft room.
So, how will this season shake out with Nick Foles taking control. Foles is a short game manager and Robinson II is excellent off the snap and gets open early. We are looking at high targets with mid-range yards per catch. Last season, Robinson II earned 11.7 yards per catch which was below his career average of 13.4 yards per catch. His single phenomenal 2015 season raised the average quite a bit so the 11 yards per catch range is more likely than 13 plus. Robinson II is the clear number one target on the Bears and should easily produce #2 wide receiver numbers.
DJ Moore – Carolina Panthers
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears had a fewer yards per pass attempt than the Carolina Panthers last season. That’s pretty much sums up the productivity of the quarterback and wide receiver positions in Carolina. Newton squeezed out 2 games before injuries sidelined him for the season and ultimately his release. In comes Teddy Bridgewater to rejuvenate the passing game. Humm?
There is a bright spot however, and it’s DJ Moore. Despite a second-year quarterback with little work in his rookie year tossing the rock, Moore managed a top ten performance in receiving yards. Moore is sure handed and can break a big one, but they’re few and far between. When looking for a #2 or #3 fantasy wide receiver, volume is the key. Moore was targeted 10 or more times in 8 games last season with another 3 between 8 and 9. He is the incumbent go to receiver in Carolina and the addition of Robby Anderson won’t change that.
Jamison Crowder – New York Jets
If there was silver lining in the anemic Jets offense this season, it was Jamison Crowder. As a shifty over the middle dink and dunk slot receiver, Crowder lead the team in receptions, targets (19th in the league), receiving yards and TD catches.
The one sticking point is the 10.7 yards per catch average which only proves he is volume-based fantasy receiver. The exchange of Robby Anderson for Breshad Perriman is wash when it comes to Crowder. A guy who is on a team perpetually playing from behind, and high in targets, warrants a look as an under the radar #3 WR.
Chase Claypool – Pittsburgh Steelers
Rarely do rookie wide receivers have a major impact on their team let alone in the fantasy world, but Chase Claypool may be one of the exceptions this season. Claypool has the size of a tight end at 6’4” 238-pounds and the speed of a deep threat wide receiver with 4.42 40 speed. He’s able to catch balls in many locations and awkward angles.
Post catch it gets even better with aggressiveness and power which requires multiple tacklers to bring him down. Claypool’s success depends on the health of Ben Roethlisberger, but I’d expect Claypool to be lined up opposite Smith-Schuster day one with a quarterback who loves to throw deep.
Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams
Now that Brandin Cooks is out of the picture, Robert Woods becomes the teams clear #2 wide receiver, although statistically speaking, he surpassed Cooks two years ago. Like his counterpart Cooper Kupp, Woods has very reliable hands and runs the veteran route that leaves defensive backs spinning in circles.
Woods had only 4 drops last season and followed up his 2018 1,000-yard season with another in 2019. Kupp is monopolizing the TD’s but Woods had 5 and 6 respectively in his first two seasons in LA. Woods is a solid #2 fantasy receiver on a team that passes the ball 60% of the time.
Justin Jefferson – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings swiftly addressed the gap at the #2 wide receiver by selecting Justin Jefferson in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. Jackson comes out of LSU and reaped the benefits of a miraculous Joe Burrow season. He finished his college career with 1,540 receiving yards and 18 TD’s in his final season. Physically speaking, Jefferson has the build at 6’1” 202 pounds, to survive an NFL beating. Jackson should start immediately opposite Adam Thielen and has a good chance by mid-season to be a viable #3 fantasy receiver.
Sammy Watkins – Kansas City Chiefs
Watkins lit the waiver wire on fire after his huge week one game where he raked in 198 yards and 3 TD’s. Happy days are here again was tune everyone who got to the wire first was singing. By mid-season, fantasy managers were singing the blues and if you clung to hope that Watkins would explode one last time for your fantasy playoff push, you instead found yourself weeping in your recliner screaming why! After the dust cleared, Watkins first game account for 30% of his total receiving yards and the only scores of the year.
So how do we evaluate 2020 expectations? All hope is not lost. Watkins can still turn on the burners and beat defensive backs with speed and a quick hitch to get them turned around. By then the ball has arrived and he’s off to the races. He was targeted 79 more times after week one so it’s not like he wasn’t involved in the offense. His 54% reception to target conversion rate is less than desirable but he’s still the #2 WR for a team that will likely spread around about 5,000 yards.
The challenge is the best tight end in football and Tyreek Hill snagging half of those. Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are very capable as the #3 and #4 receivers, who combined for another 1,000 yards last season. If distribution plays out in a similar fashion as last year that leaves about 1,500 yards up for grabs. If running backs eat up about 500 yards (the Chiefs are not a huge screen team) that leaves 800-1,000 yards that could go Watkins way. He’s a stretch as a #2 WR but a worth a roster spot as your #3.