Fantasy Football Steals – Wide Receivers – 2020
A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Green has been putting up 1,000 yard receiving seasons almost every year since coming into the league in 2011 making once again on the radar for a fantasy football steal at the wide receiver position. The last two years however have been riddled with controversy and an ankle injury that wouldn’t go away. Fantasy football is a season by season evaluation and it’s all about what you can squeeze out of a player for 16 games.
The Bengals franchised Green for the 2020 season and reports are his ankle is fully healed. He’ll be 32 heading into the season so you can’t blame him for wanting his last long-term contract. On the flipside, you can understand why the Bengals don’t want to give him one. Joe Burrow will go the Green early and often so expect a ton a targets. When healthy Green is a top ten fantasy wide receiver so the question you must ask yourself is, do you feel lucky?
Don’t forget to check out our other Steals of the Draft!
Cooper Kupp – Los Angeles Rams
Kupp exploded last season becoming the primary wideout on the Los Angeles Rams and a legitimate #1 wide receiver in fantasy football. The signs were there after the previous season was cut short after 8 games. He was on pace for 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TD’s. Kupp is Goff’s most comfortable target. He has great hands and catches just about everything and many he probably shouldn’t. He placed in the top ten in fantasy points per week at the wide receiver position in 2019.
This season begins with some new faces, but one thing that will not change is Goff seeking out Kupp as his first option. Kupp is remarkably consistent for a wide receiver. In 10 of his 16 games he put up 9 or more fantasy points and scored in 9 of 16. Some receiver’s blowup three or four games a year (Mike Evans style!). Kupp’s week to week consistency moves him up the rankings. Are you going to pick Kupp over Michael Thomas, Julio Jones or Tyreek Hill? Of course not. If you go with two running backs or a quarterback/running back combo with your first two picks, then finding a steal at the wide receiver position is paramount. Kupp is a gem in the 3rd or later rounds.
Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons
Ridley has put together two very nice, almost statistically identical, seasons to start off his NFL career. He snagged 63 receptions on 93 targets for 866 yards and 7 TD’s last season. At 10.3 fantasy points per week that puts him clearly in the top 20 and in the same conversation as guys like Amari Cooper, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, all of which averaged only slightly more fantasy points per week.
Hill and Adams would have cost you a first or late second round pick whereas Ridley was a mid-round pick. Ridley doesn’t get the attention that teammate Julio Jones gets (with good reason) but that doesn’t mean he isn’t impactful. The Falcons will continue to throw the ball 40+ times a game Ridley will get 6-8 of those.
DK Metcalf – Seattle Seahawks
Metcalf is a beast of a player at 6’4” 229 pounds. He also happens to be one of the fastest guys on the field and wreaks havoc on defensive backs. Being under the radar isn’t really his style. Instead Metcalf seeks out defenders so he can run them over, or if he’s in the mode, stiff arm them into next week. Metcalf had his struggles early, typical for any rookie. He finished with 7 drops and a reception to target conversion rate of only 58%. At seasons end, Metcalf finished with 900 receiving yards and 7 TD’s (spread over six games). He should emerge, ever so slightly as the Seahawks #1 receiver and fit into a #2 fantasy receiver slot.
A.J. Brown – Tennessee Titans
The offensive strategy for the Tennesse Titans is beginning to take shape. Find abusive (in the football sense people!) running backs and wide receivers who are big, strong and love to pound the rock. A.J. Brown fits the mold perfectly. He punishes tacklers and seeks out an isolated defensive back to plow over before taking a simple crossing route to the house.
Coupled with a top ten offensive line, they’re poised along with Baltimore and Kansas City to make a Super Bowl run. Not many rookie receivers make an impact, but Brown was one of two exceptions last season. The second-round pick from Ole Miss lead the team with 52 receptions, 1,051 receiving yards and 8 TD’s. A whopping 20.2 yards per reception was good enough for 2nd overall in the NFL. Expect more of the same coming into 2020 with another off-season of work and a full season of Ryan Tannehill under center. Brown fits into a #2 WR category.
Michael Gallup – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offense has room for two number one wide receivers and by years end, Gallop may have a better fantasy season than Amari Cooper. In fact, if you average out Gallup’s 14 games played to 16 games last season, he could have had more receiving yards than Cooper. Along with 6 TD’s (although 3 came in week 17) and a 16.8 yards per catch average, Gallop and Cooper averaged the same fantasy points per week. Gallop will cost you a 4th or 5th round pick and Cooper will cost you a 2nd rounder. Cooper and newcomer CeeDee Lamb will draw a lot of attention, making Gallop and excellent choice as a #2 wide receiver.
Terry McLaurin – Washington Redskins
While A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf got the early press, Terry McLaurin was scoring TD’s. McLaurin started the season averaging 85 yards and a score in his first three games. The typical grind that weighs on rookies and questionable quarterback play through the middle of the season took its toll and he had some forgettable games (about the time fantasy owners had the guts to start him). McLaurin has no fear of tough catches over the middle and puts his body at risk, youth will do that to you I suppose, but two extra catches a game can be the difference in a fantasy win.
McLaurin was targeted almost twice as much as the next wide receiver on the roster and we could easily be looking at 120+ targets next season. Another offseason of work with Dwayne Haskins Jr should help improve his 62% reception to target conversion rate. The sample size for the 2020 starters is small but in the last three games of 2019, with Haskins Jr under center, McLaurin cleaned up. He averaged 91 yards per game and scored twice. The choice to go with the #1 wide receiver on an average passing team versus the #2 wide receiver on a high-volume passing team is always a gamble. In this case, McLaurin will be highly targeted and have second half bonanzas as the Redskins are trying to mount a comeback.
Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton – New York Giants
The trio of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton had similar statistical seasons in 2019 with the New York Giants. Each missed several games but oddly enough ended the season with 84, 85 and 83 targets respectively. Not to mention Evan Engram with 68 targets and Saquon Barkley with 73 targets. Even Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler had 42 and 36 targets each. This is a fantasy managers nightmare as Daniel Jones has already learned to spread the ball around.
Averaging out stats based on a 16 games season is a bit presumptuous I understand but it does shed light on what could have been. After the exercise, Shepard could have had 921 receiving yards and 5 TD’s, Tate 983 receiving yards and 9 TD’s and Slayton 845 receiving yards and 9 TD’s. So that clears it up right? Golden Tate makes catches in tight spaces and wiggles through traffic for extra yards. Shepard also has great hands and excellent elusiveness after the catch.
After watching several films of Giants games last season, besides Slayton’s three big games, he was relatively unnoticed. 50% of his yards and 75% of his TD’s occurred in three games. Two of the three games, Shepard wasn’t in the lineup. Slayton isn’t a consideration for your fantasy roster this year. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate will be strategic #2 fantasy receivers and good #3 or flex-position plays. The Giants throw the ball a ton and Daniel Jones is showing he can handle the load.