Fantasy Football: Breaking down the NFL wide receivers projected to go over 1,000 yards in 2020

The 2019 season was remarkably productive for NFL wide receivers — a whopping 25 cracked 1,000 receiving yards, the most in a season since 2001. Amassing 1,000 receiving yards has become a requirement to earn fantasy WR1 or WR2 status in recent years. Among last season’s PPR top-24 WRs, only Davante Adams failed to break the century mark — and he came up just short with 997.

PFF’s data science team designed a machine-learning algorithm built upon PFF’s exclusive player data to create season-long fantasy football projections. The model projects a sizable 23 wide receivers to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in 2020.

Let's dig into all 23 to consider their chances of joining the 1,000-yard club in 2020.

Locks for 1,000 receiving yards 

The following eight WRs are truly elite fantasy options and virtual locks to reach 1,000 receiving yards.

Julio Jones (1,628)

The efficiency metric of yards per route run may as well be named after Julio — he has led all WRs in that category in five of the last seven years and never ranked outside the top five. Jones and Thomas were the only players to have more than 40 catches of at least 15 yards last season. Book it.

Michael Thomas (1,541)

Do not overthink this one. Thomas just set the NFL record with 149 catches in a season while also recording the league’s best efficiency at 2.88 yards per route run. He is the undisputed WR1.

Mike Evans (1,426)

Over his six NFL seasons, Mike Evans has never had less than 1,000 receiving yards. Expect the streak to reach seven-straight, as the Bruce Arians aerial attack creates more than enough volume to support both Godwin and Evans. While Evans only caught 59% of his passes in 2019, he still averaged 2.30 yards per route run (seventh-most) due to his big-play ability — Evans had 32 catches of 20-plus yards last season (sixth-most).

Chris Godwin (1,420)

The god himself comes off a breakout season as PFF’s reigning highest-graded WR in the entire league. Godwin is the NFL’s premier slot receiver, where he racked up 838 of his receiving yards (second-most) in just 14 games. Since 2016, Tom Brady has 6,041 passing yards to slot receivers — 443 more than any other quarterback. Giddy up.

Kenny Golladay (1,408)

Golladay blossomed in his third season to become the league’s best receiver on contested catches, where he hauled in a league-high 26 balls for 429 yards.  It feels like Golladay has already broken out, considering he finished as the WR9 last season, yet he had only 65 catches on 113 targets. With the return of healthy Matthew Stafford, Golladay is a strong bet to blow past last year’s 1,190 receiving yards and cement himself among the NFL’s premier pass-catchers. Imagine Golladay’s stats if and when he catches 80-90 balls.

Tyreek Hill (1,349)

Operating as the number one WR in a Patrick Mahomes passing attack has its perks. Hill only played in 12 games last season due to a broken collarbone, but when healthy he was wildly productive with an average of 2.45 yards per route run (fourth most among all WRs). Hill’s cheetah speed makes him a threat to take any catch to the house – he had six catches of 40-plus yards last season (sixth most).

Davante Adams (1,330)

The Packers' biggest offseason addition to their receiving corps was Devin Funchess, which means that Adams will once again be a target hog. He had 89 targets in Weeks 9-17 after returning from injury last season, second-most in the NFL and only four less than Michael Thomas. Adams is a legitimate favorite to lead the league in targets. He is also very efficient and averaged 2.33 yards per route run last season (sixth-most).

Allen Robinson (1,110)

Only three WRs had more than 80 targets in Weeks 9-17 last season: Thomas (93), Adams (89) and Robinson (88). Robinson is a target monster for the Bears, and that kind of volume should be an automatic 1,000 yards. He has overcome shoddy quarterback play his entire career — it's hard to believe that Nick Foles could be the best quarterback Robinson has ever played with. Robinson is a contested catch artist, racking up 40 since 2018 (third-most behind Julio and Golladay).

Should go over 1,000 receiving yards 

The following 10 wide receivers are strong bets to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in 2020. While these players are undeniably fantasy difference-makers, they all have a minor negative that could potentially prevent them from joining the 1,000-yard club.

A.J. Brown (1,217)

Brown took the NFL by storm in his rookie season, racking up 1,051 receiving yards on just 84 targets and 52 catches, averaging 2.67 yards per route run (third-most). He was a menace in the open field, with a colossal 8.9 yards after catch per reception (second-most). Brown made his money on monster plays with a league-high six catches of 50-plus yards — no other player had more than four. The concern for Brown is volume on a run-heavy offense. Brown’s home-run plays will likely regress, but he is an ascending player and due for an increase in targets.

DeAndre Hopkins (1,148)

It feels wrong to omit Hopkins from the lock category, but we can't overlook the unknown factor of a new team. Just look at the struggles of Odell Beckham Jr. in his first year with the Browns. As PFF's Ian Hartitz pointed out in his article analyzing the fantasy impact of players changing teams, Brandon Marshall is the only WR since 2010 to immediately turn in WR1 production in Year 1 with his new squad. Hopkins should be the second, but some caution is warranted. 

D.J. Moore (1,133)

What a second-year breakout for Moore, who recorded an 82.3 overall grade last season (12th-best) on 130 targets (ninth-most) in 15 games. The former first-round pick is a stud after the catch, as he forced 13 missed tackles in 2019 (seventh-most). His only uncertainty lies in the fact that there is a new QB in town with Teddy Bridgewater, who had the lowest average depth of target in the NFL at 6.1 yards last season.

Odell Beckham Jr. (1,119)

Even in an embattled and injury-riddled first season with the Browns, Beckham still labored his way to 1,035 receiving yards. Efficiency was a massive problem, as he averaged a career-low 1.81 yards per route run (33rd) despite seeing a hefty 130 targets. With the capable Kevin Stefanski taking over play-caller duties, Beckham is a strong bounce-back candidate. 

Adam Thielen (1,090)

With Stefon Diggs in Buffalo, Thielen is now the leader of Minnesota’s passing attack with minimal competition for targets. Thielen’s fantasy stock is down after an injury-plagued 2019 season, but remember that he had over 1,200 receiving yards in both 2017 and 2018. He averaged 2.20 yards per route run in those two seasons (eighth) and had 60 catches of 15-plus yards (seventh). Thielen proved he was over that pesky hamstring injury by pasting the Saints for seven catches and 129 yards in the Vikings' playoff victory. A healthy Thielen should easily exceed 1,000 yards.

Terry McLaurin (1,085)

McLaurin joined elite company by recording an 85.7 overall grade (sixth-best) in his rookie season. The only others to earn a PFF grade above 85.0 as rookies? Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr. and Keenan Allen. The sky is the limit for McLaurin. His only question marks are those surrounding Dwayne Haskins.

Keenan Allen (1,080)

Allen is a beacon of consistency currently riding a three-year streak of 1,000 yards. He has 101 catches of 15-plus yards since 2017 (third-most), behind only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. His injury year notwithstanding, Allen has averaged over 2.0 yards per route run in every season since 2015. Widely regarded as one of the NFL’s best route-runners, Allen would be in the lock category if it were not for the departure of Philip Rivers. 

Calvin Ridley (1,066)

One of the fantasy community’s favorite breakout candidates, Ridley is primed to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Atlanta’s passing offense is going to run through its two outside WRs in Jones and Ridley — Matt Ryan has a league-high 537 pass attempts to outside WRs since 2018, 72 more than anyone else. Still, the possibility of Julio hogging too many targets is a potential roadblock to Ridley reaching 1,000 yards.

Amari Cooper (1,063)

The Cowboys passing attack ascended to new heights in 2019, and Cooper’s excellence was a major contributing factor. His 84.1 overall grade (ninth-best) and 2.29 yards per route run (eighth) were both career highs, as Cooper blossomed into the alpha receiver on an offense that averaged 432 yards per game, most in the NFL. Cooper’s chief obstacle to 1,000 yards is the presence of Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, but neither is likely to challenge him as the Cowboys’ No. 1 option just yet. 

Courtland Sutton (1,044)

Sutton was another second-year breakout who blew up with an increased workload, jumping from 79 to 115 targets in Year 2. He was extremely efficient, with 2.08 yards per route run (12th), and excelled at the deep ball, racking up 427 receiving yards on throws beyond 20-plus yards downfield (sixth-most). A crowded receiving room and the unproven Drew Lock are slight drawbacks for Sutton. 

Risk to fall below 1,000 yards

The following five wide receivers are projected to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, but each has at least one concerning factor working against him. This is the group most at risk of falling below 1,000 yards. 

Tyler Lockett (1,095)

As crazy as it may seem, Lockett joined the 1,000-yard club for the first time in 2019. He is immensely talented (see his catch vs. the Rams) and recorded an 81.9 overall grade (13th) last season. The Wilson-to-Lockett connection has generated a stellar 127.8 passer rating since 2015 (first among all WRs with 100 targets). The only concern for Lockett is Pete Carroll’s affinity for the run and stubborn refusal to let Russ cook. The Seahawks had 481 rush attempts last season (third-most), compared to 517 pass attempts (23rd). Lockett ranks as the consensus WR22.

Cooper Kupp (1,078)

Kupp’s 2019 season was a tale of two halves. He was the Rams’ No. 1 option Weeks 1-8 with a team-high 29% target share. After the Week 9 bye, Kupp’s target share plummeted to 17% the rest of the way. Which iteration of the Rams’ offense we see in 2020 is a major unknown right now, putting Kupp at risk of coming in 1,000 yards. Kupp ranks as the consensus WR21. 

T.Y. Hilton (1,077)

Injuries stymied Hilton last season, as he limped to a 45-501 receiving line in 10 games. He wasn't all that productive even when on the field, averaging only 1.82 yards per route run (31st). The big-play ability just wasn't there for Hilton — he had 87 receiving yards in Week 1 but failed to top that mark in any game the rest of the season. Fantasy owners seem to have forgotten that Hilton was a monster as recently as 2018 when he averaged 2.54 yards per route run (fourth-most), and a return to stardom is certainly possible, especially with Philip Rivers likely to elevate his play. However, Hilton will be 31 years old in November — he ranks as the consensus WR26. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster (1,046)

The Steelers offense was cheeks without Ben Roethlisberger in 2019, and Smith-Schuster’s injury woes certainly did not help matters. He broke out in 2018 with a 111-1,426 receiving line on 161 targets while averaging 2.08 yards per route run (18th). A healthy Big Ben will go a long way toward getting Smith-Schuster back to his 2018 form, but that is no guarantee. Additionally, Diontae Johnson and James Washington are going to siphon targets. Smith-Schuster is a strong rebound candidate, but there are concerning factors working against him in 2020. He currently ranks as the consensus WR15.

DeVante Parker (1,011)

Largely written off as a first-round bust, Parker had his long overdue breakout last season with 1,202 receiving yards and a WR11 fantasy finish. Parker went nuts after Preston Williams got hurt and racked up 802 receiving yards (second-most) and five touchdowns from Week 10 on while working as the apple of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s eye. The upside is there for Parker, but whether he can maintain that level of productivity with Williams on the field is a major question. Further, Tua Tagovailoa is likely to take the reigns from Fitzpatrick at some point this season, and his chemistry with Parker is a major unknown. Parker ranks as the consensus WR28.

The following is the full list of all 23 wide receivers projected for more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2020.

Wide Receiver Projected Receiving Yards
Julio Jones 1,628
Michael Thomas 1,541
Mike Evans 1,426
Chris Godwin 1,420
Kenny Golladay 1,408
Tyreek Hill 1,349
Davante Adams 1,330
A.J. Brown 1,217
DeAndre Hopkins 1,148
D.J. Moore 1,133
Odell Beckham Jr. 1,119
Allen Robinson II 1,110
Tyler Lockett 1,095
Adam Thielen 1,090
Terry McLaurin 1,085
Keenan Allen 1,080
Cooper Kupp 1,078
T.Y. Hilton 1,077
Calvin Ridley 1,066
Amari Cooper 1,063
Juju Smith-Schuster 1,046
Courtland Sutton 1,044
DeVante Parker 1,011

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