Fantasy News & Analysis

Undervalued fantasy football wide receivers in 2020

Wide receiver is the deepest position in fantasy football, and having so many great options available means that receivers will inevitably fall during fantasy football drafts, creating value for savvy fantasy owners. These value WRs offer an edge because the suppressed draft cost allows owners to target elite running backs first — then follow up in the middle rounds with wide receivers who can be solid contributors to a starting lineup.

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Chris Godwin, D.J. Moore, Kenny Golladay and Cooper Kupp serve as perfect examples of wide receivers taken later in 2019 fantasy drafts who vastly outperformed their ADP. I've identified five wide receivers as similar values heading into the 2020 season by comparing PFF's fantasy rankings and fantasy projections with June average draft position courtesy of BestBall10s.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

PFF Consensus Rank: WR17 | ADP: WR19

I have Courtland Sutton the highest among the PFF fantasy rankers — 12 spots higher than his ADP. I fully expect him to ascend in 2020 after finishing as the WR19 and PFF’s 11th highest-graded receiver (83.1) among those with at least 40 targets last season. He put up these excellent Year 2 numbers despite a quarterback carousel in Denver. 

Sutton ranked 12th in yards per route run (2.08), 21st in yards after the catch per reception (5.0), fourth in forced missed tackles (16) and fourth in receiving yards versus press coverage (585) among qualifying receivers.

Most forced missed tackles by wide receivers 2018-2019
D.J. Moore 30
Michael Thomas 29
Golden Tate 29
Odell Beckham Jr. 26
Chris Godwin 24
Courtland Sutton 22

Regardless of who was under center for the Broncos, Sutton was a major part of the offense. His overall target share of 23% ranked inside the top 10 of all wide receivers in 2019. He also owned the lion’s share of looks in the red zone with the eighth-highest target rate (26.3%) among receivers with at least nine red-zone targets.

Denver quarterbacks also targeted Sutton at a heavy percentage in the slot (25.3%), which was tied for seventh-highest among receivers with at least 90 snaps in the slot.

Drew Lock enters 2020 as the presumed starter after a five-week cameo to finish up 2019, and that should bode well for Sutton. He ranked 11th in the league in targets (39) with Lock under center, with a target share of 25%. In the five games that Lock started, Sutton was the WR13 in fantasy. He saw his only double-digit target performances with Lock as the starter. 

The addition of Jerry Jeudy can only help. The ultra-talented first-round pick is a natural in the slot, leaving Sutton to line up on the outside where he saw the eighth-most targets outside the numbers last season. Lock targeted Sutton heavily in this area, accounting for 42% of Sutton's targets outside the numbers in just a five-game stretch. Overall, Lock ranked 12th in passing attempts to receivers outside the numbers.

Sutton is currently being drafted around his fantasy finish in 2019, making his draft cost is his floor. The targets are going to be there, and if Lock can target Sutton downfield more — considering he ranked sixth in deep ball yardage (427) — he'll become a steal in the fourth round of drafts. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

PFF Consensus Rank: WR15 | ADP: WR14

JuJu Smith-Schuster has been one of the most heavily debated wide receivers this offseason. Entering last year, he was being mentioned among the elite tier of fantasy receivers — even being drafted in the first round of many fantasy drafts. Unfortunately, we never got to see him become the true No. 1 option in Pittsburgh due to injuries to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and those he suffered himself, resulting in a career-low PFF receiving grade (63.0).

It was not all bad for Smith-Schuster, as his 5.7 yards after the catch per reception ranked 10th among receivers with at least 60 targets. And things got off to a good enough start — when Roethlisberger was healthy during the first two weeks, Smith-Schuster averaged over 80 receiving yards per game.

The uncertainty around Roethlisberger’s status as a top-end quarterback is suppressing Smith-Schuster’s cost, but if Big Ben returns to form, he will surely be a huge boost to an offense that saw poor quarterback play for most of 2019.

If the emergence of rookie Diontae Johnson is suppressing Smith-Schuster's draft stock, the logic runs counter to what we've seen out of JuJu in previous years. A second mouth to feed in the Pittsburgh offense has never hurt him before. 

In his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster excelled out of the slot, where he led the NFL in receiving yards (1,342), ranked 10th in yards per route run (2.01), first in YAC per reception (7.4) and second in plays over 15 yards among receivers with at least 50 targets from the slot. During the same time frame, Antonio Brown was wreaking havoc on the outside, ranking eighth in the league in yards per route run (2.94) outside the numbers among receivers with at least 25 targets. As a rookie last year, Johnson ranked 10th in yards per route run (2.89) outside the numbers.

The emergence of Johnson as an outside receiver threatening defenses deep will only help Smith-Schuster return to his pre-2019 form. Remember that he's only a year removed from a 1,400-yard campaign. 

D.J. Chark Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

PFF Consensus Rank: WR22 | ADP: WR22

Last year, D.J. Chark silenced any doubters after an injury-riddled rookie season by going for 146 receiving yards Week 1 and becoming the most popular waiver wire target.

He ended up finishing the season as the WR18, but if you remove the last three weeks — in which Chark either missed games or was limited due to injuries — he was the WR14 and ranked top 10 in fantasy points per snap (0.29) among receivers that played at least 25% of their team’s snaps. During this period, he also ranked 22nd in yards per route run (1.84), fifth in forced missed tackles (11) and 12th in aDOT (13.1) among receivers who saw at least 80 targets.

Among receivers with at least 40 targets from outside the numbers, Chark had the fourth-most receiving yards (708), fourth-most receptions (51), second-most missed tackles forced (nine) and seventh-most passing plays over 15 yards — good enough to earn PFF's seventh-highest receiving grade (87.5). His grade increases to 90.4 and enters the top five if his injured games are removed.

WR grades outside the numbers in 2019 (minimum 40 targets)
Julio Jones 91.5
Amari Cooper 90.9
Calvin Ridley 90.8
Davante Adams 90.5
Michael Thomas 90.3
Tyreek Hill 90.1
D.J. Chark Jr. 87.5

Chark's strengths as a vertical receiver also fit perfectly with scrambling quarterback Gardner Minshew, which gives him upside as a WR1. Minshew earned the third-highest grade among quarterbacks throwing the ball 20-plus yards downfield in 2019. Because of his ability to scramble, Minshew can make off-script plays and target Chark downfield for chunk yardage.

The last three games of the season left a sour taste in fantasy owners’ mouths, but Chark has established himself as the clear No. 1 option in Jacksonville and his rapport with Minshew should not be overlooked. Outside the addition of Laviska Shenault Jr., the Jaguars are returning the same supporting cast, so Chark should continue to dominate the target share in 2020.

Among PFF's fantasy rankers, I'm the highest on Chark at WR17 — five spots above consensus and ADP. He's a great value selection in the late-fourth and early-fifth rounds of fantasy drafts.

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

PFF Consensus Rank: WR23 | ADP: WR33

Collectively, the PFF fantasy team is highest on Marquise Brown — more than any other receiver on the list.

Brown is poised to break out in 2020 after generating an NFL-high passer rating of 134.4 on his 65 targets in 2019 despite playing through injury. He accumulated over 550 receiving yards and scored seven touchdowns – six from the slot, which was tied for the most in the league. His fantasy points per snap (0.27) tied for 14th among receivers with at least 25% of snaps played. Brown put up all this production while playing less than 60% of the team’s snaps.

In the divisional playoff game, he went off for seven receptions and 126 receiving yards while seeing a season-high number of snaps (85). This might have been a glimpse of what Brown will do in 2020 considering his big-play upside and the fact his quarterback is the reigning MVP.

The current Baltimore Ravens depth chart is nothing special at the receiver position with Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and rookie Devin Duvernay. It's easy to see Brown leading the receiving corps in targets.

The team is also unlikely to repeat its league-leading 596 rushing attempts from 2019. Since 2010, the team that has led the NFL in rushing has seen its total rushing attempts decrease by 11% on average the following season. Any decline will create more passing volume for Brown in 2020, especially in negative game script scenarios.

Brown is a smash play selection with a sixth-round ADP.

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

PFF Consensus Rank: WR43 | ADP: WR46

Mike Williams is the only late-round wide receiver on this list, as he is being drafted outside the top 100 overall players. The market is down on Williams because of his quarterback situation and the Los Angeles Chargers projecting to have fewer passing attempts in 2020. As a starter, Tyrod Taylor has never averaged more than 30 attempts per game. Last season, the Chargers averaged 37 per game.

But Williams showed in 2019 that he can make the most of limited opportunities. He put up 1,001 receiving yards on fewer than 50 catches — the only other player to achieve such a feat since 1991 was DeSean Jackson in 2010.

The third-year receiver made up for the lack of volume with efficiency, ranking second in yards per reception (20.43), fourth in yards per target (11.78) and third in aDOT (18.27) among receivers with at least 25% of snaps played. His yards per route run (1.91) ranked 24th among receivers with at least 35 targets. The PFF projections have him averaging 18 yards per reception in 2020.

The Clemson product thrived as a downfield threat, and that may fit well with a scrambling quarterback in Taylor.

Highest rate of targets 20+ yards downfield in 2019 (min. 20 targets)
Breshad Perriman 43.1%
Ted Ginn Jr. 37.7%
James Washington 33.8%
Will Fuller V 32.9%
Mike Williams 32.9%

In Taylor’s best season as a starter back in 2015 with the Buffalo Bills, his aDOT ranked third in the NFL (10.8) and was considerably higher than Philip Rivers aDOT in 2019 (9.0).

Williams should also have some positive touchdown regression in 2020 after scoring just two TDs last year. He had 17 red-zone targets but only three receptions and one touchdown catch. On average, receivers who saw at least 15 red-zone targets scored at least five touchdowns.

Williams’ targets are not likely to increase next season, especially with Hunter Henry returning healthy. With Henry playing in 2019, Williams averaged five targets per game; without him, he averaged over eight targets per game. But Henry is never a full bet to play a whole season, as the talented tight end has missed 21 games over the past two years.

The volume for Williams is going to be unreliable on a weekly basis, but among all the Chargers’ receivers, he might be best equipped to succeed with limited opportunities. Considering Williams is being drafted behind both Keenan Allen and Henry by a wide margin — in what could be an entirely new offense in Los Angeles — he is a great upside play outside the top-40 wide receivers. I have him ranked at WR33

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