At this time last year, D.J Chark was being selected extremely late in fantasy football drafts, if he was even being selected at all. While we here at RotoExperts/SportsGrid really liked Chark, he was far from a popular selection. In the biggest fantasy football tournament on Earth, the FFPC Main Event, it was possible to select Chark in the 17th round as late as September. His average draft position was WR95 in September before he put together a WR17 season.
We don’t really care about last season though, the question we should be asking if there is another D.J Chark to be had in 2020. That would mean a player drafted in 2019 who was basically a non-entity last season but who has the opportunity to break out and post a top-24 season at WR in 2020. The players are going outside of the top 150 picks in redraft (and are dynasty fantasy football targets as well) and make our elite targets with the last few picks of our drafts in 2020. Average Draft Position comes from www.fantasymojo.com and is sourced from the FootballGuys Players Championship.
N’Keal Harry, WR64
Harry is now only about nine months removed from being the consensus top pick in 2019 rookie drafts as well as being the second WR selected in the 2019 NFL draft behind only Marquise Brown. Harry was selected with the final pick of the first round and measures in at 6’2, 228 pounds, ran a 4.53 40 and will not turn 23 until December 17th. All of the markings of a player who got off to a slow start but still retains a ceiling are present with Harry.
Injuries as a rookie can really go either way. Getting injured clearly hampers valuable learning time and stagnates skill progression and understanding of NFL offenses for wide receivers. Of first-round pick wide receivers since 2000 who saw fewer than 40 targets as rookies only Demaryius Thomas and Mike Williams went on to post a top-24 season in the future out of 16 players. This includes spectacular failures like Phillip Dorsett, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Josh Doctson, A.J Jenkins, Laquon Treadwell, and Kevin White.
So if N’Keal Harry’s comps are Kevin White and Josh Doctson, why are we drafting him thinking there is a breakout? Well first, if we expand our search to second-round picks we get D.J Chark, Vincent Jackson, Santana Moss, Giants’ Steve Smith, and Golden Tate as players who posted future top-24 WR seasons. Harry should receive a little benefit of the doubt for being able to score twice in the seven games he did play and because New England Patriots trainers are suggesting that playing at a lighter weight in 2020 will be helpful.
We can’t approach anything like full confidence in Harry but with ADP after defenses and kickers are going in high-stakes fantasy leagues, we can afford to select Harry as a ceiling target. We should know with relative certainty after a few weeks of the season if Harry will be a player we can trust or if he goes the way of Jon Baldwin. With Cam Newton possibly starting at quarterback for the Patriots in 2020, there is no denying that Harry has a higher ceiling than if Stidham/Hoyer were the quarterbacks.
Parris Campbell, WR66
Continuing our trend of players who got injured as rookies and therefore didn’t have a chance to really sink or swim as rookies, Campbell played in seven games last year and was targeted 24 times for 127 yards. Similar to Harry, Campbell has basically no competition for playing time if he is the player that his team drafted in the first place. With Campbell, there is T.Y Hilton and Michael Pittman with a whole assortment of guys like Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson who don’t demand playing time.
Now, Frank Reich talks like this about literally all of his players but he is at least saying the right things about Campbell’s injury-marred 2019.
“I’m super pumped about Parris and where the upside is. We didn’t get to see him enough (last year). He was hurt a lot. I’m proud of the way Parris has been handling the offseason. He’s been doing everything possible. He’s working out hard. I’m staying very much in touch with him, and with the trainers and what he’s doing and watching that whole process unfold. He’s really determined. He still has to have things go his way and stay healthy. He missed a lot of practice time, too. It wasn’t just that he missed games. He missed a lot of practice time. He missed most of the (2019 offseason program). We’ve been around him enough, I see things in Parris, I see really good wide receiver skills.”
The upside case for Campbell as a potential league-winning style player (like Chark was last season) is that Pittman is a year away from being ready especially as a rookie in the COVID-NFL and that T.Y Hilton struggles with health as he did last year. Hilton is now a 31-year old speed wide receiver coming off a season marred by lower-body injuries and it would not be unreasonable to think he is closer to the glue factory than a WR1 season. I have real concerns about the Colts offense as a whole, so in my personal portfolio, I will be a little lighter on Campbell than the rest of this list but it is inarguable he has breakout opportunities in 2020.
Andy Isabella, (Undrafted)
I won’t pretend: I love Andy Isabella. I love Kyler Murray. I love the Air Raid. I *want* Andy Isabella to happen and there are some reasons to think it will (and won’t) go that way. First off, it is definitely bad that KeeSean Johnson, Pharoh Cooper, Maxx Williams, and Damiere Byrd out-snapped Isabella. Producing as a rookie and beating out veterans are some of the easiest ways we can point to successful future careers; conversely, Isabella wouldn’t be cheap this year if he had wild success last year.
I do have one working theory on why it was hard for Isabella to get on the field last year despite being more physically gifted than Johnson/Cooper/Byrd and it is that he played his college football the University of Massachusetts. UMass plays a very low level of football compared to Power Five schools; it would not be unreasonable to have Isabella have essentially a redshirt year at the NFL level. This was something that was not all that uncommon 20 years ago. Granted, it isn’t the best theory I’ve ever had because if Isabella was actually ready to go, Kliff would have played him.
The reasons to still be bullish on Isabella is that Arizona plays amongst the most empty and 10 personnel in the NFL (meaning that third and fourth wide receivers get more snaps than on an average team), they pass at a higher rate than the league average and they run far more plays than league average. The wide receivers who will for sure start for the Cardinals are DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. It is rational to assume that Isabella could be out Larry Fitzgerald for playing time on the outside because of his unique speed. I prefer Isabella in weekly-management leagues to best ball because a total zero season is firmly in his range of outcomes and you’d like to have the ability to simply cut him early on.
Miles Boykin, WR78
I was recently on a podcast with JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) where we discussed Miles Boykin and he made a salient point that Boykin might have been a little overrated by the Ravens when he was drafted in the third round so perhaps the Chark season isn’t even really in Boykin’s range of outcomes. My counter to that idea was that Boykin was an unreal athlete (similar to Chark) and plays in an offense that we expect to be one of the best in the league. Boykin ran a 4.42 40 at 220 pounds and is 90th percentile or higher in basically all measurables.
It also doesn’t hurt for comp purposes that Boykin was relatively productive with limited playing time in 2019 (three touchdowns on 22 targets with nine yards per target). The team is also replacing Hayden Hurst’s 41% snap share and they don’t seem to have a third TE on the roster to join with Nick Boyle and Mark Andrews. Boykin’s outs to being a breakout player would include him being part of the base personnel for Baltimore over Willie Snead/Seth Roberts and carving out a role in the redzone. The Ravens are so good at scoring touchdowns (531 points last year, 50 more than any other team) that a big-bodied, athletic wide receiver of Boykin’s ilk could easily end up scoring way over his expectation of touchdowns which is what you need to win leagues.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, (Undrafted)
Of all the rookie wide receiver failures, probably none was more disappointing than JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The Eagles got about three quarters out of DeSean Jackson and were so desperate for pass catchers that they were playing Deontay Burnett and Richard Rodgers in the playoffs. Even when the Eagles desperately needed wide receiver help, Arcega-Whiteside was getting out-snapped by Greg Ward who is converted college quarterback. Compared to the sample of the other four rookie wide receivers, JJAW has the biggest bust potential just based on how unable he was to actually play in 2019.
So why would Arcega-Whiteside make this list? As of now, it is unclear is Alshon Jeffery will be healthy enough to play this season at all. DeSean Jackson hasn’t played a healthy season since 2016 and is now 34 years old. I, personally, would be surprised if he was able to play a full season. Jalen Reagor projects to be the top wide receiver (for a team that uses 12 personnel heavily) but there is enough variance in projecting rookies as there was with Arcega-Whiteside himself that he might not be ready to go from Week One.
Arcega-Whiteside was a phenomenal college player with a sub-20 breakout age, a 42% dominator rating his final season at Stanford, and posted an 87th percentile speed score when adjusted for height and weight. I am not going to select JJAW in any best ball formats (Isabella and N’Keal Harry are better targets in that format) because I want to have the luxury of cutting him but it is very hard for me to give up on a prospect like Arcega-Whiteside even with a harrowing rookie year. If investing in JJAW this year, you’re betting entirely on prospect profile and choosing to disregard his rookie year sample, which is fine if you acknowledge the hit rate on that investment is going to be low.