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Early 2020 Breakouts: Wide Receiver


What was once the frenetic pace of free agency has now slowed significantly. But the player movement that took place has transformed the fantasy landscape. It has also blended with the impending NFL Draft to impact the decision-making process of owners, regardless of which formats you are involved with.

That’s why the team at RotoBaller is delivering an array of updates, articles, and rankings that provide the foundation for your roster planning and construction. Our collection of information contains analysis and data that is designed to help you evaluate the players that are already on your dynasty rosters, and determine who to target in best-ball and redraft leagues.

That includes breakdowns on players at each position that should operate as highly productive components for your teams. This article will examine five wide receivers who are now primed to deliver breakout seasons. These players will benefit from a favorable combination of talent and opportunity that should elevate them beyond the tiers where they were positioned during 2019.

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Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

The progression of Ridley from a first-round draft selection to a consistent and highly productive starting option continued last year. He now enters his third season with a genuine opportunity to elevate his value further, while constructing a breakout season in the process.

After Atlanta used the 26th overall pick on Ridley during the 2018 NFL Draft, he led all first-year receivers in scoring (WR22), receptions (64), yardage (821) and touchdowns (10). His touchdown total also tied him for fifth overall, as he averaged four receptions, 5.75 targets and 51.3 yards per game during his initial season.

Ridley’s numbers expanded in 2019, as he played in 732 (77 percent) of Atlanta’s offensive snaps from Weeks 1-14, before being sidelined with an abdominal issue in Weeks 15-17. He was also tied for 20th in targets (93 targets/7.2 per game), 19th with 63 receptions, 22nd in receiving yards (866), seventh in touchdowns (7) and 15th in targeted air yards (1,242).

Ridley had also finished sixth among all wide receivers in targets (37), second in receptions (27), and third in receiving yards (395) from Weeks 11-14 before his absence opened the path for Julio Jones to accumulate 35 targets, 23 receptions and 300 yards in Weeks 15-16. That was easily Jones’ most productive two-game sequence of the season.

Ridley's average depth of target also rose from 9.6 as a rookie to 13.5 in 2019, while his percentage share of teams’ air yards increased from 17.6 to 23.4. Ridley was also averaging 6.2 targets per game from Weeks 1-7 while Mohamed Sanu was with the Falcons. But his per-game average rose by 32.5 percent (8.2 per game) after Sanu was traded to New England.

His averages from Weeks 8-14 (8.2 targets/5.6 receptions/82.1 yards per game) would have propelled him to season-long numbers of 131.2 targets, 89.6 receptions, and 1,313 yards during a 16-game season. The distinct rise with Ridley's numbers following Sanu's departure is displayed below.

Calvin Ridley  Targets Targets/Game Yards/Targ Receptions Yards
Sanu In Atlanta - 7 Games 44 6.3 8.5 29 373
After Sanu Trade - 6 Games  49 8.2 10.1 34 493

That bodes well for his prospects of achieving a breakout season in 2020. The elite presence of  Jones remains intact, although it has already been proven that the 31-year-old Jones and Ridley can both function as viable roster components. But Ridley's points-per-game scoring averages placed him at WR10 in standard leagues and WR14 in PPR leagues before his injury. He could exceed that level of production during his third season.

 

Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins

Washington selected McLaurin with the 76th overall pick in 2019’s NFL Draft, as  J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Parris Campbell, Andy Isabella and Jalen Hurd were among the 11 wide receivers that were drafted before him. McLaurin's ADP of 282 also left him outside the fantasy radar for the majority of owners.

But he entered Week 4 averaging eight targets and 5.3 receptions per game while leading all rookies in receptions (16) and touchdowns (3). He was third among receivers in percentage share of team's air yards (47.05) and also third in red zone targets (6). By Week 7, he was averaging 7.6 targets, 4.6 receptions and 81.6 yards per game.

The pace of that phenomenal start subsided, as his averages dropped to 3.2 receptions and 42 yards per game from Weeks 7-14. But McLaurin assembled 216 yards in Weeks 15-16, and he eventually finished second among rookie receivers in scoring (WR24), receptions (58) and yards-per-game average (65.6). McLaurin was also second in targets (93/6.6 per game), generated seven touchdowns and would have eclipsed 1,000 yards if he had eluded the injuries that sidelined him for two games (hamstring / concussion).

His blend of speed, athleticism and route running also provided the formula for big plays and appealing production, as McLaurin finished sixth overall in percentage share of team’s air yards (37.09), 16th in targeted air yards (14.1), 10th in yards-per-target average (9.9) and 21st in receptions of 20+ yards (15).

The Redskins have only made one offseason addition to their collection of wide receivers (Kelvin Harmon / Steven Sims / Trey Quinn / Cody Latimer), and the tight end depth chart contains Jeremy Sprinkle and Richard Rodgers. All of which leaves an uncontested path for McLaurin to continue operating as the Redskins’ primary receiving weapon. It will also supply the foundation for him to secure space, capture congested catches and prevail in one-on-one matchups once again.

Any concerns about McLaurin’s situation at quarterback are understandable. However, the apprehension about Washington's signal-callers should be offset by the magnitude of McLaurin's numbers with Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins last season. If Haskins improves as he accumulates additional starts, or another quarterback eventually stabilizes the position, then McLaurin has a legitimate opportunity to deliver the most prolific numbers of any second-year receiver. That makes him a justifiable candidate for breakout status in 2020.

 

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Gallup’s year-one production did not match the output that was assembled by other members of his 2018 draft class. But he did finish seventh among rookies in both targets (68) and receptions (33), and eighth in receiving yards (507).

He also displayed a glimpse of his potential to emerge as a consistent vertical weapon by leading all first-year receivers with 10 receptions of 20+ yards. While there was a reason for optimism that he could improve upon those numbers during 2019, owners were compelled to draft 45 other wide receivers before Gallup was selected in the middle of Round 9.

Gallup launched his second season by accumulating the NFL’s fifth-highest yardage total in Weeks 1-2 (226). He was absent in Weeks 3-4 following in-season arthroscopic surgery (knee), But Gallup still finished 23rd among all wide receivers in targets (113) and 18th with an average of 8.1 targets per game. He was also 26th in receptions (66), 18th with 1,107 receiving yards and 19th with 1,405 air yards.

He was also eighth in receptions of 20-plus yards (18) and eclipsed 100 yards in four different contests. The statistical growth that Gallup experienced in 2019 became more impressive from Weeks 10-17, as he tied for eighth in targets (67), 12th in receptions (37), and soared to fifth with 653 receiving yards during those eight matchups.

From Weeks 11-17, Gallup also accumulated more targets (57/48) and receptions (33/26) than Amari Cooper while also surpassing Cooper in receiving yards by a considerable margin (577/341).  Gallup’s numbers during that seven-game sequence are displayed below, which includes the comparison of his usage and output to Cooper's. Both receivers played in every matchup during that span with Gallup performing on 86 percent of the Cowboys' offensive while Cooper registered 75 percent.

Wide Receivers Targets Targets/Game Yards/Targ Receptions Yards 
Michael Thomas 82 11.7 8.5 63 698
Julio Jones 74 12.3 8.1 46 603
Allen Robinson 74 10.6 7.1 45 529
Davante Adams 70 11.7 6.6 44 460
Robert Woods 68 11.3 8.4 45 568
DeVante Parker 66 9.4 11.1 39 733
Julian Edelman 63 9 7.2 37 454
Jarvis Landry 61 8.7 8.6 38 522
DeAndre Hopkins 58 9.7 8.6 36 500
Michael Gallup 57 8.1 10.1 33 577
Jamison Crowder 57 8.1 6.1 30 347
Tyler Boyd 57 8.1 7.9 33 448
Courtland Sutton 57 8.1 7.4 28 420
D.J. Moore 56 9.3 8.8 33 491
Anthony Miller 55 7.9 8 35 438
Odell Beckham 54 7.7 7.5 30 403
Keenan Allen 54 9 8.8 42 474
Russell Gage 52 7.4 6.2 34 321
Sterling Shepard 49 8.2 6.3 32 309
Amari Cooper 48 6.9 7.1 26 341

Cooper will return in 2020, although Randall Cobb’s 83 targets in the slot will be redistributed. But consistency is not a concern with Gallup, nor is his ability to operate as a dynamic downfield weapon for Dak Prescott. Gallup also finished 12th among all receivers in yards-per-target average (9.8), seventh in yards-per-reception average (16.8) and was 11th in yards before catch per reception (11.7).

Even though Cooper will accrue favorable numbers once again, Gallup should surpass last year’s 19.5 target share. He should also sustain the momentum that he experienced during the final weeks of 2019, with reception and yardage totals that approach the top 15.

 

Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Samuel became the third wide receiver to be selected during the 2019 NFL Draft when San Francisco used the fourth pick of Round 2 to secure him. It was the second consecutive year in which the 49ers deployed a second-round pick on the position. While 2019 selection Dante Pettis remains trapped in an unremitting career free-fall, Samuel's first season delivered encouraging results that indicate the potential for a breakout season in 2020.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Samuel overcame an underwhelming sequence from Weeks 1-8 (4.2 targets/3.0 receptions/31.6 yards per game), by generating 6.2 targets, 4.4 receptions and 72 yards per game from Weeks 10-17. All three of Samuel's 100-yard performances also occurred during that span, including the 246 yards that he stockpiled in Weeks 10-11.

The escalating numbers propelled him to fourth among all rookies in receiving yards for the season (802). Samuel also finished fourth among first-year receivers in receptions (57) led newcomers in receptions of 20-plus yards (17), and tied with McLaurin for 10th among all wide receivers in yards per target average (9.9). He accomplished these results while operating from the slot on 45.7 percent of his routes and led all San Francisco wide receivers in both percentage share of team's air yards (20) and team target share (17.2).

The 49ers ranked just 31st in both pass play percentage (50.8) and passing attempts per game (28.2). George Kittle unsurprisingly paced the team in every major receiving category (107 targets / 85 receptions / 1,053 yards / 609 air yards / 23.0% target share). However, San Francisco's wide receivers registered a team target share of 50.3 percent, which ranked just 28th overall.

That percentage was attained with both Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders functioning as the team’s top two wide receiving options. But Samuel should absorb a healthy percentage of the 97 targets that became available following Sanders' exodus to New Orleans.

Even when the 49ers eventually bolster their depth chart at wide receiver (Samuel / Kendrick Bourne / Jalen Hurd / Travis Benjamin / Pettis), the breakout potential for Samuel should be clear. In addition to his projected improvement as a second-year receiver, Samuel will benefit significantly from a blend of talent and his emergence as a critical component within Shanahan's offense. This should provide owners with results that easily exceed the expectations that exist with his current ADP (68).

 

D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf quelled all skepticism regarding his ability to perform effectively at the NFL level during his 2019 rookie season. He achieved this through steady improvement as a receiver, while he also assembled a collection of promising numbers as the season reached its conclusion.

Metcalf’s blend of speed, athleticism, and pure explosiveness was displayed during his performance at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine (4.33  40-yard dash/40.5-inch vertical jump/11'2" broad jump). But there were concerns because he had played in just 21 games during three seasons at Mississippi. There was also considerable discussion surrounding the limitations of his route tree at Ole Miss, along with trepidation about his hands.

But Metcalf became the only rookie who reached 100 targets, and he tied for second among newcomers in receptions (58). Metcalf also finished third among first-year receivers in receiving yards (900) and touchdowns (7), was fourth in receptions of 20+ yards (13) and tied for second in receptions of 40-plus yards (4).

Metcalf also collected more red-zone targets than any other rookie (18), which placed him 10th among all wide receivers. Metcalf also led the Seahawks in average depth of target (13.0), while he also finished a close second behind Lockett in percentage share of teams’ air yards (30.2/28.8) and team target share (22.4/20.4).

Metcalf finished second to Tyler Lockett in total targets (110/100). But from Weeks 10-17 he exceeded Lockett’s totals in targets (46/38), receptions  (29/23), and receiving yardage (375/290). He also accumulated 26 targets, 17 receptions and 300 yards during the combination of Week 17 and Seattle’s two playoff contests. That includes a rookie record of 160 during the Seahawks' wild card matchup.

Metcalf should maintain that late-season momentum in 2020, as his proficiency and production should continue to rise. His acumen as a route runner should only improve, as should his understanding of how to operate with Russell Wilson. This will keep him involved as a red-zone weapon, while his prospects of delivering big plays will remain firmly intact. These factors now have Metcalf poised to deliver a breakout season.

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NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


More Recent Articles

 

Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More