2020 Fantasy WR Breakouts, Booms, Busts, and Sleepers (PPR)


(Photo credit: Erik Drost)

Charles Herrmann (@HermsNFL)
The Lateral Chief Editor

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer

One of the best parts about this game-within-a-game is the fun of predictions making, none more fun than breakouts, busts, and sleepers. Anyone reading this knows what we're talking about. Making side bets with your league mates, the joy of making yourself look and feel smart, and just the overall great feeling of following a journey from atop a bandwagon. Not all picks work out of course, but hey, even the best among us are not right all the time. 

Using our rankings (coming out soon) and looking at FantasyPros ECR for PPR scoring, we at The Lateral have put together a group of WRs to highlight as our 2020 picks to breakout, boom, bust, and have some solid sleeper appeal. 

Let's get started.

Breakout WRs for 2020:

  • Charles' Pick: D.J. Chark
  • Malcolm's Pick: Michael Gallup

CH: What we saw early last season between Chark and QB Gardner Minshew II after he took over for injured Nick Foles in the middle of Week 1 was pretty awesome. Over the first 6 weeks, D.J. Chark was the WR5 in PPR averaging 18.8 PPG. After that point, things cooled off for him a little bit, including dealing with an ankle issue, and from Week 7 on he was WR37 averaging 12.6 PPG. Some of that was due to the fact that Foles eventually came back for a few weeks there from his collarbone injury and it did not seem like he had much of a connection with Chark. When the Jaguars eventually went back to Minshew II from Week 13 on, Chark had already gotten banged up. But as of now, Foles is in Chicago and it's a one man show at QB for the Jags.

This is all a long winded way of saying one thing: with Gardner Minshew II as his QB, a healthy D.J. Chark is an absolute baller. That Jacksonville defense is so terrible and they're going to have to play from behind a lot again in 2020, and if you're telling me I can get a guy who's shown top 5 upside at WR19 FantasyPros ECR, I'll take that seven days a week and twice on Sundays.

MM: To me, Michael Gallup is an easy pick here, and I am happy to keep buying shares as people continue to worry about Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb killing his value. You know why? Gallup was basically two games away from me even being able to mark him as my "breakout candidate" in 2020 to begin with.

No, your eyes do not deceive you. For all the fawning over Amari Cooper, who is going as WR9 right now, Gallup finished only 0.2 PPG behind Amari Cooper in 2019. The only difference was Gallup had a meniscus tear that forced him to miss Weeks 3-4, after which he got right back on the horse and finished WR13 for the rest of the season, two spots ahead of Cooper. How is Gallup being rewarded for this? By going WR31. That's right, somehow CeeDee Lamb (current ADP WR38) is going to bring Michael Gallup's value down by 18 spots. Given that Randall Cobb just vacated 10.3 PPG in the Dallas WR corps, I think it is more likely Lamb fills and slightly improves on the Cobb role, rather than transforming Gallup into a WR3/FLEX candidate.

Another important thing to consider is that Gallup was also the more consistently targeted WR in Dallas during the 2019 season. Amari Cooper had 6 games in 2019 with 5 or fewer targets, the same as Randall Cobb (excluding Cobb missing Week 6). Including the two weeks that Michael Gallup missed, he only had 4 such games in 2019. Expect Gallup to utilize this consistency and talent to produce a finish much closer to Amari Cooper's WR10 from 2019 rather than Gallup's WR22.

Boom WRs for 2020:

  • Charles' Pick: A.J. Brown
  • Malcolm's Pick: Robert Woods
CH: There's a good chance A.J. Brown won you a fantasy title if you're reading this. From Week 14 through 17, Brown was the PPR WR2 with 24.2 PPG. His targets over that span go as follows: 7, 13, 2, 8. That 3rd one is a little alarming, but he did bail you out with a 49-yard TD run. I don't know that expecting overall WR2 type production is a good bet, but Brown has a good path to expand upon his end of season breakout from 2019.

Ryan Tannehill does't really have anyone else to throw to besides 2020 TE sleeper darling Jonnu Smith. Brown is large, fast, dynamic as hell, and he's going to have a dominant target share in the Tennessee offense. Look at the Titans depth chart: which other WRs behind Corey Davis, who as I type this is being fitted for his NFL Draft Bust dunce cap, and Adam Humphries do you know let alone scare you?

None? Yeah, that's what I said too. ECR WR18 is a great value for a guy who can be your solid WR2/low-end WR1.

MM: Robert Woods finished WR14 in 2019 and WR13 on a PPG basis if you remove Antonio Brown's solitary game from 2019, so he cannot be considered a breakout candidate for 2020, but given his current ADP of WR20, you can confidently expect a "boom season" from him if you draft him at that spot. Especially since Woods has finished above WR20 every season he has been in Los Angeles on a PPG. Basically, even if I am wrong about a "boom season," you will be at the very least a net positive return on your investment.

Luckily, most of the evidence suggests that I should not be wrong. The Rams love to pass the ball and were the third most pass-heavy offense in the NFL in 2019. That means that there will be plenty of targets available for Robert Woods, who averaged 9.27 targets per game in 2019, and that was with Brandin Cooks as serious competition on the depth chart. Now Cooks is in Houston, and Woods is instead going to compete with Josh Reynolds or Van Jefferson for targets on the outside. Another thing to keep in mind is that Rams QB Jared Goff was one of the worst QBs in 2019 regarding the number of bad throws he made, finishing 1 bad throw behind Jameis Winston's 124 bad throws in 2019. This means any improvement behind Center should only increase Wood's opportunity to maintain his WR1/WR2 status, rather than a bottom-end WR2 like he is currently being drafted.

Bust WRs for 2020:

  • Charles' Pick: Allen Robinson II (but actually JuJu Smith-Schuster)
  • Malcolm's Pick: Tyreek Hill
CH: Candidly, I really like the ECR top 20 WRs. I don't really want to pick on any of them. The logical choice here would be JuJu Smith-Schuster considering the disastrous year he and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers had last year after Big Ben went down with an elbow injury, but as a Steelers homer and huge JuJu defender, I couldn't do that to him. Read what I'm about to say as an excuse for not picking ECR WR10 whose quarterback might not even be healthy.

The ECR WR8 just a couple spots ahead of JuJu is 2019 breakout stud Allen Robinson II. Last year he finished as PPR WR8 in PPG with 15.9. Can he do that again? It's entirely possible. But as I mentioned earlier, the Bears now have 2 QBs in Foles and Mitchell Trubisky. What's that old adage? When you have two QBs, you really have none. As of this very day, August 29th, we don't even know who the starter is going to be, and that's coming straight out of HC Matt Nagy's mouth

It's not like Robinson II has ever worked with top-flight QB talent dating back to his days in Jacksonville with Blake Bortles (a man whose abilities were debated up until his eventual departure), but I want no part of a mediocre QB battle affecting a team's passing offense. Sadly, that means no Robinson II for me.

MM: Let me be clear: Tyreek Hill is a very talented WR. I am not saying he is not, or that he will not be fantasy relevant in the 2020 season. What I am saying though, is I cannot see him living up to the WR3 ADP where he is currently being drafted. 

Historical data supports this as a conclusion. Here are the PPR finishes for Tyreek Hill in PPR: WR25 (2016), WR9 (2017), WR3 (2018), WR32 (2019). Here are his finishes in terms of PPG: WR33 (2016), WR8 (2017), WR4 (2018), WR12 (2019). In short, you have to expect a career year where he is fully healthy and another Top-5 WR gets injured for a game to justify his ADP at WR3. Additionally, Hill had some consistency issues last year, with 5 games below 13.7 points, 4 games missed with injury, and 2 games missed due to an in-game injury. That means there were only 5 games were could you count on WR1 levels of production. Even taking the injuries out of the equation, you are left with a 50/50 chance Tyreek Hill will give you the production you drafted him for. Ultimately, that is just not good enough to merit a first-round pick.

As if the law of averages was not enough of an uphill battle, expect Hill to also get some competition from his teammates. The Chiefs were one of the least run-heavy teams in 2019, deciding to rely on Patrick Mahomes' ability rather than Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, neither of whom cracked 500 yards. Given Mahomes specifically requested that the team draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire, I would expect the RB usage to increase no matter what, which will decrease the opportunity for Tyreek Hill. We even have a historical comparison from the 2017 season, where rookie Kareem Hunt had a career season (always rough when your first season is your best one). In that season Tyreek Hill still managed to get plenty of usage, but that was with Alex Smith instead of Mahomes at QB, and with a worse WR corps. Even then, he still finished at WR9, and a repeat of that scenario would be enough to disappoint owners that draft him with Top-3 aspirations. Anything less than that could result in Hill falling into WR2 territory, enough to qualify him as a "bust."

Sleeper WRs for 2020:

  • Charles' Pick: Bryan Edwards
  • Malcolm's Pick: Laviska Shenault Jr.
CH: *ahem*


Alright, I've gotten that out of my system, the hype train is full steam ahead for the rookie out of South Carolina. Perhaps we should slow our roll a bit, but with Tyrell Williams dealing with a torn labrum, Edwards is in a prime spot in the Raiders offense. I'll let that first link do most of the talking, but here's the situation:

As of a few days ago, it seems that Edwards has won the battle for the X spot. Granted, 2019 TE breakout Darren Waller is still in the mix, the team spent a 1st round pick on Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama, but I could see a world in which Edwards can ball out and put up a Darius Slayton type season for you in 2020. 

Edwards has some pretty big upside for a guy who can be had with the last pick of your draft. The best hype trains are the ones that come at a low cost that you can get off after Week 1 if you're wrong. This one fits that category. 
Go ahead and take a stab on Edwards at ECR WR95, several spots behind teammate Hunter Renfrow at ECR 69 (nice).

MM: This one is a DEEP sleeper, but given the low price, it is very much low risk/high reward. Right now Laviska Shenault Jr. is going as ADP WR75 (Overall 238), which means in your average 12-man league he is going undrafted. Which at first glance is a little low (his ECR is WR72), but nothing crazy. After all, he's just a rookie, and will probably struggle behind Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, maybe even Keelan Cole right?

Well actually... no. All signs indicate that Shenault Jr. has shot up the depth chart ahead of Keelan Cole, and ECR reflects that, with Shenault Jr. now ahead of everyone but Dede Westbrook. Additionally, he seems to be having a great camp, with now firmly entrenched QB Gardner Minshew II calling him a "Freak," and praised his route running and hands. This combined with an injury to Dede Westbrook, leaves him with a shot to start the season at the slot. Given that Westbrook is on the last year of his contract, it is not impossible that Shenault Jr. could fully replace him in the depth chart.

While there is a lot of competition in the depth chart, rising towards the top could give Shenault Jr. a chance at ~10+ PPG, which is where Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley finished the season. That was good enough for WR42/43 last year, which would be a FLEX streamer and significantly above Shenault Jr.'s ADP of WR75. If Minshew II and the offense improve (which should not be difficult), Shenault could finish the league in WR3/FLX territory in PPR. Not exactly the equivalent of drafting Cortland Sutton in Round 11 last year and having a WR2 fall into your lap, but it is a much better use of that final draft pick than Cole Beasley, who is ADP WR69 (nice).

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