Rankings: 2020 WR Rankings (PPR)

 


(Photo credit: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)


Charles Herrmann (@HermsNFL)
The Lateral Chief Editor

By now, I'm sure a lot of you have already drafted. But for those who procrastinated and haven't yet or still have some drafts for you one of many leagues yet to take place, we at The Lateral are right there with you and have turned our "Rankings Week" into 2 weeks to help you (and to put a positive spin on us being delayed on our end.)

At any rate, we rolled out our TE rankings and RB rankings last week, and today we're going to dive into the WRs. This position can be a bit tricky given the fact that last year in PPR scoring, only 25.3 points separated WR12 and WR24 (Jarvis Landry and Stefon Diggs respectively) and only 29.6 separated WR25 and WR36 (Odell Beckham Jr. and Curtis Samuel). Is that a sizable gap? Sure. But that's also one monster performance away from vaulting yourself from middle of the pack to top tier or vice versa with just one really bad game weighing you down in the overall final finishes. 

My point is this: WR is a relatively volatile position once you get past the stud guys. While some are safer than others for various reasons, it's important to consider how you construct your team's WR corps. On that note, let's look at my methodology:

Methodology

In order to make my rankings, I used the following sources:

What do I mean by "matchmaking"? Well, think about it. If one of your buddies who's more on the wild side wants you to set them up with someone, instinctively you may want to try and pair them with someone who can handle their antics. Could that be a good match? Absolutely. But is there a more than good chance it ends up being messy? Very much yes. You're going to want to try and match up based on what one person has that the other one doesn't. Try and maximize ceiling without compromising your scoring floor. Complimentary is the name of the game.

For example, if you take Kenny Golladay as your WR1 (not at all saying that's a bad idea), a big play guy who converted only 56% of his targets into receptions last year with 18.3 yards per reception, and paired him with another big play guy like A.J. Brown as you WR2 (you can see the similarities just by scrolling down on that list), that could be messy for you. Might there be HUGE weeks from the pair? Definitely, but you want to balance out a big play guy. Instead, you may be better served going with a more "safe" option like a Robert Woods (64.7% target conversion/12.6 YPR). 

Inversely, if you played it safe early with a Julio Jones, you could then take a swing on someone like an Amari Cooper. However, you wouldn't want to do, say, Tyreek Hill and Cooper. Ya dig?

Rather than getting incredibly specific with rigid rankings, I've grouped them off in terms of how I'd view each wide receiver's function on your fantasy team's roster. I believe this will make sense as we go along. Besides, this wouldn't be a "sideways look at fantasy football" if everything we said here made 100% sense anyway.

ONE FINAL WARNING

I run projections like most other people do, but given the fact that my math skills are intermediate at best, I'm not assigning any stats to anyone. I weigh the whole "talent + opportunity = production" notion more heavily than my approximate projections 60/40. I trust my ability to anticipate splits and potential scoring opportunities more than I trust what a calculator is going to tell me. Please read other people's rankings who are more prominent and smarter than I am, but I think my weird views also provide value. 

In addition, this list only has 52 names on it. Depending on how deep your league/starting roster/bench is, this may not be the most useful tool to utilize. I'm just here to help you get the ball rolling and make sure your initial core is soundly put together. Lastly, given how many drafts have gone, there's a more than decent chance you'll be able to make your WR pair of players I have classified as WR1 types and not have to worry too much about the matchmaking at all. Just follow your draft mates' tendencies and use your best judgement (with the help of my logic of course). Now, as the kids say, l'eggo.

2020 WR RANKINGS (PPR)


Target Heavy WR1s

1 - Michael Thomas
2 - Davante Adams
3 - Julio Jones
4 - DeAndre Hopkins
5 - D.J. Moore
6 - Chris Godwin
7 - Robert Woods
8 - Allen Robinson II
9 - Adam Thielen
10 - Tyler Boyd
11 - Odell Beckham Jr.
12 - JuJu Smith-Schuster

Once we get past #5 on this group, we start to see some more murky situations, but for the most part I believe this group is capable of giving you a somewhat reliable floor (with exception to Beckham Jr. and JuJu, two guys I anticipate having bounce back campaigns but cannot promise anything of the sort). I won't spend too long talking about any of them in specific as these are all names of which fantasy players are familiar with exception to Tyler Boyd. Well, not saying people are not familiar, but why so high? A.J. Green is back! The reason Boyd appears so high is because many of us have been burned in recent years by Green's considerable health issues, and it seems rookie QB Joe Burrow has taken a liking to Boyd. I'm not looking to be burned again by Green and I do believe Boyd has top-15 upside pretty easily.

“Big Play” WR1s

1 - Tyreek Hill
2 - Kenny Golladay
3 - Mike Evans
4 - A.J. Brown
5 - Amari Cooper

Like I said earlier, I am not opposed to starting a team with a big play guy as my WR1, but they are volatile. The FantasyPros Boom or Bust Report will help to illustrate my point for me: some of these guys are people with greater bust % than boom %, and as long as you're okay with that and can build around that with a WR2 and/or WR3/flex safety net, it will all be fine. It is simply something to be cognizant of. 

Having too many players like this will put you behind the 8-ball, but having one in your starting lineup and one on your bench is something that can be cool and useful in a pinch. This is the range where you're going to have to be careful about who you pair with them. 

Which brings me to my next section...

WR2s On The WR1 Cusp

1 - Keenan Allen
2 - Calvin Ridley
3 - Terry McLaurin
4 - Cooper Kupp
5 - D.J. Chark

With the exception of Chark (not super comfortable with him/he doesn't have much of a track record, but he is my 2020 breakout pick), these are the guys I would feel most comfortable with as my WR2 regardless of who my WR1 is but especially if I started with a big play receiver. These are names most fantasy players are already very familiar with who could very well finish the year being thought of and utilized as WR1s given the flashes we've seen from them already. Well, and of course there's Keenan Allen. He's shown us more than just "flashes" a few times before (see what I did there?), but the Chargers going from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor at QB is the only reason he's down so far. Absolutely nothing to do with the fabulous player he is. Under almost any other circumstances he wouldn't be talked about "on the cusp".

“Boring” WR2s

1 - Tyler Lockett
2 - Marvin Jones Jr.
3 - Jarvis Landry
4 - Michael Gallup
5 - Jamison Crowder
6 - T.Y. Hilton

Each of these players have been discussed at one point or another during The Lateral's short run to date. Anyone who has been reading our articles for a while (thanks to those who do) are pretty hip to our feelings on this bunch of receivers. The case for Gallup being a 2020 breakout has been made by Malcolm, both Jones Jr. and Crowder (and by extension Landry) were talked about at length in our Zero WR mock draft strategy piece, and so on.

None of these players are particularly sexy picks, but at this point in time they are known commodities and would be useful to have on your roster.

Potentially Volatile/Maybe Sneaky Good WR2s

1 - Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
2 - DeVante Parker
3 - Will Fuller V/Brandin Cooks
4 - A.J. Green
5 - Stefon Diggs
6 - D.K. Metcalf

These are guys I'd definitely want on my team if I knew I didn't have to heavily count on them week-to-week. Parker, Fuller V, and (as stated previously) Green all have one big thing in common: being equally as good at not being healthy enough to play football as they are at actually playing football. It's not like Cooks has the cleanest bill of health either (3 concussions in the pros is a big deal). But hey, if they're on your bench ready to be deployed as needed or on the off chance they all sustain health, kudos to you for having a potential league winner.

In the cases of Brown and Diggs, they're just big play guys you don't necessarily want to rely upon considering their QBs aren't known for their passing. Metcalf is not much different but we at least know Russell Wilson has massive skills with his arm. He is a bit of a one-trick pony, but looking at his game logs from 2019, Metcalf was pretty damn good at that one trick at times.

Potentially Volatile/Maybe Sneaky Good WR3s/Flex

1 - Anthony Miller
2 - Diontae Johnson
3 - Sterling Shephard/Golden Tate
4 - Preston Williams
5 - Deebo Samuel
6 - Christian Kirk

This is a bunch of guys who don't belong to the most prolific passing offenses in the league, nor are they their respective teams' go-to options, but have some juice nonetheless.

Take Anthony Miller for example: his injury history is a bit alarming (even going back to college), but look at how good he was from Week 11 on last year once his body healed up properly. WR22! Preston Williams also had himself a respectable stretch up through Week 9 last year before he tore his ACL. Despite starting the 2019 season suspended for 4 games, after his return in Week 5, Tate was the WR28. And while we saw how dominant Deebo Samuel can be last year, I'm nervous about how quickly he's returning from surgery for a Jones fracture in his foot (see also: A.J. Green, again).

The really sneaky one of this bunch is Diontae Johnson. Speaking anecdotally as a Steelers fan, the kid looked fantastic at times last year despite the less-than-stellar QB play. Statistically speaking, his game logs from his 2019 rookie campaign show exactly what I saw. He's also gained some love from his new QB, the ol' reliable Ben Roethlisberger. I don't have much to offer in the way of concrete analysis to back this up, but Johnson is probably my favorite sleeper wideout whose name isn't Bryan Edwards. Thankfully I'm not the only person who's said this about Johnson, so if you want more info on him, listen to someone who knows more than I do on your Twitter timeline.

Rookies/WR3s With Upside

1 - Brandon Aiyuk
2 - Bryan Edwards/Henry Ruggs III
3 - CeeDee Lamb
4 - Jerry Jeudy
5 - Justin Jefferson
6 - Jalen Reagor

As this 2019 piece from Fansided highlights, rookie WRs don't often come right out of the gate guns a'blazin'. We do see exceptions to that periodically, but it's usually situation dependent.

I'll let that second link do most of the talking for me and go ahead and identify my favorites of the bunch for 2020 with that stuff in mind. First up, Bryan Edwards. I've spoken about him as my 2020 sleeper pick before and I am so on board with his opportunity as the Raiders' X receiver. Had it not been for a shoulder injury, Jalen Reagor would've been my guy but I still like his potential given the lack of receiving options around him in Philly. A similar case can be made for Aiyuk with the Niners, although as mentioned earlier, Samuel coming back so soon puts a damper on that.

Best Of The Rest

  • DeSean Jackson

  • Mecole Hardman

  • Curtis Samuel

  • Michael Pittman Jr.

  • Julian Edelman

  • Allen Lazard




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