Who is the best sleeper in fantasy football for the 2020 season? Last offseason, New England Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry, on average, was selected as the third rookie off the board in 2019 rookie drafts, behind just Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery. After a disappointing rookie season, Harry, on average, is being selected outside of the top-60 receivers in dynasty leagues. This presents a unique buying opportunity for a potentially special young player and one who is likely to be the best sleeper in fantasy football, especially at wide receiver.
An Excellent Prospect Makes A Great Sleeper
There are two main ways that we evaluate a prospect before entering the NFL: college production and athleticism. Let’s start with college production.
As a true freshman, Harry led the Sun Devils in receptions and receiving touchdowns. This helped Harry notch an excellent breakout age of 18.7, which puts him in the 95th percentile for that statistic. Remember, college breakout age is the most important wide receiver metric variable outside of NFL draft position.
After his freshman year, Harry dominated in his sophomore and junior seasons, achieving an 89th percentile college dominator rating.
Harry performed well at the combine. At 228 lbs., Harry ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. This gives Harry an impressive 90th percentile speed score. Despite an underwhelming agility score, Harry had a 38.5 inch vertical – which resulted in a 78th percentile burst score. You can visit PlayerProfiler to see his workout metrics.
Putting It All Together
Arguably the best predictor of success (or opportunity) is where a player is selected in the NFL draft. Harry improved his odds of being a successful NFL player by being selected in the first round.
With impressive production, athleticism, and draft position, Harry returns an impressive list of similar players and gives us a lot of hope for him being the best sleeper in fantasy football for the 2020 season.
While JJ Arcega-Whiteside disappointed as a rookie and Isaiah Hodgins hasn’t been drafted yet, the rest of the list is filled with receivers who have enjoyed or are in the midst of successful careers. There’s little debate that Harry entered the NFL as a player who was likely to be successful.
Brandon Aiyuk, Harry’s college teammate, was selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Aiyuk and Harry both played their junior seasons together at ASU, and both were 20 years old. Harry had twice as many receptions and yards than Aiyuk, with three times as many touchdowns.
If you like Brandon Aiyuk, then you should probably like N’Keal Harry.
In 2018 as teammates, Aiyuk caught 33 passes for 474 yards & 3 TDs. Harry caught 73 for 1,088 & 9 TDs.
— Mike Braude (@BraudeM) March 6, 2020
The odds that Aiyuk is a superior player seem unlikely. Remember, Harry was a young rookie and remains younger than some of the older 2020 prospects, like Denzel Mims. This again makes him a great bet as arguably the best sleeper in fantasy football for the 2020 season.
An Inefficient Rookie Season Doesn’t Doom Him
I know what you’re wondering: if Harry is so good, why did he struggle as a rookie? That’s a complicated question that doesn’t come with a single answer.
Rookies Typically Don’t Break Out, Which Makes Harry A Sleeper
Let’s begin by explaining wide receivers rarely break out in Year 1. Savvy owners will look to draft wide receivers in Year 2 to take advantage of Rookie Derangement Syndrome. In Year 2, receivers consistently yield a big increase in fantasy points per game.
Harry only played seven games as a rookie. A nagging ankle injury kept him out the first 10 weeks of the season. Harry also only played two offensive snaps against the Chiefs in Week 14, leaving the game with a hip injury. Basically, Harry played just six games on an offense that is notoriously difficult for rookies to learn.
The Patriots Offense Is Not Beneficial To Rookies
Since 2000, only three Patriots rookie wide receivers have been targeted over 50 times in a season. Zero of those receivers topped 520 yards. It’s not common for rookie receivers to have a big impact on the Patriots.
Regardless, Harry flashed at times as a rookie. You can see his rookie highlights here.
Highly Drafted Wide Receivers Who Succeeded After Inefficient Rookie Year
On a positive note, there are wide receivers that have dominated after struggling as a rookie. I’ve listed some of them and Harry below with their rookie season stats.
Out of this group, Harry would’ve averaged the highest points per game if his touchdown against the Chiefs was correctly identified (or the Patriots were able to challenge it). Harry also tied for the second-most targets per game behind Demaryius Thomas.
This rookie group caught just 36 percent of their targets, averaged 4.76 yards per target and just 3.04 PPR points per game.
In Year 2, the sophomores averaged over three yards more per target and tripled their PPR point average. Only Demaryius Thomas and John Ross finished with negative efficiency in fantasy points over expectation.
In Year 3, this group averaged over seven targets per game, 65.8 receiving yards, 9.15 yards per target, and 13.3 fantasy points per game. It’s worth noting that Vincent Jackson broke out in Year 4, jumping from 7.6 fantasy points per game to 13.6.
Below is a table the breaks down the average of the players for each season.
Recognize that these aren’t identical comparisons but simply successful players that overcome a difficult rookie season. The players included saw a vast improvement in their first three seasons and the same should be true for Harry. Note that Harry isn’t guaranteed to become a superstar in Year 2. As Dalton wrote in his previous article, “the majority of players who end up becoming WR1s after an inefficient rookie season have an efficient season prior to breaking out.”
This means that it’s more likely that Harry bounces back this year prior to becoming a top-12 fantasy receiver. Via Instagram Tom Brady has predicted a big year for Harry.
The departure of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots does not necessarily spell the end for N’Keal Harry. In fact, the only perimeter receiver to have fantasy success with Brady was Randy Moss, with brief honorable mentions going to Brandon LaFell and Josh Gordon.
Cam Newton, whom the New England Patriots signed earlier in the summer, has supported multiple fantasy-relevant outside wide receivers such as Steve Smith, Kelvin Benjamin, and Steve Smith. His signing cannot be seen as bad news for Harry, as it raises their entire offensive projection.
N’Keal Harry entered the NFL as an excellent prospect, in terms of both college production and athleticism. His draft position as a first-round pick only confirmed his dominant profile.
While his rookie season was far from ideal, don’t let one injury-plagued year deceive you. Plenty of wide receivers have been successful following a difficult rookie year. Even if Harry does not dominate this season, his price tag in dynasty leagues may never be lower.