In Part 1 of this article, we explore some success stories of wideouts who were inefficient as rookies but turned out to be fantasy studs. What actionable information can we glean from that to forecast current young pass-catchers? Let’s take a look.
3rd Year Wide Receivers to Target
We’ve listed all the 2020 3rd-year receivers who were inefficient as rookies but finished with over 7.7 yards per target (YPT) on 50 or more targets last year. Their age and stats from last season are listed below.
A few interesting names pop up here. We already touched on Michael Gallup and Anthony Miller a bit in the last article, but it should be re-affirmed that Gallup checks the box for efficiency in Year 2.
James Washington is an interesting case. Despite playing with replacement-level quarterback play for most of the year, he had a very efficient season.
He had a massive improvement after his rookie season. Here is how he stacked up against the receivers on his team.
He was by far the most efficient player on the Steelers despite being thought of as the third option on the team. With Ben Roethlisberger ready to go next season, this passing offense should bounce-back, and Washington certainly has the potential to breakout.
Remember, Washington has a strong profile as he was a 2nd round draft pick, weighs over 210 lbs., and now has an efficient second season to his name.
Washington is now 1 of 14 NFL players since 2000 who had an inefficient rookie season, were efficient in their 2nd season, were drafted in the first or second round, and weigh 210 or more lbs. Eight of the other 13 players (62%) had at least one WR1 season with four of them breaking out in their 3rd season.
Note that one player (who we will be touching on later in this article) is also part of this group, so without that full data point, we can safely say 8 of the 12 players (67%) that Washington profiles similarly to have hit at least one WR1 season.
Washington is currently being drafted outside the top-100 startup picks and has undeniable upside in this range. It remains to be seen whether last year was a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come. But let’s not forget coming out as a prospect, Washington compared favorably to DeAndre Hopkins and had a 98th percentile breakout age.
DJ Chark is a player who has skyrocketed in value this past season. Knowing that Chark was actually on pace to become a WR1 if it weren’t for a late-season injury, he seems like a solid bet to hit as a WR1 at some point in his career.
It’s important to note that all five WRs who became a WR1 in their 2nd season after an inefficient rookie year had multiple WR1 seasons in their career. While Chark didn’t hit that, he was very close and will be entering next season at the young age of 23.
What Chark did last year shouldn’t be taken lightly. He joins a very impressive group of players to have over 1,000 yards on eight or more YPT at the age of 23 or younger. His dynasty ADP of 42 makes for an interesting buy with some nice return on investment over the next few years.
Allen Lazard and Zach Pascal had solids seasons last year after unproductive rookie seasons. While both are unlikely to break out next year, Tyreek Hill was the only player drafted after the 3rd round to become a WR1 before their fifth season after an inefficient rookie year. They are players to keep an eye on the next few seasons but are unlikely to become WR1s. If they continue to be efficient with more volume, they will be under-the-radar acquisitions in fantasy.
4th Year Wide Receivers to Target
Let’s see which 4th-year receivers we may want to take a shot at in hopes of a WR1 campaign.
It’s slightly ironic that the top three receivers selected in the draft had inefficient rookie seasons and have failed to produce even a WR2 season, while the next four to be drafted not only had efficient rookie seasons, but all have a WR1 season to their name already. Those four receivers are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Cooper Kupp.
Mike Williams is an important name and somebody we have seen become extremely efficient over the past two seasons.
Williams fits what we have seen in a 4th-year breakout who had an inefficient rookie season. He has done everything he could in the limited amount of opportunities he has received in his career to this point.
Some very interesting names on this list in who Williams comps to after his first three years in the league. Williams fits into the same exact cohort that we mention with James Washington earlier. Not including Washington, 8 of the 12 players who bounced back to an efficient season after an inefficient rookie campaign, weighed 210 or more lbs., and were drafted in the first or second round became a WR1 at some point in their career. There are a lot of strong indicators that Williams could breakout in 2020 with more opportunities.
Corey Davis came in the league as a premier prospect but has been a disappointment at this point in his career. His efficiency numbers may illustrate a different story.
In 2018 he had a nice bounce-back campaign and looked ready to take the next step, but unfortunately, the opportunity wasn’t there for him last year. With future superstar AJ Brown alongside Davis, it seems unlikely Davis gets a massive share of the Titans’ targets next year. He should still be someone to keep an eye on in dynasty, but a wait-and-see approach is likely the best bet.
John Ross had arguably the worst first two seasons in the league, with the exception of touchdowns, before coming out hot last year. Unfortunately, injuries have been a major part of his career up until this point.
With Joe Burrow likely coming into town, Ross actually is an intriguing player for next year if he can stay healthy. He remains a wait-and-see player as well but has the opportunity to make some noise next season as a cheap target in dynasty.
5th Year Wide Receivers to Target
Two players here stick out here: Robby Anderson and Will Fuller are 2 of 15 players to have three straight seasons over eight YPT.
Injuries have kept Fuller from truly breaking out, but the talent is there. If Fuller can play a full 16 game season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him put up a WR1 season. We’ve seen what he’s capable of in terms of per-game scoring.
Robby Anderson is a free agent and may have a new home this offseason. Regardless, he’s the type of player who can put up fantasy points in a hurry. If a team is willing to give him upwards of 120 targets, he certainly has the capability to become a WR1. His future will depend on where he lands.
Breshad Perriman and Demarcus Robinson both had back-to-back efficient seasons. The issue is they are free agents and only have very small samples of success in the league. It would be shocking to see either of them hit a WR1 season at this point in their career.
We really see how important efficient seasons are for young players. If we are to bet on inefficient rookies, it is paramount that we track their efficiency early in their coming years. Knowing that these players are unlikely to become a WR1, it is important to find thresholds in which we can increase our probability of finding a WR1 to know where to take risks during drafts.
Thank you for reading! Hopefully, you learned as much from reading this study as I did researching it! Make sure to follow me on twitter @DaltonGuruFF for all sorts of insightful fantasy stats.