Every fantasy player loves finding a new rookie to roster to help his or her team win a fantasy championship. However, rookie wide receivers tend to struggle a bit, whether it is getting off the line of scrimmage or figuring out how to deal with complicated defensive coverage. Usually, they take a few months to really hit their stride in the final month or so of the season. It is because of this slow development that many wide receivers make a big leap in year two of their NFL career. Below are five sophomore wide receivers who I expect big things from in 2020 (listed alphabetically):
A.J. Brown, TEN
A stat you will often hear about with Brown is his 2.67 yards per route, which ranked second among wide receivers. Even more surprising is the fact that Brown only had 84 targets last season. It is more than reasonable to think that he will have at least 100 targets even on a run-first Titans offense, which should increase his fantasy production by an additional 10 to 15 percent.
Marquise Brown, BAL
You might recall that Brown started slowly due to a Lisfranc surgery that he had in the offseason last year. This caused the speedy wideout to lose some of his world-class speed, and the Ravens were particularly cautious with his snap count in the early part of the year. However, it was in the playoff game against Tennessee that fantasy players saw that Brown is capable. His seven catches for 126 yards might be the tip of the iceberg for this future star.
Diontae Johnson, PIT
Watch Diontae Johnson’s highlight films when you get a chance. He is one of the best route runners in the game, and he is only in his second year as a pro. He had 59 catches in his rookie season, and 55 of those were with subpar quarterbacks who were attempting to replace the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Not many fantasy players realize that Johnson played hurt for most of last season with a sports hernia injury (he had surgery to fix that this past winter). With JuJu Smith-Schuster in the last year of his contract, Johnson might end up becoming the Steelers WR1 sooner rather than later.
Terry McLaurin, WAS
I think some fantasy players might overlook McLaurin because he plays for a mediocre team with a quarterback who struggled mightily in his rookie year. But that way of thinking might end up being a major fantasy mistake. McLaurin accounted for close to one-third of all Washington receiving yards as a rookie. He also scored seven times, a high number considering Washington often struggled on offense. The key to Washington’s season is quarterback Dwayne Haskins. If Haskins can gain more confidence in the pocket and produce similar numbers to what he produced in college, McLaurin should be the biggest beneficiary and could provide spectacular fantasy numbers.
Deebo Samuel, SF
Samuel suffered a Jones fracture foot injury this offseason, which could keep him out for the first couple of games of the season. When a player gets injured, I always believe that one of two things are in play: 1) avoid the player at all costs, or 2) it creates a buying opportunity. In this case, I believe that Samuel’s injury will create a terrific buying opportunity. Samuel was a key ingredient in the 49ers’ Super Bowl run as he was used in multiple ways by head coach Kyle Shanahan. With Emmanuel Sanders now in New Orleans, and rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk still unfamiliar with the offense, Samuel should have a clear chance at 7-8 targets per game. Drafting Samuel might be risky, but if you can get him as your WR4, you can avoid playing him until he is fully healthy and ready to make an impact for fantasy purposes.
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