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Which WRs will Fall from the Fantasy Top Ten in 2020?

By Joseph Hutchins | 8/1/20

There will be nothing normal about the 2020 NFL season, obviously. There will be no preseason, no fans in some stadiums, no guarantee we’ll even make it through a full campaign before losing tons of players to this insidious pandemic. About the only thing we can reasonably count on is that last year’s Top 10 performers, should they successfully evade the virus and a sudden league quarantine, won’t look anything like this year’s Top 10 performers. We know this because I’ve been providing data for nine consecutive years to support that belief. Welcome to Year 10 of the Top 10 Dropouts series, folks, a deeper dive into which stars disappointed last year and which of them might be primed to do so this coming season.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s Non-PPR league scoring.

  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2018
Rank Player
1 Tyreek Hill
2 DeAndre Hopkins
3 Antonio Brown
4 Julio Jones
5 Davante Adams
6 Mike Evans
7 Michael Thomas
8 Adam Thielen
9 JuJu Smith-Schuster
10 Robert Woods
  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2019
Rank Player
1 Michael Thomas
2 Chris Godwin
3 Kenny Golladay
4 Cooper Kupp
5 Julio Jones
6 DeVante Parker
7 Amari Cooper
8 A.J. Brown
9 Mike Evans
10 DeAndre Hopkins

Who Missed the Cut in 2019 (6/10): T. Hill, A. Brown, D. Adams, A. Thielen, J. Smith-Schuster, & R. Woods

You know it’s been a rough year for the game’s best wideouts and, by extension, those who spent lavishly on them, when three of the top five fail to remain even in the Top 25. That was the case for Tyreek Hill (WR29), Davante Adams (WR30) and, of course, Antonio Brown (oblivion). Hill logged only two short grabs in the season opener against Jacksonville before going down with a sternoclavicular joint injury. He wouldn’t return until Week 6, at which point he had no hope of reclaiming Top 10 status. Adams, on the other hand, suffered a turf toe injury during the Pack’s Week 4 loss to Philly and wouldn’t return until Week 9. Though he was spectacular down the stretch, the Green Bay star never justified that high draft value. Then again, at least he didn’t set fire to it, or to his NFL career, as Antonio Brown did. When the Raiders and Pats can’t countenance you...yeah, it’s time to be done.

Adam Thielen seems poised for a huge 2020 rebound after the Vikes parted ways with Stefon Diggs, but 2019 was a year to regret for the Mankato great. Thielen averaged a Top 10-worthy 11.6 FPts/G through seven weeks, but tweaked a hammy and only regained his form when the playoffs rolled around. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season followed a similar trajectory minus that “regained his form” part. Pittsburgh’s WR1 had to deal with his own variety of injuries, a season-ending injury to Big Ben, and the added attention of defenses no longer forced to contend with the aforementioned Brown. From Week 9 to the end of the year, JuJu scored a measly 10.9 points. Our final WR dropout of 2019, Robert Woods, scored more than that in four of his final five games, salvaging what was shaping up to be a pretty disappointing campaign. With LA at a clear crossroads, it’s hard to tell what the 2020 season has in store for Woods and the rest of a once-explosive Rams offense.

Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top 10 This Year:

Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp, LAR: Kupp was arguably the most productive member of that Rams offense in 2019, grabbing a career-high 94 balls (on 134 targets) for 1,161 yards and 10 scores, good enough for 11.0 FPts/G and a WR4 ranking overall. Not bad for a skinny, “too slow” Yakima kid who couldn’t even get a football scholarship offer from Yale, his dream destination as a prep. Unless you were paying pretty close attention, however (not guilty), Kupp’s usage fell off the table in the season’s second half. Notice I didn’t say “production,” because there was still plenty of that, mostly in the form of touchdowns. He scored one a week from Weeks 13 through 17 despite a greatly reduced snap percentage and a steep decline in targets (about five per game from Week 9 on).

There’s no telling which Kupp we’ll see in 2020, mostly because there’s no telling which personnel grouping Coach McVay will prefer to employ most often. It’s too simplistic/reductionist, maybe, but at least interesting that the Rams scored about four points fewer per game utilizing their heavy personnel package—essentially Johnny Mundt instead of Kupp or Brandin Cooks—more frequently. There’s also the added complication of Cooks having moved on to Houston. Though it’s easy to assume Kupp will just move outside and continue to thrive in 11 sets, the Rams spent their second pick of the draft, No.57 overall, on Van Jefferson, a speed merchant from Florida. Speed ain’t everything (keep reading), but Jefferson seems like a better fit on the perimeter than the natural slot, Kupp.

The bottom line for me is that Kupp is probably too talented and too simpatico with Jared Goff to fall completely off the radar. Fall completely out of the Top 10? Yeah, I think that’s happening.

DeVante Parker, MIA: Last season seems like literally years ago, so imagine my recent surprise when I popped open the rankings, in preparation for this series, to discover Parker was the sixth most productive wide receiver in 2019. Really? In the entire NFL? Not sure if I was sleeping at the wheel last year (possible) or that this sheltering-in-place marathon has since eroded my memories (more likely), but I definitely didn’t have “DeVante Parker turns into a primo fantasy producer five years into his career” on my 2019 fantasy FB bingo card.

Parker has always struggled with injuries—last season was his first clean sheet after missing 17 career games—and that probably also explains why he’s always struggled with consistency. His points-per-game totals had stepped down each year since his 2015 debut: 8.4, 6.6, 5.6, and 3.4. Then 2019 happened (10.9) and...welp, guess we have a new star receiver to consider for 2020 drafts next month! Or do we?

I’m always leery of jarring statistical outliers, especially when the player who authors them has never really demoed a capability for stardom or an ability to stay healthy in prior seasons. In some ways, Parker has probably benefited from Miami’s crappiness since he joined the squad. Like, who else did they have? Can you imagine Bill Belichick, for instance, gambling that four years of disappointing production would somehow lead to a Year 5 jackpot?

This general skepticism aside, I’m also concerned there won’t be enough Fitzmagic-making this season. From Week 6 on, when the bearded one took over for good, Parker averaged 12.3 FPts/G, a per-game clip only three other receivers surpassed. Think the Fish drafted Tua so he could serve as Fitzy’s apprentice all season? Yeah, me neither. Parker’s a risky 2020 pickup.

A.J. Brown, TEN: Unlike Parker, who took five years to gain his NFL sea legs, Brown hit the NFL ground running, mostly go routes if his eye-popping rookie totals are any indication. The 51st pick out of Ole Miss averaged 20.2 yards per grab, trailing only Big Mike Williams of the Chargers amongst qualifying receivers. Moreover, he turned 9 of his total 55 touches into scores (one rushing touchdown). In other words, Brown scored just over 16% of the time he touched the pigskin, a staggering TD percentage only a handful of others bested. Is it any wonder Matt Luke was canned down in Oxford, having never managed to nudge teams featuring Brown and Seattle’s DK Metcalf over the .500 mark?

Both Ole Miss products have bright NFL futures ahead of them, but I actually think Metcalf has a better chance of posting Top 10 numbers in 2020. He’s playing with Russell Wilson, for starters, instead of Ryan Tannehill. He’s also considerably taller/more muscular (6’4”, 229 lbs. v. 6’0”, 226 lbs.) and faster (4.33 40 v. 4.49) than his college teammate. Raw 40 times don’t necessarily translate into pure game speed, but if you’ve watched Metcalf run with pads on, it’s hard not to envision him transforming into an all-time great sooner rather than later.

Hey, maybe Brown will too, though I’m skeptical his middle-of-the-road 40 time will consistently translate, for seasons to come, into the top-end, per-catch production he displayed as a rookie. There’s more to starring as an NFL wideout than straight-line speed (see Kupp, Cooper), but Brown simply isn’t fast enough to hit as many homers again (avg. 2019 TD: 39 yards). Tennessee also ignored the position in the draft, meaning he becomes an even clearer focal point for opponents in 2020.

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