By Bradley Stalder @FFStalder
In the classic 2004 romantic comedy 50 First Dates, the protagonist Lucy (played by a prime Drew Barrymore) suffers from Goldfield’s Syndrome — a brain illness that affects, among other things, one’s short-term memory. Her love interest Henry (played by a regressing Adam Sandler) faces conflict when Lucy cannot remember any information regarding their romantic encounters from the previous few days. In fact, she flat out rejects his attempts to remind her of his love. His failure to help her remember only more fuels his desire to renew a lasting love with her. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, it is an Adam Sandler film (but not like Funny People or Uncut Gems, more like Happy Gilmore).
Sometimes, we as fantasy managers experience a form of non-clinical Goldfield’s Syndrome — forgetting or dismissing the “love” our players have shown us in the past. We are too quick to reject our fantasy players’ future because of what we see in the present. Let me remind you, as Henry reminded Lucy, of the love of past players and what love they could show us managers in 2020.
For this article, we will review wide receivers who were top 15 PPR-scoring players from 2018 or earlier, who did not pass that threshold in 2019, and yet may be fantasy relevant for the 2020 season.
Top Target Expected:
Davante Adams (WR9, 2016; WR14, 2017; WR2, 2018)– Age 27
Situation Review: In perhaps the second biggest surprise this offseason– first being the DeAndre Hopkins-David Johnson trade– the Packers passed on drafting a rookie wide receiver and only added Devin Funchess (WR21 in 2017) and CFL star Reggie Begelton. Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimious St. Brown, and Allen Lazard round out the rest of the wide receiver room. If you feel underwhelmed reading those names, you share the same sentiment as the rest of Packers Nation.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 90%. Only injuries stood in Adams’ way from a top-10 WR performance. In fact, while Adams was WR23, he finished the season as WR6 on a points per game basis. With no other viable and consistent fantasy options in the passing game, and a disappointed yet determined Aaron Rodgers, Adams could very well end up the overall WR1 overall simply on volume and QB-trust.
Stefon Diggs (WR10, 2018)– Age 26
- Situation Review: In case you missed it, the Vikings traded the disgruntled diva receiver to the Buffalo Bills this offseason for quite a haul of draft picks. The Bills are all-in with Josh Allen as their franchise quarterback and, after surrounding him with quality veterans John Brown and Cole Beasley, committed to his development in 2020 by trading for one of the best route runners in Stefon Diggs. Diggs slots in as the #1 WR for the Bills on the outside.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 30%. Diggs goes from a run-first offense with a proven veteran WR (Thielen) opposite him to a run-first offense with a proven veteran WR (J Brown) opposite him. During 2019, Cousins threw deep at a similar rate as Josh Allen, but completed many more of those passes. We can expect Diggs to still have his boom/bust games (6 games with more than 90 receiving yards; 7 games with fewer than 50 receiving yards in 2019) but we cannot justify concrete optimism of a higher floor with the Bills. Diggs finished as WR24 during 2019– and very well may finish 2020 at a similar ranking. Diggs simply does not have access to a top 15 finish with the Bills given the weapons, scheme, and quarterback.
Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR7, 2014; WR5, 2015; WR4, 2016; WR15, 2018)– Age 27
- Situation Review: While OBJ failed to live up to the hype, many excuses can be made for his 2019 season. Disastrous coaching. Core muscle injury. Inconsistent QB play. However, the Browns have made major changes and commitments moving into 2020. Coach Stefanski cannot be worse than Kitchens. OBJ had surgery to repair his core muscle. Baker Mayfield’s supporting cast is improved: Jack Conklin, Austin Hooper, Jedrick Wills, Jr., Andy Janovich. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, David Njoku, and the WR1 of the Browns Jarvis Landry all reprise their roles as offensive weapons. The Browns are the biggest bets to be post-hype sleepers given the total collapse of 2019 and the talent still on the team.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 65%. OBJ finished 2019 as WR25. It will not take much for OBJ to replicate his 133 targets, nor take much to improve on 74 receptions on 1035 yards with 4 touchdowns. He has access to a top-5 ceiling few other receivers do– and any positive regression for OBJ will put him at the top of the WR tier again. Fantasy managers should feel confident taking a shot at drafting Beckham if others are afraid to do so.
Tyreek Hill (WR9, 2017; WR3, 2018)– Age 26
- Situation Review: The Chiefs offense will continue dominance in 2020. The Chiefs added Clyde Edwards-Helaire (better than Brian Westbrook?), resigned depth piece Demarcus Robinson, and renegotiated Sammy Watkins’ contract. It does not take much analysis to say there are so many offensive weapons on the Super Bowl champion Chiefs for Hill to still achieve greatness.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 85%. Just like many receivers in this list, Hill’s 2019 output suffered due to injuries. He is an elusive and elite talent with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes at Quarterback. Considered the WR1 overall in many dynasty circles, Hill’s ceiling remains sky-high.
TY Hilton (WR12, 2014; WR5, 2016; WR14, 2018)– Age 30
- Situation Review: Hilton, the expected leader of the Colts receivers, suffered from Jacoby Brissett’s lack of upside and his own injuries in 2019. Hilton’s YPT and YPC was the lowest of his career at 7.37 and 11.13 respectively. Now with Phillip Rivers at QB, Hilton is poised to again compete for the league lead in receiving yards. The Colts are well aware of Hilton’s age and contract situation; for the second consecutive year, the Colts drafted a wide receiver in the 2nd round of the NFL rookie draft (Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman, Jr.). Neither pose a significant threat to Hilton’s target share in 2020. Given where Hilton is falling drafts, he may prove a risk-reward value for fantasy managers this season.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 50%. Hilton makes his fantasy money through yards. Phillip Rivers will look to feed his #1 wide receiver, similar to how he did so with Keenan Allen (who finished WR6 in 2019). While Hilton may be frustrating to project week-to-week in 2020, he still possesses week-winning upside and breakaway gains.
Brandin Cooks (WR13, 2015; WR10, 2016; WR15, 2017; WR13, 2018)– Age 26
- Situation Review: Have we heard this one before? Cooks joins yet another team, the Houston Texans, poised to be the #1 receiving option in their offense. After the shocking trade of DeAndre Hopkins, Cooks will compete with Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, Will Fuller’s good ACL, and Keke Coutee for targets from Deshaun Watson. Before Cooks’ lost season in 2019, he had four straight top-15 seasons as the #1 option on the Saints, Patriots, and Rams. And he’s only 26. Cooks’ only question, and it is a big one, surrounds his concussion history. While Cooks only missed two games due to concussion, new coach/GM Bill O’Brien isn’t concerned about losing his new star receiver to a brain injury moving forward.
- Chance at WR15 Status: 40%. Being drafted in the 9th round of some dynasty start-ups, Cooks could be a league-winner if he stays concussion-free in 2020. All 150 of DeAndre Hopkins’ vacated targets will not go to Randall Cobb.
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR8, 2018)– Age 23
- Situation Review: Just like all other Steelers offensive players, Juju suffered tremendously from the likes of Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph throwing passes (when they did). The Steelers selected Chase Claypool in the 2nd round of the NFL draft, who projects to be an outside receiver competing with James Washington and Twitter-darling sophomore Dionte Johnson. Juju may move to the slot more in 2020, allowing for mismatches against weaker pass-defending linebackers. Additionally, the Steelers added mystifying TE Eric Ebron this offseason– who projects as a red zone threat (if he can catch the ball).
- Chance at WR15 Status: 65%. As Ben goes, so goes the Steelers. However, if you believe in Ben Roethlisberger’s return, don’t fall for the Dionte Johnson hype. He will not over-take Juju as the lead pass-catcher. The Steelers are better poised to keep up offensively with the Ravens, rejuvenated Browns, and reloaded Bengals– leading to more offensive opportunities and a reclamation of greatness for Juju Smith-Schuster. Maybe this year he can live up to his potential.
Adam Thielen (WR8, 2017; WR7, 2018)– Age 29
- Situation Review: Injuries derailed Thielen’s 2019 season– the case for most stud WRs on this list. What makes Thielen’s 2020 situation different is a gaping hole left across the field by Stefon Diggs. The addition of LSU stud WR Justin Jefferson and anticipated development of sophomore TE Irv Smith, Jr. should not eat into the target share of Thielen. Kirk Cousins’ accuracy will continue to provide efficient production for Thielen as the only fantasy relevant receiver on the Vikings in 2020.
Chance at WR15 Status: 70%. Thielen’s volume, even if Kirk Cousins only attempts 450 passes again, should buoy him back into fantasy’s top tier of fantasy receivers.