Wide Receiver Sidekicks Poised for Big Years

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Everybody is looking for this year’s Chris Godwin at wide receiver. Here are five candidates that could fill that role in 2020.

Last year Chris Godwin was the breakout superstar wide receiver that everybody wished was on their fantasy team. Godwin did this as the number two receiver on his team, acting as Mike Evans’ sidekick. He proved that it doesn’t take being a team’s number one receiving option to be a top fantasy asset.

Who will be this year’s Godwin? Which wide receiver is not a team’s top option but is destined for a huge fantasy season?

Here are five options, ranging from borderline superstar to breakout candidate.

Calvin Ridley

Ridley showed his true potential his rookie year. He finished as a top-20 wide receiver with 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ridley had a very similar stat line in his sophomore season. He racked up 866 yards but scored just 7 touchdowns.

2020 has a lot of potential to be the season where Ridley announces himself as a top-10 wide receiver in the league.

Atlanta vacated a lot of targets from their 2019 team. Only three of their top six most-targeted players are returning to the Falcons this year. The departed trio of Austin Hooper, Devonta Freeman and Mohamed Sanu is leaving a combined 209 targets up for grabs.

Off-season acquisitions Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley are expected to soak up a majority of those targets. However, Ridley has a good chance to see an increase in targets as well. An extra 20 to 30 targets could help him finally break 1,000 yards.

Improved play by QB Matt Ryan would also be a boon for Ridley. Ryan had a very solid 4,466 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 2019. If Ryan throws for 4,700 yards and 30+ touchdowns – a feat the QB has accomplished three times previously – Ridley will be a huge beneficiary of that production.

If everything goes right this year, a 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season from Ridley is not out of the question. That would make him a huge steal at his current early fifth round ADP.

Jarvis Landry

Landry arguably does not even warrant inclusion on this list. He finished as the WR11 in 2019 but is still being drafted behind teammate Odell Beckham Jr.

Landry had more yards, receptions and touchdowns than Beckham last year. He racked up 1,174 yards on 83 catches with 6 touchdowns. That put him in the top-20 in the league in receptions and top-10 in yardage. It was his second-best fantasy season in total points (154) and tied for his best season in positional finish in standard leagues (14th).

There is no reason to expect regression from Landry in 2020. He was targeted 138 times last year, just the fourth-most targets of his six-year career. In his only other season with Cleveland he saw 149 targets. Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield suffered a very obvious sophomore slump in 2019. With a return to Mayfield’s rookie form, Landry could see even more targets.

Key to Landry’s success in 2019 was his efficiency. He recorded an average of 14.1 yards per reception, a career-best. This amounted to the most receiving yards in his career despite the second-fewest receptions. The Browns have been able to use him as a downfield threat, something Miami never did.

With an improved Mayfield, Landry has top-10 wide receiver potential this year. He needed just nine more points to achieve that feat last year. Even if he ends up playing sidekick to Beckham, a huge season is still in the cards.

Michael Gallup

There is a lot of hype for the receiving crew in Dallas, but Gallup is not receiving as much of it as his teammates.

He is sandwiched between Amari Cooper, whose play earned him a huge off-season contract, and CeeDee Lamb, one of the best receiver prospects in this year’s draft.

Coming off a 1,107-yard, 6 TD season – making him WR20 in standard scoring –  Gallup being overlooked is a bit of a surprise. His 16-game pace was 1,265 yards, which would have made him the WR11.

The biggest concern for Gallup is the arrival of Lamb. A top prospect, the rookie could replace or take away from Gallup’s numbers.

That said, rookies do not tend to see an excessive amount of targets. Seattle’s DK Metcalf lead all rookies last year with 100 targets, but was the clear number two receiver for the Seahawks. If Lamb does reach that 100-target mark, he could achieve that by absorbing the vacated targets from the departed Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. This leaves more than enough for Gallup to get a productive share of the offense.

Gallup could also be a beneficiary of Cobb and Witten’s departures. Those two combined for 7 touchdowns. If Gallup can just boost his touchdown total from 6 to 8+ in 2020 he is in line for a huge season.

Gallup is the real deal, poised to put together another productive season and catapult himself into the conversation of best young wide receivers in the league.

Marvin Jones

Unlike others on this list, Jones did not have a particularly impressive 2019.

He finished with just 779 yards on 62 receptions but helped his case with nine touchdowns, doing so in only 13 games. He finished as the WR27 in standard leagues, good for third-best of his career. Jones did this all with Matthew Stafford throwing to him for just 8 of those 13 games.

Jones finds himself clearly the number two receiver on the team, behind young superstar Kenny Golladay. However as Jones has proven, even as a 2nd WR option, he is able to put up huge numbers. In 2017, the best season of his career, Jones finished as a top-five fantasy WR despite fewer targets than teammate Golden Tate. He did so by scoring touchdowns and being insanely efficient with his catches.

While the touchdowns were there for Jones in 2019 – his 9 tied for fourth in the league – his big-play ability was not. In that stellar 2017 season, Jones recorded a league-high 18 YPR. Last year his YPR was 12.6, the worst of his career in a season with over 60 targets.

A lot of that can be attributed to having to catch passes from David Blough and Jeff Driskel for part of the season. With a healthy Stafford, Jones can regain his 2017 form and once again be one of the best deep threats in the game.

Stafford was on pace for nearly 5,000 yards and almost 40 touchdowns last year. If he can come even close to that in 2020, then both Jones and Golladay will be huge fantasy assets, but only one of them will be available in the 10th round.

Diontae Johnson

Now for the full-on breakout candidate on this list. Most players that have a season like Johnson did, with 59 receptions for 680 yards and 5 touchdowns, do not find themselves as top fantasy targets.

However, when placed into context, Johnson’s stats paint a different picture. With Ben Roethlisberger injured, Johnson spent his rookie season with subpar quarterback play most of the year. Instead of a future HOF at QB, the young WR was catching passes from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges (if you are an NFL quarterback and your only claim to fame is being bashed in the head with a helmet or being really good at making duck calls, that is definitely not a good thing.)

Additionally, while supposed superstar receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled for the Steelers,  Johnson stepped up big time and led the team in targets, receptions and touchdowns.

Many were expecting Pittsburgh’s second receiving option to have a big 2019 season, like Smith-Schuster a few years earlier. However, most thought it would be second-year wideout James Washington, not Johnson the third-round rookie.

2020 is looking like the year where Johnson takes that next step, establishing himself as the standout number two receiver the Steelers have been looking for. If Johnson is able to develop chemistry with the returning Roethlisberger, nothing is stopping him from taking off.

Even if Smith-Schuster has a better season than his disappointing 2019 effort, the Pittsburgh passing offense should provide plenty of opportunity for Johnson. In 2018, Roethlisberger led the league with 5,129 yards. Even if Roethlisberger does not come close to replicating that season due to injuries and age, there should still be at least 1,000 more yards for Steeler receivers to claim in 2020.

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