The National Football League is more pass-wacky than ever before. Last year, 14 NFL teams passed the ball on at least 60 percent of offensive snaps. As a result, more and more wide receivers are posting big numbers—the 2019 season saw 25 wideouts eclipse 1,000 yards for the year, as opposed to 15 1,000-yard rushers.
That changing NFL landscape has had an impact on fantasy football as well. Sure, there’s still something to be said for rostering an elite pass-catcher like Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, but fantasy drafters who want to hit the running back position hard early and/or grab an elite tight end or quarterback can circle back and still get wide receivers with significant fantasy upside.
There are bargains to be had. You just need to know where to look.
Per the Average Draft Position data at Fantasy Football Calculator, each of the receivers listed here is going in the fifth round or later. But each also has the kind of upside and potential that can carry a receiver group in 2020—at a nice discount.
BARGAIN WIDE RECEIVERS WITH WR1 UPSIDE
D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 50.0, WR20)
After a relatively quiet rookie season in 2019, Chark exploded in 2019, hauling in 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight scores in 15 games on the way to a WR18 fantasy finish in PPR scoring systems. According to Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports, Chark could be in for even bigger and better things in his third year in the NFL.
“In 2019, Chark had seven games with at least 16 PPR points in the 15 games he played,” Eisenberg wrote. “He should see a slight uptick in the 7.9 targets he averaged a game last year, and I like that new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to use Chark more in the slot.”
More than a few wide receivers have taken a big step forward in their third season, and Chark showed a nice rapport last season with Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew. He should also benefit statistically from playing for a Jaguars team that is likely to be playing catch-up with regularity this season.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 52.5, WR22)
Over the past three years, Allen has been as consistent a fantasy asset as any receiver in the NFL. But with Philip Rivers gone and Tyrod Taylor (or rookie Justin Herbert) now under center in Los Angeles, Allen’s ADP has plummeted. In the opinion of Max Staley of Fanduel, reports of Allen’s fantasy demise appear to have been exaggerated.
“The last time we saw Taylor as a full-time starter (2017) he posted an average depth of target (aDOT) of 8.6 yards,” Staley said. “That’s the exact same mark Rivers posted last year, suggesting Taylor will be just fine throwing the same types of passes that Allen saw from Rivers. Projecting Allen to fall from a bonafide WR1 to a low-end WR2 seems like an overreaction. Allen looks like an incredible value based on his current ADP.”
Over the past three years, Allen has averaged over 100 receptions, 1,200 yards and six touchdowns—finishing as a top-12 fantasy option all three times and as a top-six PPR receiver twice. Even if his production tails off a bit, a fourth straight 1,000-yard season is hardly out of the question—especially if Herbert takes over under center sooner as opposed to later.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 57.2, WR24)
There was a time when Hilton was one of the most feared wide receivers in the NFL. But in an injury-plagued 2019 campaign, Hilton hit career-lows in both receptions (45) and yardage (501). However, as Corey Parson reported for Sports Illustrated, the switch from Jacoby Brissett to Philip Rivers at quarterback in Indianapolis could be just what Hilton needs to re-join fantasy’s elite.
“Brissett was not the right quarterback to take full advantage of Hilton’s talents,” Parson said. “New Colts quarterback Philip Rivers is exactly the type Hilton needs to excel. Rivers will be much more willing to drive the football down the field. As long as Hilton is healthy for 16 games, he should be a longshot candidate for the top fantasy wide receiver this upcoming season.”
Hilton finishing as the No. 1 wide receiver overall in 2020 might be pushing it. But as recently as 2018, Hilton hauled in 76 passes for 1,270 yards and six scores while finishing as the 14th-ranked receiver in PPR fantasy points. Hilton’s eight missed games the past two years are a concern, but with an ADP in the bottom of WR2 territory it’s a risk worth taking.