WR2 Theory: Hello!! Anybody Home?

Knock! Knock! Knock! Hello!! Anyone home? New WR2 Theory here….

Oh no!!! Not another fantasy football theory… It’s a game…it shouldn’t have theories…

Hi!! Hi!! I see you in there…. 

Shit!! He’s seen me… What do I do?

I just need a few minutes of your time….

I already drafted…sorry…maybe next year….

Leagues are starting every day…it will just take a second…

I already have a strategy….

Does it work? 

Of course it works….I mean…maybe not the last few years….but this is my year…I don’t need your Theory…

It’s got Calvin Ridley….

They all have Calvin Ridley…. 

And Diontae Johnson….

I really like Diontae this year….but I just can’t… I am sure it’s a great theory and all, but there are already too many strategies for me to keep track of….. Robust RB Strategy….. Late Round QB strategy… Hell, some wackos are out there touting something called a Zero RB strategy….like have you watched football….CMC… I hope it works out for you and all…but I just can’t. 

What if I told you that I could get you a late-round WR that is being drafted as the WR3 on his own team that has the potential to finish as a top 25 WR this season?! We are talking value for days here!!

Theories are complicated…baby me

It’s gonna be like taking WRs from a baby….

Wait. What? How would that even work?

Don’t worry. It’s easy. Let me tell you all about-

Are you sure?

It’s so simple even a Jet’s fan could understand it.

Sounds pretty simple.    

Welcome to WR2 Theory my friend… One favor… Can you ask your dog to let go of my hand…I’m having trouble getting it out of your mail slot. Oops…I think I dropped my Diontae Johnson…

WR2 Theory Origin Story 

Like all great origin stories, WR2 Theory roots can be traced to a brief but meaningful Twitter exchange last NFL off-season when JJ Zachariason posted a tweet asking for questions for his Late-Round Podcast mailbag. All the stars aligned as I stumbled upon it and posted a question that I had been mulling over the last few seasons. Simply put, I wanted to know how accurately we (as the fantasy community) were at successfully predicting which WR finished the season as the WR1 on their own team. I was sure that this question had already been answered by fantasy football analysts and if JJ could just kindly push me in the right direction, I could get that info and get on with winning all my leagues….in February….don’t judge me.  

After talking to JJ, it became apparent that the answers I was seeking were not readily available to be effortlessly plucked from the fantasy football tree of knowledge and to be generously bequeathed to me via the Tweeters. If my question was going to be answered, I was gonna need to take the fantasy stats into my own hands. I started immediately!

My Process

I began by pouring over the last 5 seasons of WR ADP data and then compared it to where WRs finished at the end of the fantasy season. I then filtered that data through the vacated targets tool created each year by John Daigle from Rotoworld in order to see if there was a correlation between breakout WRs and vacated targets. Next, I studied the team-specific factors and circumstances to identify and document the conditions that led to the shift in the WR value for each individual team. Finally, I created criteria for success that incorporated all of the key data points and then used it determine WR2 breakout candidates for 2020. WR2 Theory had been born.


As I dug further into the data, I started to see a pattern emerge. There are WRs that are routinely undervalued and outperform their ADP each year. I’ll spare you the nerd stuff, but on average 30-40% of WR1s are inaccurately predicted based on WR redraft ADP each season. In 2019, Chris Godwin, A.J. Brown, DJ Chark, Cooper Kupp, Courtland Sutton, Stefon Diggs, and Jarvis Landry were all drafted as the WR2 on their respective teams and finished as the WR1. In the case of Godwin and Kupp, both had teammates in Robert Woods and Mike Evans who finished in the top 16 for WRs. The players in the chart below were practically free at the end of drafts last year.

In 2018, Robert Woods was drafted behind both Brandon Cooks and Cooper Kupp and that season he finished as the WR1 on the L.A. Rams and the overall WR10.

In 2018, Tyler Boyd went undrafted in most leagues and ended the season as the WR1 on the Bengals ahead of the injury-plagued A.J. Green and as the overall WR15.

In 2018, Tyler Lockett was being drafted as the WR50 compared to Doug Baldwin who was being drafted as the WR16. Lockett finished 2018 as WR16. Doug Baldwin finished as the WR46.

In some cases, the WR2 didn’t eclipse the WR1 on their team, but they came close and in doing so significantly outpaced their ADP. JuJu Smith-Schuster busted on the scene in 2017 and was being drafted as the WR18 in 2018. He finished as the WR8, only 30 points behind Antonio Brown.

2017 saw the Marvin Jones finish as the WR11 after being drafted as the WR44. He finished less than a point higher than Golden Tate who finished the year as the WR12. He was drafted as the WR23.

2016 featured 4 teams that had 2 WRs finish inside the top 24. Green Bay featured 2 top 10 WRs in Jordy Nelson as the overall WR2 and Davante Adams as the WR10. That season Adams was drafted at the WR3 on his team behind Randel Cobb and Nelson.

2015 seems like forever ago in the fantasy football world because it is. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, as New York Jets, both finished in the top 15 with Decker going off the board as the WR43. It happened. Trust me.

WR2 Theory Criteria for Success

Vacated Targets: Targets that are available in an offense.

High Volume Passing Offenses: – Offenses that consistently/historically see an increased percentage of passing volume when compared to the league average.

Emerging Talent/Rookies: The infusion of talented younger players into offensive schemes.

Injuries: Increased workload due to injury to a teammate.

Vacated Targets

One important tool that I used to help me identify potential WRs who fit into the WR2 Theory was the 2020 vacated target data. I studied the correlation between a teams vacated yards and WR2s who broke out in previous years and noticed a positive correlation. Here is the list of 2020 vacated targets.

Explosive Offenses: Over the last 5 years the following teams supported 2 top 24 WRs.

2019 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, L.A. Rams

2018 – Atlanta Falcons, L.A. Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburg Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2017 – Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Pittsburg Steelers

2016 – Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints

2015 – Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos

Emerging Talent/Rookies

Terry McLaurin 2020 Fantasy Football Outlook: Major Upside With Top 10 WR  Potential - Roto Street Journal
Photo Credit: Roto Street Journal

Here is the list of rookie and second year WRs who finished in the top 40 in 2019.

D.J. Chark – WR18
Courtland Sutton – WR19
A.J. Brown – WR21
Michael Gallup – WR24
Calvin Ridley – WR27
Terry McLaurin – WR29
D.K. Metcalf – WR30
Deebo Samuel – WR31
Darius Slayton – WR37
Christian Kirk – WR39
Diontae Johnson – WR40

11 out of 40 or 27.5%

Injuries: It’s hard to predict injuries at the beginning of an NFL season, but there are a few canaries in the coal mine that we can use to help identify potential WR breakouts. Heading into the 2018 season, Doug Baldwin sustained a knee injury during training camps and despite assurances that it was just a “day-to-day” injury it cost him all the preseason reps and the first few weeks of the season. He never recovered from his slow start and it was all that Tyler Lockett needed to seize the WR1 crown in Seattle.

2020 WR2 Candidates

Using all of the tools and matrix mentioned above, here are my 2020 WR2 Theory break out candidates identified by round. All 2020 ADP rankings come directly from 4for4’s ADP tool and are based on a 12 Team PPR league.

Rounds 4-6

Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley announced via Instagram that he's out for the rest of the season. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

Calvin RidleyADP WR16

Calvin Ridley is no secret. As he enters his 3rd year in the NFL, he sits atop most 2020 breakout WR lists and is currently being drafted as the WR16. This is all for good reason. Atlanta currently has the most vacated targets in the league with 258 , including 56% of the redzone targets that up for grabs. Newly Acquired TE Hayden Hurst and RB Todd Gurley will see some of those targets, but there will be plenty to go around in this explosive Falcons offense. Calvin Ridley has top 12 WR upside in 2020. Full. Stop.

Robert Woods – ADP WR19

I love Cooper Kupp. But I love Robert Woods, or “Bobby Trees” to us Twitter folk, a whole hell of a lot more (no apologies to the kids). In the second half of the 2019 season, Woods outpaced Kupp in targets (88 – 57), receptions, (59 – 43), yards (779 – 589), and PPR fantasy points (Woods – 154.5 vs Kupp – 137.9). He set career bests in receptions with 90 and receiving yards with 1,134 last season and I only see the trend continuing in 2020. Draft Robert Woods.

3 Studs and 2 Duds in Seahawks 21-20 victory over Bengals Week 1
Photo Credit: Seahawks wire USA Today

DK Metcalf – ADP WR20

It’s funny how the narrative leading into the 2019 season was that D.K. Metcalf had a limited route tree and his game wouldn’t translate to the NFL. Apparently he learned all the routes because I haven’t heard a peep from the “Metcalf Bust Truthers” since last fall. Given 100 targets in 2019, Metcalf amassed 900 yards on 58 receptions and he had 7 TDs to go along with it. I’m a big believer in Metcalf’s potential to end the season as the WR1 in Seattle.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown – ADP WR28

Technically Mr. Hollywood is the WR1 on the Baltimore Ravens. But since TE Mark Andrews led the team in targets, receptions, and TDs in 2019, Hollywood is being drafted as the second receiving option in Baltimore so that’s enough of a reason to include him on this list. His pair of flashy TDs to ring in the start of the 2019 season were electric, but after the initial offensive explosion, he only scored 5 more times the rest of the season. Given that he was not fully 100% last season and the off-season survey to remove a screw from his foot, I expect Hollywood to see an increase in targets and effectiveness in 2020. I’m drafting him as my WR3 with weekly WR1 upside.

Rounds 7-10

Tyler Boyd – ADP WR30

Up until the start of training camp and A.J. Green’s minor leg injury, Tyler Boyd was being drafted as the WR2 in Cincinnati. Since the injury Boyd has pulled ever so slightly ahead. I’m not sure if I trust A.J. Green in 2020, but according to the data we have, Tyler Boyd is more effective when Green is on the field. If Green can stay moderately healthy in 2020, I can see a scenario where Boyd finishes inside the top 24 WRs. In the 7th round, he is worth your pick.

Brandin Cooks -ADP WR35

2019 was a terrible year for Brandin Cooks, as injuries slowed him down and he finished as the measly WR61 in PPR leagues. In 2018 he finished as the WR13 in LA and in 2017 he finished as the WR15 in New England and in 2016 as the WR11 in New Orleans. I am not encouraging you to reach for him, but if he falls to me in the 9th round, his value might be to great too pass up.

Now healthy, Steelers WR Diontae Johnson looks for breakout in 2020
Photo Credit: DK Pittsburg Sports

Diontae Johnson – ADP WR37

Last season as a rookies Diontae Johnson led the oft-injured and Big Ben-less Steelers in targets (92), receptions (59) and TDs (5). His ADP has dipped as of late after an early training camp injury saw him miss some practice time, but all reports from camp indicate that he is back and is building rapport with a slimmed-down Big Ben. Last year with back-up QBs Diontae boasted the 16th best true catch rate according to Player Profiler. You can draft JuJu. I’ll be rostering all of the Diontae Johnson I can get my hands on. Wait…that didn’t sound right.

Report: CeeDee Lamb Signs with Dallas
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

CeeDee Lamb – ADP WR38

When CeeDee Lamb was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2020 draft, I did full-on backflip in my living room. Why? Because last year Randell Cobb saw 83 targets, which he turned into 55 catches for 828 yards and 3 TDs. Randall Cobb is 30 years old. CeeDee Lamb is not Randall Cobb, but the opportunity is there as the Cowboys are looking to fill 190 vacated targets in 2020. He will be a RedZone threat and I would not be surprised if he ends the season in the 7-8 TD range. I’m predicting that Lamb finishes 2020 inside the top 30 and as the WR2 on the Cowboys. You will be telling your league mates to “CeeDee’s TDs” when it’s all said and done.

Round 10 – 16

Mecole Hardman: 2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper | RotoBaller
Photo Credit: Rotoballer

Mecole Hardman – ADP WR47

State your case against Mecole Hardman. I promise I will listen. OK, I lied. You have no case to state here. Mecole Hardman is worth all of your 10th round picks!! Oh, wait you only get one. Try to get him in the 9th too, if you can. All Mecole, all the time in 2020. He is set-up for success in Kansas City’s high powered Andy Reid offense. Has wheels for legs, has had a whole year to learn the offense and despite him dropping his Super Bowl Ring at the ceremony, he’s gonna catch more than 26 passes in 2020. If you haven’t adjusted your ranks yet, it might be too late for you.

Preston Williams – ADP WR50

Before Devante Parker was a thing last year, Preston Williams was a thing, as in leading the Dolphins in targets, receptions and yards through 8 games.

Here are the splits before the torn ACL:

Devante Parker: 28 receptions, 52 targets, 400 yds, 4 TDs, 11.5 FPPG

Preston Williams: 32 receptions , 60 targets, 428 yds, 3 TDs, 11.47 FPPG

Preston Williams is half the ADP cost at WR50 compared to WR27 for Parker. My guy on the Dolphins beat, Jason Sarney, has predicted Williams to pick-up where he left off last year. At his current ADP, he could be a steal.

Honorable Mentions who are worth late round picks:

Justin Jefferson – ADP WR53

I don’t think that he steps in Stefon Digg’s shoes, because there can only ever be one Stefon Diggs, but I don’t think that 50 receptions, 750 yards and 5 TDs is completely out of the question. Hopefully Kirk Cousins can stay healthy.

Anthony Miller – ADP WR55

I really want to love Anthony Miller this year, but then I remembered that he is saddled with the ever so inconsistent Mitchel “Don’t call him Mitch because his mom doesn’t like it” Trubisky or Nick “Super Bowl” Foles, who lost his job to a guy who is giving away Bud Light for drafting him in the first round of your fantasy draft. So yeah, I’m hoping, but not counting on Miller in 2020.

Curtis Samuel – ADP WR56

Teddy Bridgewater breathes life back into a WR who was boom or bust in 2019, after all the QBs in Carolina were busted. Curtis Samuel is a steal at the WR56 and if he is available in the 14th round, he will be on my team.

Allan Lazard – ADP WR58

Aaron Rodgers is going to throw the ball more than we all think. Davante Adams can’t have all the targets. This is an easy one.

James Washington – ADP WR73

He could legitimately win you your league. He will be my last pick of the draft.

Thank you all for reading my work!!

May the fantasy gods be with you!


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