It feels like the 2019 NFL Draft was ages ago, but it was just last off-season. And yet, the picks made that night that filled us with optimism and promise can look different going into year two. But therein lies the advantage for savvy dynasty players and drafters. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at players from the Class of 2019 by position (QB, RB, WR, TE) and considering their rookie year, their current situation, and whether they’re a good bet.
This won’t be a tour of the stars from last year. By now, you should know players like Kyler Murray, Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant are assets you should jump on. This will be a look at others who may not have performed as expected or yet gotten a chance, that could be a value heading into 2020.
We turn now to wide receivers and a quartet of players that were taken with much promise last off-season. And yet, as we head into this 2020 season, none of them seem to be hot commodities when it comes to drafting. Are they busts? Do they just need more time for seasoning? Let’s see where the value lies with these four coming into year two.
N’Keal Harry, New England Patriots, Drafted Round One, Pick 32
Last year the Patriots needed a receiver and snagged Harry. It seemed like a match made in heaven, one that left many dynasty players salivating. Harry was frequently the first off the board not only because people liked his talent, but because of his seeming opportunity. A clear path to touches is gold in fantasy, and Harry seemed likely to earn a slot opposite Julian Edelman. But it didn’t happen. The Patriots dabbled with Antonio Brown and traded for Mohamed Sanu, but mostly it was injuries and ineffectiveness that kept Harry from the field. He played in seven games, starting five, but saw just 24 targets. He turned that into 12 receptions for 105 yards and two TDs, hardly the output fantasy fans hoped for from a receiver taken in the first round of the draft that seemed set up to succeed.
A lot of the things that made folks like Harry are still true. He was a first-round pick, something the Patriots aren’t apt to waste. And the team certainly has openings at receiver. Edelman is there, and Sanu is still in the picture, but Harry should have a chance for meaningful snaps and a meaningful role. The question is, will he? Also, in question, what will the Patriots’ offense look like. Until late June, it seemed the team was set to roll with second-year man Jarrett Stidham at QB. Now, the team has signed Cam Newton, which seems like the kind of thing that could boost the prospects of receivers. So Harry has a chance to compete to be a top receiver, and with little depth and experience at tight end, that could be a good thing. But there are more questions than answers about the team and the player. Hence why Harry’s value has plummeted. He’s now going as WR51 in PPR and WR58 in Standard, and from personal experience, I’ll say his trade value is quite low as well.
In fantasy, we’re looking for value. In dynasty, it’s value coupled with opportunity. That’s what I see when I look at Harry. If I drafted him with a high pick in last year’s rookie draft, I’m holding him because I won’t get back the value he could have. If I don’t have Harry, I’m looking for that owner that soured on him after a slow season, and I’m trying to get him for pennies on the dollar. Sanu isn’t the long-term answer in New England, and while Harry might not end up being it either, I’m not giving up on a first-round pick after one bad year.
Mecole Hardman, Kansas City Chiefs, Drafted Round Two, Pick 56
Hardman was an interesting pick that seemed to have a lot of upside last year. The Chiefs snagged him in the second round, and at the time, there were plenty of questions about how much star receiver Tyreek Hill would see the field. Hill managed to avoid a suspension but got injured early in the season. Still, it wasn’t Hardman that saw the immediate benefit. The team had Sammy Watkins and also ended up using DeMarcus Robinson. Hardman ended up playing in all 16 games, starting five and drawing 41 targets. Hardman posted a rookie year line of 26 receptions for 538 yards and six TDs. He wasn’t a big part of the playoff attack, either. He had just two receptions for 19 yards as his team scored 51 points against the Texans, and added one reception for eight yards in the AFC Championship Game and one reception for two yards in the Super Bowl. That has some wondering, with those same pieces heading into year two, if he will take a leap.
It’s fair to wonder, but it certainly seems like Hardman is the future, not Watkins. Hill and tight end Travis Kelce are entrenched as the top pass catchers, with Damien Williams and rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire figuring to get plenty of work as the primary rushers. But the Chiefs remain a potent offense only a year removed from Patrick Mahomes throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs. While they might not reach those lofty heights, there is still room for other receivers to be involved. But Hardman is fighting Robinson and Watkins for targets, and both had more targets and receptions last year. If he’s really the future, he needs to establish himself and move up the pecking order in 2020. That happened infrequently in 2019, with Hardman actually having his best games early in the season. From Week 9 on, he had just six receptions for 164 yards and two TDs. The opportunity is there, but Hardman has to show he’s more a part of the Chiefs’ plans in 2020.
Like Harry, Hardman had a lot of buzz in 2019 rookie drafts that has seen his star fade. It hasn’t faded as hard as with Harry. Hardman is still going as WR45 in PPR and WR50 in Standard, reflecting some pessimism heading into year two. Still, Hardman is going 15 spots ahead of Watkins in PPR, meaning people still think he’s the future, or they’ll get someone not on the roster to replace them both. I like the player and the offense, but the way Hardman fell off in the second half of the season and playoffs gives me pause. At his current price, I’d take a chance elsewhere. If I drafted him last year (and I did in a few spots), I’m holding and hoping for a better 2020. But unless someone has soured and is selling him cheap, I’m holding off on buying more shares.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles, Drafted Round Two, Pick 57
JJAW went a pick after Hardman and arguably had one of the worst rookie seasons. He was an asset some prized highly in rookie drafts, and others avoided. And yet he couldn’t have had a better opportunity down the stretch for an Eagles’ team that was both in the thick of the playoff hunt and desperate for bodies at wide receiver. Even then, JJAW couldn’t produce, which seemed to be a grim sign. He played in all 16 games, starting five, and recorded just 10 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown on 22 targets. JJAW finished with just one reception and 10 yards more than DeSean Jackson, who was limited to three injury-marred appearances. It was a case of a player getting a golden opportunity and doing little to nothing with it.
The Eagles saw Nelson Agholor leave for the Las Vegas Raiders, but oft-injured Alshon Jeffrey and Jackson are back. So, too, is Greg Ward, who made the most of late-season opportunities with 28 receptions for 254 yards and a TD on three starts late in the season. The Eagles also traded for receiver Marquise Goodwin and drafted three receivers, including Jalen Reagor in the first round, John Hightower in the fifth round, and Quez Watkins in the sixth round.
That suddenly creates a crowded field at the position where one or two figure not to make the roster. That seemed to be an indictment of JJAWs and the receiving corps to end the 2019 campaign. Not surprisingly, he’s flying way under the radar in 2020. His ADP now has him as WR136 in PPR and WR99 in Standard, being drafted around pick 300 or later. In some leagues, it’s reasonable to assume he’s not being drafted at all. And he well could be on your waiver wire even in dynasty. That’s not a great spot for a receiver taken in the second round of the 2019 draft.
I don’t think JJAW is guaranteed a roster spot, so I’m not paying to grab him. I like Reagor a lot and think he has a chance to be great. However, dynasty is about playing the long game and opportunity. JJAWs was a second-round pick, and he’s practically free right now. If I have space or a Taxi Squad, I’m grabbing him as a stash. I think he could be a player that has more value in 2021 than this season.
Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts, Drafted Round Two, Pick 59
Another second rounder here, but this one hurts my heart. I was high on Campbell last year and snagged him in a ton of rookie drafts. I thought he had a great chance to be the Colts’ WR2 opposite TY Hilton in an offense run by Andrew Luck. But Luck retired before the season, and the Colts’ passing offense wasn’t exactly robust. That combined with injuries meant that Campbell couldn’t often stay on the field long enough to take advantage of opportunities thrown his way as the Colts, like the Eagles, struggled to keep healthy receivers on the field. He played in just seven games, starting three, and snagging 18 receptions for 127 yards and a TD on 24 targets. He was another highly targeted rookie that failed to produce much pop in his first year.
The Colts brought in quarterback Phillip Rivers, to give a bit of pop to the passing game. Tight end Eric Ebron moved on, seemingly opening more targets. The Colts added Jonathan Taylor to bolster the running game and drafted USC receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. Suddenly it seemed like Campbell was on the outside looking in. This off-season, there has been a talk about Hilton and Pittman forming a solid combo, the resurgence of tight end Jack Doyle and the possible passing game production of Nyheim Hines out of the backfield. Campbell is rarely mentioned. His ADP reflects this. He’s going as WR69 in PPR and WR71 in Standard. Pittman is going 21 slots higher in PPR, clearly reflecting how folks see this battle playing out. But are we cutting bait on Campbell too soon? After all, it wasn’t inefficiency that dimmed his stats but injuries and a low-volume offense.
Stay the course if you drafted Campbell. His value is much lower than it was a year ago, but the talent and opportunity still exist. I, too, like Pittman, and this passing offense might not be as robust as we thought it could be with Luck, but Campbell could still have a role and sneaky value. Some have pointed out he could well be the slot weapon or pick up the short work some think will go to a running back. Campbell, in essence, could be Austin Ekeler in Indianapolis. He was a second-round pick for a reason, and if you can snag him cheap, I’d do it. I still believe, and I’m not ready to say he’s a bust. Of all the guys on this list, I think he might arguably have the best value right now.
For more from Matthew Fox, follow him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or catch him as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, part of the Drive In Podcast Network, at www.musiccitydrivein.com.
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