Wide Receiver Race for No. 1 – Top Candidates and the Key Dark Horses to Target in 2020
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Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Michael Thomas.

Shawn Siegele looks at the scenarios necessary for elite wide receivers to finish as the overall fantasy WR1 in 2020.

In working on other research, I found myself wondering how many WRs had a scenario where they could realistically finish as the WR1 . . . even if it was a pretty outside shot. For example, I agree with Neil Dutton’s take that Adam Thielen is a risky selection. Our bounceback criteria reveal some concerns, and the Range of Outcomes tool is skeptical.

But could Thielen be a value, or even finish as the overall WR1? I think he could. Madison Parkhill has him as a best-ball target. The departure of Stefon Diggs opens up the possibility of Thielen building on his 26% target share from 2017-2018, perhaps all the way up to the 30% range. If he could match his fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) numbers from 2018, he’d suddenly be competitive with 20 PPG seasons from Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, or DeAndre Hopkins.

In order to get a feel for which WRs might have a shot at No. 1, we need to know what that type of season looks like from a scoring perspective. What type of volume and efficiency is necessary to get there?

The RotoViz Screener is perfect for answering these questions.

What Has the Very Top of the WR Board Looked Like?

Over the last five years, the top-20 WR seasons have featured campaigns from 13 different players. Eighteen of those seasons went over 300 points.

PLAYER TEAM SEAS PPR PPR N+1
Michael Thomas NO 2019 374.6 0
Julio Jones ATL 2015 371.1 259.9
Brandon Marshall NYJ 2015 343.2 162.1
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 2018 337.5 268.6
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 2015 331.1 196
Julio Jones ATL 2018 329.8 274.1
Davante Adams GB 2018 329.6 214.7
Tyreek Hill KC 2018 328 188.3
Antonio Brown PIT 2018 323.7 16.1
Michael Thomas NO 2018 321.5 374.6
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 2015 319.7 298.6
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 2017 311.8 337.5
Antonio Brown PIT 2017 310.3 323.7
Adam Thielen MIN 2018 309.3 114.4
Antonio Brown PIT 2016 307.3 310.3
Jordy Nelson GB 2016 306.7 137.2
Mike Evans TB 2016 304.1 203.4
Allen Robinson JAC 2015 304 199.3
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 2016 298.6 74
Juju Smith-Schuster PIT 2018 294.6 115.2

Hopkins and Antonio Brown are the only players with three appearances in the top 20, and Hopkins is the only player who has twice been the overall WR1. He managed the feat in 2017 and 2018.

Overall WR1 Fantasy Seasons – 2015-2019

An overall WR1 finish will almost certainly require 300 points. To get there, a receiver likely will need 150 targets, and an efficient season with 30 or more fantasy points over expectation (reFPOE). To get the targets, he’ll probably need a share north of 30%. To turn those targets into the necessary points, receivers generally need 1,500 yards, double-digit TDs, or both.

Elite WR scoring went through the doldrums in 2016 and 2017. Lower totals finished at the top. The rebound in 2018 saw six receivers outscore the WR1 mark from the previous two years. 2019 gave us Thomas’ historic season, but now we’re faced with fewer practices in a pandemic atmosphere.

Will the arrival of Emmanuel Sanders siphon off some of Thomas’ ridiculous volume – and the likelihood of one of the strangest seasons in memory – put more receivers in play for the top spot?

The Best Case Scenario – Who Can Reach No. 1 in 2020

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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