Narrowing the Field to Find 2020’s Chris Godwin (Fantasy Football)

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Go back with me to a time when life seemed a bit more simple. The year is 2019.

A new (but rather aged) Tampa Bay coach by the name of Bruce Arians spouted off some sweet whispers to the media that got the entire fantasy community all hot and bothered…

I think Chris Godwin is going to be close to a 100-catch guy,” Arians said to the Tampa Bay Times. “Especially because I think he can play in the slot. He’s never coming off the field.”

Yes, I too bought a one-way ticket aboard the hype train last year and profiled Chris Godwin as one of the players in our popular Path to a Fantasy WR1 series. If you haven’t done so, give our 2020 profiles a read including a couple of WRs that might find their way on this list…

In Godwin’s Path to WR1, I highlighted his chances at top-12 status and the ceiling available. I don’t think I shot high enough as he finished as the WR2 overall despite only playing in 14 games.  Before we throw out names to find 2020’s version of Rod Godwin (yes that’s actually his first name), let’s take a moment to dwell on what made him so special in 2019. Here are four specific criteria identified that allow us to eliminate and narrow the field of fantasy WRs to find a couple at the very end who might have the opportunity to do Godwin-esque things in 2020.

For the Footballers’ official sleepers, breakouts, and busts at the WR position, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit.

1. Outside the Top Three Rounds

This should seem obvious but all of the WRs in the top-36 need to be crossed off our list. Godwin went off the board last year in the late fourth to the early fifth round of drafts. Fantasy analysts were baking into his price a perceived tier jump as he finished 2018 as the WR25. For this exercise, all of the ADP used in this article is according to recent data from Bestball drafts.

Players Eliminated: Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., D.J. Moore, Amari Cooper, Cooper Kupp

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2. Perceived WR2 On His Own Team

You might’ve forgotten, but going into 2018, Godwin was the WR3 on the Buccaneers. He was behind Mike Evans and Adam Humphries in terms of target share at 15.3 percent. However, with Humphries and the often-injured DeSean Jackson moving on after the season, there were 179 vacated targets available among the pass catchers. Godwin had the opportunity to step up behind Evans and the WR2 label allowed Godwin to go a full two rounds behind Evans. By no means am I discrediting the alpha WRs, but for this exercise, we are looking for the discount in hopes that the “WR2” makes the jump in terms of fantasy points.

Players Eliminated: Allen Robinson, Juju Smith-Schuster, Adam Thielen, A.J. Brown, Courtland Sutton, Keenan Allen, Devante Parker, Stefon Diggs, D.J. Chark, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

3. Loads of Targets AND Contested Catch-ability

As a sophomore in the NFL, Godwin was 20th among WRs in Air Yards and showcased some elite contested-catch skills hauling in 47.8 percent of those 23 targets. He took it to the next level in 2019 placing 3rd among all WRs at a 64 percent contested catch rate. That number is just insane especially for a guy who didn’t create a ton of separation according to many metrics. He was taking poor Jameis Winston targets and turning them into meaningful fantasy production. Jump-balls and contested catches don’t normally happen on five-yard outs. We care about observing this trait in a WR’s profile because they normally take place on deep targets and end-zone targets.

Players Eliminated: Michael Gallup, Julian Edelman, Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, Jamison Crowder, Anthony Miller, Christian Kirk

4. Quarterback Willing to Go Full DGAF

For all of Godwin’s praise and hype among the fantasy community going into the season, the key was Jameis Winston’s ability to just go for it even when rationale would say slow it down. I wrote in Godwin’s WR1 profile“On the high-end, Godwin could see as much as 20 percent of a Jameis Winston-led passing attack that should once again pass for 615+ attempts, which would put Godwin at 123 targets.” Winston exceeded that high-end projection at 626 pass attempts, tying Jared Goff for the league lead. For all his lore being the 1st QB to go 30-for-30 including seven(!) pick-sixes, remember the dude also just threw for 5,109 passing yards, the eighth-most in a single season in NFL history. For fantasy, we want volume and the willingness of a QB to throw an INT and get right back out there gunning it downfield.

Notice that many of the players eliminated here are attached to QBs that either are still young and developing (Haskins, Lock, Allen, Jones, Burrow) with potentially lower passing volumes OR veterans (Wilson, Brees, Garoppolo, Carr, Taylor) that rely on efficiency rather than sheer volume. We need someone who could end up north of the 560+ pass attempt mark.

Players Eliminated: Terry McLaurin, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, John Brown, Darius Slayton, Mike Williams, Tyler Boyd

The WRs with the Best Chance to be Chris Godwin-esque

Calvin Ridley– Current ADP: 46th Overall, WR17

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Ridley already has gained enough hype this off-season ala Chris Godwin last year so it makes sense he tops this list before you even get into the numbers. Yes, he’s clearly behind Julio Jones in the pecking order but it’s worth noting that the Falcons have the most vacated targets in the league. There is room in Ridley’s game to take the next step and see a market share near 22+ percent. Matt Ryan is also a yardage monster averaging over 4,500 passing yards over the last nine seasons. He also led the league in completions last year despite missing a game. The glaring red flags are that Ridley is not a huge YAC guy (Godwin led the league in last year) and he’ll likely be playing outside as opposed to the slot. Still, a vote for Ridley is a vote for Atlanta’s offense being a top-10 unit and that the TDs fall his way again instead of Julio.

Robert Woods– Current ADP: 49th Overall, WR19

Woods is perennially disrespected despite the fact he averaged 11.4 targets per game over the second half of the season. Woods finished second behind only Godwin in YAC at four yards per target, an elite total. While Woods’ contested catch rate is lower (33 percent) than preferred, it’s clear he wasn’t utilized in that way in Sean McVay’s offense.  Cornerbacks agreed as Woods was given the most “cushion” in the league according to PlayerProfiler.com. Woods also was extremely unlucky in the TD department collecting only three (his expectation was five) including his first not coming until Week 14! But we also like Woods because as his QB Jared Goff showcased last season, he’s willing to chuck it. Goff tied Jameis Winston in passing attempts, second among QBs in completions, 3rd in passing yards, and yet tied for 28th in TD rate. Woods is a great bet to see 130 targets, rack up a ton of yards after the catch, and sneak his way to being a WR1. As detailed fully in the Ultimate Draft Kit, Mike is the most bullish among the Footballers on Woods coming in as his WR10 with 100 receptions!

Harry How/Getty Images

Jarvis Landry– Current ADP: 71st Overall, WR31

Landry might be met with a couple of smirks when you’re reading his name on this list. While the offense may be constrained in Kevin Stefanski’s new Browns system, we know Baker Mayfield has the tendency to hyper-target Landry and DGAF is basically his middle name. According to our “Godwin guidelines”, he also checks a couple of boxes that made me look his way. He’s perceived as the WR2 behind Odell Beckham Jr., but as Jason Moore pointed out in jest repeatedly last season on the podcast, Landry functioned as the Browns’ WR1 all year long. He was 11th in contested catch rate (48.3 percent) and 7th in YAC. Landry always has commanded targets and a boatload of them. While his TD upside might seem limited, we’ve seen seasons where he was a red-zone weapon finishing as the WR4 on the back of nine TDs in 2017.

Will Fuller/Brandin Cooks– Current ADP: 82nd/88th Overall, WR34/37

Whoa whoa whoa… What are they doing here? Who invited Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks to this party? Honestly, this is a Russian roulette-style selection as based on these two Texans’ injury histories, they might be a ticking time bomb. Regardless, their deflated draft prices and their profiles at least should allow you to consider their potential range of outcomes in 2020. We know that when Fuller is on the field he can be lightening. His contested-catch skills have always been elite (54.8 percent in 2019) and his aDOT (14.8) ranked 12th in the league. Cooks, on the other hand, is being severely discounted despite the fact he’s been a top-15 WR four out of the last five years. Last year was obviously a downer as he struggled with concussion issues and the Rams offense sputtered. But he’s a productive player who has withstood changing NFL teams for years and surprisingly has posted solid contested-catch numbers despite his size. We know he can rack up the yardage averaging over 1,100 from 2015-2018.

This is honestly a bet on the talent of Deshaun Watson. He’s in the prime of his career and could vault himself into the MVP conversation. The Texans also have the highest percentage (44) of vacated targets in the league. Opportunity is plenty and based on ADP, the drafting community isn’t quite sure who the WR2 is after Houston traded DeAndre Hopkins. Take your shot on one of these guys in hopes you hit gold.

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Marvin Jones Jr.- Current ADP: 94th Overall, WR38

Oh so you didn’t expect to see him here? Marv is my long-shot among this group, but I must warn you: I’m all about that Marvin Jones Jr. life in 2020…

Last year before going down and out for the season in Week 14, he was the WR16 in PPR leagues. He somehow finished the year tied for the league lead in red-zone TDs despite missing those final three weeks. It helped that a renewed Matthew Stafford led the league in Air Yards per Attempt and aDOT while focusing on the highest rate of “end-zone targets” in the league; these are targets where his receivers were literally standing in the end-zone. In other words, Stafford was focused on the money-making targets for fantasy. Since coming into the league, Jones has been a contested-catch monster and finished at a robust 46.7 percent last year. In 2018, despite only playing nine games, he saw the highest percentage of team end-zone target share in the league at 54.2 percent. Kenny Golladay should be the alpha but there is still more than enough to feed another mouth in Detroit.

The one area of concern was in Marv’s YAC-ability and his overall volume. He’s never seen more than 107 targets in a season. However, that same season he went 61/1109/9, led the league in yards per reception (18.0) and finished as the WR11 in 0.5-point scoring in 2017. In other words, this guy has done it before!

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