• Andy Will

2020 WRs In Review: Part 2

Twitter: @ScottWill2909



The 2020 wide receiver class made some impact when they joined the NFL. It was a year like no other for everyone but especially for the rookies, they came into the league with no real pre-season to speak of and many of them made substantial contributions to their teams. In this article, we will look at some key statistics and what will be changing within their teams going into the 2021 season.



Brandon Aiyuk


What did he do in 2020?

  • Finished as San Francisco’s top receiver in targets, catches, and receiving yards and had more receiving touchdowns than the rest of the receiving group combined with a total of 5 (compared to the combined 4 from the rest of the WR’s).

  • Aiyuk’s 7 total touchdowns (5 receiving and 2 rushing TD’s) were good enough for second overall for the 49ers. Only Jeff Wilson finished with more (10 total- 7 rushing and 3 receiving).

  • The 2 rushing touchdowns came on long runs. One 19 yards and the other 38 yards.

  • There were 4 games where Aiyuk finished with double-digit targets and only 3 with 3 or fewer targets.

  • Although it is not as high as some of the other receivers in this article Aiyuk still finished with a team-high snap count amongst the 49ers receiver group with 66.42% which was higher than Kendrick Bourne despite Bourne playing 3 games more.

What’s changing in 2021?


At the moment of writing the 2020 receiver room has only seen players exiting rather than coming in to help strengthen the team. Bourne has joined the Patriots after becoming a free agent. Veteran receiver Marquise Goodwin has also left the team and although Goodwin didn’t play in 2020 due to opting out it means that two relatively big-name players have left. The 49ers will need to add some depth to help in the pass-catching department to assist Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.


The big question that needs to be answered in San Francisco is who will the quarterback be? Jimmy Garoppolo is only a year from leading the team to a Super Bowl appearance and his 2020 was interrupted by injury. There were rumors of teams such as the Patriots trading for their ex-player (unlikely now that Cam Newton has re-signed) and then San Fran going after a QB such as Sam Darnold or Deshaun Watson. The 49ers have now traded up in the draft to the 3rd overall pick so it now seems like San Francisco is in a prime position to take one of the top 3 quarterback prospects. Whoever the QB is to begin the season they’ll need assistance from the receiving group. The 49ers at the time of writing have around $7million in cap space so there is some room to go and add some pass-catchers or they could look to the draft for a receiver for the 2nd straight year.



Jerry Jeudy


What did he do in 2020?

  • Jeudy finished with the most targets on the Broncos with 20 more than the next highest (Noah Fant) and 34 more than the next best wide receiver Tim Patrick.

  • Finished with 10 catches on 20 more catches than Fant.

  • He only had half of Tim Patrick’s touchdown total (6).

  • He had 3 games where he received double-digit targets. 10 and 14 in back-to-back games in November with the Chargers and the Falcons and then again during the second meeting with the Chargers in week 16 where he had a 15 target game.

  • He had only 1 game where he received fewer than 4 targets, and unsurprisingly it came in the matchup with the Saints when wide receiver Kendall Hinton started at quarterback. All other QB’s were unavailable due to being in Covid protocol and Jeudy received only 1 of 9 passes thrown in this game by Hinton.

  • He led the team in wide receiver snap share with 74.91%.

What’s changing in 2021?


Jeudy was the top target for the Broncos in 2020 but that was done largely without the team’s best receiver, Courtland Sutton who was injured after only 1 game. Sutton finished the 2019 season with 72 catches from 124 targets for 1112 yards and 6 touchdowns and finished at WR 17 in standard fantasy scoring and 19 in both half and full PPR. Sutton was reported to be already running routes following his ACL injury and should he return to somewhere near what he was in 2019 he should take a substantial share away from Jeudy.


The quarterback situation is still a subject of some debate in Denver. Will they stick with Drew Lock or look to move on? There were rumors of the Broncos lining up a blockbuster trade with Houston to bring Deshaun Watson to Mile High. The offense has some exciting pieces to it, Sutton, Jeudy, Patrick, and Hamler at wide receiver, Fant at tight end, and Melvin Gordon at running back, and many see the quarterback as the missing piece. If the Broncos did want to make a trade to bring in a quarterback they would certainly have the cap space to do it. They currently have around $42million in space to make some substantial moves as the off-season continues.



Justin Jefferson


What did he do in 2020?

  • Set an NFL rookie record for the most receiving yards in the Super Bowl era beating the previous record which was held by Anquan Boldin (1377 yards).

  • Finished second in snap count percentage at the wide receiver position behind Adam Thielen by just under 4%. Unsurprisingly for a rookie, Jefferson’s snap share was relatively low during his first two outings, however, from the Viking's 3rd match up till their 16th, Jefferson only dipped below 70% on two occasions.

  • Jefferson had almost double the yards after the catch total of Thielen.

  • Finished third overall in total team touchdowns behind Dalvin Cook (16) and Thielen (14).

  • Only 2 games with fewer than 3 targets and 7 games with double-digit targets.

  • 7 games with over 100 yards including his 3rd and 4th outings in his NFL debut season.

What’s changing in 2021?


What can we say about Jefferson that hasn’t already been said? His 2020 rookie season was incredible. As we can see from the above highlights and key stats his first season in the NFL was special on an individual basis. The Viking's defense was not at the level we have come to expect from the franchise so we should expect some improvement to be made during the off-season in that department.

In terms of changes in the receiver room, there have been no changes thus far. The team’s number three receiver, Chad Beebe, was re-signed. Tight-end Kyle Rudolph was signed by the Giants and many expect Irv Smith to take a step up going into the 2021 season.


Adam Thielen finished with a remarkable 14 receiving touchdowns (double of Jefferson’s total), which was a career-high, and I’d expect that number to come down which could give Jefferson the potential to up his numbers. For him to repeat his receiving yards numbers in the 2021 season it would be spectacular however if the touchdown numbers increase it wouldn’t be crazy to see another WR 1 finish in fantasy finishes once again during 2021.



CeeDee Lamb


What did he do in 2020?

  • Only one game with less than 5 targets all season (week 14 vs the Bengals, finished with 2 targets)

  • Weeks 1 to 5 (with Dak Prescott as QB) Lamb was WR 11 in standard, 12 in half PPR, and 11 in full PPR. With Andy Dalton even though his target numbers were similar his yardage totals and fantasy outputs lowered and from weeks 6 to 17 he fell to 31 in standard, 32 half PPR, and 35 full PPR.

  • His snap count was only 63.73% which was almost 20% lower than Cooper and over 23% less than Gallup who finished with an 87.53% share.

  • Lamb had 9 games with a rush attempt and in the game against the Vikings, he had 2 carries.

What’s changing in 2021?


Dak Prescott will return to the Cowboys after signing a blockbuster deal to stay in Dallas. Although this isn’t a change to the team you could argue it is a change to Lamb considering that the majority of the season was played catching passes from Andy Dalton. The fact that Dalton has moved onto the Bears and Dak is back is a big deal for Lamb’s fantasy output. Up until the horrendous injury Dak suffered in the matchup against the Giants Lamb was generating low-end wide receiver one fantasy numbers. This saw him produce more points in both half and full PPR formats than any other rookie receiver and only 0.9 points behind Chase Claypool in standard scoring.


All major parts of the offense are still under contract in Dallas and with Dak coming back off his injury fingers crossed they can click back into gear. A big part of the off-season for Dallas should come with fixing their defense which allowed far too many points during 2020. If the defense steps up combined with all the firepower they have on offense could Lamb appear in his first playoff game in 2021?



Michael Pittman Jr


What did he do in 2020?

  • He finished with the 2nd highest average snap count amongst the pass catchers at 64.10% which was above TY Hilton and only below Zach Pascal.

  • Although Rivers had a solid season and helped to steer the Colts to a playoff appearance he, unfortunately, liked to check the ball down to the running backs which limited not only Pittman’s fantasy output but the other wide receivers. No Colts receiver had more than 100 targets which is the opposite of teams with the rookies we have discussed already.

  • He ended the season with 5 or more targets per game in 6 of the final 9 games.

What’s changing in 2021?


The biggest change during the off-season so far is the addition of Carson Wentz from the Eagles. Although the team made the playoffs, they were somewhat restricted by the arm of Philip Rivers, which wasn’t what it once was. It is hoped that by adding Wentz to the offense and by teaming up once again with Frank Reich it could bring Wentz back to his form during the Eagles Super Bowl run, where Wentz was being touted for MVP before his season-ending injury

.

TY Hilton was a free agent and had been allowed to test the market, however, he has now re-signed with the team. The fact that the team has not gone out and signed a new high-profile receiver could mean that they will give Pittman the chance to be the unquestioned number one receiver.


Zach Pascal has been given a 2nd round tender by the Colts so he will likely be back with the team as another option for Wentz. The Colts had been rumored to be in the market for more help for the receiver room.


The question remains, with a large amount of cap space still available, will they go for one of the names who remain in limbo during free agency to add depth, which could allow Pittman to flourish? Or will they look to the draft once again to give their new quarterback more offensive weapons?



Laviska Shenault Jr


What did he do in 2020?

  • Out of 14 games played Shenault only had 3 games where he received 3 or fewer targets (two games with 3 and one with 1 target). Of these games, during a matchup with the Chargers, Shenault finished with a team-high in yards with 44 from his 3 targets.

  • Finished the season with a 56.36% total snap count.

  • Finished as target leader 4 times in his 14 games during the 2020 season with 3 of them coming in a row in weeks 14, 15, and 16.

  • Finished as the top receiver (yards) in 2 games.

  • He finished the season with 18 total rush attempts stretching over 11 games with 5 of these rush attempts in a single game which was only his second NFL outing.

What’s changing in 2021?


Unless there is a huge upset the Jaguars should take Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick during the 2021 draft. This should bring an improvement to the team at the quarterback position with the team moving on from Mike Glennon who has joined the Giants and Gardner Minshew likely taking a backup role.


There has been plenty of movement within the Jacksonville wide receiver group. Chris Conley has left and recently joined the Texans while Keelan Cole has found a new home with the Jets. There has been a couple of additions to replace the outgoing players with Marvin Jones signing after becoming a free agent after his contract ended with the Lions and Phillip Dorsett making the long trip from Seattle to Florida.


At the time of writing, there were whispers that DJ Chark could be traded, although the Jags have rejected these claims. If he were to leave this would open up a greater opportunity for Shenault, however, if no trade happens the team could have a good receiving group on paper with Chark, Shenault, and Jones likely being the starters.



Henry Ruggs & Bryan Edwards


What did they do in 2020?

  • Ruggs had a 53.65% snap share from his 13 games which was enough for 2nd best within the wide receiver group, while Edwards struggled with only 23.92%.

  • Ruggs had 4 games with over 70% snap share, whereas Edwards only had 1 over 70% and after week 3 his highest weekly total was 31.6% in week 15.

  • Both had no games with more than 5 targets. Ruggs’ highest was 5 which he had twice in weeks 1 versus the Panthers and week 12 against the Patriots. Edwards only had one game with 3 targets and they came during week 3 versus New England.

  • Ruggs had 8 games with at least 1 rush attempt (9 total).

  • Although Ruggs only scored 2 touchdowns in 2020 they were both memorable. His first was against the Chiefs where he went for 72 yards after he got behind the Kansas defense. This TD gave the Raiders the lead. The second was the game-winner in the final minute versus the Jets. This 46-yard touchdown was followed by the firing of then Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Edwards scored his solo touchdown during the closing game of the Raiders season with a 26-yard reception versus the Broncos.

What’s changing in 2021?


The Raider's top receiver -as we all know- was Darren Waller by some considerable distance but their top wide receiver was Nelson Agholor. Agholor was a free agent going into the off-season and he was quickly picked up by the Patriots alongside Kendrick Bourne as they look to rebuild. Agholor is leaving behind 82 targets, 896 and 8 touchdowns, Ruggs and Edwards will need to up their production to assist the team moves forward. Tyrell Williams also left the team and has found a new home in Detroit.


The Raiders did add a wide receiver in free agency in the form of John Brown who moved across the country from The Buffalo Bills. Brown had his injury issues during 2020, only playing 9 games. He is a nice depth addition to the team and the fact they did not sign a Juju or AJ Green for example perhaps shows the Raider's commitment to their two young receivers and they will be given the chance to develop and contribute more to the team.


Arguably the biggest offensive move the Raiders have made so far in the off-season is the addition of running back Kenyan Drake. He had a mixed season in Arizona and will add to a backfield that already has Josh Jacobs. Will this move -and likely double-teaming of Waller- open up things for the 2nd year players?