As we begin to project the outcome of the 2020 NFL season, we will start taking a closer look at individual players. Our first 2020 preseason player analysis begins by examining five NFL WR's to watch out for in 2020. We chose these five players based on several variables from QB play, to individual potential based on previous hype, and coaching changes that could help elevate their game to the next level.
Pittsburgh WR Diontae Johnson
Johnson has been the topic of conversation among fantasy football heads on Twitter in recent days and for a good reason. Johnson has the type of explosive playmaking ability that will allow Steeler fans to move on from AB fully. In 2019, Johnson averaged 8.01 yds per touch (combined rush att and pass targets). He scored two receiving TD's over 40+ yds. Johnson recorded 608 receiving yards on 86 targets (7.91 Yds Per Target, 66th among WR's with 50+ targets).
His numbers do not jump off of the page, but his 2019 film proved that he has the ability to be a top WR in the NFL. Johnson played with two different backup QB's in 2019 and will now have the chance to play with Big Ben in 2020. Our early projections have Johnson accumulating 700 receiving yards in 2020 with 5 TD's, but that's a major undersell on his potential. He could quickly produce a 1000 yd receiving season with Big Ben at QB.
Baltimore Ravens WR Miles Boykin
Boykin didn't really flash his playmaking ability in 2019. But early on in the Ravens 2019 training camp, reports were coming out that Boykin's teammates were comparing him to Michael Thomas. In 2020, there are still high expectations for the young WR in Baltimore, and there are analysts and scouts who believe he will take the next step towards becoming a starting NFL WR.
In 2019, Boykin was targeted 22 times, recording 198 receiving yds (9.0 yds per target average). He did record 3 TD catches with one of those TD's going for 40+ yards. Boykin did rank 3rd in ADOT (average depth of Target) at 17.75 yds per among WR's with at least 20 targets or more.
Boykin is a physical WR at 6-4 220lbs. He has 33 1/2 arm length, which is longer than that of Michael Thomas (32 1/8). Where Boykin stands out the most is that he runs a 4.42 forty. He has the physical attributes to go along with exceptional speed. If he can become a starter in Baltimore in year two, he will benefit from Lamar Jackson's playmaking ability. Boykin is an outstanding blocker in the run game, and that earned him snaps and opportunities as a rookie. We fully expect Boykin to take the next step and become a fulltime starter in 2020.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson
The Chiefs have a lot of weapons at their disposal, and Demarcus Robinson is a player to be on the lookout for in 2020. The Chiefs resigned Robinson to a one year deal in what feels like a make or break year for the 25-year-old former Florida Gator.
In 2019, Robinson recorded 53 Targets for 449 yards and 4 TD's. He averaged 8.47 Yds per Target (42nd among WR's with 50+ Targets). He did rank higher in the yards per reception category (30th) with 14.03 yds per catch just behind fellow teammate Tyreek Hill (14.83). Robinson ranked 67th in Target's success rate (60.38) among WR's with at least 50 targets.
Again, Robinson's numbers are not popping off the screen, but the word in 2019 straight from the horse's mouth (andy Reid) was that Robinson and Mahomes have chemistry and work together a lot off of the field in the offseason to improve their games. With Mecole Hardman poised to be the number two, it would not be a surprise if Robinson were to take that next step and absorb the number two role. It appears that the Chiefs are giving him one more shot to prove himself.
Carolina Panther ATH Curtis Samuel
I listed Samuel as an athlete because he is a "special athlete." While at Ohio State, Samuel had been utilized in a myriad of ways. He played Outside WR, the slot, or the H position at Ohio State. He would line up in the backfield at times and take carries at RB.
Samuel is intriguing to me because of the Joe Brady Factor. Joe Brady is the new Offensive Coordinator under first-year NFL Head Coach Matt Rhule in Carolina. While at LSU, Brady coordinated the passing game for the Tigers and improved their offense from average to the Best in college football in just a few short months. Brady has some nice toys to work with at Carolina, and among them is Samuel, who has been somewhat pedestrian when compared to expectations. It will undoubtedly help Samuel if they can keep Teddy Bridgewater upright.
In 2019, Samuel recorded 103 targets for 627 yards and 6 TD's. Samuel recorded an additional 130 yards rushing and a 1 TD. Samuel averaged 6.09 yards per target (74th among WR's with 50+ targets). Samuel did rank 12th in ADOT (14.78). His most significant opportunity in 2020 will be limiting drops (7 in 2019), and improving his target success rate of 52.43% (74th among WR's with 50+ targets).
Samuel is a burner who recorded a 4.31 40 yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine. With his combination of elite speed and open-field playmaking ability, it is exciting to think about the different ways Joe Brady will try to get him the football in space.
Buffalo Bills WR John Brown
Okay, John Brown is not under the radar, and he has had recent success. But with the addition of Stefon Diggs in Buffalo, Brown will be receiving less attention and therefore can expect to get a few more one on one opportunities.
In 2019, Brown recorded 1014 yards on 114 targets and 6 TD's. Brown ranked 25th in yards per target (9.30) with an ADOT of 14.64 which ranked 16th among all WR's with 50+ targets. Where he could benefit the most is if Josh Allen improves his deep ball accuracy. Allen ranked at the bottom of the NFL, completing just 25% of throws beyond 20 yards. To make matters worse, Allen completed only 51% of all of his throws in 2019.
Brown still has the speed to get behind coverage and will get plenty of opportunities to do so in Buffalo with the addition of Stefon Diggs. If Josh Allen can improve his deep ball accuracy (and that's a big if), you could see another 1000 yard season from John Brown and an additional 1000+ yards from Stefon Diggs.
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