In WR Sleepers, Part 1, I covered seven WRs who don’t appear to be in Round 1 consideration, but who should see their names called by the end of Day 2. Below, I’m diving even deeper and highlighting the profiles of seven more WRs who will probably have to wait util Day 3 to hear their names, but who could nevertheless be fantasy difference makers despite their low draft capital.
(For more coverage of this rookie WR class, make sure to check out Evan Siva’s Mock draft and upcoming Rookie Rankings).
1. Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
Expected Draft Position: 3rd – 6th Round
Age. Davis is the fourth youngest WR in the 2020 class, having just turned 21 on April 1st. WRs who begin their rookie seasons at age 21 have out produced WRs who enter the league at 22+ and have been the best values in dynasty.
Declared Early. WRs who forgo college eligibility to enter the NFL draft have strongly out-performed WRs who stay for their Senior season, even after accounting for age.
2019 Age-Adjusted Market Share of Yards. Using Jon Moore’s Phenom Index methodology, Davis has the fifth best age-adjusted market share of yards in the 2020 class, having produced 32% of UCF’s receiving yards at just 20 years old.
Yards per Route Run. Davis was also a highly efficient part of UCF’s offense, delivering 3 yards per route run in 2019, tied for ninth best in the class.
Career Market Share of Yards: Despite his strong 2019, Davis produced a career MSY of only 23%. Low career market share has been a red flag for otherwise exciting young prospects like John Ross, Laquon Treadwell, Dorial Green-Beckham, Cody Latimer and Greg Little.
Lack of Kick Returning Resume. Special Teams contributions can help identify play-making ability in prospects that have questionable athleticism. But Davis actually showed solid NFL athleticism at the combine, so from that perspective I’m not bothered that he didn’t return kicks in college. Instead, considering that Davis is more likely than not to fall to Day 3 in this exceptionally deep WR class, his lack of kick returning experience is a red flag because it gives him one less way to make his NFL team, and/or the active roster on Sundays.
Davis’ youth and lack of a strong multi-year track record make him a boom or bust prospect. As mentioned above, his low career MSY points to the type of floor that could mean he’s out of the league within a few seasons. However, there’s upside in this profile too. For example, Percy Harvin and Josh Gordon were major success stories with the same combination of youth and low career MSY. (Interestingly Mecole Hardman and D.K. Metcalf are part of this group from last year’s class). Davis would greatly benefit from stronger than expected draft position, as he is likely to be raw. He’s much more likely to get the time he’ll need to develop if his team has something significant invested in him.
2. Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State
Expected Draft Position: 4th – 7th Round
Age. Hodgins will begin his rookie season at 21.
Career Market Share of Yards. Hodgins is one of three 21 year-olds in the 2020 class to have a career MSY of 28% or above. (The other two are Laviska Shenault and K.J. Hamler). Historically, this has been a highly successful cohort. (Providing hope for 2019’s only representative: N’Keal Harry).
2019 Age-Adjusted Market Share of Yards. Hodgins’ Final MSY of 38% at 21.2 is the fourth best age-adjusted final season in the class. (Behind CeeDee Lamb, Hamler and Tyler Johnson).
Breakout Age. At 20.2 Hodgins recorded 31% of Oregon State’s receiving yards and 29% of their receiving TDs, breaking out at the 8th youngest age in the 2020 class.
Hands. Hodgins’ 2019 catch rate ranks 10th in the 2020 class, and was sixth best among WRs likely to be drafted. Moreover, scouts love his hands, and… how could they not?
TD Upside. Over his final two seasons, Hodgins accounted for 38% of Oregon State’s receiving TDs. This, combined with his excellent hands, 6’4″ height, 36.5 inch vertical, and 7.01 3-cone, profiles him as a red zone threat who can win with the ball in the air, and through shifty route running.
Yards per Route Run. As I’ll soon cover, evaluators have concerns that Hodgins will be limited to underneath routes as a pro. Therefore it’s encouraging to see that he posted a solid YPRR of 2.7 in 2019. Though that was just 15th best in the 2020 class, it still bests four of the nine WRs in consideration for the 1st Round (Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, Denzel Mims, and Jalen Reagor) and four more WRs likely to be drafted on Day 2 (Bryan Edwards, Chase Claypool, K.J. Hamler, and Michael Pittman).
Straight line speed. I say straight line speed and not athleticism, because Hodgins’ jumps (36.5 inch vertical and 124 inch broad) and agility drills (7.01 3-cone and 4.12 short shuttle) are above average. And in fact, considering his size (6’4″, 210 lbs), his weight adjusted speed isn’t bad either. But his 4.61 40 points to a weakness in his game that NFL scouts have also highlighted, an inability to get behind NFL corners. And it will likely hurt his draft position.
Lack of Kick Returning / Rushing Resume. Given that Hodgins’ dynamism is somewhat in doubt, it would be nice if he had a strong track making plays as a kick returner or rusher. He does not. He saw zero career carries and zero career returns at Oregon State. And like Gabriel, who is expected to be drafted ahead of Hodgins, returning experience would have provided him a route to avoiding the practice squad as a rookie.
On paper Hodgins looks like a Jarvis Landry level prospect. Like Landry (who ran a 4.77 40), he projects as a possession WR, who could nevertheless be a fantasy force in PPR leagues. However, that potential could be cut short if he falls deep, or even out of, the NFL draft. Hodgins was not a Special Teams contributor in college, which gives him one less out for making an NFL team. And given that most pre-season activities are likely to be canceled or significantly curtailed, it will be harder for players like Hodgins to secure a roster spot as a later round pick. On the other hand, if he somehow sneaks into the back end of Round 3, he instantly becomes one of my biggest targets in this class.
3. Lynn Bowden, WR/QB/RB, Kentucky
Expected Draft Position: 4th – 7th Round
Versatility. Due to multiple QB injuries, Bowden was switched to QB five games into the 2019 season. In that role he racked up 1468 rushing yards (7.9 YPC) and 13 TDs. He also threw for 403 yards with 3 TDs and 3 interceptions. If he lands with a creative offensive mind, he could be used as a hybrid RB/WR in the Randall Cobb mold.
Strong Resume as a Kick Returner. Bowden returned 71 kickoffs in his Kentucky career, delivering 1628 return yards. He also turned 9 punt returns into 199 yards and 2 TDs. This multi-faceted kick returning ability should help Bowden make his NFL team and provides additional evidence that good things happen when Bowden has the ball in his hands.
Team Player. I typically like to avoid getting into “intangibles”, since I’m not in a position to assess these prospects as people, nor qualified to do so. And I also assume that most NFL teams are already factoring in character as they construct their draft boards. But still… let’s consider that Bowden was coming off a Sophomore season where he accounted for 36% of Kentucky’s receiving yards, and in 2019 picked up right where he left off, producing 34% of Kentucky’s receiving yards through their first four games. But then, before his fifth game ended, the NFL WR prospect was switched to QB because of multiple injuries at the position, making him the best option available. Bowden didn’t record another reception for the remainder of the 2019 season, but he did help Kentucky make and then win a Bowl Game. I’m not saying he’s a “natural winner” or anything like that, just that after 2019, it’s hard to imagine Bowden not fully buying in to whatever he’s asked to do at the NFL level.
“An Edgy Dude”. Since I’ve already waded into the squishy intangible waters, I may as well let you know that Bowden was involved in a pre-game skirmish with Virginia Tech players before the Belk Bowl. At least one NFC scout was unperturbed, telling Lance Zierlein, “he’s an edgy dude, which is why I like him.”
Age. Despite declaring early for the NFL draft, Bowden is an older prospect. He turns 23 in October.
Evaluation Complicated by Position Switch. Bowden only has a 4.5 game sample as a WR in 2019, and his career numbers are also skewed by his time at QB. In his games fully played at WR, he was strong, with a 34% MSY in 2019, and a 25% career MSY before the position switch. But his college development at the position was cut short, and it’s probably fair to consider him more raw than those numbers would normally suggest.
Lack of Athletic Testing. Bowden did not work out at the combine, and although he’s perceived to have NFL athleticism it may have helped his draft stock some if his timed athleticism wasn’t a question mark.
Bowden looks extremely well suited to weather a late round NFL draft selection. He can make an NFL roster by returning kickoffs or punts, or even by saving the team a roster spot by operating as both a reserve WR and RB. While Isaiah Hodgins for example, impresses me far more as a pure WR prospect, it’s much easier to imagine Bowden emerging from the 6th or 7th round to become a fantasy difference maker. In other words, Bowden’s versatility gives him much higher odds of success than we’d normal expect from a late round pick. Furthermore, Bowden’s ceiling could also far exceed his draft position if he lands with a coach willing to creatively deploy him. In the hands of Kyle Shanahan or Andy Reid, Bowden could quickly emerge as a fantasy force in a hybrid RB/WR role.
4. Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss
Expected Draft Position: 5th – UDFA
Career Market Share of Yards. Among WRs who declared early for the NFL draft, Watkins leads the class in career market share. Only Seniors Tyler Johnson, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Darnell Mooney and Brandon Aiyuk finished with a better career MSY.
Speed. Watkins ran a 4.35 40 at the combine at 6′ 185 lbs. As a result he could be a surprise Day 2 pick. And even with a Day 3 selection, having NFL level deep speed should increase his chances of becoming fantasy relevant.
Yards per Target. Watkins’ speed translated to college game-days, delivering the 9th best YPT in the 2020 class, and tying with Henry Ruggs for the fifth highest yards per reception. Because Watkins profiles as an NFL deep threat, its encouraging to see that his impressive college stats came in the same role he’ll play as a pro.
Kick Returning Experience. Watkins has 18 career kick returns and 19 career punt returns. And while he wasn’t that efficient as a returner, he does have a punt return TD to his name. His return experience has at least a chance of helping him secure an NFL roster spot.
Age. Watkins turns 23 in June and is quite old for a prospect who declared early.
Career Market Share of Yards. Watkins 29.4% career market share is excellent for a WR who declared early, but it falls short of ideal for a prospect entering his rookie season at age 23.
2019 Age-Adjusted Market Share of Yards. Watkins delivered a 36% MSY in 2019, which was the seventh strongest final season in the 2020 class. But it looks much weaker once adjusted for his age: compared to the WRs thought to be in consideration for Day 2, Watkins’ age-adjusted MSY bests only Denzel Mims and Michael Pittman.
In a best case scenario, Watkins profiles as 2020’s Terry McLaurin. Like McLaurin, he’ll begin the 2020 season at 23 years old. But also like McLaurin he was an early entrant to the NFL draft with 4.35 speed who was highly efficient on his college targets. Though it will be somewhat surprising if Watkins matches McLaurin’s 3rd round draft capital, it can’t be ruled out given his deep speed and strong track record of production. If he does manage a Round 3 selection, he’ll vault up rookie draft boards. And even as a late round selection, Watkins could emerge as a Special Teams contributor and deep threat specialist right away, then grow into a larger role over time.
5. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
Expected Draft Position: 5th – UDFA
Breakout Age. Cephus’ breakout age of 19.75 is the 3rd youngest BOA in the 2020 class, behind only Tyler Johnson and Antonio Gandy-Golden. Cephus accounted for 29% of Wisconsin’s receiving yards and 43% of their receiving TDs as a 19-year old Sophomore.
Career Market Share of Yards. Among WRs who declared early for the 2020 draft, Cephus has the eighth best Career MSY.
Yards per Route Run. Cephus’ 3.1 YPRR in 2019 is tied for sixth best in the 2020 class. This efficiency provides evidence that Cephus’ strong market share was driven by his talent rather than by a lack of other WR options at Wisconsin.
TD Upside. Over his final two seasons, Cephus accounted for a ridiculous 42% of Wisconsin’s receiving TDs.
Speed. Cephus ran a 4.73 40 at 202 lbs. He did show well in the jumps at least, with a 38.5 inch vertical and a 124 inch broach jump.
Lack of Kick Returning Resume. With Cephus’ slow 40-time likely pushing him down draft boards, it’s concerning that he doesn’t have any college kick returning experience. As a late round draft pick, he profiles as a player who could have a tough time avoiding the practice squad.
2019 Expulsion. Cephus was charged with multiple sexual assault felonies in 2018 and expelled from the University of Wisconsin. He was subsequently acquitted and re-instated for the 2019 season. Although his coaches have praised him as a high character player, this certainly still qualifies as a red flag. It remains to be seen if it will affect his draft position.
Cephus profiles as a possession WR who can also operate as a red-zone weapon with strong leaping ability. Because he profiles as a player who needs either target volume or high leverage red zone opportunities to be fantasy relevant, it will be important to see where he’s drafted. With a bit of draft capital, he has the upside to develop into a reliable PPR producer.
6. Cody White, WR, Michgian State
Expected Draft Position: 6th – UDFA
Age. White doesn’t turn 22 until November.
Breakout Age. White produced 31% of Michigan State’s receiving yards and 32% of their receiving TDs as a 20 year-old Sophomore, breaking out at the seventh youngest age in the 2020 class.
Career Market Share of Yards. Among WRs who declared early for the 2020 draft, White has the sixth best career MSY.
2019 Age-Adjusted Market Share of Yards. White recorded a 29% MSY at 21.1 years old. This is a stronger age-adjusted final season than we saw from six of the nine WRs in Round 1 consideration. (Only CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Brandon Aiyuk outperformed him in this regard).
Size. White is 6’3″ 217 lbs, profiling (in size at least) as a No.1 outside WR.
Rushing Ability. While White didn’t show much play-making ability as a kick returner (which I’ll cover below), he did show some dynamic ability as a rusher. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 11 career rushing attempts, including a 22 yard TD run in 2018.
Yards per Route Run. White’s 2 YPRR is a very poor mark that only bests K.J. Hill, Donovan People-Jones and Jalen Reagor among WRs that are locks to be drafted.
Yards per Target. White’s 8.9 YPT doesn’t look good either, and only adds Bryan Edwards to the list of WRs that White bested in receiving efficiency.
Punt Return Inefficiency. White returned 19 punt returns in college but was very inefficient while doing so, averaging only 4.5 yards per return. You could argue perhaps, that at least he has experience as a returner. But the key point is that we don’t have any evidence that he can return punts at an NFL level.
White’s appeal lies in his upside. Players who have broken out early, produced well throughout their college careers, finished strong at a young age and declared early for the NFL draft have produced some of the biggest breakout seasons in fantasy football. But these players by their nature are raw. And White’s inefficiency on his routes and targets and punt returns indicate that he might be too raw to make an NFL impact… or even an NFL team. The NFL coach quoted in Lance Zierlein’s profile on him sums up the concern: “Should have stayed in school.” However, given White’s prototypical size and long track record of dominating his college offense despite his youth and inexperience, White should remain on your watch list at the very least. With stronger than expected draft position, he becomes a premium target in deep dynasty leagues, with arguably the highest upside to cost ratio in 2020 class.
7. Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane
Expected Draft Position: 6th – UDFA
Breakout Age. Mooney produced 35% of Tulane’s receiving yards and 35% of their receiving TDs as a 20-year old Sophomore, breaking out at the ninth youngest age in the 2020 class.
Career Market Share of Yards. Mooney has the third best career MSY in the 2020 class behind only Tyler Johnson and Antonio Gandy-Golden.
Speed. Ran a 4.38 40 at the combine.
Declared as a Senior.
Size. Mooney is pint sized: 5’10”, 176 lbs.
Yards per Route Run. Mooney tied with Cody White in YPRR and was even worse in yards per target. That’s uninspiring for all the same reasons as it is for White. However, Mooney’s 2018 yards per reception of 20.1 and career YPR of 16.7 offer some optimism. Last year Darius Slayton, Terry McLaurin and Diontae Johnson entered the league coming off of very similar YPRR numbers, but had very high career YPR numbers (20.3, 16.7 and 16.6 respectively). Given Mooney’s boom/bust role in his offense, his yards per route run in 2019 may undersell the efficiency he offers to NFL teams.
Lack of Kick Returning Resume. Considering his speed, it’s surprising that Mooney returned just a total of two kicks in his four year career.
Mooney looks like 2020’s Scotty Miller. While that comp may not immediately impress, consider that Miller made Tampa Bay’s 53 man roster as a 174 pound 6th round pick, produced 200 yards and a TD as a rookie, and currently has the inside track to be his team’s No. 3 WR. Mooney, like Miller, is the type of player who can overcome low draft capital by operating as a situational deep threat as a rookie and pushing for a larger role over time.