You don’t need anyone to tell you to draft Mahomes or McCaffrey if you’re lucky enough to have them on the board during your next fantasy draft. Instead, these are the waiver wire players we suspect could break out in 2020 and possibly put you over the top.
Note: The recommended players are for PPR format. All players below had ADPs of 160 or lower, meaning they weren’t likely to have been drafted in fantasy in 2019.
Is Taysom Hill ready to be a franchise quarterback? Sean Payton thinks so; but the truth is, nobody knows. What we do know is Taysom Hill is a football player with a cornucopia of specialized talents. Among those talents is one you can’t teach: his 4.44 speed.
There isn’t much statistical evidence to suggest Hill is ready to be a franchise QB given his 13 career passing attempts, but I have flashbacks to his Packers preseason performances where he simply looked special running and throwing it, and yet the Packers chose Brett Hundley over him due to time invested. Hill is a proverbial projection, but having Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as weapons in a Payton offense…?!
Imagine trying to be fantasy relevant in that Steelers offense last season with no AB, Le’Veon Bell, or Big Ben. As a 3rd rounder out of Toledo, the rookie Diontae Johnson was able to do just that, catching passes from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.
Never eclipsing more than 84 yards in a game, Johnson was able to finish as WR39 on the season while his 2.39 yards of separation per target led the entire NFL. If Big Ben is back and healthy in 2020, look for Johnson to smash his 59-680-5 line from 2019 and form a 1A/1B duo with JuJu Smith-Schuster.
When your 1st round pick from 2018 battles what looks to be chronic knee issues, you can’t get too comfortable thinking he’s a viable long-term bell cow. This is what likely led the Patriots to burn a 3rd rounder on Harris the year after Sony Michel looked to be entrenched as the starter for years to come. In 2019, only six running backs with 100 carries or more averaged a lower YPC than Michel’s 3.7.
With the Patriots potentially moving on from Tom Brady, the offense figures to be run heavy in 2020, something Michel’s knees aren’t really suited for nor is his production. The big bruiser from Bama, who only carried 4 times in 2019, is ready and waiting in the wings to help shoulder the load.
The “other” rookie first round TE from Iowa notched a 40-562-3 line playing with three different quarterbacks during his inaugural season. His 67 targets were good for second on the team and a TE16 fantasy finish. It took former Broncos Hall of Fame TE Shannon Sharpe three years to post similar numbers. Rookie Drew Lock started the last five games of the season, and the athletically gifted Fant produced a 113-yard game catching passes from his fellow rookie in a roadie at Houston, his second such 100+ yard game of the year.
Elway finally looks to have found his guy at QB, and every budding franchise quarterback needs a TE to help him find his way. It looks like a lock Noah is in for a FANT-astic breakout season in 2020.
The Chiefs offense is expected to undergo some major changes at WR during the offseason. Sammy Watkins is almost a given to be cut and Demarcus Robinson will likely be too spendy for KC as he enters the FA market. Of course, Tyreek Hill will still be there and so will the blossoming Mecole Hardman, but the Chiefs will need a prototypical WR, and Pringle fits the bill as the lone wide receiver with experience in the Chiefs offense.
Pringle had a breakout 6-catch, 103-yard, 1-TD performance vs. Indy in 2019, but was a non-factor the remainder of the season. Pringle is another one of those heavily talented receivers with off-the-field issues. No better place for him to emerge than under Andy Reid, who has all the experience in the world with players with spotty backgrounds, and with Mahomes, who’ll need a Watkins replacement. With a name like Pringle he’ll likely be playing with a chip on his shoulder in 2020.
Universally panned as a draft reach with a popular two-time SB winning QB on the roster and a brutal NY media, Jones didn’t seem primed for even a modicum of success in the Big Apple. Throw in multiple injuries to his WR corps, TE position, Saquon, plus a head coach who was about to be run out of town, and this had nightmare written all over it. Astonishingly, through all that, Jones would finish the season as QB24.
Jones showed a rare poise for a rookie who was thrust into the white-hot spotlight of NY. His 24-12 TD-to-INT ratio was impressive over his 12 starts. Jones also showed off dual-threat ability in amassing 279 rushing yards on 45 attempts with 2 scores. He developed a burgeoning connection with Darius Slayton who came out of nowhere, ending with over 700 yards and 8 TDs catching balls from Daniel Jones. With players back healthy and a new direction under HC Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Jones seems destined to climb the fantasy ladder in 2020.
The offseason acquisition from Washington turned out to be rare money well spent for Gang Green. Crowder led all Jets pass catchers with 122 targets, including a whopping 17 in week one. Despite Darnold missing 3 games due to mono, the two redialed in their stereo connection to make beautiful music throughout 2019, finishing as WR24, one spot below the highly touted OBJ.
The diminutive dervish isn’t a sexy WR. A great route runner and true possession WR who can be a target hog and safety valve for a young QB is what Crowder can be and basically is. In PPR formats, that’s exactly the kind of WR you want, and given his lack of name appeal and limited athleticism you should be able to grab Crowder in the late rounds and enjoy some even better production in his second season with the Jets.
This one’s a long shot, that I’ll grant you. Love was never a waiver wire consideration due to injury issues. However, when thinking about Bryce Love it’s hard not flashing back to Willis McGahee, which immediately conjures images of Drew Rosenhaus on his cellphone. A surefire top pick had he entered the draft after his junior season, Love returned to Stanford for his senior year and suffered a horrific knee injury, much like McGahee, which cost him the rest of his senior season and cratered his draft stock.
Love was unable to play in 2019 due to complications with his knee, leading to another surgery to remove stiffness. Who doesn’t want to see what junior year Bryce Love can do in the NFL? The guy who rushed for 2118 yards on 8.1 YPC. Derrius Guice has his own set of injury issues and AD will be 35, so why not a Cinderella story comeback player of the year in Bryce Love?
Higbee’s dot was well off the radar screen in 2019 with an ADP in the 300s. The Rams don’t use tight ends in their 11-personnel setup (1 RB, 1 TE), which was a common refrain cited in reference to Sean McVay’s offense. Jared Goff struggled mightily in 2019 after getting the big money extension and floundered for most of the season.
In Week 13, the Rams offense fundamentally shifted to include the TE position and Higbee took off. Tyler Higbee rode the wave of four straight 100-yard games from Weeks 13-16 to a TE8 finish. Over his last 5 weeks, he saw 53 of his 89 targets and stacked up 522 of his 734 yards. No TE was any hotter than Higbee at the end of 2019. It’ll be very interesting to see where he’s drafted in 2020 drafts. Will people see the incredible finish of 2019 as a fluke or a sign of things to come for Higbee? Sean McVay is a brilliant football mind. Hard to think something that worked as well as throwing it to Higbee is going to be throttled. I expect Higbee’s usage to be enhanced in 2020, so adjust your draft board accordingly.