The 2020 rookie wide receiver class quickly joined rare company as a slew of talented playmakers made an impact on their team. The historic group had obvious star-level breakouts such as Vikings' Justin Jefferson, Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb, and several others who are top priority in every fantasy football draft. Instead, we're looking deeper than the big names to find the value breakout candidates.
There are mid-round talents who will easily outproduce against earlier draft picks. I'm not optimistic about guys like Henry Ruggs and Jalen Reagor due to the mixture of their situation and individual play in 2020. We're going to look deeper than the fantasy-relevant guys of last year and project how these four second-year receivers will perform in an expanded role.
Building a fantasy roster requires balance. Drafting one or two young receivers from this class is a great way to add upside to a roster. We're here to give ideas on the second option beyond those being taken in the first eight rounds.
Quintez Cephus, Detroit Lions
The Lions' offense is a difficult one to project because of the lack of clarity at the receiver position. There's veteran talent looking to reestablish themselves on short-term deals like Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. However, those players have a lengthy injury history.
Eventually, the Lions will likely move on to giving young players more opportunity. That means second-year receiver Quintez Cephus can become a primary target for Jared Goff. This offense has a strong set of blockers and quality coordinator to create production.
Cephus is an enjoyable watch. He's well-built at 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, with smooth route-running and good-enough speed. I could easily see him becoming a budget-version of Robert Woods for the Lions, and giving fantasy owners a legitimate flex option by the end of the season.
Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
Everyone is already on the Gabriel Davis train, and for good reason. He's an efficient deep threat in one of the league's breakout offenses. His 35 receptions, 599 yards and seven touchdowns stat line set him apart from peers even though he was a part-time player.
His role should grow some in 2021. Davis' competition has gone from John Brown to Emmanuel Sanders. While Sanders is going to play plenty, the veteran also turned 34 this offseason and bounced around as he's aged.
Davis should be an ascending player in Buffalo, whereas Sanders is reliable but more of an insurance piece. Be realistic with Davis' upside, but value his ability to hit big plays on a whim.
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders
How much can be expected out of a second-year mid-round pick who had just 193 yards the previous season? Usually not much.
Raiders' receiver Bryan Edwards was a film star for draft analysts for good reason, though. Edwards is a late-round flier in leagues because the Raiders have an uncertain receiver room and Edwards is undoubtedly talented. His flashes on 15 targets were nothing to simply write-off.
Derek Carr and the Raiders' offense is a lock to eclipse the 4,000-yard passing mark. Edwards is in line to get a decent volume of those targets, if not as a No. 1 weapon if John Brown can't stay healthy again or if Henry Ruggs can't develop, which should make Edwards fantasy relevant this season.
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
Health is a massive factor for every player but especially for the Colts' fantasy outlook. All three of their top options struggled to be available last year. There's uncertainty entering the year as to how the trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, and T.Y. Hilton will shake out.
Fantasy owners should be willing to bet on Pittman being the stabilizing force. Hilton will ideally take on a lesser role if Campbell is finally able to stay on the field. That leaves Pittman as the obvious Alshon Jeffery parallel for Carson Wentz.
We'll surely see a big jump from his 40 receptions, 503 yards, and one touchdown stat line from 2020 if for nothing else but health and luck. Pittman is a surprisingly effective route-runner for his size and sure-handed. He can be a good third receiver if he can get close to 1,000 yards and five scores on the year.
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