FFPC Best-Ball Win Rates: Wide Receivers
A great way to prepare for best-ball drafts in 2020 is to look at which players were most responsible for best-ball fantasy success in 2019. This is effectively demonstrated by a player's win rate, which is the percentage of winning teams that drafted that player.
This piece will focus specifically on the wide recievers that earned the top-12 win rates in 2019 in FFPC best-ball leagues, their ADP (average draft position), and what each player's performance and team situation can tell us about the likelihood that they can repeat their league-winning ways.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
2019 Win Rate: 14.1%
2019 ADP: 2.01
2020 ADP: 1.05
Michael Thomas is a stud. I've said it, I'm not ashamed, and I won't take it back. Most of the wide receivers on this list owe their win rates to some degree to having wildly outperformed their ADP, while Thomas was one of the top wide receivers drafted in FFPC leagues, and still managed the fourth-highest win rate at the position. Thomas finished 2019 as the highest-scoring wide receiver by a fairly absurd margin, scoring just shy of five more PPR fantasy points PER GAME than WR2 Chris Godwin. Thomas's 19.4% target rate led the field by over four percentage points, and his fantasy scoring wasn't even propped up by his touchdown totals, with a 4.9% touchdown rate that was the second-lowest of this group.
Drew Brees signed a two-year deal with New Orleans this month, ensuring Thomas will continue to receive passes from the quarterback with the highest career completion percentage in history. One of the few things the Saints have lacked over the past few seasons is viable depth at the wide receiver position behind Thomas, and their recent signing of Emmanuel Sanders is an exciting development for Thomas. Even if Thomas' receiving volume takes a negligible dip, the presence of a healthy Sanders should command enough defensive attention to reduce the double-teaming of Thomas, and it's not as if opposing defenses have disproven the ancient adage that you can't guard Mike by devoting extra resources to stopping him. Sure, he's now the WR1 by ADP. He should be, and he's an easy choice with a late-first-round best-ball draft pick in 2020.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 Win Rate: 11.6%
2019 ADP: 2.11
2020 ADP: 3.02
Mike Evans worst receiving yardage total over the last six seasons was 1,001 in 2017, and he's scored eight or more touchdowns in three of the past four years, numbers that understandably motivated many FFPC drafters to select him in the second round. Evans' win rate of 11.6% despite a second-round price tag put him in rare company with Michael Thomas among these twelve wide receivers. Evans caught just 57% of his targets, the second-lowest among this group, but overcame that inefficiency with a fourth-ranked 14.6% target rate and an aDOT of 15.3 yards, tied for the third-highest among all wide receivers with at least 80 targets.
Evans' extremely high aDOT played right to Jameis Winston's tendencies, as Winston threw passes of 20 or more yards at the 4th-highest rate among quarterbacks. Winston is currently searching for a new team in free agency, while the Buccaneers signed Tom Brady. Per PFF, Brady had an adjusted completion on deep passes of 41.9% compared to Winston's 44.4% despite lacking a deep threat with anywhere near the proficiency of either Evans or Godwin, but he attempted deep passes far less frequently (10.1% to Winston's 15.8%). Brady's accuracy and quick decision-making are his trump cards, which generally doesn't translate into a high volume of longer-developing deep throws, and the Buccaneers will have to improve their pass protection on the outsides of their offensive line if they hope to keep Brady injury-free. Evans' ADP has barely moved this offseason and his late-second/early-third-round cost gives him little wiggle room to repeat a win rate this high.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 Win Rate: 15.5%
2019 ADP: 5.04
2020 ADP: 2.08
Chris Godwin's snap share increased from 41% in his 2017 rookie season to 64% in 2018 to 92% in 2019. His target rate remained above 12% in each of his first three seasons, and he was a valued commodity at the position during drafts last season as evinced by his 5.04 ADP. He certainly didn't disappoint, earning the second-highest FFPC win rate at the position at 15.5%, due in no small part to his touchdown rate of 7.4%, second-best among this group. Teammate Mike Evans slightly edged him out with a 14.6% target rate and finished as the PPR WR11 overall, but Godwin finished as the WR2 and was available three rounds later.
Former Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston was a YOLO-throw aficionado and threw 20+ yard passes at the fourth-highest rate in the league, but significant change has come with Bucs' signing of Tom Brady. Brady will be no spring chicken in September at 43, but arguably his greatest asset is his ability to diagnose a defense quickly and attack weaknesses in coverage, which aligns quite well with Godwin's traits. Godwin's aDOT of 10.8 yards with Winston is in the same neighborhood of Julian Edleman's 9.8 yards with Brady in 2019, but Godwin's 6.7 YAC (yards after catch) per reception more than doubled Edelman's 3.3 figure last season. Godwin's 2.08 ADP has now surpassed Evans' 3.02 over the past two weeks of FFPC drafts, but while he's not a screaming bargain, he should return value as long as Brady can avoid injury. His 2019 win rate may be hard to match, but a return among the top 12 wide receivers in both win rate and overall finish is well within his range of outcomes.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
2019 Win Rate: 14.2%
2019 ADP: 6.09
2020 ADP: 4.07
Allen Robinson turned out to be an excellent target in the sixth round of 2019 best-ball drafts, with a 14.2% win rate that was third among all wide recievers. His 14.9% target rate was third-best out of this group of 12, and he earned his top-three finish despite a 4.5% touchdown rate that was the worst figure among this crew. He achieved all of this despite (or in the case of his touchdown percentage, perhaps due to) being on the receiving end of passes from Mitchell Trubisky.
2020 offers a clear opportunity for Robinson with the Bears' move to sign Nick Foles in free agency. Foles had a lost season in 2019 due to injury, but he's almost certainly an upgrade at the position over Trubisky. Robinson's target rate easily led all Bears wide receivers, and there's no reason to expect that to change even if Chicago dips into a loaded 2020 wide receiver draft crop. Robinson's 2020 4.07 ADP at FFPC is only a two-round increase from 2019, and given the low correlation of touchdown rate from season-to-season, even a modest increase in luck there for Robinson would significantly affect his 2020 value at ADP.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
2019 Win Rate: 11.2%
2019 ADP: 5.09
2020 ADP: 6.05
Tyler Lockett didn't have unreasonably high expectations from fantasy drafters going into the 2019 season, but he had the best season of his young career with a WR13 finish in PPR scoring formats. Lockett's 7.3% touchdown rate ranked number three among this group, while his target rate was a 12th-ranked 10.9%. Lockett lined up on offense for 90% of Seattle's snaps, which led the team's receiving corps, as did his 0.23 PPR points per snap.
Lockett's 2020 over the past two weeks of FFPC best-ball drafts is 6.05, not even a full round higher than his 2019 ADP. Lockett should benefit from improvement by wide receiver D.K. Metcalf as an outside receiver, and the continued excellence of Russell Wilson at quarterback. Seattle has been signing offensive lineman with abandon in free agency, so it's clear that they are intent on improving their offensive line, and will probably address it in the draft as well. Seattle was the sixth-most run-oriented offense in 2019, but if pass protection improvement leads to even a slight shift toward the passing game, Lockett stands to benefit, and his draft cost remains eminently reasonable. The Seahawks almost certainly would too, as having one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league on your roster and Pete Carroll not making him the focal point is one of the more frustrating things to witness in the wide world of sports.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
2019 Win Rate: 17.8%
2019 ADP: 19.06
2020 ADP: 6.05
DeVante Parker was certainly not the obvious candidate to finish with the highest win rate among wide receivers at 17.8%, but that's exactly what happened on FFPC. Parker's 19th-round ADP in 2019 was an obvious driver for his stratospheric win rate, as he finished the season as the WR13 in the FFPC scoring format. Any team that drafted him could have overcome bad wide receiver injury luck (or early-to-mid-round mistakes at the position) and wound up with their WR2 in a round where kickers and defenses are routinely being drafted. Parker had an impressive 14.0% target rate that ranked fifth among the 12 wide receivers with the highest win rates, and his 7.0% touchdown rate ranked fourth among them.
The Dolphins are frequently projected to draft Tua Tagovaiola with their first-round draft pick, who's recovering from a significant injury. This should mean that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the most likely starting quarterback for Miami in Week 1, which would maintain what is a strong connection between Fitzpatrick and Parker. If Tagovaiola is Miami's draft target and he's healthy and ready more quickly than expected, Parker should still stand to benefit from targets from one of the 2020's consensus top quarterbacks. Parker's 2019 target rate alone makes him a good bet for a strong 2020, but his 6.05 ADP at FFPC over the past two weeks is a full 13-round jump from last season. In addition to his target volume, Parker's 2019 average depth of target (DOT) of 14.0 was tied for the ninth-highest mark among wide receivers with at least 90 targets, and he remains a worthy target at his ADP. His chances of topping the wide receiver win rate leaderboard in 2020 at his new ADP are extremely slim.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
2019 Win Rate: 13.4%
2019 ADP: 18.07
2020 ADP: 6.07
Deebo Samuel is the first rookie to appear on this list, and wide receivers entering their second year are worth extra attention considering that they are the most likely group to see their scoring increase from the previous season. Samuel's 18th-round ADP in 2019 shows that most best-ball drafters didn't consider him one of the top rookie options, and his excellent win rate is strongly tied to his ADP value. Samuel finished as the WR35 in PPR scoring formats, and among this group of 12, he earned 11th-ranked target rate at 11.1% and the 9th-ranked touchdown rate at 3.7%
Emmanuel Sanders and his 5.3 targets per game are vacant since the Saints signed him in free agency, and Samuel is in line to earn a sizeable portion of them. Samuel never dipped below a 60% snap share in 2019, but he also lined up for over 80% of San Francisco's snaps in a game only five times. The 49ers are a good bet to draft a wide receiver in the first round, and the extent to which that will benefit Sanders depends on the speed with which that rookie can acclimate to the NFL. Unfortunately, Samuel's sixth-round ADP deflates his 2020 value, as wide receivers currently being drafted in the sixth round like DeVante Parker, Robert Woods, D.J. Chark, and Terry McLaurin all project to have higher target volumes. San Francisco was the second-most run-heavy team in the league behind Baltimore in 2019, and expecting the reversal of an offensive tendency that brought them to the Super Bowl would be a mistake.
D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
2019 Win Rate: 13.3%
2019 ADP: 24.09
2020 ADP: 6.10
D.J. Chark was the best kind of wide receiver surprise in 2019, with just the kind of second-year uber-breakout that you dream of for a sophomore. Chark had a 13.5% target rate after ascending from a 40% snap share in 2018 to 78% last season, and his 24th-round ADP value was enormous. Chark's performance came despite quarterback changes between Nick Foles and Garnder Minshew and rookie inconsistency from Minshew throughout, and Chark finished as the WR16 in FFPC leagues with over 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Gardner Minshew will likely return as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars, and his second-year improvement would raise Chark's ceiling significantly. Minshew had the fourth-best passer rating on deep throws of 20-plus yards, while 42% of Chark's receiving yardage came from deep targets, as well as four of his eight touchdowns. Jacksonville should remain a pass-heavy offense, which is another check in the plus-column for Chark. His 6.10 ADP makes it unlikely he repeats a top-six finish in win rate, but he does remain an enticing target in the late-sixth-round.
John Brown, Buffalo Bills
2019 Win Rate: 13.2%
2019 ADP: 16.11
2020 ADP: 10.02
John Brown was finally able to return on the promise of his thousand-yard 2015 season after overcoming health issues, injury, and changing scenery when he landed in the perfect spot in Buffalo's offense. 2019's PPR WR15 lined up for 91% of the Bills' offensive snaps, and while his 12.2% target rate ranked just ninth among these twelve wide receivers, it was the second-highest rate among Buffalo receivers. Brown's recent history depressed his ADP into the 16th round, which is the primary reason he earned a top-12 win rate.
Unfortunately for Brown's 2020 projected ceiling, the Bills signed Stefon Diggs in free agency, a shiny new toy at the wide receiver position who is nearly certain to earn the primary attention of quarterback Josh Allen. Diggs will also draw the focus of opposing secondaries, which should regularly provide Brown with more beneficial defensive matchups and a safe floor. Brown's 10th-round ADP over the past two weeks of FFPC drafts is reasonable, so while he'll have a hard time repeating his 13.2% win rate, he retains enough value to be a WR4 target for FFPC rosters.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
2019 Win Rate: 13.1%
2019 ADP: 16.03
2020 ADP: 13.01
Jamison Crowder led the Jets in target rate at 15%, a number that was second among the 12 wide receivers with the highest win rates. Crowder was the PPR WR32 occupying the primary slot receiver role for New York, and getting a WR3 return for a 16th-round investment is excellent. Crowder performed despite inconsistency from quarterback Sam Darnold, a struggling offensive line, and a generally dysfunctional 2019 Jets offense.
What makes Crowder interesting this season is that his ADP has only risen slightly from the 16th round to the 13th round, despite the high likelihood of at least moderate offensive improvement by the Jets. Robby Anderson left the Jets in free agency, and they've only signed Breshad Perriman at the position at the time of this writing, making them a prime candidate to target a wide receiver in the early rounds from a 2020 class that projects to be strong and deep. Crowder's role and target rate in his offense are secure regardless of who ultimately lines up outside, which can't be said of many other wide receivers in his ADP range. He's a great high-floor, reasonable-ceiling option, and a continued value at ADP.
A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
2019 Win Rate: 11.5%
2019 ADP: 21.09
2020 ADP: 4.05
A.J. Brown put forth an excellent rookie season, finishing as the PPR WR23 despite not surpassing a 50% snap share in a game until Week 5, and not seeing a snap share consistently above 80% until Weeks 13 through 16. Brown's 9.5% touchdown rate was the highest among every wide receiver mentioned in this article, and investing in his 21st-round ADP returned a 1,051-yard 8-touchdown return.
If Brown sees an expected increase in snap share and maintains his efficiency, he will likely match or exceed his 2019 numbers. Brown's ADP has made a rocket-propelled 17-round rise from 21.09 to 4.05, which is dangerous territory for a receiver on a team that ran the ball with the third-highest frequency in 2019. Second-year improvement and a steady snap share above 80% would mitigate some of that risk, but while he could definitely return value as a fourth-round pick, he's a fairly bad bet to repeat a win rate above 11.0%.
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
2019 Win Rate: 11.2%
2019 ADP: 13.05
2020 ADP: 7.05
Michael Gallup made the second-year leap in 2019 that we hope to see from rookie wide receivers, and he worked quite well opposite newly-acquired Amari Cooper last season. Gallup ended up playing on a higher percentage of snaps than Cooper (albeit in two fewer games), but Gallup put forth the fantasy WR16 season in the FFPC scoring format to Cooper's WR10. Gallup's win rate ending up among these surrounding players can be strongly correlated to his 13th-round ADP, as he was undervalued going into the 2019 season, while Cooper was most often drafted in the third round.
This offseason presented the Cowboys with plenty of offensive uncertainty, with Dak Prescott in need of a contract extension and Amari Cooper in new of a new contract to keep him from free agency. Luckily for Gallup's prospects, Dallas re-signed Cooper and is in contract negotiations with Prescott, so all Gallup needs to do is maintain or improve upon his 2019 efficiency. That aforementioned uncertainly is probably part of the reason why his ADP only rose to the seventh round, which makes him an attractive target and gives him a decent shot to repeat a win rate that ultimately ranks among the top 12 wide receivers in 2020.