This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.
We'll get back to the 2020 rookies in the moment, but for those of you in dynasty leagues wondering about whether there might be remaining lottery tickets to target, be it by trade or remaining free agents, this article means to identify a few targets.
Listed in descending order of presumed acquisition cost (presumed relatively low in each case), these players might be a worthwhile way to improve the depth of your rosters, and some might even have upside scenarios worth imagining.
Damien Harris, RB, NE
Harris was recently a valued commodity and is likely owned in all dynasty leagues, but now his price tag might be substantially lower in light of his disappointing rookie season. Harris was active for just two games, in which he saw four carries for 12 yards on five snaps. Considering the New England running game wasn't exactly lighting it up this year, it's fair to look at Harris' healthy scratches and conclude he must be bad – after all, he's not earning playing time even against these other running backs who aren't especially good. It's a problematic detail. And yet, if the price drops enough, Harris is still a risk worth taking.
Harris (5-foot-10, 216 pounds) is big enough to carry a substantial workload and at the combine he paired average speed (4.57-second 40) with above average explosiveness (37-inch vertical, 121-inch broad jump). At Alabama he ran for 3,070 yards (6.4 YPC) and 23 touchdowns in four years. For some perspective, consider that Josh Jacobs ran for 1,491 yards (5.9 YPC) in three years at Alabama. Harris' prospect profile is more than adequate.
Then there's this: James White is obviously an indispensable part of the Patriots offense, yet he was a healthy scratch for his rookie season, too, suiting up for just three games. We have no reason to think Harris is a bad running back prospect – we only have reason to believe Bill Belichick felt Rex Burkhead was better prepared to contribute in the peripheral role remaining after White and Sony Michel. Michel's knee is a timebomb, though, and Burkhead might not be able to hold off Harris in his second season.
Blake Jarwin, TE, DAL
This one might be a little too obvious since Jason Witten is clearly toast, but if the Jarwin owner in your league isn't looking closely they might miss the fact that they have one of 2020's breakout tight ends on their roster. Jarwin is likely a standout talent at tight end, and the days of giving make-work snaps to the 38-year-old Witten almost have to be over.
Turning 26 in July, Jarwin has been exceptionally productive on a per-snap basis the last two years. He earned 824 snaps in that span while drawing 77 targets, catching 58 for 672 yards and six touchdowns. That's a 75.3 percent catch rate at 8.7 yards per target – elite efficiency. Perhaps even more importantly, Jarwin earned 1.07 air yards per snap in 2019, good for 87th percentile among tight ends. If we take the averages of the last two years and project them over 850 snaps (Witten played 852 in 2019), then we're left with 79 targets, resulting in 60 receptions for 687 yards and five touchdowns. As long as Witten is gone, I think that would sooner be Jarwin's floor for 2020 than his ceiling. I expect him to easily finish as a top-15 fantasy tight end next year.
Steven Sims Jr., WR, WAS
Sims is probably owned in most dynasty formats, especially those with PPR scoring, and ideally you would have picked him up around Week 13. But he might be available in some leagues, and even in the leagues in which he's owned he might be surprisingly cheap. That's because some might be scared off by Sims' inefficient per-target production, where he has a legitimately spooky 5.5 YPT. That isn't good enough to cut it in the long term, and he'll quite simply need to improve that to remain in any NFL lineup. I think there's reason for optimism, though, to the extent that we shouldn't be shocked if Sims is one of the league's more productive slot receivers in 2020.
If there is a reason for optimism, then it's under the premise that Sims' YPT average is less meaningful than his target volume, which was sky high in an offense with low-quality passes. If that's true, then in a way his low YPT was the burden of being the most-open receiver in a bad offense. Sims drew 56 targets in just 314 snaps, an improbably high rate of one target per 5.6 snaps. Given the (low) quality of quarterback play in Washington in 2019, a player targeted that often is going to be left with some hopeless tasks. Of course, Sims can point to himself for some of that blame since his six drops was an unacceptably high number.
But we're working with the fringes here, and the guy is cheap for a reason. As far as price-reducing flaws go, I'm willing to accept drops in exchange for the high frequency with which Sims established himself as the quarterback's target. There's at least the chance for opportunity with Sims, and that's the first step. Moreover, we have reason to believe his target volume was due to merit. That's because Trey Quinn, playing the same slot position as Sims, earned just 47 targets on 442 snaps (9.4 snaps per target). It's for sure a low bar to clear when the alternative is a player as unproductive as Quinn, but there's still probably some insight to the fact that Sims had nine more targets on 128 fewer snaps. Then there's this: Sims earned 1.27 air yards per snap, which was slightly above average (59th percentile) even though his depth of target was well below average (7.1 yards, 11th percentile). That quite simply means he drew usage at a uniquely high rate, and his 4.8 yard average after the catch (67th percentile) gives a glimpse of the rapid improvement his stats might make if his catch percentage improves.
Part of the reason why I hold optimism for Sims improving his YPT figure is the fact that he was a highly productive player in college, where he was productive for each of his four years (three as a starter), including an age-19 breakout season where he caught 72 of 126 targets for 859 yards and seven touchdowns (57.1 percent catch rate, 6.8 YPT) in an offense that completed 59.4 percent of its passes at 6.1 YPT. Even more impressively, as a junior Sims caught 59 of 100 targets for 839 yards and six touchdowns (59 percent catch rate, 8.4 YPT) in an offense that completed 54.1 percent of its passes at 5.9 YPA. Sims has yet to play in a functional offense at the pro or college level, and that's far from guaranteed to improve in Washington, but I really think he could suddenly see his efficiency skyrocket if the quality of his targets improve. He just has to beat out Quinn next year, which I think we have every reason to believe he will.
Scott Miller, WR TB
Bruce Arians isn't going to appreciate O.J. Howard any time soon, and Breshad Perriman is a free agent after his scorching finish to the 2019 season. Perriman may have priced himself out of Tampa Bay's range with his strong performances, and if so then Miller is the best bet to capitalize among Tampa's remaining wideouts.
Small at 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, Miller's frame is a concern for his blocking ability, but he thrived as a pass-catching threat at outside receiver as a rookie, turning 26 targets into 13 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown while operating primarily as a downfield target (16.5 ADOT) on 180 snaps. To draw 26 targets on 180 snaps is encouraging in a vacuum, but to do it while running routes so far downfield is really great to see. It's generally easier to drive up your targets-per-snap average the lower your depth of target is, simply because you're closer to the quarterback and easier to hit as a target.
That Miller played well was a foreseeable outcome, because he was extremely productive in college at Bowling Green, too. Over his final three years in college Miller drew 323 targets in 35 games, catching 208 for 2,838 yards and 23 touchdowns (64.4 percent catch rate, 8.8 YPT). That was in a bad Bowling Green passing offense that completed 54.1, 54.2, and 61.7 percent of its passes at 6.0, 6.8, and 7.1 yards per attempt, respectively. Miller's production was elite and not a shade less than that.
Miller's production more or less confirms that he's skilled as a wideout, but how does he grade as far as athletic tools go? More good news: Miller has sub-4.4 speed to offset his small frame. This is a burner who played at an exceedingly high level throughout college and enters his second year with a potentially major void of targets in one of the league's most voluminous passing offenses.
Pharoh Cooper, WR, ARZ
With Cooper I'm using some of the same optimism reasoning as I did with Sims, but the price should be lower yet since Cooper didn't have the productive three-game stretch that Sims did to conclude his season. That, and it feels like Larry Fitzgerald is an eternal NFL presence, so the possibility of slot snaps opening up in Arizona is an outcome that I don't think has been properly grappled with yet. But in the meantime it's safe to say that Cooper is a former third-round pick who is currently the top backup to Fitzgerald, a free agent who will turn 37 in August.
Of course, even if Fitz leaves Arizona there's a strong chance that Christian Kirk just moves back to the slot or that second-round pick Andy Isabella takes the spot for 2020, but there's also a chance that Cooper logs something like 600 snaps for Arizona in 2020. Fitzgerald played 903 this year, while non-entities like Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson respectively played 461 and 378. With 231 snaps in 12 games with Arizona, I think Cooper is slept on right now as far as his promotion opportunities go.
Like Sims, Cooper earned targets at a high rate for Arizona in his limited playing time, drawing 33 targets in 231 snaps and earning 1.3 air yards per snap (61st percentile). He caught 75.8 percent of his targets at 7.4 yards per target – strong efficiency by slot receiver standards. Cooper was even more productive than Sims as a college player, catching 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns in his age-19 season at South Carolina, and generally that kind of age-adjusted production hints at a meaningful skill set, even if Cooper lacks the athletic talent to project as a standout starter. We also have reason to believe in Cooper's open-field running ability given that he made the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2017.
If Fitzgerald leaves Arizona or Cooper otherwise hits the 600-snap threshold for Arizona in 2020, then based on his 2019 target rates he would see something like 85 targets, which at a 70 percent catch rate would come out to roughly 60 receptions. Something like 60 receptions for 600 yards is far from exciting, but I think it's more likely to be Cooper's base line than his ceiling, which might look more like 70 catches on 100 targets for 750 yards. He could be a useful glue guy in PPR scoring, in other words, and hopefully would be close to free to acquire.
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, GB
I would consider Allen Lazard the favorite to go into 2020 as Green Bay's WR2 after Davante Adams, but we shouldn't forget about St. Brown. While it's not the greatest sign that the Packers didn't designate him for return from the injured reserve when he suffered a severe high ankle sprain during training camp, St. Brown had a mostly encouraging rookie season in 2018 and was as recently as two years ago considered one of the top receiver prospects in college football. It's fair to suggest that if St. Brown had been eligible to play this year that he would have outplayed Lazard.
St. Brown opened training camp behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but it's safe to say coach Matt LaFleur was wrong to commit to Valdes-Scantling after a year of struggles that led to Lazard and Jake Kumerow overtaking him on the depth chart. If LaFleur's judgment was unsound on that question then that LaFleur marginalized St. Brown initially might have been non-indicative with respect to St. Brown.
As much as it's clear that St. Brown was initially overrated by college football observers, we might want to recall that it was only three years ago that St. Brown was widely regarded as the top dynasty prospect in college football. Wrong as the premise was, there were of course reasons why St. Brown was identified as an up-and-coming star. At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds St. Brown boasts 4.48 speed, and he broke out as a true sophomore at Notre Dame, catching 58 of 93 targets for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games (62.4 percent catch rate, 10.3 YPT). That was in an offense that completed 57.7 percent of its passes at 7.9 yards per attempt. Then as a rookie in 2018 he caught 21 of 36 targets for 328 yards (63.6 percent catch rate, 9.1 YPT).
St. Brown has no floor to offer and could get cut this offseason, but if he's healthy and picks up where he left off as a rookie then he might be in the hunt for the WR2 role behind Davante Adams.