I wrote about potential fantasy football duds for this season, so of course I have to write about potential fantasy studs. This list will not include guys like Christian McCaffrey or Michael Thomas. The article is about "potential" studs and those guys are already firmly planted in the stud category. A potential stud is a player who didn't live up to expectations last year and could bounce back in 2020, or he has the potential to outperform his ADP.
When Antonio Brown left Pittsburgh, it was supposed to be JuJu Smith-Schuster's time to step up and fill that void. He had just come off a breakout year where he caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. Why wouldn't we think that he could repeat or even improve on those numbers as the lead WR? That made him a virtual lock to be a first round pick for fantasy owners. Ultimately we were all disappointed, and I would argue that the change in QB was the primary issue. Going from Ben Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges was brutal. The run game was suffering, and Smith-Schuster's targets were chopped in half.
All is not lost. Ben Roethlisberger is back and that means that the Steelers offense is back. Depending upon scoring format, JuJu's ADP has him coming off the board between the end of the third and end of the fifth rounds. He's being drafted around the same time as Marquise Brown, Jarvis Landry, and Terry McLaurin. With Roethlisberger back, JuJu has the potential to be a WR1 for fantasy again. Yes, Diontae Johnson and James Washington are going to push for targets, and the addition of Eric Ebron at TE makes the seams and short routes open for Ben, but JuJu is still the star on this team. I expect his ADP to climb as we get closer to the season, but if you're drafting early, there is a lot of reward to be had at his current ADP.
I liked what I saw out of DK Metcalf last year, and I think he's a lock to improve upon his rookie season where he saw 100 targets. He'll still be behind Tyler Lockett, but there will still be plenty of targets to be had. As the season progressed, Wilson became more comfortable with him. One area that Metcalf has been working on is his drops. He ranked 11th last year in them as a rookie, and nobody should be surprised to see him move forward in that area. While Seattle remains a run-first team, Metcalf has the kind of raw talent that combined with a more polished route tree could make him the team's top target either this year or next.
He's being drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds depending upon scoring format. If Metcalf can progress enough and build upon last year, he should be a very productive WR2 for you.
The Falcons were one of the most prolific passing teams last season. Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Justin Hardy are no longer with the team. That means that there are a lot of targets to go around even if Julio Jones maintains his elite status and new additions Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst siphon off some of those targets. Most receivers tend to break out in their third season. All of this makes me want to target Calvin Ridley in the fourth round regardless of scoring format. He's the kind of player that you're drafting as a reliable WR2 but has the potential to be a WR1. He is projected to eclipse 1,000 yards, and I might go so far as to say that Ridley is a must-target kind of player in your draft.
There is a much-touted stat surrounding Jordan Howard. In the last decade, only three players have rushed for as many yards and scored as many touchdowns as Howard in their first four seasons. Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, and Arian Foster. Surprised, right? Don't let last year's disappointment color your impression of him. The shoulder injury that kept him out for seven games has healed and he's primed to be the lead back in Miami's new backfield. He'll be joined by Matt Breida, but Howard is fully expected to be the early-down back there.
The Dolphins have addressed their offensive line and filled it with some big guys capable of opening up running lanes. That should help Miami get their run game going. It would not be a surprise at all to see Jordan Howard with 200+ attempts this year.
The number of starting running backs that you're going to be able to find in the seventh and eighth rounds is pretty small. Looking at fantasy football nerd's rankings, Howard is being ranked 18 spots higher than where he's being drafted. If you somehow missed out on all of the running backs during your draft, Howard is the kind of guy that you can target later and still be happy with him as your RB2 all season long.
The tight end position is an interesting one in fantasy football. Once Travis Kelce and George Kittle are gone, you can wait on drafting a TE until much later. One guy that should be targeted is Jonnu Smith. With Delanie Walker now gone, we get to see a lot more of Jonnu Smith in Tennessee. Ryan Tannehill proved to be the kind of QB whose efficiency was sorely needed. The combination of the dynamic AJ Brown spreading the field and Derrick Henry carrying the ball means that defenses have to be honest. The play-action worked really well in Tennessee last season, combined with the fact that the a quarter of the Titans' targets went to the TE position.
Smith is being drafted in the double-digit rounds and as a backup-TE. The person drafting him as their backup TE should be you. He has the talent and situation where he could flirt with TE1 numbers.
There's no need to reach for QB again this year. In fact, you can find guys like Carson Wentz late in your draft. Wentz finished last year as the 9th-best fantasy QB even after his receiving corp was pretty much decimated. Going large portions of the season without guys like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor, Wentz managed to still throw for 4,039 yards and 27 touchdowns. He may not be Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray with his legs, but he still rushed 62 times for 243 yards and found his way into the endzone last year. That's an extra two points each week with his legs.
I'll be watching Alshon Jeffery's availability for Week 1, but the rest of his receivers are healthy and ready to go. He also has one of the best TE tandems in the league with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. That's in addition to the upward trajectory that we anticipate seeing Miles Sanders on in 2020.
Wentz should easily finish once again inside the Top 10 with the potential to flirt with Top 5 status.
Entering his third season is DJ Chark who was simply incredible when Jacksonville had Gardner Minshew at QB. That combination should help your fantasy team win this year. Prior to getting hurt at the end of the season, Chark was on pace for nearly 1,200 yards. He averaged eight targets per game and earned the trust of his QB who targeted him an incredible 34 times in the red-zone.
Normally I would look for changes in a team during the offseason that might contribute to a positive change, but consistency remains the key in Jacksonville. It's essentially the same team with the same strategy. The additions of Lavishka Shenault, Chris Thompson and Tyler Eifert aren't going to be enough to take anything away from Chark. In fact, he could very well see his targets rise slightly. With a steady QB under center, Chark should be able to find some more consistency and not be such a boom-or-bust player like we saw in 2019.
His ADP is currently a full nine spots lower than his ranking which means that early drafters are not waiting to pull the trigger on the third-year receiver.