Sophomore Wide Receivers Poised To Break Out in 2020

by Alex Johnson · Fantasy Football

We have heard all the talk about how talented this 2020 rookie wide receiver class is, but the 2019 class has turned out to be quite the impressive crew itself. We saw breakout seasons from Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, and A.J. Brown. We saw productive seasons from Diontae Johnson and Darius Slayton. When we examine the guys who had a quiet first year, there are four names that stand out as players that are poised for a second-year breakout. Let’s use PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and metrics to dive deeper into these players.

N’Keal Harry, Patriots

N’Keal Harry is a name we don’t hear much about these days. He came into the league as a highly touted prospect and the easy WR1 in the 2019 class, but a poor rookie season has made him a complete afterthought on fantasy draft day. He has an FFPC ADP that puts him in the 15th round. Still, he’s a second-year wideout and we see second-year receivers break out all the time. See D.J. Chark last year. He did absolutely nothing as a rookie and then burst onto the scene as a sophomore, and Harry was a better prospect.

Harry had good reason to not break out in year one, beginning his rookie season on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury. It shouldn’t be a surprise Harry struggled to do much after missing the first half of the season and trying to work his way back into a complicated New England offense with a quarterback in Tom Brady who needs to build chemistry and trust with his guys. He saw just 24 (No. 121 among qualified wide receivers) targets in his seven games played. He only scored double-digit fantasy points once, in Week 15 when he finished as the WR38. It became clear at times the team was trying to manufacture touches for their big receiver with screens and handoffs on end-arounds. With those, he flashed some of that monstrous run-after-catch ability that we saw from him at Arizona State.

Check out N’Keal Harry’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Harry checked all the boxes as a prospect, which is why we still like him coming into year two and know there’s a chance for a Chark-like breakout in 2020. He posted elite college production from day one, demonstrated by an 18.7 (95th-percentile) Breakout Age as true freshman when he recorded 22-percent of the team’s receptions, 21-percent of the receiving yards, and 31-percent of the receiving touchdowns in 2016. He finished his Sun Devils career with 213 receptions in three seasons for nearly 3,000 receiving yards. He departed with a 43.9-percent (88th-percentile) College Dominator Rating and a 14.9 (55th-percentile) College YPR mark. Harry also possesses some freakish athleticism for being 6-2, 228-pounds, with a 109.8 (90th-percentile) Speed Score and 126.5 (78th-percentile) Burst Score.

Harry has great size-adjusted speed and explosiveness with prototypical WR1 size. He’s the favorite to be the second receiver behind Julian Edelman on a thin Patriots WR depth chart. His quarterback, Cam Newton, has shown willingness in his career to throw to these big outside wide receivers that don’t make the bacon as great separators and don’t need the level of trust in a guy that Brady always seemed to need. The Patriots will continue to look for new ways to get him the ball. He’s a beast with the ball in his hands, it’s his greatest strength. The Sun Devils thought so too. Harry had 23 career rush attempts for 144 yards and three touchdowns and returned a punt for a score in 2018. He is versatile and a proven playmaker.

We need to wake up and remember this guy was an elite college prospect who fell victim to injuries as a rookie. He’s healthy and ready to take that year two jump, and he’s almost free to draft.

Andy Isabella, Cardinals

Andy Isabella was an incredible prospect coming out of a small school in 2019. He posted a 97th-percentile College Dominator Rating at The University of Massachusetts. He averaged 16.6 (75th-percentile) Yards Per Reception while commanding a 36.7-percent (97th-percentile) College Target Share in his final season. He wowed scouts at the NFL Combine with his 4.31 (100th-percentile) 40-yard dash while displaying above average burst and agility. Despite being drafted in the second round, Isabella was sparsely deployed in the Cardinals offense as a rookie. He earned just 13 (No. 149) targets while struggling to beat out KeeSean Johnson and Damiere Byrd, but he did shine when he received opportunities. He turned his third career reception into an 88-yard touchdown and managed positive rates in both Production Premium and Target Premium.

Isabella closely comps to T.Y. Hilton and Tyler Lockett. While he may need a few things to break his way in order to carve out a significant role given the presence of DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald, Isabella is in a far better position to break out this year than he was a year ago. He has a familiarity with his quarterback and his offense that he didn’t have last season, especially considering he was a rookie coming from a smaller school with lesser competition than typical second-rounders. One injury to a top-three receiver, and he will be poised for a massive breakout. He has the athleticism and skill to dominate. He just needs the chance.

Parris Campbell, Colts

It’s time. Parris Campbell time. We hoped to see a boom rookie season from Campbell, but a preseason hamstring injury and the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck weeks before the season stacked the odds against the former Ohio State star. An abdominal strain, broken hand, and foot fracture forced him to miss nine games and turned his rookie campaign into a lost season. Now healthy, Campbell is shining in training camp and poised for a sophomore breakout.

Campbell was a phenomenal talent coming out of school as a second-round pick. He was the first OSU wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in a single season since 2002. He proved to be a yards-after-catch savant, capitalizing on every reception despite his underwhelming average target depth. Campbell possesses extreme versatility, with a skill set to line up all over the field. He’s a freak athletically, with 4.31 (100th-percentile) speed, a 117.2 (97th-percentile) Speed Score and a 135.5 (97th-percentile) Burst Score.

With only T.Y. Hilton in a defined role ahead of him, Campbell has a true path to WR3 production. He’s a perfect fit with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and can be found at the tail end of drafts. It’s the exact type of high-upside play we look for in the late rounds.

Hakeem Butler, Cardinals


Marquise Brown, Ravens

Marquise Brown is the most obvious of the sophomore wide receivers poised to break out. He flashed as a rookie, posting multiple top-24 fantasy performances, including nearly 150 yards and two scores in Week 1. Lower-body injuries hampered him for much of the way, depriving us of what could have been a great rookie year. He finished with 46 (No. 54) receptions for 584 (No. 56) yards and seven (No. 13) touchdowns. Brown was second on the team behind Mark Andrews with an 18.9-percent (No. 44) Target Share. He averaged 2.25 (No. 25) Yards Per Pass Route and recorded a +14.0 (No. 21) Production Premium. The Lamar Jackson-to-Brown connection produced a 123.2 QB Rating, the sixth-best among all quarterback-to-wide receiver combinations.

The Ravens had the lowest pass rate in all situations last season while averaging 29.3 (No. 32) Team Pass Plays per Game. We can naturally anticipate a more pass-friendly offense in 2020, which will only bode well for the man they call Hollywood. With no serious competition for targets outside of Andrews, Brown is in line for a significant share of the passing offense. He makes for a fantastic pick in the middle rounds with a solid floor and massive upside.