Welcome to the Stock Watch. While the picture above might make you worried you’ve stumbled into a financial advice column, have no fear, this is about our fantasy football stock. Each year in dynasty leagues we look forward to rookie drafts, snatching up all the prospects we know will lead to glory. But it doesn’t always happen right away. Over the next few pieces, as this off-season draws to a close, I’ll be taking stock of prospects at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 draft class. This isn’t about the stars that we already know are great, it’s about the players taken in the first three rounds that haven’t hit yet—and might never hit.
Wide Receiver was an interesting position in 2019. Some went earlier than expected and haven’t shown as much as was expected, while others like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf have become true stars. In this edition of the Stock Watch I’m going to take a look at four receivers who are in position to take a step forward in 2021.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
Drafted: No. 25 overall by the Baltimore Ravens
Situation: Hollywood Brown was the top receiver drafted in 2019, and he’s still possibly the top option for the Ravens at receiver. So, that seems like a win. In fact, after a decent rookie season, Brown stepped up with 100 targets in 2020. He caught just 58 of those passes for 769 yards and eight TDs. That was good enough to be WR36 last season. All seemed on track for Brown to capitalize on his draft position and return what those who drafted him had hoped.
But this off-season, the Ravens went about building up the receiving corps, adding veteran Sammy Watkins along with drafting Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace. That doesn’t mean Brown is out, but it could shift the dynamic of a passing game that hasn’t been robust. While he’s a great deep threat, questions persist about whether he’s a true number one receiver. Last year’s 100-target season was a good start, but 2021 will show if Brown can keep it up.
Stock Value: Unsettled. Some were incredibly high on Brown coming out of the draft, taking him as the first or second receiver in rookie drafts. It hasn’t played out that way for fantasy players, but last year was good progress. If his targets regress while other receivers added this off-season step up, it will be a clear indication he’ll never be the alpha target some had hoped. Personally, I view him as more of a number two and I suspect that won’t get enough volume to be a boon to fantasy players.
Drafted: No. 32 by the New England Patriots
Situation: Harry surprised many with where he was taken in the NFL Draft, and quickly became a rookie draft darling. But he hasn’t made much of an impact on the field. He only appeared in seven games as a rookie, seeing just 24 targets. In his second year, he appeared in 14 games but still had trouble cracking the depth chart. He saw just 57 targets and caught just 33 passes for 309 yards and two TDs, hardly the output expected from a first-round draft pick. And things didn’t get much better this off-season.
The Patriots added free-agent wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, a clear indication they were rebuilding their receiving options for returning quarterback Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones. That plan didn’t seem to include Harry stepping up in year three. In early July, Harry requested a trade from the Patriots. That request hasn’t been granted, and it’s unclear what his trade value would even be. Perhaps a fresh start is what Harry needs, but it’s been a long two years already for those who drafted him and there are dim signs that will change substantially in 2021.
Stock Value: Null. If you are holding Harry, you know there’s no trade market. If he can’t get past Agholor, Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers, there’s not a lot of hope he can rise to the top elsewhere, either. There are teams that need a receiver, so it’s possible he gets a trade and gets a chance, but absent that there is little hope Harry will return value to fantasy players.
Drafted: No. 56 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs
Situation: Receivers taken by the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes will always spark interest, and that was certainly true of Hardman. He hasn’t taken off like a rocket, as some hoped. In his first season, Hardman caught 26 passes for 538 yards and six TDs, following that up with 62 targets and 41 receptions for 560 yards and four TDs in 2020. Hardman has been a decent option in the fantasy-rich Chiefs’ offense, finishing as WR61 last season. Now he has a chance to step up in year three.
Watkins, who was nominally above Hardman on the depth chart, headed out to Baltimore this off-season. The team still has Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as its top two options in the passing game, but the Chiefs didn’t make any substantial additions to the receiver group. Hardman will have a chance to step up and start opposite Hill, which could help boost his value for those that drafted him.
Stock Value: Rising. Hardman hasn’t been a bust but he hasn’t produced consistent value. With Watkins gone, if Hardman can increase his target share to the 85-90 target range, that could help him take a step forward, especially in an offense as prolific as the Chiefs.
Drafted: No. 59 overall by the Indianapolis Colts
Situation: Campbell was a big value coming out of the draft. There was incredible excitement about the Ohio State product being drafted to play with Andrew Luck. Then Luck retired prior to the 2019 season, and Campbell struggled with injuries. Playing with Jacoby Brissett, he appeared in just seven games and saw just 24 targets, catching 18 passes for 127 yards and a TD. In 2020, Campbell seemed poised to step up and got off to a hot start. In the first game, playing with new quarterback Philip Rivers, he saw nine targets, catching six passes for 71 yards and taking a handoff for nine yards. Week 2, after taking a handoff for seven yards, Campbell was injured and lost for the season.
But hope springs eternal. The Colts have another new quarterback in 2021—this time Carson Wentz—but made no significant additions to the receiving corps. Veteran TY Hilton and second-year man Michael Pittman, Jr., are there, but otherwise, Campbell has a shot to step up. Can he stay on the field? His Week 1 production from 2020 indicates he was going to be a featured part of the offense, giving fantasy players and Colts’ fans hope that Pittman and Campbell will develop into the one-two punch everyone hoped to see when they were drafted.
Stock Value: Rising. I know Campbell hasn’t done a ton in his first two years, but I still believe. I have shares of Campbell, too, and I’m hopeful that the third year will be the charm for a guy with talent and a shot to make a real contribution on the field.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.