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Situational Wide Receiver Values: 2017 Edition

Examining fantasy football values for wide receivers through historical study of quarterback strength and depth chart construction

Situation matters for fantasy football. Talent is a long-term bet in dynasty and keeper league formats, but in the four-month sprint of redraft situation is king. A wide receiver can be limited (or boosted) by the level of his quarterback as well as his position on the depth chart pecking order. After collecting data of quarterback production and corresponding wide receiver fantasy production dating back to 2008, here is the relevant data for 2017:

The table below shows the top-96 values produced by the formula. The RK column represents their rank within the formula (valuation in the far right column). The ADP column is using the Footballguys consensus data within the position as of June 23, 2017. The DIFF column shows the difference between the formula rank and ADP rank - the higher the number, the more preferential the player.

The key criteria for making quality fantasy bets at wide receiver are these:

  • When in doubt, bet on the receivers with the best chance to be their team's No.1 receiver
  • All tiebreakers go towards receivers with better quarterbacks
  • If an owner must bet on a No.2 receiver on their team, they must be attached to a top-half fantasy quarterback

The goal of the above criteria is to acquire the best bets for WR1 fantasy production in conjuction with the highest floor possible. 

Undervalued Team WR1

Bryant is the only option with an ADP in the wide receiver top-10. Edelman and Fitzgerald have a WR2/3 cost while Edelman has Tom Brady (but heavier competition from Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks for lead targets) and Fitzgerald is the clear No.1 in Arizona but with a few tiers down at quarterback in an eroding Carson Palmer. Watkins, Jeffery, and Garcon are strong bets to be No.1 targets with varying degrees of quarterback quality. Garcon has minimal competition for targets and Brian Hoyer is an underrated option for San Francisco under center. However, a middle-of-the-road QB2 is likely the ceiling of Hoyer in 2017.

Undervalued Potential Team WR1

These receivers feature more ambiguity than the previous subset to be true No.1 targets for their offense. White's biggest hurdle is his own health and Mike Glennon is unlikely to be worse than Chicago's quarterback play a season ago. Maclin, Decker, and Doctson are other health-related bets and all three have some competition for the lead role. Parker is getting plenty of Year 3 breakout buzz, making him a target player and Jarvis Landry slightly overrated with their 19-spot difference in positional ADP. Austin and Jones are longer-shot bets at a WR1 for their team. With Jones, the risk is Golden Tate being a strong WR2, at worst, and likely the WR1 in Detroit. For Austin, there was plenty of new receivers added for the Rams this offseason and Jared Goff needs an uptick to boost the offense.

Strong Quarterbacks' WR2

These three receives are unlikely to outright overtake their team's No.1 receiver, but are paired with an elite quarterback capable of fueling multiple strong fantasy options. Adams is a neutral value by the formula and his ADP with Moncrief and Snead strong values with ADP outside of WR30. Moncrief is coming off a string of injuries after breakout buzz for 2016. Snead has little to no name value, but Drew Brees has made a habit of churning out multiple top-36 fantasy receivers. In fact, since 2008 the Saints have had their No.2 receiver in fantasy terms rank in the top-36 of PPG a hearty 8-of-9 seasons (all but 2013). Further, the No.2 in New Orleans has finished in the top-24 in 4-of-9 seasons and the No.3 receiver has even finished in the top-36 in 3-of-9 years included in the study. For Aaron Rodgers the results are similar with Green Bay's No.2 receiver finishing in the top-24 in 7-of-9 seasons and their No.3 option logging WR21 and WR40 seasons as their peak years. On the flip side, the Browns' lead receiver has finished outside the top-40 in 6-of-9 previous seasons and Oakland was on a similar track before Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree arrived.