It's time to take a stand. Make a call on a wide receiver. Who will surprise - either good or bad? Why?
Chad Parsons: Pierre Garcon gets my vote with his WR4-zone positional ADP. The 49ers are largely undervalued across the skill positions after their abysmal 2016 output. However, Kyle Shanahan, Brian Hoyer, and Pierre Garcon notably breathe life into the offense from a year ago. Even with a mid-QB2 fantasy outcome for Robert Griffin III, Shanahan guided Pierre Garcon to a WR13 finish in 2013's Washington offense. Garcon is the clear lead receiver and in line for his strongest workload since 2013. Even with DeSean Jackson as his running mate, plus Jordan Reed at tight end (better than anything San Francisco has in 2017), Garcon was a top-36 fantasy option the past two seasons. Garcon is priced at his floor with upside for a top-20 finish from there.
Andy Hicks: Corey Coleman screams value to me for this season. He was the first receiver drafted in the 2015 draft and he missed six games in his rookie season. He suffered a broken hand in practice after a 5-104-2 game in Week 2 and looked below his early season form once he returned. The departure of Terrelle Pryor will see him being the clear No. 1 target for whichever quarterback(s) the Browns trot out. If he is going to step up to be the clear number one role, it will be this season and he will, therefore, be a fantasy steal should he do so. At his current draft slot, he carries little downside.
Jeff Haseley: If we're looking for players that aren't a sure thing, but there's promise on the horizon, I have a sneaky suspicion that Cooper Kupp is going to be a key piece to the Rams passing game. His football IQ and versatility as a receiver allows him to lineup all over the field and be a asset to the offense. I want to see more from him in the preseason, but he has the potential to catch 60 balls this year, especially if he earns a starting job from the beginning. He's a great late round stash that most people are writing off due to the Sammy Watkins trade, but in my opinion, talent is talent and he'll rise to the occasion.
Stephen Holloway: Larry Fitzgerald is money with Carson Palmer. Fitzgerald has caught 216 passes for 2,239 yard and 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He will again be heavily featured in his third season as the team’s slot receiver and could catch 100 passes for the third consecutive season, all at a low price of ADP WR26 and 57 overall.
Matt Bitonti: Two from the "thrilling" TEN @ NYJ preseason contest.
- Robby Anderson, NYJ. 3 catches for 71 yards, long of 53. Anderson ran past Logan Ryan and made the grab on a deep bomb. With Quincy Enunwa done for the year, Anderson is WR1 on an NFL football team. He's skinny but also a deep threat.
- Taywan Taylor, TEN. 4 catches for 56 yards, long of 42. Corey Davis is "week-to-week" with a hamstring injury. Eric Decker is the hot name in drafts but he is not durable. Taylor (3rd rd rookie from Western Kentucky) looked spry. Titans fans help me out here but there seems to be Rishard Matthews and not much else at the position. So at worst Taylor is WR4. But he could be WR3 on opening day if Davis isn't ready and WR 2 if/when Decker goes down. Maybe he averages out as a slot guy in redraft leagues.
Full disclosure I snagged Taylor 5.09 in the staff IDP dynasty rookie draft, so I'm not exactly unbiased.
Phil Alexander: Wide receivers who make big plays downfield are great in fantasy. So are wide receivers who score lots of touchdowns. Martavis Bryant does both and while his fourth round ADP is on the optimistic side, there is still a chance he can slip in your draft due to suspension concerns and recency bias.
Consider the following:
- Bryant has either caught a touchdown or gone over 100 receiving yards in 15-out-of-24 career games (playoffs included).
- When he last took the field in 2015, Bryant finished as the cumulative WR13 from Weeks 6-17 (his only games played due to suspension).
- Bryant is a bonafide downfield playmaker. From Weeks 6-17 in 2015, his six receptions and three touchdowns of 25+ yards both led the Steelers and placed him near the league lead in each category.
- He’s far from a one-trick pony. Bryant can score from anywhere on the field. He began his career in Week 7 of 2014 by scoring six touchdowns in his first four games as a pro. Ben Roethlisberger continued to rely heavily on Bryant when the Steelers got within scoring range in 2015. His nine targets from inside the opponent’s 10-yard line were second on the team to Antonio Brown’s 12. Brown appeared in six more games than Bryant.
Bryant is being drafted in the same territory as guys like Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Alshon Jeffery -- all players that share his WR1 upside, but have much tougher quarterback hills to climb than Ben Roethlisberger. Since 2014, Roethlisberger's fantasy point per game average has increased by nearly 20% in games Bryant has played vs. those he missed. Look for Roethlisberger to welcome his lid-popper back with open arms and for Bryant to accumulate low-end WR1 fantasy numbers.
Jason Wood: There are some great choices by my colleagues.
My top choice, without question, is Tyrell Williams. Fantasy owners are treating him like he was a factor last year simply by attrition. That makes no sense. This is a 6'4", 205-lbs guy with blazing speed and incredible strength at the point of attack. He was buried on the depth chart as a rookie coming out of little known Western Oregon, but exploded very late in the season. Last year, he started and was DOMINANT. The kid had 69 receptions for 1,059 yards (15.3 per reception) and seven touchdowns. Tyrell Williams was WR13 last year. He was the best WR2 in fantasy. So why is he being drafted like a WR4? The main reason is a belief Mike Williams will displace him. He won't. The rookie is raw, needs time, and is dealing with a serious injury. NFL coaches put their best players on the field, and Tyrell has done nothing to suggest his best days aren't ahead. If Williams was a 1st round rookie draft pick and put up nearly 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns in his second season, people would be making the case for a 2nd or 3rd round value in fantasy drafts this year.
Jeff Haseley: Spitballing here, but hear me out. Jason, if you feel strongly about Williams, do you have interest in Rishard Matthews, who also performed well last year? His rise to relevance is similar to Williams in that both benefited from a lack of on-field talent around them. Both he and Williams now have a much improved corps of receivers to share targets and scoring opportuities. Is there much of a difference in the two outlooks? Granted Williams has Philip Rivers at quarterback, who is a consistent 4,000-yard passer. Mariota could reach that level, but that would be considered more of a stretch. The two receivers have some interesting similarities. I'm curious if you're also high on Matthews.
Chris Feery: Larry Fitzgerald is going to seriously outperform his current ADP. Bruce Arians has made it crystal clear that he’s less than pleased with the Cardinals receiving corps - outside of Fitzgerald and Jaron Brown - and that’s further confirmation that the veteran wideout will continue to be a target monster. I see the Cardinals as a whole bouncing back in a big way in 2017. Fitzgerald is in line to produce another stellar season, in spite of the fact that it may end up being his swan song in the NFL.
Ryan Hester: I'm going to plant a flag but with a disclaimer. Kenny Britt will crush his current ADP on a fantasy points per game basis in games where Brock Osweiler is not his quarterback. When (that's intentionally not an "if") DeShone Kizer takes over in Cleveland, he'll provide Britt with a more fantasy-friendly situation. Kizer has a huge arm and has the athleticism to move around in the pocket and extend plays.
This is not an attempt to convince anyone that Cleveland's quarterback situation is good; it's absolutely not. But Britt has overcome bad quarterbacks situations for his entire career. As recently as last season, Britt was WR20 in PPR scoring through Week 16 (the final week was excluded because it's meaningless for most NFL teams, and Britt didn't play that week).
Britt registered 1.8 fantasy points per target last season, just barely above his career average of 1.73. To continue the exclusion of Week 17, let's assume Britt sees 115 targets through 16 weeks (a number well within reach; he had 111 last season in Los Angeles, while Terrelle Pryor led Cleveland with 141), that would translate to 199 fantasy points, which was a top-20 wide receiver last year. 130 targets at that efficiency would have Britt pushing WR1 status. This exercise assumes Kizer is the quarterback all year. Even if not, though, it still gives an idea of the per-game value Britt can bring once Kizer does take over.
It should be noted at this point that he's being selected between WR45 and WR50. Having a Cleveland player on your team might feel awkward, but the "potential trainwreck team" discount is more than built in. Heck, even the "Brock Osweiler will be his quarterback for some games" discount is in there too.