Overvalued Players: Wide Receivers

Footballguys staff members discuss wide receivers who are overvalued

The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These are players that will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should underperform their draft position.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Alexander: Tate is a big part of the Lions offense, but he’s tough to trust from week-to-week in fantasy. 49% of Tate’s 2014 fantasy production came in the five games Calvin Johnson either sat out, or played limited snaps in due to injury. He only finished as a weekly Top-24 wide receiver twice outside of those five games. If you take Tate at his current WR21 asking price, you’re essentially gambling on Johnson getting injured again.

Hester: Tate did most of his damage in 2014 while Calvin Johnson was injured. Detroit also showed through some of their offseason moves that they’d like to be a more balanced team. Tate is being drafted as a low-end WR2, but with Johnson demanding a significant target share in the offense and Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah carrying the load from a rushing perspective, Tate isn’t likely to be enough of a focal point in the offense to return the investment.

Simpkins: Golden Tate really surprised in Detroit’s offense last year if you look at his total fantasy points. A closer look reveals that most of his points came when Calvin Johnson was injured. Making Tate the primary weapon for that span of time inflated his numbers because of the extra targets. Owners are paying WR2 prices for Tate, but the investment will likely only yield WR3 results unless Johnson misses time again. Another reason for a bearish outlook on Tate is because of the Lions’ increased emphasis on the run game in an effort to find more offensive balance. Players being taken around and after Tate with more upside include Keenan Allen, Andre Johnson, Martavis Bryant, and Allen Robinson.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

Brown: There’s no questioning Watkins’ talent. Just one year into his career, he looks to possess the kind of talent needed to be a top-flight tight end. The issue for Watkins has more to do with everything else around him. For starters, the quarterback situation in Buffalo is among the league’s worst. No matter who wins the job, they aren’t likely to finish inside the top-20 at their position (and that’s being generous). On top of that, new head coach Rex Ryan emphasizes a conservative ball-control type of offense, which won’t lend itself to big plays for the receivers. Finally, the team brought in LeSean McCoy for a reason. They are going to use their new toy (not to mention veteran Fred Jackson). There are just too many obstacles to overcome for Watkins to crack the top-15 WRs this season.

Hester: Paying a WR2 price for a player who will be catching passes from either Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, or Tyrod Taylor isn’t very appealing. Surrounding Watkins are players catching passes from Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger. Buffalo’s offense is going to be very conservative with Rex Ryan at the helm and a talented defense to support it. Watkins won’t be consistent enough to warrant this price tag.

Wimer: Quaterback depth chart reads Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor. That is not a group of arms that inspires confidence - also, Watkins was very inconsistent last season with eight games under 40 yards receiving (and he is recovering from hip surgery as of the start of training camp). Add all the above together and I will pass on Watkins at his current ADP of 23rd wide receiver selected in an average draft.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

Hicks: It is hard to know what to do with Keenan Allen this year. A fantastic rookie season turned into a terrible 2nd year. Despite 17 more targets and 6 more receptions he dropped 263 yards and 4 touchdowns. There is no doubt that Allen has the ability to be a fantasy starter again, but history is unkind to receivers who start with a bang and regress in year 2. Only Anquan Boldin and Terry Glenn have rebounded successfully in year 3 and beyond. His current draft slot expects him to return to his rookie stats. Let someone else take the risk.

Holloway: Despite leading the team in targets in his 2nd season, Allen regressed. His yards per catch dropped from 14.7 down to a pedestrian 10.2. As a rookie, he tied for the wide receiver lead in touchdowns with 8, but that number dropped to 4 last year and he finished behind Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd. He was also very inconsistent. His three biggest games produced 27 catches, 360 yards and 3 touchdowns, almost half his season total yardage and 75% of his touchdowns.

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers

Holloway: Bryant had an outstanding rookie season, after missing the team’s first six games. He only had 48 targets and did not have more than 7 targets in any game, but he made the most of his 26 catches, totaling 549 yards (21.1 ypc) and scoring 8 TDs. He has missed some training camp work, but is has returned to the field. The Steelers should have a productive passing game, but 8 touchdowns on 26 receptions is tough to maintain. He should improve on last season’s production, but maybe not enough to match his inflated ADP.

Wood: Bryant is a HIGH risk pick this season. While it’s true he flashed moments of greatness in his 2014 rookie season, we can’t lose sight of the fact his 2014 was a statistical oddity. Bryant caught 8 touchdowns on 26 catches. He was the league’s best deep threat, but he was one dimensional. NFL history tells us that his high success rate of long TDs is unlikely to be repeated; ergo he must materially increase his targets, receptions and yardage in order to maintain last year’s overall value (WR42). While I think Bryant will improve in 2015, I don’t see his role (or skill set) evolving enough to justify a pick as a high-end fantasy WR3. Let's also not forget Ben Roethlisberger recently tabbed Markus Wheaton as Pittsburgh's breakout player.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints

Waldman: A promising receiver who will have big weeks, Cooks has to prove he can consistently make the tough plays over the middle and contested routes in tight coverage on deep sideline and vertical targets. He has always been inconsistent in this area. It's the difference between producing as a top-15 option and a starter outside the fantasy top-15. I think he'll still be outside the top-15.

Wimer: Cooks is in position to be a favorite target of Drew Brees, but the team is transitioning to a more balanced, power-running game model. With a declining number of targets available, Also, Cooks was used as a short-to-intermediate route runner during 2014 (10.4 yards per catch on average) - his role on the team didn't lead to explosive numbers. Cooks will be hard pressed to finish in the top 20 among wide receivers - he is vastly overvalued at 14th wide receiver off the board.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

Simpkins: If the Brady suspension is upheld, Jimmy Garoppolo will basically render Edleman invisible for a fourth of the season. If he is wise, he will lean heavily of the bosom of Rob Gronkowski during the time that he is the starter. I expect things to improve for Edleman when Brady returns, but the cut in his overall production during the first four games doesn’t make one feel good about taking him at his fourth-round ADP. Options taken around his ADP that are likely to outproduce him include Keenan Allen, Andre Johnson, Martavis Bryant, and Amari Cooper.

Wimer: Edelman faces the prospect of four games without Tom Brady. The NFL is digging in their heels on reducing the suspension, and Brady insists on no suspension. This is an ugly situation I prefer to avoid unless the player is named "Gronkowski" - aka. Jimmy Garoppolo's new best friend/dump off receiver.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Haseley: I am staying away from A.J. Green at his current ADP of WR8. The Bengals are strong at running back with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, plus they are getting back injured receiver Marvin Jones Jr and tight end Tyler Eifer. This all points to fewer targets to Green. He's a good receiver, but he's not worth being selected as the 8th wide receiver off the board.

Wimer: The pending return of Marvin Jones Jr and the run-centric offense now in place up in Cincinnati limits the ceiling/upside for Green during 2015. He will struggle to crack the top ten among fantasy wide receivers, so I think his current ADP of eighth wide receiver selected is too high.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hicks: It’s clear that T.Y. Hilton is the number one target for Andrew Luck. As he has gained more experienced and developed a rapport with Luck he has moved up the fantasy rankings from WR3, to WR2 and last year to WR1. What concerns me this year is that the supporting cast has been significantly upgraded. Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks were clearly past their best, Trent Richardson offered nothing to the run game and the other wide receivers were too inexperienced. Experience and talent isn’t a problem this year. Frank Gore comes in to sure up the running back position, while Andre Johnson is going to be a significant target for Luck. Add in a 1st round rookie WR in Phillip Dorsett, highly talented Duron Carter and further improvement from Donte Moncrieff and I don’t think there will be enough targets for Hilton to retain his WR1 standing.

Holloway: Hilton has been productive for all three of his NFL seasons. He matched his career high receptions (82), set a career high in receiving yards (1,345) and tied his career high in TDs last season. He is very talented and has earned Andrewe Luck’s trust. His problem in 2015 will be targets. He was already sharing opportunities with Reggie Wayne, two talented tight ends and last year’s rookie Donte Moncrief. Now, the Colts have added Andre Johnson to replace the departing Wayne and drafted the speedy Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round. Hilton led the Colts in targets in each of the last two seasons, but only averaged 135 for the two years. That number could drop some this year.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Haseley: I think DeAndre Hopkins has a ton of confidence that he can get the job done in Houston, but he's going to see a lot of tough coverage this year which could put a damper on his parade. If the Texans struggle to run the ball, even more pressure will be put on the quarterback and Hopkins. I like Hopkins, but not as high as he's going in drafts.

Pasquino: I like DeAndre Hopkins, but part of what I want to see in a Top 20 wide receiver on my list is a solid quarterback situation. The Houston Texans do not have that at all entering training camp, so I am going to lower expectations for Hopkins accordingly. Even if Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett emerges as the clear starter for Week 1, the talent level at quarterback is suspect at best. Another factor to consider are the complementary pieces surrounding Hopkins, and the lack of elite talent at both WR2 and starting tight end. The projected starters (Cecil Shorts, Garrett Graham) should not scare any opposing defenses, so Hopkins could very well see double coverage quite often. All of this downside risk I saw even before Arian Foster got hurt, and now I am even more negative in my outlook for Hopkins. Isee a lot of downside risk and frustration in taking Hopkins too early in drafts.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

Hicks: Alshon Jeffery has posted back to back fantasy WR1 seasons. The Bears trust him to lead their offense so much so, they traded Brandon Marshall to the Jets. That’s all great and in the final year of his rookie contract Jeffery will be keen to do well. What concerns me is the new coaching staff under John Fox and the presence of Jay Cutler. I don’t think the combination is going to work well. Fox and the Bears will be rid of Cutler as soon as they can afford to and definitely won’t play him if he continues to be nonchalant. Any backup the Bears use at quarterback is not going to make Alshon Jeffery a WR1 this season.

Simpkins: Owners need not worry about Jeffery in the first half of the year. It’s the second half that could become very concerning for his owners. Remember, Jeffery has not gotten a contract extension and the Bears took Kevin White with a top ten pick. The Bears could easily decide to let Jeffery walk and invest in the cheaper Marquess Wilson. If the season becomes lost for the team, owners might witness a shift in targets to White and Wilson in an effort to prepare them for their future as starters. Also concerning is that Jay Cutler is on thin ice. Should he be benched for bad play again, it will certainly be the last time. The quarterback play would really drop off under either Jimmy Clausen or Shane Carden. Second- and third-round picks often make or break fantasy teams. Owners will have to spend a late second or early third to nab Jeffery, who is a riskier proposition than other players in that range.

Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

Simpkins: The debate over the offseason has raged as to which Viking receiver will have the most value. Will it be Charles Johnson or Mike Wallace who wins the favor of Teddy Bridgewater? After watching OTAs and camp closely, Wallace seems to be the one who is emerging. Onlookers report that Wallace and Bridgewater are hooking up well on the deep ball. Bridgewater reported that adding some muscle over the offseason seems to have helped with his ability to get the ball down the field, something at which Wallace excels. Johnson becomes the number two option in an offense that will place emphasis on running the ball with Adrian Peterson. There are better options available in that ADP range.

Wood: To hear some fantasy experts tell it, Charles Johnson was a breakout star last year and is now poised to build off that 2nd half emergence with the added benefit of a full training camp as a starter. That’s crazy talk. Johnson was a pleasant surprise but was hardly a star. Johnson garnered 6 catches for 87 yards against the Bears in Week 10 and followed that with a 3 catch, 52-yard, 1-TD effort. Two weeks later Johnson had 103 yards and a TD against the Jets. But that’s where the platitudes end. Did you realize that over the final 8 games Johnson was no better than Greg Jennings? Both had 52 fantasy points (and Jennings was the more efficient player, needing only 35 targets to Johnson’s 47). Meanwhile Jarius Wright finished with 45 fantasy points over that span. This was a WR-committee. Explain to me how a journeyman WR with middling numbers (outside of a month-long hot streak) is the fantasy equivalent of Mike Wallace? You can’t, yet their fantasy ADPs suggest otherwise. Don’t fall into that trap.

Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

Holloway: Landry played a key role for the Dolphins in his rookie season and caught 84 passes, but for only 758 yards. He only averaged 9.0 ypc. The team added free agent Greg Jennings, who is also a good possession receiver and they traded for Kenny Stills who caught 63 passes a year ago for the Saints and averaged 14.8 ypc. Then in the draft, they selected DeVante Parker with the 14th overall pick. The wide receivers for the Dolphins greatly improved over a year ago and that is not counting signing tight end Jordam Cameron. Targets may be harder to come by for Landry.

Parsons: Landry’s rookie season was a perfect storm with little competition for targets in Miami. His yards-per-reception were historically low for his usage; basically Wes Welker is only receiver of note to emerge as a consistent fantasy option from previous iterations. Landry is also a middling athlete. This offseason Miami made the pass game a priority, adding Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings in free agency, plus drafting DeVante Parker in Round 1. Landry, at best, is a low-upside WR3, but more likely a depth option for bye weeks or injuries in front of him for fantasy squads.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

Pasquino: Jordan Matthews is a talented receiver, but the reason I have him on the overvalued list here is his current draft slot. The expectations for Matthews are far too high if you have to select him as a Top 20 wide receiver. There is little doubt that Chip Kelly loves offense, but there are several unanswered questions regarding the 2015 version for the Eagles. The depth chart is still being defined as to who the top target in the passing game will be, and while it appears that Matthews will be the primary wide receiver, rookie Nelson Algohor will be in the running very soon for at least a split “1A” option in that high-powered offense. The other supposition for the Philadelphia is stability at the quarterback position, which is not a given with Sam Bradford the new starter for the Eagles. If everything goes according to plan, Matthews could easily be a Top 15 wide receiver, but I can just as easily see Matthews finishing in the WR25-30 range in 2015. That downside risk is too much for me to take Matthews in the Top 20 wide receivers in drafts this year.

Waldman: There are reports that Matthews will see more time as a perimeter receiver this year and it should result in a significant uptick in production. I don't think Chip Kelly's offense goes through the Matthews role as much as it will go through the Maclin-Agholor role. I also believe the offense is in theory designed to have more even distribution of targets. I like Matthews as a fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside, but I don't like him as a WR2 with WR1 upside. The hands are there, the routes will likely be improved, but the vertical skill won't.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

Brown: A year ago, Sanders was the hot draftee that shot up ADP boards as the summer went along. He rewarded those who took the plunge with a monstrous season. But the 2015 Broncos offense looks like it’s going to be very different from the 2014 version, and the player most affected will likely be Sanders. No less an authority than Sanders himself has said his role will be greatly reduced, and his new goal is to reach 1,000 receiving yards. It doesn’t take a VBD genius to figure out that if Sanders gets to 1,000 yards, there’s almost no chance he’ll live up to his ADP. He needs the volume in order to be a successful fantasy receiver, and without a Demaryius Thomas injury, that volume simply won’t be there.

Hester: Sanders busted out in a big way in 2014, but that shouldn’t guarantee a similar 2015. He caught 101 passes last season, and teammate Demaryius Thomas caught 111. In what should be a more balanced (if not run-first) offense led by Gary Kubiak and quarterbacked by an aging Peyton Manning – who slowed down at the end of 2014 – Sanders is far more likely than Thomas to regress. He is at the top of a rather underwhelming high-end WR2 tier of drafts but doesn’t have WR1 upside.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

Wood: As an Eagles fan, I loved the pick of Agholor in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Eventually, I see him as a starter for one of the team's better offenses. The key word being ‘eventually.’ Chip Kelly is a mad scientist and mixes and matches regardless of pedigree of financial consideration. Through a week of training camp, it's Jordan Matthews in the slot getting the major workload with Josh Huff and Riley Cooper starting on the outside. We can all agree that Riley Cooper doesn't represent a high bar for Agholor to leap over, but the point is...he hasn't yet. Agholor needs more consistency and a spot in the starting lineup to justify his ADP which puts him solidly among #3 fantasy receivers.

Odell Beckham Jr Jr, New York Giants

Brown: Beckham probably has the highest ceiling of about any player in the league. In 2014, he caught everything thrown his way (even a few things not thrown his way). But we can’t just extrapolate Beckham’s 2014 stats over a full 16-game slate and assume that’s what he’ll do in year 2. He won’t sneak up on anyone this time, he’s got to fight for targets with Victor Cruz, and you’re paying a premium for him at a point in the draft where he HAS to duplicate what he did a year ago in order to validate the pick. I’m not saying you can’t take a WR. I just feel like the other elite WRs offer nearly as much upside as Beckham but between hamstring issues and the unknown factor of being a 2nd-year guy, the others offer a much higher floor.

Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders

Pasquino: The NFL has certainly changed in recent years to favor the passing attacks across the league, and last season it was also clear that rookie wide receivers can and did contribute significantly both on the field and in fantasy production numbers in 2014. That trend will lend itself to people wanting to grab the newest wide receivers entering the league, especially ones selected in the first two rounds in May. Amari Cooper sits atop the rookie draft class list as he was selected fourth overall by Oakland, but that is by no means a guarantee for fantasy success. Cooper has a ton of talent but he will be competing for targets with Michael Crabtree and tight end Mychal Rivera. I have a lot of reservations with the Raiders’ offense with David Carr, a quarterback regarded right now as a borderline QB2 at best. Cooper is a talent and could be a WR2, but for me that is the best case scenario and drafting him as a Top 24 option is too high.

Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals

Wood: Michael Floyd is the first Cardinals receiver off the board, but I’m not sure he should be. In 2014 Floyd finished 3rd among Cardinals’ receivers with 99 targets and 47 receptions; in spite of the fact he was a full-time starter (Larry Fitzgerald missed games; John Brown only started 5 games). If I’m betting on a young receiver from this roster, it’s John Brown. That’s not to say Floyd is a bad receiver – it’s just that he’s not particularly better than his receiving mates. With Carson Palmer coming back, there is upside to the passing attack – but I would rather take the last of the three Cardinals “starters” over the guy going several rounds earlier than his counterparts. Add to that the Floyd's recent gruesome hand injury, and he's a must avoid at his current ADP.

Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs

Haseley: Consider me in the camp that believes Alex Smith is going to deflate Jeremy Maclin's value this year. Smith isn't known for stretching a defense. He likes to target his receivers within 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage and that means Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles. I just don't see Maclin having a strong season as long as Smith is under center. Smith has never passed for more than

Brandon Marshall, New York Jets

Hicks: Brandon Marshall faces a crucial year. After 7 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons he suffered from injury last year as well as clearly looking below his best in 2014. Sometimes change is great for a veteran, but most of the time moving to a struggling franchise with a new head coach doesn’t work out. Marshall won’t get it easy for targets in New York either. He’ll have Eric Decker, rookie Devin Smith, Jeremy Kerley and 2nd year Tight End JaceAmaro in the mix competing for the ball. At the moment Marshall will need to finish as a WR2 to live up to his draft slot. That’s probably too much to ask for.

Breshard Perriman, Baltimore Ravens

Waldman: Speed is great for a receiver to have when he has the technique to make it work on the field. Right now, Perriman drops too many passes, rounds off too many routes, and doesn't show enough savvy with releases. It means he has trouble getting separation against savvy defenders. It means if he gets open, he breaks to a spot where the ball isn't suppose to be and he has to make a greater effort to catch the ball. If he catches the ball, his break took him out of position to fluidly turn up field and gain yards. These flaws are correctable and don't happen all the time, but enough that he's not starting. Give me the receivers around him at this ADP who are.