Value Plays: Wide Receivers

The Footballguys staff finds value at the wide receiver position

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

PLAYER RECEIVING 6 VOTES

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals

Brimacombe: John Brown was one of the many talented rookie WR's from last season but often was a name that was overlooked. A 48/696/5 statline is pretty impressive and all the rave reviews he is receiving this offseason make him inline for strong season especially if Carson Palmer can stay healthy and play a full 16 game season.

Brown: I love Brown’s talent, and jumped the gun a bit on rostering him in several leagues prior to last season. Despite playing “behind” Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, Brown had an excellent rookie season a year ago. He showed a real talent to stretch the field, had a knack for finding the end zone, and managed to do all this despite some spotty quarterback play after the injury to Carson Palmer. In the six games Palmer played, Brown put up stats that would project out to 53-840-8. In the ten games without Palmer, Brown’s stats project to 45-610-3. Well, Palmer is back. Brown has had a terrific offseason. And there’s no reason to think that 53-840-8 isn’t an relatively easily attainable floor, especially with the injury to Michael Floyd. Brown may never leave the lineup.

Gray: Larry Fitzgerald is fading, and Michael Floyd always seems to be nicked up - and is questionalbe to play in Week 1. John Brown is very talented. He has great speed and solid hands. Here's your top Arizona receiver for 2015.

Haseley: Cardinals Head coach Bruce Arians has thrived with smallish, gritty, energetic and high work ethic receivers. Case in point Hines Ward, Antontio Brown and T.Y. Hilton. Brown is equally capable and has the opportunity to seize a sizable role in the Cardinals offense this year. He has a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer and an offense that can move the ball. His ADP is climbing as we speak, but if everything goes right, he'll exceed expectations and be the top receiver for Arizona in 2015.

Pasquino: Carson Palmer is back, which means the passing game in Arizona is viable again. Michael Floyd is banged up and questionable already for Week 1, and John Brown is stepping up and into the starting role quite nicely. Brown has the speed to take the top off of a defense and the skill to go up and get any 50/50 ball in the air. He very quietly had a solid 2014 (48-696-5) in his rookie season and he has bulked up some for his second season. Look for WR3-type upside from Brown, even after Floyd returns to health – as long as Carson Palmer is under center in Arizona.

Waldman: The Marvin Harrison comparisons by Bruce Arians are closer to the mark than it may appear. Brown's blinding speed, ball tracking, and focus make him a fine young player. His offseason work with Carson Palmer also validates the notion that he could be the go-to guy for the Cardinals this year. Look for Larry Fitzgerald to be the most likely third wheel in this passing offense in 2015.

Wood: John Brown was targeted 102 times last year, just one target shy of team leader Larry Fitzgerald. Not ony did he have more targets than Michael Floyd, but also had the edge in receptions (48) and was one shy of Floyd's six touchdowns (5). That's in spite of starting only 5 games (versus 13 for Fitzgerald and 14 for Floyd). I was in favor of drafting Brown over Floyd all preseason, but now that Floyd suffered a gruesome hand injury, there's no justification to pass on the 2nd year player. As if you needed more convincing, let's remember Carson Palmer is healthy and a massive upgrade over the revolving door last season. Brown is a young, ascendant player and finally has a shot at a starting role. That's the kind of player that wins you championships.

PLAYER RECEIVING 3 VOTES

Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

Hester: Smith has significant opportunity as the team’s wide receiver depth chart is littered with inexperienced and/or talent-lacking players. They have no experience at the tight end position either. New Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman isn’t a run-first play-caller. Smith will be peppered with targets as Joe Flacco’s only experienced weapon other than running back Justin Forsett. This draft position is an indication that many are remembering how he fizzled out at the end of last season. Even if Smith does that again, the handful (or more) of WR2-or-better starts you’ll get out of him to begin the season more than justify this draft position. Remember, you can always supplement his early production with a young waiver wire player or someone you drafted late as a speculative pick to emerge later in the year.

Pasquino: Another veteran wide receiver makes my value list here as I have Steve Smith Jr. as a solid WR3 once again this year. Quite often people are put off by age, but Steve Smith remains a very productive and viable fantasy option. Joe Flacco loves to use him, especially as a possession receiver, but also to stretch the field. With rookie BreshadPerriman likely to open the secondary up for Smith in complementary routes, both players should be great values. Smith is available as a WR4 (or even WR5) but will have WR3/flex appeal most weeks this year.

Waldman: It's Smith's final season and his ADP is low because he's much older than Matt Harmon and the Ravens initially said they were going to limit Smith's touches this year. Then they saw what they drafted in Brett Perriman and Maxx Williams and realized that they shouldn't throw an early retirement party for their best offensive player just yet. Those two rookies should get better, but Smith is the best receiver on the team, the most clutch, and the most versatile. He's also the best value.

PLAYERS RECEIVING 2 VOTES

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Haseley: The Packers are a dynamic offense who often use a three-wide receiver formation, which means Davante Adams will see plenty of snaps and targets. He has drawn praise from Aaron Rodgers which tells me his quarterback has confidence in him. A breakout season is possible. He should easily be able to exceed his draft position of WR48.

Simpkins: Dynasty owners know that Adams is just waiting for Nelson to move on so that he can become Nelson's heir. However, his redraft stock is a little more tricky to gauge. Adams will see the field as the third option in the passing game this year. As we’ve seen in the past, the Green Bay offense is prolific enough to give a third target flex fantasy value on most weeks. If Nelson or Cobb were to go down, however, don’t expect Adams to wait in the wings. The team will give him enough work to make him a high-end WR2. In the tenth round, Adams is a value who has the ability to win leagues if things break right.

Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

Hester: His quarterback has been over 4,200 passing yards in five of his last six seasons. His teammate who led the squad in receiving touchdowns last season will miss the first four games due to suspension. And he’s easily the most talented wide receiver on the team. Last year, coming off a 1,000-yard, eight touchdown rookie season, he was being drafted 11th among receivers. His slide is due to fewer yards and fewer touchdowns than he had in 2013. But did you know that he has more targets and more receptions in 2014 and played hurt throughout the year? Allen is among my favorite bounce-back candidates for 2015.

Waldman: Last year, Allen wasn't healthy. This year, Allen has figured out how to improve and maintain a higher level of conditioning. Add Steve Johnson into the mix, and the Chargers now have two receivers capable of moving around the formation and playing multiple positions. Look for a lot more high-leverage targets for Allen and bigger plays thanks to better stamina.

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

Holloway: Even though Colston missed a lot of early training camp, he has returned to the practice field. His original PUP list designation was primarily for veteran rest and may have been at least in part to allow the Saints numerous young wide receivers an opportunity to fight for a roster spot. They definitely got additional reps to prove their worth. Brees has already said that targeting Colston is like riding a bike. They have been completely in tune with each other for Colston’s entire career which began in 2006, when the Saints signed Brees. They have combined for 68 regular season touchdowns. Colston may have slowed a little, but speed was never his forte. He is still effective using his body and positioning and strength. His targets and receptions should climb this year with all of the lost receivers from the roster.

Wood: Fantasy owners have lost their minds. It’s one thing to view Marques Colston as an aging receiver past his prime. It’s another thing to draft him outside the Top 45 at his position. Colston is coming off his worst season, where he missed several games, and yet his year-end fantasy ranking was 33rd. How on Earth can we expect Colston to fall another 15 spots in the rankings? It would be one thing if Colston was being phased out of the offense in favor of younger weapons. But the Saints jettisoned two of their top targets – tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills. The losses of Stills and Graham guarantee more targets for Drew Brees’ other trusted options. While Brandin Cooks likely ascends into elite status as a result, Colston also appears set to see his targets increase back to a range where his historic per-target numbers would equate to a mid-tier fantasy WR3.

Pierre Garcon, Washington

Holloway: Washington’s offense finished 13th a year ago in yards per game, but could only manage 31 offensive TDs and finished 26th in offensive scoring. Robert Griffin III showed some improvement over the year before and expectations are for him and the entire offense to improve production again this year. Garcon’s reduced production generally matched the entire team, but he did lead the team in targets and receptions and finished 2nd to DeSean Jackson in receiving yards and TDs.

Pasquino: The Washington offense was a mess last year, with Robert Griffin III having his worst year and the entire passing game sinking with him in 2014. Garcon had a terrible 2014 (68-752-3), a reflection of his targets plummeting from 181 in 2013 down to only 105 last season. I expect the offense in Washington to rebound this year and Garcon to have numbers between his 2013 (113-1,346-5) and 2014 numbers, which makes him a great value draft pick later in fantasy drafts.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Parsons: The middle rounds are stacked with quality wide receiver options this year, making early running backs (maybe an elite receiver mixed in) so attractive. Robinson is a metric marvel as a prospect, along with prototypical size for outside receiver duties in the NFL. The Jacksonville offense was a dumpster fire in 2014 and Robinson was still in the WR2 discussion once up to speed. Now with a full offseason and the addition of Julius Thomas, Robinson’s floor is around his WR29 ADP with room to emerge as a weekly WR2 (or better) quickly.

Wood: It's easy to overlook Allen Robinson's rookie season. After all, he missed six games and only caught two touchdowns in a season that many see as the greatest rookie class in NFL history. Use Robinson's truncated rookie year to your advantage because his ADP is completely disconnected to his abilities and prospects. He's been dominant throughout the preseason, from OTAs into the start of training camp. He's got an all-around game and projects as a true, high volume, high productivity #1. The only fly in the ointment is the uncertain development of Blake Bortles. Yet, that alone shouldn't dissuade you -- just look at what DeAndre Hopkins did last season in Houston (Robinson is as talented, if not more). I would be thrilled to draft Robinson in the 6th or 7th round; it's highway robbery.

Mike Wallace, Minnesota Vikings

Hicks: The Mike Wallace to Miami move was considered a bit of a flop for both parties. Fortunately the Dolphins loss is the Vikings gain. Even though Wallace was seen as disappointing he finished as a WR2 for both his years in Miami and has WR1 upside if Minnesota can use him effectively. The presence of Adrian Peterson will significantly help in this goal. Of course he can be patchy and if things don’t work out could bust, but for his current asking price the risk is well worth it.

Wood: Mike Wallace knows how to wear out his welcome. After turning down a hefty contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wallace found his fortune in Miami. Unfortunately the Dolphins offensive system and a lack of rapport with QB Ryan Tannehill left Wallace well short of expectations. Wallace failed to crack the 1,000-yard mark in 2013 or 2014, and yet finished 25th and 18th, respectively. Now he gets a 3rd lease on life in Minnesota and fantasy owners are being too conservative in their outlooks. Teddy Bridgewater has the makings of an emergent star and he won’t be afraid to throw downfield to Wallace; in fact he’s likely clamoring for that additional outlet in the passing tree. Wallace is better than teammate Charles Johnson in every way (measurables, pedigree, route-running, hands) and yet they’re being drafted as though they’re interchangeable. Don’t make that mistake – Wallace is the Vikings receiver to target.

PLAYERS RECEIVING 1 VOTE

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

Wimer: Nelson Agholor lands in the best situation of any rookie receiver, and will be asked to replace Jeremy Maclin's volume in the wide-open, hurry-up Philadelphia offense. He'll work with strong-armed Sam Bradford and as Bradford is also new to the offense, there are no entrenched favorites for Agholor to overcome/surpass - Agholor should wind up with numbers on the cusp of the fantasy WR1/WR2 break by season's end, especially in leagues with PPR scoring. He's an incredible value at his ADP of 31st wide receiver off the board.

Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers

Hicks: It’s always easy to write off the veteran receiver, especially when an expensive free agent arrives in the form of Torrey Smith. Smith proved though that he has one of the lowest pass completion percentages in the NFL, which combined with Kaepernicks accuracy is a problem. On the other hand Anquan Boldin is one of the more dependable receivers in the league and at age 34 still has a good year or 2 left. If you need a 49ers receiver, get the one that offers guaranteed week to week production and while his upside won’t be above WR2, his downside is WR3 at worst. Way better than his asking price.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints

Brown: The offseason personnel moves have left a lot less weaponry for Drew Brees, but one guy who is still in town is Cooks. Seemingly on his way to a big rookie year prior to suffering an injury, Cooks has the kind of game that can translate to seemingly any offensive system. He was on his way to nearly 1,000 total yards from scrimmage before the thumb injury, and now enters a season without WR Kenny Stills or TE Jimmy Graham to hog targets. He won’t be hurt by the added attention, because he’s not lining up on the outside flying down the field like Stills, nor is he boxing out defenders in the red zone like the touchdown-reliant Graham. Cooks will do his thing on tons of intermediate routes, and the first rounder has a very good chance to finish in the high top-10 receiver rankings.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants

Hicks: Odell Beckham Jr Jr will rightly be the focus of the New York Giants offense moving forward, but Victor Cruz appears to be forgotten following his knee injury in 2014. His current draft price is factoring in way too much risk. He has yet to miss a practice in camp and has apparently has lost none of his speed. I doubt he returns to his WR1 glory days of 2011 & 2012, but there is plenty of room for 2 successful receivers in the Giants offense and Cruz should easily be a starting receiver in start 3 leagues barring a setback.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Holloway: Larry Fitzgerald missed a couple of games last season with an MCL injury and played several others at less than 100%. Consider that in the team’s first nine games, he caught 44 passes for 625 yards and 2 TDs compared with only 19 catches, 159 yards and no TDs in the final five games where he was hampered by the knee injury and also missing his quarterback Carson Palmer. Expect Fitzgerald to bounce back strongly as long as Palmer can stay healthy.

Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee Titans

Simpkins: Is it possible to have a second year where another rookie with Beckham in his name bursts onto the scene? The raw physical ability and circumstances of DBG suggests that it is possible. He’ll also be playing with a rookie quarterback who will want to put it only where his guy can go get it, a skill at which Green-Beckham excels. This is also the Whisenhunt regime’s first highly-drafted wideout, so they will be anxious to give him opportunities to excel. Justin Hunter, his primary competition, is dealing with legal woes that may land him with a suspension when all is said and done. While with such a poor offense he won’t be able to generate the numbers that ODB did in his rookie season, the late eleventh-round price tag and WR2 upside if he hits make DGB worthy of consideration.

Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills

Hicks: The Seattle Seahawks could not find a way to make Percy Harvin fit into their offense and the Jets struggled to get consistent production from him as well. Rex Ryan must have seen enough to trust him to be an integral part of the Bills offense though. Harvin will be a bargain in fantasy drafts this year and has WR1 potential as displayed in his Viking days. As he gets significant use out of the backfield he is that rare dual threat from the wide receiver position and despite the flaws of the Buffalo offense Harvin should produce above his draft slot.

DeSean Jackson, Washington

Wimer: Jackson is a great value at his current ADP of 25th receiver off the board. Jackson should benefit from entering his second season in Washington now fully comfortable in the Washington offense. He's also a clear-cut #1 wide receiver in the Capitol City. Also, Robert Griffin III enters this season healthy and ready to play, something he wasn't for most of 2014. Jackson is banged up early in camp, but there is plenty of time for him to get healthy.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pasquino: Tampa Bay is revamping their offense, but they do have two strong wide recievers to support rookie quarterback Jamies Winston. While everyone is enamored with Mike Evans as their young and new WR1, veteran Vincent Jackson is nothing to sneeze at, either. Jackson was the WR1 entering 2014, and he is even more dangerous against the weaker cornerbacks in the NFL on a weekly basis. Jackson had 70 catches and over 1,000 yards receiving last year. His only downside was snaring only two touchdowns, a number that should go up to the 5-7 range this season. I consider him a strong WR3 with solid WR2 upside.

Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts

Brown: Johnson was able to sustain excellent numbers in Houston, despite some of the worst and least-inspiring quarterback play over the last few decades. The yards per reception have been trending in the wrong direction for four years, but I’m not of the belief that it is all on Johnson. He’s done as much as humanly possible in his position, and he probably would have put up yet another 1,000-yard campaign in 2014 had he played a full1 6 games. He joins a team loaded with talent at the skill spots, so even if there is more competition for touches, none of them brings the Hall of Fame pedigree that Johnson does – and the quality of his touches is going to be higher than it has ever been in his career. The Indianapolis offense is going to be an even bigger juggernaut than it already was. Go get him.

Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

Brimacombe: Coming off a year where he produced a 31/475/2 stateline on 59 targets in 11 games played, Johnson has set himself up for a potential breakout year for the Vikings who have both Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph back in 2015. Johnson is a nice target in the 8-10 round range as a lot of other drafters may be scared off by the team he plays on and the fact that he only has 11 NFL games to his name. These are the exact type of players that you need to be passionate about and try to be ahead of the curve on against your opponents.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Hester: Kyle Shanahan has shown a propensity for force-feeding his number one wide receiver in his past stops. While many attributed this trend while Shanahan was in Houston to the presence of Andre Johnson, it was truly confirmed as a result of his scheme during the 2013 season in Washington. In that season, Pierre Garcon caught 113 passes on 181 targets (both were tops in the NFL). With Jones’ talent and Shanahan’s scheme, being the overall WR1 is well within range.

Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots

Haseley: People seem to be forgetting about Brandon LaFell in drafts this year. He was a big contributor for the Patriots in 2014 and without many changes in the receiving depth chart, I expect to see similar numbers in 2015, which would more than exceed his draft position as WR38.

Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos

Brown: Several FBGs whose opinions I value highly have been singing the praises of Latimer since before last season. Here’s a guy with all the talent to be a top-flight receiver in the league, and all he was lacking was the opportunity. With Denver scaling back the passing offense a bit, there won’t automatically be touches galore for Latimer to really break out. But with Wes Welker and Julius Thomas both out of the fold, there is an opportunity for some other players to put up nice numbers alongside Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Latimer is by far the best bet from that group, and the great thing is that it all it costs you is a 10th round lottery ticket to find out if he will.

Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs

Holloway: In the two seasons that Maclin has been able to play every game, he has finished WR13 and WR9. He is two years removed from his torn ACL and proved last year to be fully recovered. Even though quarterback Alex Smith has a well deserved reputation for limiting wide receiver production, Maclin is a great fit in Kansas City. He has played previously for Coach Andy Reid and knows the offensive system. He is a great route runner and should be targeted often on short routes which he can use his run after the catch abilities. Furthermore, he will be excited to return close to his native Missouri.

Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts

Simpkins: Potential Moncrief owners were none too pleased when the Colts picked up Andre Johnson in free agency. They were likely shaking their fists when the Colts took Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the NFL Draft. However, looking at the situation more closely, there is still value to be mined as he drops down the draft board. Moncrief will still see the field in three WR sets, something OC Pep Hamilton has promised there will be more of this season. Andre Johnson is aging and history shows us he has been prone to injury throughout his storied career. Should Johnson be injured yet again, Moncrief would instantly have WR2 appeal.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

Wimer: Number one wide receiver and most trusted red-zone option on an elite passing offense - what's not to like? Nelson should shine for fantasy owners again this season. He's a great value at seventh wide receiver off the board.

Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

Simpkins: Many fantasy owners believed Brian Quick was overdrafted by the Rams, and for the first two years, their apprehensions proved to be spot on. Quick looked very lost for his first two years and most had given up hope in him. However, Quick seemed to connect the dots in his third year and flashed on the field before a rotator cuff injury ended his season. While the Rams' passing attack is not enviable, Foles will probably be able to outpace Austin Davis and Shaun Hill’s combined passing production last season. The ability to grab a potential fantasy low-end WR2 for the cost of a WR4/5 should be of interest to owners.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants

Alexander: Recency bias is weighing down Randle’s draft stock after he disappointed as a buzzy ninth round pick in fantasy drafts last year. Lost in Odell Beckham Jr Jr.’s legendary late-season run was the fact Randle was also lights out down the stretch. In Week 16, Randle dropped a 6-132-1 line on the St. Louis Rams, and followed it up in Week 17 with six catches for 158 yards against the Eagles. It seemed like the light finally flipped on for the 24 year old Randle, and there’s plenty of reasons his success can continue. He’s tied to a high yield offense that ranked fourth in plays per game last year, he’ll face favorable coverage while defenses focus their attention on Beckham, and his quarterback is calling for a breakout after he reportedly starred in OTAs. At the very least, with 127 targets last year, Randle is the cheapest high volume wide receiver available in 2014 fantasy drafts.

Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Wimer: Smith is a great value at his current ADP of 43rd wide receiver selected. Smith's speed compliments Anquan Boldin's steady chain-moving presence - Smith should have plentiful opportunities to score as the 49ers' main deep threat. He should crush his current ADP. I am truly mystified at how low his ADP has sunk.