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.
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Players Receiving 7 Votes
Devin Funchess, Carolina
Mike Brown: While everyone else jockeys for position in line to grab Kelvin Benjamin fresh off an ACL tear, you can make off with a reasonable facsimile of Benjamin several rounds later. Funchess has also been thoroughly outplaying his teammate to this point in training camp, to boot. He was a fairly highly drafted player a year ago, so the pedigree is there for him to be a legit force and not just a flash in the pan.
Jeff Haseley: The Panthers are reporting that Devin Funchess is already pushing Kelvin Benjamin to be the team's primary receiving threat. The final year end stats between the two may not be that different and you can draft Funchess nearly 50 spots later than Benjamin. Prior to the preseason hype, it was upwards of 100 spots. The gap is getting closer, which means Funchess' stock is rising. He's approaching WR3 status and you can still draft him as your WR4. There is a ton of value in Funchess, but it's dwindling as we inch closer to September.
Ryan Hester: Kelvin Benjamin is back but in bad shape. Funchess is years younger and still learning, which implies that his underwhelming rookie year can be improved upon and is potentially far from his baseline. Funchess has red zone star written all over him with a big body that can box out defenders. If making a bet for double-digit touchdowns among any receiver below WR40, Funchess would be the player I would choose. And he’s being drafted at WR56.
Chris Kuczynski: Funchess ended the year strong totaling 500 yards and 5 TDs that mostly came in the second half of the season. He seems to have the inside track at being the #2 WR in the Panthers offense, but with Funchess showing to be the most impressive WR in training camp and Kelvin Benjamin slowly gaining his football endurance back, there is talk that this may be more of a 1a/1b situation. At his current late ADP, he can prove to be a big time steal.
Chad Parsons: Devin Funchess showed flashes in 2015, despite his head swimming by all admission for the rookie. The No.2 job is his for the taking this season and Cam Newton has progressed in his pocket prowess to fuel multiple fantasy starter wide receivers. Funchess is an ideal wide receiver target in the double-digit rounds, shooting for weekly starter upside.
Daniel Simpkins: An "MVP of training camp," Funchess has a very real chance of starting opposite Kelvin Benjamin at some point this year. Cam Newton took a big step forward as a passer last season, leading one to believe that there is room in this offense to produce two viable fantasy wide receivers. Pushing Funchess into action last year may have accelerated his growth. Kelvin Benjamin will draw the opposing defense’s best corner, giving Funchess a little more room to work. If Funchess can carry the consistency and progress he’s demonstrated in practice over to his year-two game performances, he could pay huge dividends on the paltry cost of a 12th-round pick.
Mark Wimer: Funchess is making a strong charge at #1 wide receiver for the Panthers as Kelvin Benjamin has had conditioning issues throughout training camp. Funchess is widely cited as the most improved player of the entire training camp, and has developed a strong rapport with Cam Newton since the second half of last season. He should easily shatter his current lowly ADP.
Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit
Jeff Haseley: Even if the Lions don't name Marvin Jones Jr as their WR1, he is still in line to be a starter and be active for the majority of the team's offensive snaps. Jones has 14 touchdowns in the last two seasons and he's now a key piece of a pass-heavy offense. Golden Tate is going ahead of him in drafts, but the value is Jones who could have similar, if not better stats at year's end.
Ryan Hester: The draft position gap between Jones and Golden Tate is far too large. Tate has been with the team multiple years and received plenty of targets from Matthew Stafford, but Jones is the more skilled player. Tate should see more targets overall, but Jones’ yards per reception and yards per target should ultimately be higher. Jones has shown great red zone acumen as well, somewhere Tate is just average. If Jones weren’t a player in the first year on the team, he’d be drafted much higher. His return on investment based on his current ADP should be significant.
Dan Hindery: Jones should not be going off the board 41 picks behind Golden Tate. The two receivers look poised to share the job of Matthew Stafford's top receiver. If anything, Jones seems to be getting the most buzz as the WR1 in Detroit. Jones has a well-earned reputation as a dangerous deep threat. But there is more to his game than that. He has also proven dangerous after the catch and has excelled on quick screens. His ability to make guys miss makes him a great fit for Detroit's new offense and Jones will see more targets than most are expecting. He has WR2 upside and is being seriously undervalued with an ADP of 86.
Ari Ingel: Underrated talent with a nose for the endzone, owning the 6th best touchdown to target rate in the redzone the past three seasons per Numberfire. The Lions will throw a ton with a suspect run game and Jones could possibly finish with more fantasy points than Golden Tate and has supposedly been Stafford's favorite target in camp this year. Since 2013, Pro Football Reference notes there've been 118 wide receivers who have seen 100 or more total targets; among this group of players, Marvin Jones Jr' touchdown per target rate ranks 12th-best.
Devin Knotts: The Lions made a big splash in the offseason by signing Marvin Jones Jr to fill the void that was left by Calvin Johnson. Johnson was targeted 150 times last year and scored 9 touchdowns. Marvin Jones Jr has shown that he can be an excellent red zone target as he had 10 touchdowns in 2013. He should receive a significant amount of these red zone targets, as that is what he was signed to do considering both Eric Ebron and Golden Tate do not have a history of productivity in the Red Zone. With an aging Anquan Boldin being the only other real wide receiver threat, Jones should be in a position to far exceed his draft selection as the 39th receiver selected and has a chance to become a wide receiver two this season.
Jeff Pasquino: With the retirement of Calvin Johnson, both Marvin Jones Jr and Golden Tate will be competing to both fill the void and become the primary target for Detroit. Matthew Stafford will need all the help he can get in the passing game, and Jones should fill a large part of that gap. Jones produced solid numbers last year in Cincinnati (65-816-4) on just 103 targets – a number he could easily surpass this year with the Lions. Jones has 1,000-yard upside and could perform as a fantasy WR2, but it available long after 35+ wide receivers go off the board. That screams value to me.
Matt Waldman: Some of my colleagues don't believe Jones is a complete receiver but he was the Lions' first choice in free agency because they studied the film and saw that he is one of the few options who runs the complete route tree effortlessly, wins in the vertical game, and is skilled after the catch. Injuries and consistent role as A.J. Green's complement obscured these points from the normal ways we collect data. Jones is already running the fullest route tree in Detroit compared to any receiver on the roster. He and Matt Stafford are a great fit because Stafford ran a pro style offense since his college days and thrived on timing routes. Look for Jones to threaten top-15 fantasy production at his position at an ADP three rounds lower than Fitzgerald and Decker.
Players Receiving 5 Votes
Tyler Lockett, Seattle
Sigmund Bloom: By all accounts, Lockett is ready to take a step forward from an already impressive rookie year. If the Seahawks just lean a little more towards the pass like they did in the second half of 2015, Lockett's numbers could also take that step. He was WR18 from Weeks 11 to 16 last year. With an improvement in his game, he should hold WR2 status even if the Seahawks go back to being severely run-heavy. Lockett is available for a WR3/WR4 price, which could be a massive oversight by fantasy drafters in hindsight.
James Brimacombe: Lockett impressed with his speed and quickness during his rookie season and the Seahawks got him involved early and often in their game plans. Lockett finished with 51 receptions on 69 targets, 655 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns, along with a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns. The impressive part of the season was through Week 13 to Week 17 where he had 23 catches for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns and really showed a strong connection with QB Russell Wilson. With Marshawn Lynch retired and the Seahawks running game up in the air, it wouldn’t be too difficult to see Wilson target Lockett on some shorter passes and 20-30 more targets seems very likely. He is a high ceiling WR at his current WR34 ADP and if you can draft him as your WR3 you just made your team that much better.
Mike Brown: I'm not suggesting Doug Baldwin's entire season was a fluke, but I also don't nearly anticipate a repeat performance from him. That being said, I DO expect something of a repeat performance from Russell Wilson. And if that's going to be the case, then I have to expect a bump in statistics for someone. And that someone happens to be Lockett, the most likely player on this list to outperform his draft slot by several rounds. He's a star in the making.
Dan Hindery: I keep waiting for Tyler Lockett's ADP to rise as he goes from semi-sleeper to fifth-round pick, but his ADP has surprisingly remained in the seventh-round (75th overall). The Seattle coaching staff cannot stop raving about Lockett this offseason. Pete Carroll recently stated that Lockett is "right in the middle of all our planning and preparation…he is going to be moved around a lot…he can do everything." He noted that Seattle is going to "use the heck our of him." Heavy usage seems nearly guaranteed and Lockett averaged 10 yards per target as a rookie. With 100+ targets likely, Lockett is a good bet to emerge as one of the NFL's most prolific young receivers.
Daniel Simpkins: The Seahawks offense runs best when they allow Wilson to pass. The loss of Marshawn Lynch and the uncertainty of how well the offensive line will hold up could push this unit to throw even more in 2016. Lockett created separation easily last season and reports say he is getting even better at beating physical coverage at the line as he puts in work in team practices. Even though the fantasy community is waking up to his potential (Thanks, Matt Harmon!), Lockett still presents a solid value in the mid-seventh round.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans
Sigmund Bloom: Thomas has been making eye-popping plays near every day in practice, and he has been establishing chemistry with Drew Brees from day one. Even head coach Sean Payton has told us he should be a target in fantasy drafts. Marques Colston was able to put up over 1000 yards and eight touchdowns as a seventh-round rookie. Thomas has more talent in the air and after the catch than Colston ever had, so even in a crowded offense, he's worth a pick to see how big a piece of a huge passing pie he can garner in New Orleans.
Jeff Haseley: The Saints have a lot of weapons on offense, but Michael Thomas is someone who is capable of making an impact in year one. Many are expecting him to occupy the slot role and see touches similar to what Marques Colston had in his prime. 60 catches and 6 touchdowns is not that far-fetched for this budding rookie.
Dan Hindery: Thomas started generating buzz in New Orleans from almost the first moment he showed up at OTAs and the positive momentum continues to build. Thomas has made a number of tough catches already in the preseason and looks poised to emerge as the #2 receiver behind Brandin Cooks. Drew Brees throws for over 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns every season, so the situation couldn't be much better for the polished rookie out of Ohio State to make an immediate impact.
Devin Knotts: Keyshawn Johnson’s nephew has been the star of the preseason so far this season and has been drawing very strong reviews from the coaching staff. Thomas will benefit tremendously from being in an offense that threw the ball 667 times which was second in the league last season. Thomas comes from an incredible pedigree and was a second-round draft pick from Ohio State where he led the team in receiving his final season. He caught 9/19 touchdowns that Ohio State threw through the air and was frequently used in the Red Zone, expect Thomas to continue to use his size and put up some impressive touchdown totals.
Matt Waldman: I want to name three more than I'm allowed but if I have to choose among Thomas, Allen Hurns, Tyler Lockett, and Stefon Diggs, I'll have to go with the Saints' rookie. He's a possession receiver who will often work the slot like Marques Colston but he has the smooth route running skills of Michael Crabtree, a receiver that several college prospects at Senior Bowl practices often mention as a route runner that they study. Thomas has been excellent in camp, during the preseason, and he's not only earned the trust of Drew Brees--who makes average NFL receivers viable fantasy producers when needed--the other day, Sean Payton said that he doesn't follow fantasy football but if he did, he'd have Thomas on his team this year. It's a fun quote but the reason why is how excellent Thomas is at working to get on the same page with one of the smartest quarterbacks in the history of the game.
Players Receiving 4 Votes
Michael Crabtree, Oakland
Phil Alexander: It's confusing to see Michael Crabtree coming off the board in the same neighborhood as unproven youngsters like Kevin White and Corey Coleman. Crabtree led the Raiders in targets, receptions, red zone targets, and receiving touchdowns last year. The team rewarded him with $19 million guaranteed in free agency, which suggests he'll remain a big part of their offensive game plan. Crabtree may not offer the lure of the unknown, but with his role in Oakland presumably unchanged, it's difficult to imagine too many scenarios where last year's WR16 (PPR) doesn't at least finish in the WR25-30 range. He may be boring, but Crabtree is one of the better mid-round values in 2016 fantasy drafts at his current WR38 ADP.
Justin Bonnema: There are 34 wide receivers being selected in front of Michael Crabtree, who can currently be acquired around the late-seventh, early-eighth round. Not that we can blindly stare at past performance and use it prop our future expectations, but only 16 wide receivers scored more PPR points than Crabtree last year. It’s hard to figure out where the drop off is coming from. Derek Carr has a firm grip on the Oakland offense, whose offensive line comes into the season as one of the league’s best. Amari Cooper should see a bigger role in his second season but Crabtree will still be the top target in the red zone, and should come close to matching his 146 targets from 2015. And as Jason Wood noted, “Crabtree's ADP implies a 24% decline from last season. The average WR35 catches 58 receptions for 805 yards and 5 touchdowns (112 fantasy points)”. Our consensus projections favor him for roughly 75 receptions, 900 yards and seven touchdowns—borderline WR2 numbers. He is one of the best mid-round values for 2016.
Bob Magaw: Like the Raiders in general, former top 10 overall WR Crabtree is enjoying a renaissance, signing a four year, $34 million extension ($16.5 million guaranteed) late in the 2015 season. The savvy and experienced veteran intermediate threat makes a perfect complement to the younger, more explosive downfield threat Amari Cooper. Oakland is building a dangerous passing attack, with third year franchise QB Derek Carr and also including record setting second year TE Clive Walford from TE U (otherwise known as Miami). For various reasons Crabtree never attained NFL stardom some expected based on a historically prolific collegiate career as a Texas Tech underclassman, but he has top 15-20 WR ability and scoring potential in the right circumstances.
Jason Wood: Amari Cooper is being drafted as a Top 10 receiver this year. I'm not going to argue against Cooper; he's an exciting young player. But, if you're excited about Cooper you need to also see value in Michael Crabtree. Last season, Michael Crabtree had the better catch rate (58% vs 55%). He had more targets (146 vs 130). He had more receptions (85 vs 72). He scored more touchdowns (9 vs 6). I have no issue with projecting Cooper for better numbers (he's the young, ascendant player) but why would Crabtree's numbers fall off precipitously? He'll be no worse than a low end WR2 this year (he was WR19 in 2015).
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
Mike Brown: After a fantastic rookie season, Evans inexplicably regressed in the scoring column last season. A 16-game schedule can be pretty flukey and random at times, and most advanced metrics suggest that's precisely what happened here. But there's a strong chance that Winston - to - Evans is one of the next great quarterback/wide receiver combo connections in the league, and Evans should rejoin the league's elite with a strong showing in 2016.
Stephen Holloway: Evans will continue to dominate the targets in the Tampa Bay passing game. Even missing a game each season, Evans has totaled 271 targets and 142 catches in his two seasons. He is an excellent red zone target, but in his rookie quarterback’s initial season, Evans touchdowns dropped from 12 to 3. Expect his touchdown numbers to climb drastically, possibly into double digits again. Evans averages 15.9 ypc and that number should be possible again for him.
Bob Magaw: Evans makes the list partly due to being in a battery with up and coming QB Jameis Winston (and vice verce, they enhance each other, and have both put up historic numbers early in their respective careers). Despite an "off" year plagued by drops, the WR counterpart prodigy became just the second player at his position ever to already have two seasons of 1,000 receiving yards before the age of 22 - with Randy Moss. Evans suffered a precipitous drop to 3 scores last year, but his 12 TD outburst in 2014 was among the most for a rookie WR in league history (matched by fellow star class of '14 WR Odell Beckham Jr). He has outstanding wheels to press his advantages of power forward size, attitude, positioning ability and aerial skills.
Chad Parsons: Mike Evans at WR13 offers plenty of upside. Evans was the only legitimate target in Tampa Bay on the perimeter for weeks at a time in 2015. Jameis Winston performed well but was still a rookie figuring things out. This season, Vincent Jackson returns to offer a viable receiver on the opposite side. Winston is earmarked for a breakout season and Mike Evans blends a high-volume of targets with a strong touchdown regression upward for 2016.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
Will Grant: Hilton’s fall in draft position is typical fantasy blow-back from a team that was riddled with injuries last season. But Luck is back and looked good in his first pre-season game, making the injury fears overblown and presenting a great value pick in a PPR league. Hilton has 82 receptions for over 1300 yards and 7 TDS two season ago and a healthy Luck should bring him back to that range again this season. Look for him in the middle of the second round vs. the top of the third.
Ryan Hester: There is always plenty of talk about regression this time of year. Some positive regression talk is based on opportunity, while some is based on return from injury or simply being part of a better team. For Hilton, both types are in play. Hilton should get more opportunity this season as 41.6% of the targets accumulated the team's top-seven targeted players have left town. And the quality of Hilton's opportunities should increase as well assuming a full season of a healthy Andrew Luck. Hilton offers a great floor with the anticipated volume to go along with the high ceiling that his always-electric playmaking ability provides. I prefer him to Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper, both of whom are being drafted earlier.
John Mamula: T.Y. Hilton has amassed the 7th highest receiving yardage all time for any wide receiver through their first four seasons. Hilton’s 4,413 career receiving yards is higher than superstars such as Michael Irvin, Terrell Owens, and Antonio Brown through their first four seasons. The knock on Hilton has been the lack of touchdowns to this point. The Colts offense will thrive with a simplified offense under offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski. Hilton is currently being drafted as the 15th highest WR. If healthy, Hilton has Top 5 upside at the WR position this season.
Jason Wood: Fantasy owners always overvalue TDs. As a result, fantasy owners are undervaluing T.Y. Hilton. In four seasons, Hilton has "only" caught 24 scores, with a career high of 7 (2012 and 2014). If you think something about Hilton's game precludes him from having 10+ TD seasons, then you're probably right to let him fall to his current ADP. If you're like me, however, you see a guy that is the clear cut number one target on a team that has a healthy Andrew Luck back under center. You see a guy that has averaged 15.6 yards per catch and has average 1,200+ yards over the last two seasons. I'm of the mind that Hilton has a high floor (70+ catches and 1,100+ yards) and is just a bit of natural luck/regression away from a 9-12 TD output. He does that and you're looking at a possible Top 5 player.
Players Receiving 3 Votes
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Andy Hicks: Look at the draft slot for Larry Fitzgerald and you would be forgiven for thinking 2015 never happened. He posted a career high for receptions and almost reached double digit touchdowns. As long as he can still gain separation his other skills exceed that of the majority of other receivers. I do expect a slight regression to the phenomenal numbers he posted last year, but feel that others on the offense will suffer more. Fitzgerald is currently going in WR3 territory, which is absurd for a guy who finished 9th last year and has 5 career top 5 fantasy finishes.
Stephen Holloway: Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer have a great connection. Before the 2015 season, I pro-rated Fitzgerald’s six games with Palmer in 2014. That 2015 projection for a full 16-game season equated to Fitzgerald making 85 catches for 1,288 yards and 5 TDs. He mostly outdid those projections with 109 catches for 1,215 yards and 9 TDs. Fitzgerald at age 33 should again out-produce expectations with a healthy Palmer in 2016.
Matt Waldman: We all love big-play wide receivers. But many of us only define big-play options based on yards per catch or yards after the catch. Although still capable with the right matchup, Fitzgerald is no longer an every-down vertical option. What most of us miss when thinking about big-play options is red zone touchdowns. Fitzgerald's role in the slot makes him an extension of the ground game in the red area and some of the most difficult plays for defenses to stop are quick plays to the flat. Besides his skill as fade route leaper, Fitzgerald earns easier targets inside the 10 based on pre-snap movement and positioning as that slot man. While everyone else is seeking Michael Floyd and John Brown for their ability to win in the vertical game, the vertical game is still high-risk compared to the low-risk short red zone game where Fitzgerald thrives. The fact I can get him outside the top-25 at the position when he was a WR1 last year, tells me folks are afraid of his age and his role. I love it.
Michael Floyd, Arizona
Sigmund Bloom: We don't have to wait for Floyd to break out this year, it already happened in the second half of 2015. Floyd posted five 100-yard games in his last seven, and one of the misses was a game after he was returning from a hamstring injury. Floyd entered the season with a gruesome hand injury that included three finger dislocations, so we can forgive him for his slow start. He should be the first Cardinals receiver off of the board and deserves an ADP two rounds higher.
Daniel Simpkins: Floyd started slow due to a freak hand injury sustained in camp last year, but came on strong near the end of the year. While all three receivers have value in the Arizona passing attack, Floyd presents the best upside-for-value proposition of the group. John Brown is dealing with a concussion suffered in practice and as of this writing has not been cleared. Larry Fitzgerald is aging and in a slot role that limits his fantasy upside. For an early fifth-round pick, owners could have a receiver that finishes in the top ten at the position if everything breaks right.
Jason Wood: Michael Floyd is going to be the best receiver on the Cardinals. How does 72 receptions for 1,272 yards and 8 touchdowns sound for a receiver with a 5th round price tag? That's the 16-game pro ration of Floyd's final 8 games of the season. Why am I cherry-picking the final 8 games? Because Floyd wasn't healthy until mid-season. He badly dislocated his hand in the preseason to the point that bones were protruding from the skin. It shouldn't have surprised anyone if he missed the entire 2015 season. Yet, he was back on the field quickly and played his way back into health. Once he rounded back into shape, he out produced both Fitzgerald and Brown. I expect that to continue for the entirety of the 2016 season.
Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City
Chris Feery: Jeremy Maclin is a legitimate threat to finish the season with Top 15 WR production, but he’s simply not being treated as one on draft day. The limitations of the Kansas City Chiefs offense are often noted when discounting Maclin’s potential output, but the facts tell a very different story. He appeared in 15 games last season and finished in the Top 25 for targets at the position. If he was able to suit up for a 16th game, he easily pushes into the mid-teens in terms of targets. He had 14 gains of 20+ yards in 2015, finished tied for 12th in receptions, and is the clear top target of Alex Smith. The Chiefs offense will not be confused with a high-octane attack any time soon, but it operates efficiently and Maclin’s overall production will make him seem like a steal when we put a bow on 2016.
Ryan Hester: Maclin should continue to dominate target share on a team that gave him a career-high 87 receptions last season. Said team won 10 straight games to end the season and utilized positive game scripts to run frequently and shorten games. 10 game winning streaks don’t grow on trees, leading many to believe that Kansas City will have to throw more often this season. The personnel hasn’t changed, so Maclin’s target share should be similar (if not more), and the “pie” should get bigger, meaning more targets for Maclin.
Mark Wimer: As the clear-cut #1 wide receiver for Alex Smith, Maclin should dominate the stable of wideouts in targets and receptions this year, making him a valuable fantasy commodity. He's a solid #2 fantasy wide receiver, and may flirt with #1 wide receiver production if all goes well in K.C. this year. Reports out of training camp have indicated that Smith has been throwing deeper passes more often this year, which can only be a good thing for Maclin's potential to outperform his current ADP.
Torrey Smith, San Francisco
Mike Brown: It will seem like a boring pick, and in a lot of ways it is. Smith's ceiling is probably capped below 1,000 yards and 5-6 touchdowns. But you will pay almost nothing for it, and let's be honest -- who the heck else is going to catch all the passes the Niners will be throwing in the up-tempo Chip Kelly offense???
Jeff Haseley: Torrey Smith is expected to be the default main receiving threat for the 49ers offense this year. We've seen Chip Kelly use a fast-paced style that yields an above-average number of plays on offense. This benefits the receiving corps, particularly Smith. Expect to see an increase in targets, receptions and potentially touchdowns this year. Smith is an adequate WR4 or WR5 for your roster who can easily be inserted into your lineup as a flex play or WR3.
John Mamula: Torrey Smith is being criminally undervalued this season. Gone are Anquan Boldin’s 111 targets. The 49ers didn’t bring in a wide receiver that can replace these targets. Somebody has to catch the ball in San Francisco, right? Hence, Smith is going to see a major uptick from his 62 targets last season. Chip Kelly turned DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jordan Matthews into stars with his fast-paced offense. Look for Torrey Smith to break out this season.
Players Receiving 2 Votes
Tavon Austin, Los Angeles
Bob Magaw: Austin set a career high in TDs with 10 in a breakout 2015 season. While record breaking Pac-12 conference QB and first overall pick Jared Goff will undoubtedly suffer growing pains during his on the job training as an NFL signal caller, his composure, pocket sense and awareness, decisiveness, compact delivery, quick release, underrated arm strength and accuracy hold out the hope of ultimately emerging as the most skilled QB during Austin's tenure with the Rams. Replacement/new OC Rob Boras was starting to figure out how to deploy rookie All-Pro RB Todd Gurley and Austin as complementary threats. Fisher is conservative, but has acknowledged the need to get the ball in Austin's hands a lot more, and hired former CHI WR coach Mike Groh as passing game coordinator.
Jason Wood: Austin is a controversial choice, but I'm going to plant a flag on the mercurial Los Angeles Ram. If you look at Austin's receiving numbers, it's easy to be underwhelmed. Last year he set "career" marks with 52 receptions, 473 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those numbers alone would've ranked WR53 last year – which jives with his ADP (WR48). But Austin isn't just a receiver; the Rams use him as a runner liberally. He ran for 434 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. Combined, Austin had 907 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns and finished as the 25th ranked receiver. I don't see why his role will be diminished this year; yet I DO see an improvement in the team's quarterback with the selection of Jared Goff 1st overall. To me, Austin is a great end game choice that will deliver low-end WR3 value.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota
James Brimacombe: Stefon Diggs came out of nowhere last season and burst onto the scene as a strong fantasy option once he stepped on the field. Diggs was the Vikings leading WR in 2015 as a rookie and finished the year with 52 receptions, 720 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 13 games. With the Vikings drafting Laquon Treadwell in the first round this year, Diggs value has leveled out and you are getting a nice discount on him at his current WR42 ADP. The addition of Treadwell and the hopeful return to success for Charles Johnson adds a lot of value to Diggs and he is a great option to target in Rounds 6-8.
Cian Fahey: The threat of Laquon Treadwell has been quelled since the beginning of training camp. Treadwell has struggled with drops throughout practices and played with the second team in the first two preseason games. He hasn't made an impact in those games, meaning that he is unlikely to supplant Charles Johnson from his starting spot. He may not even take Adam Thielen's role as the third option. That leaves Diggs as Bridgewater's top option, a receiver with a skill set that perfectly complements his quarterback. Even if the passing game continues to struggle like it did last year, Diggs should get the biggest chunk of the target share.
DeSean Jackson, Washington
Andy Hicks: Desean Jackson is going to be significantly undervalued in a lot of drafts this year. He badly injured his hamstring early in week 1 of the 2015 season and didn't reappear until week 9 by which time Kirk Cousins was in full control of the offense. Jackson had moments last year with touchdowns in 3 consecutive games, as well as a monster game in week 15 with 150 yards and a touchdown. Jackson is still to turn 30, has lost none of his speed and will open the season as starter. The injury to rookie Josh Doctson has cost him any chance of early season work and Jackson is clearly a better receiver than Pierre Garcon. Jackson is going in WR4 territory and should outperform that by a wide margin.
Chris Kuczynski: Jackson may be approaching 30, but he can still take the top off of the defense with his speed and he is still the unquestioned number 1 WR on Washington with rookie Josh Doctson injured and Pierre Garcon progressively being less involved in the offense. He is only one year removed from a 1200 yard season in which RG3 and Colt McCoy were starting games. Last year he was held back by a hamstring injury that cost him the beginning of the season and proved to be hindering in the first 8 games, making it difficult to find his way back to the field. He was still able to produce 3 games with over 80 yards and a TD even with all of the missed playing time and opportunities to build chemistry with his QB. Now fully healthy and with Kirk Cousins potentially making a leap after his impressive 2015 season, Jackson can be drafted in the mid to late rounds but produce enough to be considered in your WR3/Flex spot.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis
Justin Howe: His ADP is starting to get some respect, but many still don't appreciate Moncrief's awesome ceiling/floor outlook. He'll almost certainly approach 120 targets in an explosive, pass-happy offense, and few NFL wideouts can boast his athletic profile. He could be on the verge of becoming one of the league's most productive deep threats; a line around 80 catches, 1,100 yards, and 8 or 9 touchdowns is well within reach.
Ari Ingel: This offense was a disaster last year with the injury to Andrew Luck and the inexplicable usage of Andre Johnson. With Johnson and Coby Fleener out of the mix, Moncrief will be locked and loaded as Luck's primary target along with T.Y. Hilton. Beat writers have stated that he could lead the team in targets and touchdowns this year. It should also be noted that he is still just 22 years old, younger than players like Josh Doctson, Sammy Watkins, Devante Parker, Kevin White, Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin, and Dorial Green-Beckham.
Sterling Shepard, NY Giants
Chris Kuczynski: Shepard is getting a lot of buzz this off season with his performance in training camp, and he will have an opportunity to earn the number 2 WR spot behind Odell Beckham Jr Jr which will give him plenty of single coverage from opposing defenses. Victor Cruz is still coming back from serious injury and might not return to his old form, then the rest of the WR depth chart is fairly unproven. The offense will still be high powered with Eli Manning, Beckham Jr and the same scheme from Ben McAdoo who was promoted to Head Coach, so Shepard will get plenty of looks as the number 2 target and can be had in the middle of the draft.
Daniel Simpkins: Currently going in the mid-eighth round, Shepard could be a hit in PPR formats. His college scouting report told us that he was a great route runner with sure hands. His play so far in practices and preseason has reflected those traits. For a Giants offense that has been struggling to find a true consistent complementary receiving option for some time after Victor Cruz’s injury struggles, Shepard is the perfect fit. While Shepard will undoubtedly have growing pains, a 70-or-more reception season is well within reach, especially with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. drawing away the best coverage.
Willie Snead IV, New Orleans
Sigmund Bloom: Snead put up almost 1000 yards in his second year despite starting out as a role player and only getting 101 targets on the season. He has made strides going into year three, and he'll be in one of the best pass offenses in the league as the #2 wide receiver. Even with the addition of Coby Fleener and Michael Thomas, Snead should have at least 101 targets this year, and the quality of the pass offense and weapons should make each target more valuable than it was last year. He's an easy pick as a bench receiver who could be a core starter for you after the unveil against the Raiders.
Justin Howe: Snead still gets little ADP respect, as casual drafters had never heard of him prior to mid-2015. It's true he spent his college career toiling at Ball State, but he absolutely dominated there. He went undrafted, but caught Drew Brees' eye early and showed superbly in his first NFL season. The drafting of Michael Thomas isn't a huge concern; this is an offense that produced 667 pass attempts last year and doesn't look set to change much. Snead is a plug-and-play WR3 with potential for a little more.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Stephen Holloway: Despite sub-standard play, particularly in the playoffs last year, Thomas has averaged 100 receptions per year over the past four seasons. He caught 105 last year for 1,304 yards and 6 TDs. The Broncos’ quarterback play is a concern, but expect Thomas who has led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yardage for four consecutive seasons to do that again this year.
Devin Knotts: Demaryius Thomas can be had at a tremendous discount this season largely because it is still unknown how the quarterback play will be for the Denver Broncos this season. While you won’t see Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler playing for the Broncos this season, don’t let that scare you off of Demaryius Thomas. He will still be a large focal point of this offense as he has averaged 180 targets over the last two seasons and had double digit touchdowns in three of the last four seasons. As bad as Peyton Manning looked at times last season, the drop-off to whoever is the quarterback in Denver shouldn’t be as bad as perceived which creates an opportunity for Thomas.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo
Cian Fahey: Sammy Watkins is on track to be fully healthy for the beginning of the regular season. Watkins' talent was showcased throughout the second half of last season and with Karlos Williams released and a receiving corps around him that generally lacks talent, Watkins should see a huge workload this year. He is a possession receiver, a deep threat and a dangerous YAC option who can create separation against any cornerback that attempts to cover him. Watkins should have no problem outperforming the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Brandin Cooks.
Bob Magaw: Watkins is on the threshold of stardom and wider recognition. The fourth overall pick and first WR from the historic class of 2014, he just missed being the fourth rookie to crack the 1,000 receiving yard plateau (with the unprecedented trio of Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin) by less than 20 yards. He was on an even better pace in 2015, with 1,000+ receiving yards, a 17.5 yard average reception and 9 TDs in just 13 games. Already rehabbing a broken foot in the offseason, if (and it is a big if) he can avoid nagging, lingering injuries, Watkins has the kind of natural talent and elite skills to go with his blue chip pedigree to crack the top 10 WRs.
Players Receiving 1 Vote
Kamar Aiken, Baltimore
Cian Fahey: Kamar Aiken is the least reputable name in Baltimore but he is the Ravens' best receiver. Aiken is closer to his physical prime than Steve Smith, a lot closer, and more consistent/versatile than Mike Wallace. The Ravens passing game as a whole doesn't figure to be very good bt Marc Trestman is committed to throwing the ball and their defense looks leaky so Aiken should see a huge number of targets. He is sure-handed, runs good routes and is athletic enough to threaten the defense at every level.
John Brown, Arizona
Justin Howe: While many gush over the potential of Brown's big-bodied teammate, Michael Floyd, it's Brown who carries the strongest upside. They typically carry similar target shares, though Brown is just as efficient at creating yardage and, surprisingly, sees more red zone work. Floyd is very boom-or-bust, while Brown's floor is more palatable – and usually cheaper.
Amari Cooper, Oakland
John Mamula: Amari Cooper is coming off the board as the 12th WR this season. If healthy, Cooper will finish in the Top 10, if not the Top 5 at his position. Cooper struggled during the second half of last season due to a foot injury that nearly put him on Injured Reserve. After suffering the injury, he was unable to create separation off the line and out of his breaks. Look for Cooper to bounce back strong this season.
Eric Decker, NY Jets
Matt Waldman: He's been a top-12 receiver 3 of the last 4 seasons and he was the No.11 fantasy option with Ryan Fitzpatrick last year. He's a good route runner, tough enough to win in the middle of the field, and fast enough to win the vertical game when an offense understands how to set that up. Chan Gailey knows how to do so and with Matt Forte helping to spread the field, I am confident that Decker can repeat an 80-catch, 10-touchdown campaign. The fact that Decker is available two spots after Fitzgerald in most drafts is excellent value. Makes me want to pick running backs early.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville
James Brimacombe: Let’s not fool ourselves, Allen Robinson is a fantasy super star and is the number one option in the Jaguars passing game. The thing about Hurns is that he will always be known as the Jaguars other wide receiver and can be had at a decent discount. Hurns caught 64-of-105 targets last season for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hurns has the trust of quarterback Blake Bortles and the chemistry continues as Hurns averaged 16.1 yards per catch and is often looked at when a big play is needed. Hurns finished at the 14th best fantasy WR in 2015 and his current ADP is WR32, this is great value for a player that is seeing a lot of targets in an up and coming offense.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay
Jeff Pasquino: Jamies Winston enters his second season as an NFL quarterback, and he will be relying on his two top wide receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Evans stole all of the thunder last year (74-1,206-3) thanks in part to Jackson only dressing for 10 contests, but Jackson has had 1,000-yard seasons in six of his last eight campaigns. While I cannot guarantee that he tops that mark again in 2016, he offers great value (ADP WR52) at the low price you can pay to get him in drafts this year.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
Mark Wimer: Aaron Rodgers needs Jordy Nelson - Randall Cobb was exposed as not-a-#1 last season and everyone knows it now. Nelson will rival Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in targets during 2016, in my estimation. Nelson is said to be well ahead of the curve rehabbing his knee injury and looks as if he was never hurt according to early reports. Knee Tendinitis held him back early in camp but he returned to practices as of 8/22/16 and is working closely with Aaron Rodgers to re-establish timing and etc.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver
Andy Hicks: With the departure of Peyton Manning it is expected that Demaryius Thomas will have a little bit of a drop off, but Emmanuel Sanders a big decline. Why? Demaryius Thomas, for a variety of reasons did not look the same receiver as before he signed his contract extension. I expect Sanders to be the more productive receiver as he can run a greater variety of routes, especially of the shorter variety. With the Broncos expecting to run it more as well, while they deal with inexperienced or patchy quarterback play, Sanders will be in on more plays and catch a lot of dump offs. Severely undervalued.
Steve Smith, Baltimore
Jeff Pasquino: I am always a sucker for veteran wide receivers, but Steve Smith has all the signs of putting up another 1,000-yard season in 2016. The Ravens are going to throw the ball some of the time, even if they focus on the run first, and Joe Flacco loves to trust savvy veteran targets. Smith can get open and produce against any coverage – something he has been doing since he was in Carolina. With questions at the second wide receiver spot for Baltimore and a mix of talent at tight end, Smith will certainly be the primary target for Flacco in 2016. If he gets 80% of his 2014 numbers (79-1,065-6) he will represent excellent value as a WR4 in most fantasy drafts.
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