Plant a Flag: WR

Footballguys staff members make a stand on a wide receiver

Make a call on a wide receiver. Who will surprise - either good or bad? Why?

Ryan Hester: Jeremy Maclin, currently being drafted at WR22 in PPR leagues, should easily finish the season ahead of that position. Maclin performed very well in his debut season in Kansas City, taking the Chiefs from a 2014 in which zero touchdowns were caught by wide receivers and turning in a 1,000-yard, eight touchdown season. Maclin led the team in target share as he was the intended receiver of 26.8% of Alex Smith's passing attempts.

Consider also that Kansas City finished last season on a 10-game winning streak in which they bludgeoned the majority of their opponents with stingy defense and a focus on the running game. From Week 7 through Week 17, the Chiefs ran 290 times and passed only 262. Kansas City will likely have to play from behind a little more this season (considering their schedule and just simple regression because we don't often see teams put together double-digit win streaks in consecutive seasons).

If Smith's passing attempts rise by just a modest four per game and Maclin's target share remains, the same Maclin would receive 141 targets. If he maintains the same Fantasy Points per Target clip from 2015, that would result in a PPR finish of 278 points (up from his 244 last year). In 2015, 278 would have ranked as WR8. That's Maclin's ceiling (or perhaps even slightly above it), but WR22 sure seems like his floor. He's a great value.

Chad Parsons: Vincent Jackson has been a 10% Touchdown Rate wide receiver over his career on a per-catch basis. Over his last 103 receptions, Jackson has just five touchdowns in Tampa Bay through the pre-Jameis Winston and rookie season of Winston the past two seasons. The Tampa Bay offense has two primary receivers (Jackson and Mike Evans), a muddy tight end situation between Cameron Brate, and a lackluster outlook from WR3 and beyond on the depth chart. Evans and Jackson should dominate targets. Outside the top-50, Jackson is the perfect upside play to turn into a sturdy WR3 or better weekly option as Jameis Winston develops in Year 2.

Stephen Holloway: Demaryius Thomas has a current ADP of WR16 in ppr scoring. Over the past four seasons, he has finished as WR5, WR2, WR4 and a year ago disappointed somewhat at WR13, all in non-ppr scoring. When you switch to ppr scoring, his average of 100.5 catches per year over those same four seasons pushes that ranking even higher. His quarterback play is suspect heading into the season, but it was not good last year. His ADP has over corrected for his playoff struggles and the Broncos' quarterback situation.

Andy Hicks: Emmanuel Sanders should do much better than his projections forecast this year. Very few are knocking Demaryius Thomas down too far, despite him looking an inferior version of the guy that looked great when Peyton Manning was playing well. Sanders is a more versatile receiver and this should be advantageous with the quarterback situation. Sanders did more with less last year and despite seeing 40 less targets than Thomas, he had a much better yards per catch and the same number of touchdowns. Thomas will be overvalued, while Sanders will be undervalued. As always go with the value.

Jason Wood: T.Y. Hilton is my huckleberry. He's young, in his prime and managed 1,124 yards and 5 touchdowns last year in spite of the complete train wreck that was the Colts passing game last year as Andrew Luck struggled with injury (and otherwise). Hilton has three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and gets a healthy, motivated Luck back under center. As if that weren't enough, we've got Rob Chudzinski calling plays and implementing his system after taking over late last year for Pep Hamilton. Hilton has the speed to blow the top off defensive backs, but has become a good route runner who now can make plays up and down the route tree. If he's healthy, I can envision a Top 5 season if his TD rate normalizes just a little bit. Even if it doesn't, he's a WR1 in all formats.

Chris Feery: I’m not optimistic on the prospects of DeAndre Hopkins delivering on the promise suggested by his current ADP. It simply comes down to the quarterback position, and I’m not sold on Brock Osweiler as the answer to the Texans woes at the position. At a minimum, I think he’s in for a rocky transition that may not level out until the middle of the season. That could seriously limit the damage that Hopkins is capable of inflicting on opposing defenses, and lead to some regret from those who spent a Top 5 pick to acquire his services in 2016. Hopkins is an incredibly impressive talent that will get all the targets he can handle, I’m just not sold on that translating to a banner 2016 in fantasy production.

Phil Alexander: I've been buying up all the Breshad Perriman I can since it was announced in mid-June he avoided a full ACL tear. Perriman's ADP has dipped nearly five full rounds since the injury and hasn't begun to rebound despite John Harbaugh's recent proclamation he expects Perriman to be ready for Week 1. Baltimore's wide receiver depth chart is riddled with question marks (Perriman admittedly chief among them), but two things are certain -- they're going to pass a lot and they want to see Perriman succeed.

The Ravens may not lead the NFL in pass attempts for a second straight year, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has leaned decidedly pass-heavy in each of his last three seasons as a coach or coordinator, a trend that figures to continue this year. How Baltimore's ample target supply gets spread around is anyone's guess, but consider the candidates:

  • Steve Smith - 37 years old, last seen with his double-ruptured Achilles looking like shredded chicken. Harbaugh also expects Smith to be active Week 1, but it would be shocking if he returned as anything more than a shell of his former self.
  • Mike Wallace - On his third team in four years. Has been varying degrees of terrible at each of his last two stops. Took him two tries to pass the conditioning test at the start of training camp.
  • Kamar Aiken - A nice player who racked up counting stats as the last man standing for the Ravens last year. Also an undrafted free agent, who bounced around the league before landing in Baltimore. The team has next-to-nothing invested in him.

And then there's Perriman -- a 2015 first-round pick the Ravens must be eager to see a return on after he missed the entire season recovering from a separate knee injury. With all the missed time, it's easy to forget Perriman came out of UCF a size-speed phenom (6'2'', 215 lbs., 4.26 forty) with top-notch college production to back up his impressive measurables. The most talented receiver on Baltimore's depth chart, who the team has the most invested in, also happens to have the lowest ADP of the four Ravens receivers being drafted. A hot start shouldn't be expected from Perriman, who has never made it through an NFL training camp, but he's the best bet to emerge as the team's WR1 by the end of the season if you can afford to hold him through the first few weeks.

Devin Knotts: DeAndre Hopkins will take a step back this season. In 2015, 31% of the team's targets went towards Hopkins. This is simply unsustainable and if you take a look at Houston's quarterback total stats from last year it will be difficult for Osweiler to repeat these. The Houston Texans quarterbacks Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates threw for 4,051 yards. Looking at Osweiler he was a quarterback who seemed to alternate between Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and lock onto those players for the entire game, so do not be surprised if there are games where another receiver gets a significant amount of targets. Jalen Strong and Will Fuller V look to be potential candidates to show improvement which could eat into Hopkins target numbers. Also, the consistent running back play of Lamar Miller could impact Hopkins, as last year's running back core was hindered by Arian Foster's injury so the running game was led by Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, and Jonathan Grimes.

John Mamula: Corey Coleman will be the WR to own in Cleveland, not Josh Gordon. Currently, both wide receivers share similar ADP with Coleman at WR40 and Gordon at WR42. Both are currently coming off the draft board in rounds 8-9 as most teams 4th WR. Cleveland's defense looks to remain below average so there should be plenty of garbage time points available for this offense. Gordon has been out of football for the past 22 months. It will take him some time to get into game shape. When Gordon briefly returned for 5 games in 2014, he disappointed with a 51% completion rate on 47 targets. Don't forget he will miss the first 4 games of the season while Coleman and Robert Griffin III III develop chemistry. Coleman has looked great thus far in camp and is poised for a solid rookie season as a 3rd WR or flex option for your redraft teams.

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