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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 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

Pierre Garcon, San Francisco

Chris Feery: Changes are afoot in San Francisco, as the 49ers have welcomed Kyle Shanahan aboard to serve as head coach. The installation of the Shanahan offense points to the air being filled with footballs, and those in line to see a lot of those targets shape up to be fine value plays in 2017. Pierre Garcon is at the top of the list, as he’s taken his talents to the West Coast to become the WR1 for the 49ers. He’s currently being drafted in the range of a WR3, and that’s just too low based on the amount of volume he’s projected to receive. Garcon is in line for a serious amount of targets, and he could easily do enough damage to qualify as a solid WR2 for your fantasy squad.

Ryan Hester: Garcon, who will enter the season at age 31, has seen better days. But he’ll be San Francisco’s number-one receiver. And San Francisco’s new Head Coach is Kyle Shanahan – a coach with a tendency to pepper his top receiver with huge targets shares. One of those huge target shares was Garcon’s career season in 2013 (113 receptions and 1,346 yards on a whopping 182 targets) when Shanahan coordinated the offense in Washington. San Francisco also figures to be in some pass-heavy game scripts this season as a team in rebuilding mode. There is also little competition from inside the position group in San Francisco, leaving Garcon likely to maintain his role all season long. Garcon won’t be a fantasy WR1 in anyone’s wildest dreams, but the volume he should get isn’t often found at his price. That makes him a sound investment.

Jeff Pasquino: Pierre Garcon leaves Washington to join his former offensive coordinator, new head coach Kyle Shanahan, in San Francisco. The 49ers are going to need playmakers in the passing game, and Garcon looks like the top option for the coming season. Garcon has performed well in Shanahan’s offense in the past, and Brian Hoyer is a capable option under center. Grabbing Garcon as WR3 or even WR4 for a fantasy roster provides a solid base of a team’s top receiver on a team likely to be throwing a lot and playing from behind in most contests this year.

Jason Wood: Pierre Garcon is a decidedly average talent. Over the last five seasons, he ranks outside the top 70 in fantasy points per target. However, he’s produced WR2 fantasy stats thanks to an inordinately high target share. His best season – 2013 – came with Kyle Shanahan calling the shots, and Garcon reunites with Shanahan in San Francisco after signing a shockingly rich free agent contract. With Jeremy Kerley the second best receiver on the roster, Garcon need only stay healthy to see a massive target load. Brian Hoyer isn’t a world beater, but the 49ers will struggle to stay competitive and will be forced into pass-first situations. Garcon lacks WR1 upside, but his floor is substantively higher than his current ADP implies.

Player Receiving 3 Votes

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

Stephen Holloway: Fitzgerald has a great connection with Carson Palmer and he has led the Cardinals in targets every season since 2006. He is very reliable, missing only two games since 2008. His career catch percentage is over 60% and he has averaged 69.6% for the past three seasons. Fitzgerald has been even better as his career winds down as a slot receiver. He has averaged 6.75 receptions per game and 108 per season for the past two years. His ADP is definitely aged biased and I expect him to easily exceed expectations again this year, his 14th NFL season all with Arizona.

Chad Parsons: Larry Fitzgerald has extended his fantasy utility in recent seasons with his shift to the slot. Arizona added no notable competition for targets and David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald project, once again, to be the key cogs of Arizona's passing game in 2017. Fitzgerald has finished as WR9 and WR17 the past two seasons yet is firmly outside the top-20 in positional ADP. Fitzgerald is one of the safest bets among mid-round wide receivers in drafts this season.

Jason Wood: Did Larry Fitzgerald announce his retirement when I wasn’t looking? That’s the only explanation for his ridiculously low ADP. Fitzgerald is no spring chicken (33 years old), but fantasy owners are treating him like a washed up has-been. The 14-year veteran led the league in receptions last year, with 107! Even if you think last year’s 9.6 yards per reception relegates him to possession-receiver duties, who cares? He finished WR18 last season and his role will remain intact as Carson Palmer returns under center and Bruce Arians calls the plays. I understand avoiding Fitzgerald as your WR1, but he’s a fantastic value in PPR leagues as a WR2.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Corey Coleman, Cleveland

Andy Hicks: When drafting receivers in the middle to late rounds, they have to have upside and Corey Coleman has that in multiple ways. Coleman was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft by the Browns and had a nice, if injury interrupted, season to begin his career. The departure of Terrelle Pryor immediately opens up a ton of targets and while free agent acquisition Kenny Britt will get his share, he is not the future number 1 in this offense. Coleman was drafted to be that and more. If we look at his form before he was injured in his rookie season he had 173 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 games. There won’t be many receivers who have his upside at Colemans current ADP and you should snap him up at a WR4 price and get a starting receiver.

Daniel Simpkins: It’s not often that you can find the number one receiver for a team available at or near the double digit rounds of your draft. That’s exactly where an owner can take Coleman. He battled injuries last year, but flashed his abilities, especially in the deep receiving game. Nearly 280 receiving targets have been vacated by the departures of Gary Barnidge, Terrelle Pryor, and Andrew Hawkins. The team has indicated that they expect Coleman to pick up some of that slack. While owners are rightfully worried about the state of the Browns offense, one must consider how it has improved enough to give its pieces increased viability. The rebuilt offensive line is one of the better units in football and will be able to better protect Kessler or Kizer, whichever of the two ends up starting. The defense is improving but still figures to be a middling unit. This means the Browns will often be playing from behind. It will be during these comeback efforts that Coleman will be peppered with passes. Thankfully, points scored in “garbage time” still count just as much for fantasy owners as those scored in competitive contests.

Alshon Jeffrey, Philadelphia

Jeff Haseley: The trade of Jordan Matthews to Buffalo opens up the target shares in favor of Alshon Jeffery by a wide margin. I was on the fence with Jeffery's expected production before the trade, but now there's reason to believe the team is content with him as the primary receiving option and believe he can play a major role in the Eagles receiving game.

Stephen Holloway: Jeffrey is a very talented wide receiver playing for the first time in Philadelphia. He was injury prone during his five seasons with the Bears, but in the two seasons he played all 16 games, he finished as WR9 and WR12, averaging 87 receptions per year. Perhaps due to his injury history, he signed a one-year prove it deal with the Eagles and is playing for another contract in 2018. The Eagles just traded Jordan Matthews which should bolster Jeffrey’s target expectations. He should be Eagle’s target leader and has a solid chance to provide value as his current ADP.

Brandon Marshall, NY Giants

Jeff Pasquino: Marshall has been the top receiver on his team for many years, but now he moves toward a secondary role behind Odell Beckham Jr. with the New York Giants. Marshall was a Top 10 targeted receiver as recently as 2015 and was in the Top 20 with the Jets in a highly frustrating 2016 season. His best days could easily be behind him at this point, but he is still viable at age 33 and continues his remarkable career with team number five on his resume. Eli Manning may be the best quarterback he has had in his lengthy career, and a secondary role may be to his benefit with defenses forced to make tough coverage decisions between Marshall and Beckham.

Matt Waldman: After experiencing a precipitous drop in reception, yardage, and touchdown totals in 2016, many fantasy owners have downgraded Marshall as an aging receiver on the downside of his career. While possible, Marshall earning 44 fewer targets while performing with multiple quarterbacks last year is a factor that shouldn’t be ignored. Marshall has always functioned best in a high-target, tight-window environment where the quarterback must have confidence to let his receiver win the ball against coverage that doesn’t appear “open” by the standard convention of the term. Marshall will join a Giants squad where Eli Manning gave Plaxico Burress, a similar option, new life. I expect Marshall to out-produce all Giants receivers save Odell Beckham, Jr. Look for a top-20 season that’s closer to the Top 15.

Adam Thielen, Minnesota

Justin Howe: I love Stefon Diggs, but the real value lies in Thielen, who's similarly talented but comes several rounds cheaper. He was among the league's top producers last year, finishing fourth in yards per target (10.5) as a strong, if unheralded, vertical threat. Thielen excelled when Diggs was out of action, but produced just fine overall - he posted 5 games of 10+ PPR points alongside his teammate. The team thinks highly of him, locking him up for four years early in free agency, so he'll likely remain a solid second option with weekly potential for more. He's a better best ball option than season-long but deserves a top-45 WR selection either way.

Jason Wood: In an offseason when Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, and Kendell Wright settled for one-year deals, Adam Thielen signed a new 4-year, $19mm contract with $11mm guaranteed with the Vikings. The 26-year old local boy (Mankato State) emerged as Sam Bradford’s best receiver last season; he caught 69 receptions for 967 yards and five touchdowns. Unless Laquon Treadwell reverses a disastrous rookie start, Thielen is locked in as the WR1a (to Stefon Diggs’ WR1) on a team that set an NFL record for completion percentage last season.

Tyrell Williams, LA Chargers

Matt Waldman: A top-15 fantasy starter at his position last year, Williams was a reliable third-down option with big-play ability. However, his ranking on this list means that fantasy owners think the third-year receiver is on the Charles Johnson track—a big-time, small-school athlete who only produced due to injuries and then disappeared. The acquisition of Mike Williams as a top-15 pick will aid that perception. If Mike’s ranking was a reflection of fantasy owners’ distrust of Keenan Allen’s durability, Allen would have his current ADP. Mike has already been limited with a back injury that has put him behind the learning curve and before he resumed running in mid-August, there was talk he’d be out for the year. Maybe there’s a scenario where Mike, Tyrell, and Keenan Allen all coexist as significant parts of a three-receiver rotation, but it’s unlikely. Look for Mike to merit his 2016 preseason ranking—and likely more—in 2017. But that’s if they don’t re-sign Tyrell.

Jason Wood: Tyrell Williams’ ADP makes absolutely no sense. The third-year receiver is coming off a 69-catch, 1,059-yard and seven touchdown breakout season with the Chargers; he finished WR13 in standard fantasy leagues. Why then is Williams being forgotten on draft day? Yes, Keenan Allen is ‘healthy.” Yes, the team drafted rookie Mike Williams early. So what? Allen has missed almost all of the last two season. And rookie Mike Williams may miss the entire season with a back issue. Regardless of their status, teams play their best players. Williams is a 25-year old, 6’4”, 205-pound physical presence with deep speed. He was Philip Rivers’ best receiver last season, has an undeniable rapport and gets the added benefit of running as the 1st team starter in the preseason for the first time this summer. Let everyone else overvalue Keenan Allen while you grab a high-end fantasy WR2 for a pittance.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Keenan Allen, LA Chargers

Ryan Hester: Allen has dominated target market share dating back to his college days at Cal. Even as a sophomore with Marvin Jones Jr playing his senior year, Allen got more targets. It goes to show that, even without elite speed, if you get open, your quarterback will find you and show appreciation in the form of repeated targets. Allen has top-6 wide receiver upside if he can maintain his health, particularly since the Chargers won’t be working in highly-selected rookie Mike Williams. It’s rare that someone being selected mid-teens at their position can exceed ADP by double-digit places, but that’s in play for Allen.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina

Andy Hicks: This is a big season for Kelvin Benjamin. Now into his 4th season, he has already missed one with a knee injury in 2015 and was below his rookie season form last year. He started the season with 13 receptions for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first two games but struggled from there with 8 games of 3 catches or less. With a full off season and other receiving options joining the Panthers, Benjamin has to put up this year. He is literally a boom or bust player in all formats and therefore should be value. His performance in the opening preseason game was a promising sign.

Kenny Britt, Cleveland

Jeff Pasquino: Not many players leave a marginal team for a worse one in free agency, but that is pretty much what Kenny Britt pulled off this offseason. After his best season in his NFL career last year with the Rams, Britt inked a four-year, $32M deal with Cleveland to be their top veteran receiver for 2017 on offense. Britt managed to rack up over 1,000 yards with Los Angeles (Rams) last season, leading the team in receptions, yardage, and touchdown catches by a wide margin. Now he joins a Browns offense looking to right their ship yet again, and only Corey Coleman appears to be in place to challenge Britt as the top target for this coming season. Britt offers fantasy owners a stable production base as a top starting receiver for a team likely to be trailing and throwing a ton this year.

John Brown, Arizona

Daniel Simpkins: Brown had a very disappointing year in 2016 due to what was thought to be a flare up of his sickle cell trait, but what actually turned out to be a spinal cyst that was pressing down on a nerve. Once the surgery was done, his symptoms resolved. He did have a quad injury in camp recently but seems to be getting over that. Health, not talent, has been the enduring issue with Brown. With Larry Fitzgerald heading into the sunset, if he can stay healthy, Brown could get closer to his 2015 output-- over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. At his current ADP, it’s worth taking him just to find out.

Dez Bryant, Dallas

Andy Hicks: Dez Bryant has struggled with injury over the last 2 years, but it would be unwise to undervalue what he will do. He is the clear dominant receiver in the Dallas offense and with the strength of the running game will see plenty of opportunities. Dallas doesn't have a reliable receiver to threaten his targets and with Jason Witten well past his best, Bryant will be the go to guy. He connected well with Dak Prescott and his 8 touchdowns off only 50 receptions is a taste of what he can do with full fitness. Will be undervalued in all formats.

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh

Phil Alexander: The term "league winner" has become somewhat of a misnomer in fantasy football, but that's exactly what Bryant is for as long as you can draft him as a WR3. Bryant has either caught a touchdown or gone over 100 receiving yards in 15-out-of-24 career games (playoffs included). When he last took the field in 2015, he finished as the cumulative WR13 from Weeks 6-17 (his only games played due to suspension). Bryant has clearly demonstrated splash play ability that can single-handedly win you any given week, and he's been a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger's when the Steelers get inside the 10-yard-line. No player carries greater suspension risk than Bryant (even now that he's been officially reinstated), but his roles as big play threat and touchdown maker in one of the league's better offenses make him a top candidate to outperform his current ADP.

Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit

Matt Waldman: After dominating early, Jones got nicked up and bracketed for the remainder of the year. He toughed it out, but his production nosedived. Some think Jones isn’t as good as his clippings, but learning a new offense is often a two-year process. An experienced player and good route runner like Jones will learn the routes and master most of the pre-snap adjustments during his first training camp, but developing rapport with his quarterback to produce against bracket coverage is next-level play that often comes with multiple years in a system with the same quarterback. Jones’ first 3-4 games of 2016 were a better indication of his skill than the final 12-13.

Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore

Ryan Hester: Of Baltimore’s 679 passing attempts from 2016, 333 were intended for players who won’t be suiting up for the team in 2017. That easily leads the NFL in terms of unaccounted for passing game opportunity. 151 of those targets were aimed at wide receivers; another 121 were to Dennis Pitta (who led the team). With only Wallace and Breshad Perriman as fellow wide receivers slated for a regular role, Maclin projects as the only player with the skill set required to fill the short-to-intermediate parts of the field. Maclin is new to the team, but Baltimore has had great success integrating new acquisitions into the offense. Smith had 79 receptions, 1,065 yards, and 6 touchdowns in 2014, while Wallace had 72 receptions, 1,017 yards, and 4 touchdowns in his first season in Baltimore last year.

Rishard Matthews, Tennessee

Justin Howe: Matthews' ADP has tumbled wildly since the Titans added Corey Davis and Eric Decker in the offseason. That's fair on the surface, but all signs point to him retaining a hefty role in the offense - one that easily outvalues his draft slot. He's the only incumbent of the group, which absolutely matters, and has maintained his starting role throughout the preseason. He's younger than Decker, too, and was absurdly effective in 2016 as Marcus Mariota's top outside target. In fact, he's been among the league's most efficient wideouts over the past 2 seasons, averaging a studly 9.5 yards per target (4th-best among qualifiers) and posting a gaudy 12.0% touchdown rate. Few receivers in his draft tier - if any - boast his ceiling, and if Decker goes down and/or Davis remains behind the eight-ball, Matthews will look like a locked-in WR2/3.

Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis

Justin Howe: I remain enamored of Moncrief, who's produced decently (if unevenly) at a solid clip over his roughly 2.5 seasons. He hasn't yet reached my (high) expectations, but it's fair to note that, for much of that time, he's shuffled quarterbacks from Andrew Luck to the likes of Scott Tolzien and Josh Freeman. Moncrief enters his fourth year still just 24 years old, and still owner of one of the most impressive wide receiver combines in recent memory. He's big, explosive, athletic, and he certainly boasts a nose for the end zone: over his last 15 games alongside Luck, he's produced 11 touchdowns on 58 receptions. That's a truly elite touchdown rate that could simply win fantasy leagues if extrapolated over a 16-game season. If he and Luck can stay on the field all year, the Colts offense would improve markedly, and Moncrief would look like a shoo-in for WR2 production. Still, his ADP is sliding by the day, so his value potential is on the rise.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

Chad Parsons: Of the wide receivers typically drafted in the opening round and a half, Jordy Nelson offers the most bang for the buck. Nelson has 13+ touchdowns in three of his last four healthy seasons including finishes as the No.1 overall receiver in fantasy and two finishes at No.2. Aaron Rodgers is one of the few high-WR1-producing machines with a strong touchdown rate year over year. Nelson offers a discount over the handful of receivers typically drafted ahead of him, offering the same (or better) combination of ceiling and floor outcomes.

Terrelle Pryor, Washington

Matt Waldman: Last year was Pryor’s first year as a starter and he earned 1000 yards and 4 touchdowns as the primary option paired with three different quarterbacks not fit to start for 90 percent of the NFL. He was in an offense that also lacked a healthy and experienced secondary receiver opposite him. And, Pryor was three touchdowns shy of the No. 12 fantasy spot despite his surrounding talent that contributed to poor red zone production. Despite a healthy, productive, and still emerging Pryor will join a Washington offense that supported three fantasy starters last year in a scheme similar to Cleveland’s, fantasy owners have a sensible ADP for him. However, I believe Pryor will build on his red zone totals while repeating last year’s yardage and reception totals. Projecting another three to four scores is modest, but it could be the reason he earns top-15 or top-10 production.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville

Stephen Holloway: Robinson has had 150 and 151 targets the past two seasons for the Jaguars, but was extremely disappointing last season, as his production dropped dramatically. His catches dropped from 80 to 73, but his yards receiving decreased by over 500 yards and his touchdowns fell by more than half. He should again likely lead the Jaguars in targets and should again catch 80 or more passes. Can he split that two-season difference and average a more respectable 14.0 YPC? If so, that could get him in the range of 1,120 yards and with a few more touchdowns, he could again rank among the top twelve wide receivers. He did finish as WR4 just two seasons ago.

Willie Snead IV, New Orleans

Justin Howe: Snead projects right around this ADP slot - a mid-tier WR2 - but carries the upside for much more. With Brandin Cooks out of town, Snead will serve as the every-down No. 2 wideout in an offense that runs more plays and throws more passes than just about anyone. Drew Brees presides over a spread-it-around passing game, but it's also one that starves for talent behind the starting wideouts. Without much behind him by way of proven, reliable depth, Snead will likely be forced into a more voluminous role than past Saints No. 2 receivers have enjoyed. It would be no real surprise to see Snead reach 85 receptions and 1,200 yards, though early drafters aren't really pricing in that upside.

Golden Tate, Detroit

Ari Ingel: Slow start to the season last year, but Matthew Stafford will continue to sling it at a high volume, including in the red-zone, and Tate is going to be his go-to guy once again. Only 4 receivers have had over 90 catches the past 3 seasons: Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, and ... Golden Tate. Even after an atrocious start last season, he hit that 90 catch mark, so there is room for growth.