2017 Preseason Watchlist: Wide Receivers

Outlining the key preseason depth chart questions around the NFL at wide receiver.

More wide receivers are on the field than ever before in the NFL on a per-snap basis. However, fantasy still are seeking the cream of the crop in terms of talent, situation, and opportunity. Here are the key wide receiver depth charts to monitor in the preseason for pecking order clarity:

Chris Hogan vs Malcolm Mitchell

Hogan had the clear edge most of 2016, but Mitchell was at his best in the playoffs on the biggest stage. The winner of this battle sets themselves up to be relevant a few games in best ball plus see a surge in playing time if Julian Edelman or Brandin Cooks should miss time.

Quincy Enunwa vs The Field

The Jets have a wide open depth chart at wide receiver without recent stalwarts Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker populating the No.1 and No.2 spots. The quarterback play projects to be weak but targets still offer opportunity for a WR3-type producer for fantasy. Enunwa is the leader in the clubhouse from 2016, but Robby Anderson has flashed and ArDarius Stewart, Charone Peake, and Chad Hansen are intriguing options down the depth chart.

Jeremy Maclin

Maclin struggled through injuries in 2016 and was a surprise cut by the Chiefs. Landing with Baltimore provides opportunity with Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta heavily-targeted options from 2016 not on the team anymore. Mike Wallace is the incumbent of 100+ targets last year and Breshad Perriman enters a critical Year 3 to produce his best season to-date. Maclin is a rebound candidate but the top-3 options have potential to temper each of their individual upsides.

Kenny Britt vs Corey Coleman

With lower-tier pass games historically only the No.1 receiver matters for fantasy. Britt was a strong addition and Coleman possess Round 1 pedigree from 2016. Coleman missed time as a rookie but flashed at times his big-play ability. The winner atop the depth chart has WR2/3 fantasy upside, but the second option will be relegated to best ball and less consistent impact.

Martavis Bryant vs Himself

Bryant was a rising star in 2015 before a suspension took him off the field for the entire 2016 season. He remains in the conditional reinstatement status with regular drug tests and a daily risk to pop up on the news wire. Juju Smith-Schuster was drafted this offseason and Sammie Coates Jr was impactful last season before a hand injury decimated the rest of the year. Bryant is the leader in the clubhouse to be the Robin to Antonio Brown's Batman status, but the biggest risk is himself to stay on the right track.

Eric Decker vs Corey Davis vs Rishard Matthews

The winner of the No.1 receiver spot in Tennessee has WR1 fantasy upside being paired with a strong quarterback in Marcus Mariota. Decker needs a string of health and Corey Davis is an incoming rookie with a pro-ready profile. Matthews is the incumbent who saw 108 efficient targets a year ago. One of these three will be a fantasy impact and the other two likely flex options (or less).

Terrelle Pryor vs Josh Doctson

Jamison Crowder has his slot role and Jordan Reed will be a central figure in Washington's pass game, but this battle of Doctson and Pryor will be the key fantasy outcome. Pryor showed well in 2016 with his first extended time as an NFL wide receiver, displaying prototypical size and movement. Doctson had a near-lost season due to injury after a Round 1 drafting last offseason. Early reports have Pryor in the lead of this battle. The winner is a good bet for at least 1,000 yards and WR2/3 value, while the other would be more depth than impact for fantasy.

Kevin White vs Injury

The depth chart in Chicago is wide open for White to see a full complement of snaps. After playing only a few games in 2016, White has an incomplete grade with two seasons under his belt derailed by injury. The fantasy community still has no clarity on if White can or cannot be impactful at the NFL level after rising up to the No.7 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Cameron Meredith is a default option as the lead receiver, as he was in 2016 if White breaks down, but White will get every opportunity to declare his own role if his health cooperates.

LaQuon Treadwell vs Adam Thielen

Stefon Diggs is locked into in the No.1 role for the Vikings. The key competition is if LaQuon Treadwell, former Round 1 pick in 2016, can unseat Adam Thielen for the No.2 spot. Thielen emerged as one of the biggest surprise performers in 2016 with impressive play after impressive play, keeping Treadwell on the bench outside of minimal snaps. Minnesota brought Thielen back for 2017 and Treadwell is in danger of a warranted bust label if this year is a repeat performance or lack thereof. 

Michael Thomas vs Expectations

With Brandin Cooks gone, Thomas rises to the No.1 role for the Saints after an impressive rookie season. However, Thomas' fantasy expectations are through the roof with a redraft ADP of WR7 and commonly going in or near the first round of dynasty startup drafts. The No.1 option for the Saints has historically been closer to a WR2 for fantasy with the true value of the offense being in the ancillary weapons. Thomas now deals with top cornerbacks, more defensive attention, and top expectations of production in 2017.

John Brown vs Sickle Cell

Brown was a rising star following his breakout 2015 season. Last year was a different story as Brown consistently had an issue with his Sickle Cell condition and his fantasy output ran on fumes as a result. The depth chart in Arizona beyond Larry Fitzgerald is wide open for Brown, but getting back physically is the critical watch.

Tavon Austin vs The Field

Austin has been underutilized in his career to-date despite elite movement traits. With Kenny Britt gone and Robert Woods the most notable veteran addition to the Rams' wide receiver corps, this is a high-leverage season for Austin. Usage will be key for Austin to bump his fantasy output, seeing more traditional receiver routes and deep opportunities.