Situational Wide Receiver Values: 2018 Edition - Footballguys

Examining fantasy football values for wide receivers through historical study of quarterback strength and depth chart construction

Situation matters for fantasy football. Talent is a long-term bet in dynasty and keeper league formats, but in the four-month sprint of redraft situation is king. A wide receiver can be limited (or boosted) by the level of his quarterback as well as his position on the depth chart pecking order.

The key criteria for making quality fantasy bets at wide receiver are:

  • When in doubt, bet on the receivers with the best chance to be their team's No. 1 receiver
  • All tiebreakers go towards receivers with better quarterbacks
  • If an owner must bet on a No. 2 receiver on their team, they must be attached to a top-half fantasy quarterback

The goal of the above criteria is to acquire the best bets for WR1 fantasy production in conjunction with the highest floor possible. Average Draft Position (ADP) referenced is myfantasyleague.com for July within the position.

UNDERVALUED TEAM WR1

Larry Fitzgerald has been a high-volume king as he has transitioned to the slot in recent seasons with more than 450 targets over the past three years, besting his current WR19 ADP in each of them. Christian Kirk offers some rookie year upside, but nothing on the Arizona roster is a hindrance to Fitzgerald's high target floor and ceiling combination.

The Broncos were a disappointment across the board last year, stemming from a weak quarterback spot. Case Keenum offers stability for 2018 and Demaryius Thomas (and Emmanuel Sanders) is on the rise as a result. Thomas has seen 140+ targets in each of the last six seasons and is coming off his worst statistical season since 2011.

Michael Crabtree's addition for Baltimore's ailing receiver depth chart was a welcome sight in free agency. Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Ben Watson being gone from 2017 open more than 240 targets. Crabtree is a sturdy bet to lead the team in passing game looks by a healthy margin in 2018.

UNDERVALUED POTENTIAL TEAM WR1

These receivers feature a wide range of interest level. Corey Davis flashed at times on an underwhelming Tennessee offense as a rookie and the 2018 version has little to challenge Davis from a breakout opportunity.

The combination of DeVante Parker and Danny Amendola in Miami is one of the best cumulative bets to find high target volume around the NFL. Jarvis Landry's departure is huge (160+ targets) which stifled Parker for three seasons. If Parker is not the answer in Miami, look to Danny Amendola as a slot maven matching Landry's description to collect targets.

Two other team combinations are the 49ers and the Jets. The upside is far more appealing for the 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo a much higher projection than any Jets quarterback as a distributor of fantasy points. Pierre Garcon was on pace for more than 130 targets last season before injury and Marquise Goodwin has finally stayed healthy the past two seasons and progressed to his best fantasy results, including nearly 1,000 yards and 17.2 yards-per-catch last year.

Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee are the most uninspiring choices from above with WR3/4 upside on questionable passing games. After a transition year including a trade and an injury, Kelvin Benjamin looks to dominate targets for Buffalo where Charles Clay offers the only other option with a track record of production, which has waned since his 2013 breakout in Miami.

STRONG QUARTERBACKS' WR2

The exception to exclusively looking at No.1 receivers is finding the secondary option for strong quarterbacks. Will Fuller V was the No.2 overall fantasy receivers in games with a healthy Deshaun Watson last year (teammate DeAndre Hopkins was No.1).

Randall Cobb is nursing an injury but looks to be ready by the season on a Packers' depth chart weaker than any point in recent years. Cobb is two years removed from his last WR3 or better fantasy season, but the competition for targets being minimal behind Davante Adams.

Jimmy Graham is gone from Seattle and the team looks to be more pass-heavy considering their defense is a shell of its former glory as a team in transition. Tyler Lockett's ADP is a fraction of his upside with 100+ targets in play for 2018.

Hunter Henry's injury boosts the projection for the Chargers' strong wide receiver corps, including incumbent No. 2 (we will see about Mike Williams developing in Year 2) Tyrell Williams, who is a year removed from 119 targets and more than 1,000 yards.

Finally, Ted Ginn Jr remains the WR2 for the Saints without added competition beyond incoming rookie Tre'Quan Smith from the Day 2 draft ranks. While a long-term concern, Ginn has finished in the Top 45 each of the last three seasons between Carolina and New Orleans without much fanfare among the fantasy community.