With NFL free agency largely settled and the incoming rookies the next significant moving piece of the 2018 offseason, here is a preview of the optimal landing spots at the skill positions. Featured in this installment: wide receivers.
*Criteria includes initial opportunity and long-term growth potential*
ELITE LANDING SPOTS
Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan make the 49ers one of the candidates to see a 2017 Rams-like rise in 2018. Pierre Garcon returns from injury and projects as a quality WR2/3 for fantasy, but the depth chart is murky in the long-term and Garcon is a 1-2 year window for viability as a bridge option.
The departure of Dez Bryant needs a sizeable hole at the top of the receiver depth chart. Terrance Williams was a lackluster signing to return to Dallas this offseason and Allen Hurns is years removed from his peak production. A rookie receiver will receive a substantial boost if landing with the Cowboys. A prototypical option like Courtland Sutton is in play for Dallas at No.19 overall.
Larry Fitzgerald is a year-to-year projection and maybe in his last NFL season in 2018. The rest of the depth chart is weak with slight, but fast J.J. Nelson, over-drafted from 2017 Chad Williams, and Brice Butler of note. The No.1 role for 2019 is available and even a starting outside spot this year. Arizona is not as optimal as San Francisco due to a lack of security at quarterback and the overall health of the offense.
The Jets are likely to add a quarterback in Round 1 and their collection of rehab projects and secondary options on the wide receiver depth chart leave the long-term No.1 job available. Terrelle Pryor bouncing back may be the best shot at a true No.1 in the short-term with Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa secondary bets.
T.Y. Hilton resides in the No.1 spot, but the rest of the depth chart is barren of appealing options with Donte Moncrief gone in free agency. The viability of the landing spot hinges on Andrew Luck's return, but the Colts have strong needs at wide receiver and running back heading into the draft.
Michael Crabtree was a quality short-term signing by Baltimore this offseason, but the rest of the depth chart lacks substance with John Brown a question mark to return to his previous form and Breshad Perriman on the bust track.
Devin Funchess had his best season to-date in 2017, but it took Kelvin Benjamin being traded and Greg Olsen missing time with injury. Curtis Samuel is a tweener weapon more than a traditional wide receiver and Torrey Smith was the most notable addition (a lackluster one) this offseason.
Davante Adams is the centerpiece receiver with Randall Cobb a few years removed from his high-impact years roaming the slot. Jordy Nelson was eroding quickly and departed this offseason. Jimmy Graham is a big upgrade at tight end, but also slowing down and past his prime. Green Bay has not notably hit on their recent late-round and UDFA bets at the position. 2018 is the time to spend a higher draft pick than the past few classes to restock the position.
Brandin Cooks was traded by New England leaving Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman as the incumbent options for Tom Brady. The Patriots do not have a strong track record with drafting receivers, but New England has shown prowess in optimizing quarterback play even if projecting Tom Brady to no longer be on the team in the next year or two.
The Bills wide receiver depth chart consists of stiff Kelvin Benjamin and last year's Round 2 pick Zay Jones, who projects as more complementary option than coverage-tilting No.1. The key for this landing spot is upgrading at quarterback either by trading up with their additional draft capital or landing a Lamar Jackson type in Round 1 without making a move.
Amari Cooper is the headline receiver, but Jordy Nelson's addition may temper expectations in the near-term for an incoming rookie. However, Nelson looks close to done physically and the rest of the depth chart is wide open to develop into a No.2.
Case Keenum offers a solid bridge quarterback situation, even if Denver does not land a premium quarterback in this year's draft as the future starter. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders clog the No.1 and No.2 spots on the depth chart but are both past their prime and on a short leash to continue producing considering their respective ballooning cap hits.