After dominating weekly scoring in 2015, the high priced wide receivers (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr Jr.) rarely gave you Point Per Dollar (PP$) value in 2016. How do you see these wide receivers faring in week 1, and will you have significant exposure to any of the three? If not, give us your top PP$ wide receiver plays for week 1.
Phil Alexander: My plan for the wide receiver studs is as follows:
Antonio Brown - Slightly less ownership than the field. Brown's ceiling is as high as any wide receiver's on the slate, especially with Pittsburgh's implied point total nearing 28 points. What worries me is the Steelers notorious home-road splits. Since 2014, Brown's PPR fantasy points per game average in road games is a full 33% less than in games played at Heinz Field. Brown could easily have a strong game -- think 20 fantasy points -- and it wouldn't come close to what we need to pay off his salary, especially at his projected ownership.
Julio Jones - About the same ownership as the field. Despite my suspicion the Falcons-Bears game goes off script, Jones can't be ignored in a great matchup against Chicago's underwhelming corners. Matt Ryan could disappoint with a 250-1-2 passing performance and Jones can still end up with 30 PPR fantasy points. Simply stated, no wide receiver on the planet shares Jones' ceiling on any given week.
Odell Beckham Jr Jr. - Significantly more ownership than the field...if it's clear he's playing with no limitations. As of this writing, Beckham was still not practicing for Week 1, which makes it seem doubtful he'll be at full strength if he can suit up at all, but at least there have been some positive signs. Even if he plays, the crowd will be off Beckham due to the uncertainty around his status, which means we can roster a receiver with top-3 weekly upside at about 5% ownership or less. Isn't there more than a 5% chance Beckham has a huge game as long as he's on the field (even if he is a little gimpy)?
Dan Hindery: In cash games, it feels safer to do what it takes to find the extra money to roster Le’Veon Bell and/or David Johnson and then take advantage of the bevy of strong mid-priced options at receiver instead of spending up for the top receivers. I prefer rostering cheaper receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Pierre Garcon, Kelvin Benjamin and Doug Baldwin this week. While the upside isn't as high, each player looks to have a high share of their team's targets.
In tournaments, however, Brown, Jones and Beckham Jr. are much stronger plays. Ownership is going to be extremely high on the top running backs in tournaments, so going cheap at running back and paying up for a pair of top receivers is a great way to differentiate your lineup while still maintaining plenty of scoring upside. Beckham Jr. is especially intriguing if injury concerns keep his ownership much lower than normal.
James Brimacombe: I would rather pay up for the top running backs this week and take some shots at lower priced wide receivers. The highest I want to go up to would be A.J. Green and really like Doug Baldwin, Alshon Jeffery, Kelvin Benjamin and Amari Cooper and the mid range.
Jason Wood: Odell Beckham Jr is questionable leaning toward doubtful as we discuss the situation, so I'm not going to have many shares of him this week. There will be plenty of weeks to own Beckham heavily. Antonio Brown is always a great play and I will have exposure there, but the Steelers will be able to impose their will on the Browns. Pittsburgh could win the game on the ground with Bell, in the air with Brown or in the air with Martavis Bryant. Would you be surprised if Bell and Bryant had huge games and Brown played a background role? It's not the highest probability outcome but it's hardly a long shot. Julio Jones is more intriguing to me because I think he's the only part of the receiving game in Atlanta that can be trusted regardless of game script. However, since I plan on owning David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell in most of my lineups, there isn't enough salary for Julio Jones, too.
I'll throw a few alternatives out for best value/$...
- DeAndre Hopkins -- The Texans receiving corps is banged up (and is thin even when healthy) and Hopkins will be a target hog in most game scripts
- Allen Robinson -- I love Robinson this week because his ownership will be low thanks to the Texans matchup. Blake Bortles is going to throw to Robinson a lot, and the Texans aren't as daunting in the secondary with A.J. Bouye gone
- Kevin White -- The Bears could be a total train wreck, but White is 10x more talented than anyone else on that roster. If there's someone that comes out of nowhere to vault into fantasy stardom in Chicago, it's White
- Tedd Ginn -- Ginn is super cheap even though he's run as the #2 all summer and Willie Snead IV is suspended
Chris Feery: As the others have mentioned, this looks like a good week to save some money at wide receiver. I’ll still want some exposure to this trio for GPP purposes, but I’ll likely be underweight in relation the rest of the field. In order of preference, I would go, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr Jr. There’s a lot of intriguing options in the middle of the salary scale this week, including Larry Fitzgerald, Kelvin Benjamin, and Pierre Garcon. For the most part, I’ll be looking to save money at wide receiver while paying up at quarterback and running back.
Justin Howe: The top-tier wideouts excelled for us so in 2015 based on simply absurd volume and efficiency marks. Jones and Brown each drew north of 12 targets a game, while Beckham provided a weekly blend of volume, efficiency, and impressive touchdown-making. Obviously, it's not wise to merely take those achievements as the norm and proceed as though we should pay weekly for nine guaranteed receptions. Remember: 140-catch seasons are the (extreme) exception, not the rule. These guys are priced at their conceivable ceilings, so there's not much tournament value in play here. And with such wild value up and down the wide receiver boards - and hefty price tags for David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell - it seems silly to tie up so much capital in one of them.
Of that pack, though, I do like Brown in Week 1. The return of Martavis Bryant isn't a concern; in fact, it's the exact opposite. Brown has actually provided roughly 40% more fantasy production with Bryant on the field. Over their 21 career games together, Brown has averaged 8.9 receptions, 113.7 yards, and 0.76 touchdowns - compared to 6.0-81.3-0.48 without him. Bryant's absence, it seems, was what actually hindered Brown in his less-dazzling 2016 - with little across the field to frighten defenses, he was a hair easier to bottle up. I do worry about game flow - the Steelers could absolutely take a 21-3 lead into the half - but not overly so. Whatever lead they build in this game will likely come on the backs of Brown and Le'Veon Bell, so it's a more-than-fair PPR proposition that Brown will catch several first-half balls and find the end zone once or twice.
Going further down the board, it's hard to miss the value in Larry Fitzgerald, who is grossly underpriced in a juicy matchup. The Lions struggled wildly against slot receivers last season, and likely 2017 slot cornerback D.J. Hayden has been borderline bad as an NFL cover man. The Cardinals lack quality depth on the outside, so Fitzgerald could easily be looking at a 10-target minimum this Sunday. Kelvin Benjamin remains the Panthers' only real game in town at wideout, and he'll take on a 49ers secondary that lack coverage chops on the boundary. He likes to start the season hot, too: in his 2 career Week 1s, he's posted 6-92-1 and 6-91-1. On the ultra-cheap, it's hard not to like Kendall Wright's outlook as the Bears' only proven receiver. He won't create many fireworks, but he's a reliable, chain-moving slot target who could crush his value markers even with just 5 or 6 low-impact receptions.
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