On Second Thought: Wide Receivers

A discussion of how my early preseason expectations have changed as we near the start of the regular season

It's hard to believe that we're just a week away from the start of the NFL regular season. For many fans, they're just now starting to pay attention. But for fantasy owners, for FOOTBALLGUYS, we're already many months into our preparation. As one of the contributors to the site's projections, I have had the entire league modeled and projected since late April. Needless to say, a LOT of things happen between then and the beginning of September. I, along with the other staff, tweak our projections and expectations as we go along. But it occurs to me that very little is ever said about the way our opinions change. This article, and others like it, will highlight in a qualitative manner the assumptions that went into my initial projections that have since changed considerably. Enjoy.

On Second Thought...

John Brown (ARI) scares me too much to draft

I’ve said all preseason that John Brown would finish third to Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, but my concern has increased to a point of actively avoiding him in drafts. While he’s been cleared from the concussion protocol this week, Brown suffered headaches far too long after his concussion to give me peace. With two elite options ahead of him at the position, Brown’s floor is too scary versus his ceiling to roster at his ADP.

Sammy Watkins (BUF) is going to be a target monster

When Watkins underwent surgery for a stress fracture in April, I dropped him a tier to WR2 status. Watkins’ recovery went well though, and a perusal of the Bills depth chart beyond him (Woods, Goodwin, Salas and Powell!) points to one conclusion – Watkins is going to be targeted a TON this year. Combine massive targets with elite skills, and you’re left with a high upside fantasy WR1.

Devin Funchess (CAR) is the value pick, Kelvin Benjamin is to be avoided

Benjamin’s rookie season was heroic, but it also was a result of the Panthers lacking any viable alternatives. Two years later, Benjamin resumes his spot as the Panthers top receiver, but now Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn are there to make plays, too. I don’t expect Benjamin to flop, and I don’t expect Funchess to be amazing, but I do think they’ll have year-end numbers that look remarkably similar.

Josh Gordon (CLE) will be a factor in 2016

The Browns were ready to move on from Josh Gordon, as were we all. A surprise reinstatement changed that mid-summer and now we’re left debating whether Gordon can recapture his stellar 2013 form. I’m not convinced he’ll be that good, but he’s absolutely going to be a factor in box scores this year. His presence, even if it’s as a third leg to the Coleman/Pryor/Gordon stool matters for the fantasy prospects of Robert Griffin III and the running backs (who should have space to run this year).

Terrance Williams (DAL) is not a late round sleeper

Williams hasn’t become a dominant NFL starter, but he has improved in each of his three seasons. A healthy Tony Romo left me intrigued about Williams as a late round option. With the team moving on to rookie Dak Prescott and/or veteran Mark Sanchez, Williams’ deep ball skill set is probably wasted. Turn your attention to Cole Beasley as a late round PPR sleeper instead.

Marvin Jones Jr (DET) has potential

I’ve been a vocal detractor to Jones throughout his career. He always struck me as an oft-injured receiver with a limited route tree and an unusually lucky TD conversion rate. I called him “miscast” as Calvin Johnson’s replacement. Yet, training camp and the preseason have made it hard to stand by my skepticism. He’s had an immediate rapport with Matthew Stafford and has made plays in practice and preseason games consistently. I still like Golden Tate more, but Jones is worth drafting at his ADP or even a round earlier.

Will Fuller V (HOU) will start immediately

Will Fuller V stepped into a starting role immediately, as has Braxton Miller (in the slot). The Texans feel so comfortable with their rookie duo that they released Cecil Shorts with final cuts. Fuller is second fiddle to DeAndre Hopkins, but if he can sustain the deep ball tracking we’ve seen in the preseason, he’ll be a factor in best ball leagues and DFS lineups.

Allen Robinson (JAX) deserves his 1st round ADP

The Jaguars are ripe for regression, for reasons I and other staffers have outlined all summer. I still believe the Jaguars will retrench a bit, but Robinson is the one piece of the passing pie I’m not concerned about anymore. His 14 touchdowns won’t happen again, but that could be offset with a higher catch rate and more receptions.

Laquon Treadwell (MIN) won’t be an instant impact fantasy asset

Treadwell is my favorite rookie receiver for dynasty purposes, and remains so. His size and “my ball mentality” set him up for years of dominance, particularly in the red zone. Yet, he’s been a non-factor in the preseason and it would be hard to imagine he’ll magically earn a starting role in the next few days. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding the Vikings quarterback situation following Bridgewater’s devastating injury, and Treadwell is better left as a late round backup that you hope emerges later in the season.

Bruce Ellington (SF) isn’t a sleeper, but Quinton Patton might be

I’m down on Chip Kelly’s ability to turn around the moribund 49ers offense, but he will significantly increase the team’s pace. Increased pace means someone has to see a lot of targets and Ellington profiled as a classic “out of nowhere” breakout candidate. A torn ACL ends Ellington’s season before it began, which opens the door for Patton to attempt the same feat.

DeSean Jackson (WAS) and Pierre Garcon are not washed up, yet

Based on last year’s debacle, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see either DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon waived for salary cap purposes. Washington added Josh Doctson in the draft, and Jamison Crowder is a talented 2nd year player. However, Doctson never got out of the trainers’ room this preseason and Jackson and Garcon have looked terrific. They’re healthy, focused and have earned starting roles for at least another season.

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