On Second Thought: Wide Receivers

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

On Second Thought…Wide Receivers

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...

Julio Jones (ATL) will finish as a Top 3 receiver

Most fantasy analysts believe there are seven or eight receivers this year that should be considered true fantasy WR1s. While I agree, my expectations for Julio Jones among that tier have changed for the better. Roddy White is at a point where he’ll be good enough to keep defenses honest, but is no longer the 1a to Jones’ 1b. Jones is entering his prime, and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has a long history of HEAVILY favoring his favorite receiver. That’s a recipe for Jones to be a must add in the 1st round.

DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) is a true fantasy WR1

The dismal quarterback situation gave me pause on Hopkins coming into the preseason, but I’ve since come around on ‘Nuke’ as a viable WR1, particularly if you wait until the last 2nd or early 3rd round to draft your first receiver. Andre Johnson’s departure and Arian Foster’s injury all but assure Hopkins will be among the most targeted receivers in the NFL. He’s too talented not to thrive on that many targets.

Mike Evans (TB) scares me, but not enough to drop him outside of my Top 15

Many of my peers view Evans as a great consolation prize if you miss out on the “Great 8” elite receivers. I was leaning that way to start the preseason but am now passing on him for players like Brandin Cooks and DeAndre Hopkins. One, I’m not sold on Jameis Winston. Two, Evans’ stellar 2014 was actually driven by a handful of big games with a lot more forgettable ones. Three, the offensive line is going to keep this offense from running optimally.

Jarvis Landry (MIA) is not only the Dolphins receiver to own, he’s a Top 20 fantasy receiver

Landry’s rookie season paints him in the Danny Amendola/Wes Welker camp – a plodder who can move the chains but not gain separation. That characterization couldn’t be farther from the truth. Landry’s low YPC last year was a function of the offense and his usage. It’s crystal clear that Landry is Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target, and Landry is being lined up all over the field this preseason. Given how high I am on Tannehill (Top 5 potential), I see Landry as a good bet for 90+ catches and 1,100+ yards.

Davante Adams (GB) is a Top 20 receiver

This one isn’t hard to decipher. Jordy Nelson’s season-ending ACL tear vaults Adams into a coveted starting role opposite Randall Cobb. By sheer volume of targets and given Aaron Rodgers’ accuracy, Adams need only stay healthy to be an every week fantasy starter.

Julian Edelman (NE) and Brandon LaFell are to be avoided at their current ADPs

Early in the preseason I saw both Edelman and LaFell as value picks. Their ADPs were being impacted by Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension. Unfortunately, both Edelman and LaFell have missed most of the preseason with injuries, and simply can’t be trusted as your WR2 or WR3, respectively.

…The gap between Mike Wallace (MIN) and Charles Johnson has narrowed

I’ll tip my cap to fellow Footballguy Matt Waldman for this one. I was HIGHLY suspect of Johnson as a fantasy commodity entering the preseason given his journeyman status and the fact that his heroics last year were limited to a handful of games. Yet, Waldman insisted that Wallace and Johnson should be viewed interchangeably for fantasy purposes. Johnson has had a strong preseason and clearly has rapport with Teddy Bridgewater. As a result, I now have Wallace and Johnson separated by a whopping 10 fantasy points.

DeSean Jackson (WAS) should be avoided

I won a number of leagues by betting on Jackson’s successful transition to Washington. Yet, this year my enthusiasm has plummeted given the mess in D.C.  We’re a week away from the start of the season and the team appears unsettled at quarterback. Griffin has a concussion (or does he?) and no confidence. Kirk Cousins may be sturdier, but he’s not a world beater and isn’t going to throw deep consistently. Add to that a mess of an offensive line and a coaching staff on the hot seat, and I’m avoiding Jackson unless he falls to me as a mid-round WR3.

Steve Smith Sr. (BAL) has one more fantasy relevant season in the tank

Baltimore is a barren wasteland outside of Smith and Justin Forsett. Unless Breshad Perriman makes a miraculous return after a missed preseason, Smith will – by default – see a ton of targets regardless of game script.

Eddie Royal (CHI) has value, particularly in PPR leagues

Eddie Royal is reunited with Jay Cutler in Chicago, and has enjoyed a strong camp. With Kevin White likely being lost for the season, Royal could vault into a starting role. At worst, he’s going to be on the field a lot in 3-WR sets. He clearly has chemistry with Cutler, and now has the snaps to matter for fantasy owners.

Markus Wheaton (PIT) is worth drafting AHEAD of Martavis Bryant

Bryant is the most overdrafted receiver in fantasy football. And I believed that before he got a 4-game suspension for substance abuse. Wheaton has been the starter throughout the preseason, and Ben Roethlisberger has sung his praises all summer. Wheaton is going to be featured in the first month, and if he delivers – he’ll keep his starting job and deliver exceptional fantasy value given his ultra-low ADP.

Brandon Coleman (NO) is the Saints lottery ticket, not Nick Toon

As I projected the Saints, it became apparent that there were several hundred targets up for grabs given the roster turnover. My initial modeling slotted veteran Nick Toon into that role. The preseason has changed my mind, as Brandon Coleman has been running with the starters and Toon has been a forgotten man.

Phillip Dorsett (IND) is a perfect end game selection

The Colts had the luxury of drafting Dorsett in the 1st round of the draft because they didn’t have any glaring needs. I initially viewed Dorsett as a fantasy non-factor given the Colts’ depth. Two things have changed: 1) I looked at Dorsett’s film and he’s an immensely more talented player than Donte Moncrief, and 2) The Colts have committed to using 3-WR sets more frequently.  Dorsett is one injury away from being an impact player on the league’s best passing attack.

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