Over the next month, the Fantasy Assembly’s greatest fantasy football minds will be coming together to produce our 2016 consolidated rankings. Join Andy Germani, Tommy Landseadel and Joe Mica as they help you prepare for your rapidly approaching football drafts.
This week, we tackle the WR position. The first round of fantasy football drafts has been dominated by running backs for as long as I can remember. 2016 marks a dramatic shift atop default rankings on most draft sites. According to FantasyPros, wide receivers occupy the top two spots in terms of ADP, and there are more receivers than running backs with a first round value grade. This has never happened before!
You will hear many people talk about how deep the WR position is. While that may be true, There are a few substantial drop offs in talent that owners need to be aware of. The top seven are your first round caliber studs. After that, there is a group of 11 WRs (Nelson through Cobb) who are very tightly bunched and more or less interchangeable.
Teams who are able to land two of the top 18 will have a leg up on opponents. The next tier is comprised of reliable veterans with limited upside, like Maclin and Tate, or boom or bust youngsters like DeVante Parker and Kevin White. There are a lot of ways to assemble a WR core, but my advice is not to wait on the position too long. The price for stud wide receivers has gone up, but it is tough to win without at least one of them on your roster.
All of our rankings assume standard scoring:
- 6 points for TDs
- 1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
- 1 point for 25 yards passing – no PPR
Without further ado, let’s check out the ranks!
1. Which WR are you most willing to reach for during your draft?
Andy: I have a few receivers I see myself reaching for to make sure I them. I think Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton, and Randall Cobb are in for big bounce back seasons. Hilton is a guy I tend to find on a lot of my early mock teams this season. The Colts offense was in disarray last season and Hilton still managed 1,124 yards and five touchdowns. Remember Andrew Luck only played seven games in all of 2015.
Joe: The WR position is so deep that there really is no reason to reach for anyone. That said, T.Y. Hilton quietly had 1,124 yards and five touchdowns last season. Keep in mind that Andrew Luck missed 9 games yet was still the Colts’ leading passer! ADP currently books Hilton as the WR17 in the late third round. Confidently make your reservation with Hilton if he slides to you.
Tommy: I guess I am not a big fan of the word “reach” because my entire draft strategy is built on finding value. That being said, I will draft at least one and maybe two receivers in the first three rounds of all my drafts. Having a stud is important. I also might reach a bit for upside guys like Kevin White and DeVante Parker if I can land them in the 5th or 6th round.
2. Which WR will you be looking to avoid this season?
Andy: There are a lot of mouths to feed in Arizona and the one I am the least interested in is Larry Fitzgerald. He turned into most a possession receiver rather than a big play guy last season. I have him as the third of the Arizona receivers I want this season. He is currently going at the same area of Michael Floyd and about a round before John Brown. I and taking just about anyone else in the range of Fitzgerald, as of now that includes players like Emmanuel Sanders, Allen Hurns, Devante Parker, among others.
Joe: Perhaps “avoid” is too strong of a word, but Denver suddenly finds itself in the post-Manning era with signal callers that either were not on the team in 2015 (Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch), or have a total of one play in their NFL career (Trevor Siemian). Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders may still be targeted enough to put up strong numbers, but a disturbing statistic is that in Mark Sanchez’s four-year career as a starter, he has never had a receiver with a 1,000-yard season. (The closest was Braylon Edwards’ 904 yards in 2010). And if Sanchez does not become the starter, I can’t see how this improves Demaryius or Emmanuel’s value either?
Tommy: Kelvin Benjamin was my avoid last year, and I will stick with that choice. He simply did not demonstrate that he was a very good football player during his rookie season, and he really struggled with drops. Panthers’ coaches have indicated that they are going to try to play WR by committee this year, meaning that they will spread the ball around a bit. They are a run first team – Olsen is Cam’s #1 option, and they have more talent at WR than they did two years ago. Let somebody else reach for Benjamin. Josh Gordon is another. He has played five games since his 2013 breakout, and they did not go so well. I am all for taking a shot on Gordon as a WR4, but I think expectations will be too high for him to ever fall that far.
3. Which mid-round pick do you see producing the biggest profit?
Andy: I mentioned him briefly earlier, but I am perfectly fine if I end up with Randall Cobb as my first receiver if I went heavy on running backs or grabbed Rob Gronkowski in the first couple rounds. I think with Jory Nelson back in the mix the Green Bay offense will be clicking again, and Cobb will reap the benefits of not being the guy defenses key on. He should still be the target hog of the offense; he had 127 in 2014 with a fully healthy Nelson receiving 157 targets.
Joe: Actually there are quite a few mid-to-late range WR that I would not mind if they fell to me. Players like Willie Snead, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, and Stefon Diggs. But one WR that I would target is Michael Crabtree. While Crabtree’s numbers (85 receptions, 922 yards, 9 TD) are not eye-popping, he was targeted 146 times! To put that in perspective: only nine active WR were targeted more than Crabtree, and the vast majority of those receivers will be gone in the first two rounds. Crabtree also returns to familiar surroundings, same coaches, virtually same offense, and more comfortable QB in Derek Carr. With those conditions, it’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t put up similar, if not better, numbers.
Tommy: This is where the depth of the position comes into play. There are literally dozens of guys capable of posting low end WR 3 value. I think grabbing a couple high end options and then waiting for value with WR 3 makes a lot of sense. Players like Michael Crabtree, Marvin Jones and Torrey Smith are widely available in rounds 8 -10.
4. Who are your favorite end-draft picks to round out your roster with?
Andy: I love taking Kevin White later on as a third or fourth receiver coming off a rookie season where he never saw the field. White has the talent and a quarterback not afraid to sling the ball around the field. His upside, for being the 35th receiver going off the board according to Fantasy Pros, is well worth the price.
Joe: Mid-July ADP is indicating that Steve Smith Sr. is essentially going undrafted. Maybe the thought of drafting a 37 year-old receiver in his final NFL season is unappealing to some? But completely undrafted? Consider these numbers: 940.6 – this is Smith’s season yardage average at age 30 and over, including his injury-shortened 2015 season (985.6 without). Then there’s 1,531 – this is the yardage pace that Smith was on before his injury last season. And finally 168 – the reception pace Smith was on last season. With these numbers in mind, Smith is an absolute no risk steal to grab late.
Tommy: Here are just a few of the late round targets I think could breakout this season: Tavon Austin, Sammie Coates, Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Chris Hogan, T.J. Jones, and Tyler Boyd. Be vigilant during preseason action and keep an eye on these players. There will surely be many more who flash fantasy upside along the way also!
Up Next: the top 20 Tight Ends for 2016
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