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Evaluating Potential First Round Wide Receivers

Now that there has been time for all the offseason moves and draft news to be digested, it is a reasonable time to start looking at ADP. Running backs and wide receivers, as usual, dominate the first round. It is inevitable that some players just don’t belong at their current ADP, so I will take the next few weeks to write a series of articles about current receivers and backs whose ADP have them being picked consistently in both the first and second rounds.

This week we’ll take a deep dive on Mike Evans who has had draft positions spanning from 1.01 to 2.01. In addition, A.J. Green will be put under the microscope with draft positions spanning from 1.05 to 2.06.

Mike Evans: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After just three season, Mike Evans is a proven first-round fantasy commodity as he finished as the WR3 in both PPR and standard scoring leagues last season. That season was an encore to his rookie year when he finished as a WR14 in PPR leagues and WR11 in standard scoring leagues. With that said, Evans has been very productive for two of his first three years in the league making it an uphill battle to rank Evans lower than the fifth wide receiver.

However, with a more crowded receiving core and Evans efficiency problems in the early portion of his career, it is worth taking a longer look at him to make sure he is being valued properly this season with an average draft position of 1.09.

As alluded to, and as many fantasy owners will already be aware, the Buccaneers have added various weapons to their receiving core this offseason. First, DeSean Jackson was added in free agency, and then both Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard were added as pass catching weapons in the NFL Draft.

It is unclear how much Godwin and Howard will be able to contribute to the offense this year, but Jackson is almost certain to take away some targets from Evans this season. Though he is still the clear WR1 in Tampa, that could still means Evans’ targets could be in for a slight dip from his past two seasons as the owner of the highest and fifth-highest target share in the NFL.

However, the addition of Jackson should also help the Evans’ efficiency. If there has been a weak point to Evans’ game, it has been efficiency as he has yet to convert better than 56% of his targets into catches in a single season. With Jackson entering the picture as a legitimate number two receiver, something the Buccaneers lacked last season, pressure, and at least some coverage, should be diverted from Evans to Jackson. That should be good news for his efficiency and could more than makeup for some lost volume.

Additionally, the trajectory of the offense also favors Evans and the Bucs passing game. The offseason additions made by the team show Jameis Winston will have increased responsibility to move the team down the field. We saw the beginning stages of that transition last as the Bucs jumped from the 23rd most pass attempts as a team in 2015 to 15th in 2016. At worst, they are in the top half of passing volume and could jump into the top-10 if Winston takes a step forward as a passer.

Of course, this article has said nothing of Evans prolific ability in the red-zone. Given that, his proven track record, and the positive trend of the Buccaneers offense, Evans is an easy target as first round pick.

Verdict: round one Buy




A.J. Green: Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Green has the name brand and individual talent to return first-round fantasy value, but his team context gets in the way. This isn’t the typical “Andy Dalton isn’t a good quarterback” take, but instead is a focus on the type of offense the Bengals want to have. Based on recent history, it’s clear that when the Bengals are a good team and in control of games, they are not a team willing to unleash their passing game.

For example, in 2014 and 2015, both playoff seasons for the team, the Bengals finished 25th and 26th respectively in passing plays per game. Even last season when the team had to play a lot of catch-up with a  6-9-1 record, they were only 18th in pass attempts per game. With the addition of Joe Mixon to a running back core already consisting of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, that doesn’t seem likely to change.

This lack of volume puts extreme pressure on A.J. Green to be efficient. As one of the most talented wide receivers in the game, he is certainly capable of producing with relatively limited targets.  However, past results indicate Green is overvalued as a first round pick even when he produces with incredible efficiency.

To illustrate this, we can look to his results in 2015, when Green averaged 2.08 fantasy points per target. That was ninth highest in the league, yet he was able to finish just 12th in standard scoring leagues in 13th in PPR leagues. Even given all of his talent, it is difficult to expect and project more efficiency and to raise expectations above being a mid to low-end WR1.

Green is a safe asset, but given his relatively low ceiling as compared to other first round receivers, he is a better pick in the early to middle portion of the second round. That seems relatively unlikely given his current ADP at 1.10 making Green a player I am unlikely to own much stock of in 2017.

Verdict: round one Pass – second round Buy

 

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Dan Marcus
Dan recently moved to Columbus, Ohio but is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. Fantasy baseball was and always will be his favorite fantasy sport, but he also enjoys football and basketball as well.

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