Fantasy Football Position Primer – Wide Receivers

Is your league drafting soon? If you’ve been slacking on your research or you just have an insatiable thirst for fantasy football, bienvenue. You’re in the right place. Hop aboard the knowledge train at our Gamedayr fantasy station. Punch your ticket with off-season free agent moves and my series of position primers. Below you’ll find my final position primer: Wide Receivers. All aboard!

Drafting Strategy

This year’s wide receiver crop is interesting. On one hand it’s very deep, with WR3-caliber players going well into the triple-digit picks. But the position is also top heavy. As I’ve outlined below, there is a big drop off between tiers.

What does this mean?

Well, if you can, get two cornerstones from the top tier and then wait a while. If you can’t get two, you should probably grab some extra depth in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. There’s no rush to get your WR3 because the later tiers are deep, lasting beyond the top 50. Basically, you should take advantage of this depth by using a WR3-by-committee approach.

Tiers

WR tier 1

Tier One

My first tier is consistent with most experts’ top 12, with some exciting pairs of teammates in this grouping. Marshall & Jeffrey, Cobb & Nelson, and Jones & White are the only instances where I’d be happy to rely on two receivers from the same team. The most significant difference in my rankings, as I’ve described below, is Keenan Allen. He has done more than enough to deserve a spot in this top tier. Again, if you can secure two of these top guys, do it.

WR tier 2

Tier Two

The second tier players have less upside, and I’d be very surprised if one of them shot into the top 5. However, they all have solid roles in their respective offenses with almost guaranteed production. Of these, Andre Johnson and Pierre Garcon should get a bump in PPR formats. I’m expecting Cruz to also bounce back with 90 catches. Meanwhile, DeSean and Torrey are not PPR-friendly.

WR tier 3

Tier Three

There is another drop off here, with greater uncertainty than those listed above. Some of these players are tied to questionable offenses or run-heavy schemes, and therefore have less upside. For example, Boldin, Harvin, Benjamin and Decker. Others, like Hilton, Tate, Sanders, and Williams have an uncertain role in an otherwise potent offense.

WR tier 4

Tier Four

Finally, we have the fourth tier, which is a mixed bag of players. Some have fairly good floors but very limited upside (Edelman, Baldwin, Watkins), and others have lower floors but very intriguing upsides (Cooks, Matthews, Wheaton, Hawkins). Unless I’ve already gambled on early round receivers and need reliable bench depth, then I’m taking the higher upside players this late in the draft.

Overvalued

Looking at ESPN’s list of Average Draft Position (ADP), there are so many over and under drafted wide receivers that it’s hard for me to pick only a few. For the full shakedown, check our Gamedayr rankings (which will be updated soon).

The first name that catches my eye is Andre Johnson. He’s going at the end of 3rd round. This is too early for an aging WR tied to a shaky QB situation. He’s coming off a nice year, but only because Schaub force-fed him a career-high 181 targets. His holdout scare is over, but he’s still disgruntled. I project him to have a respectable line of 90/1200/4, which makes him a WR2 this season, not a WR1.

As a Gator-faithful, this one pains me. I love Percy Harvin as a player, but for fantasy purposes his price is too high (WR20). He’s had a frustrating injury history, never had over 1000 yards, and is part of an offense that prefers to run the ball. Harvin has talent and upside for days, but I’m looking for more than just upside when I draft a WR2. With apologies to my Florida brethren, Harvin is a WR3 in my book.

Julian Edelman had a great 2013 season. I’ll give him that. However, history does not always indicate future success. The Patriots are hoping to have Gronk, Amendola, and Vereen all healthy and all catching passes. They’re also hoping that youngsters Dobson and Thompkins can seize larger roles. LaFell is fighting for a niche, too. All of this is bad news for Edelman. 80+ catches is still attainable, making him a good PPR option. But, counting on him as a top 25 receiver in standard scoring would be a big mistake.

Undervalued

There’s an ADP injustice in Arizona! Larry Fitzgerald is the 12th receiver being drafted, which is a little high but I won’t complain. My problem lies with Michael Floyd. His ADP is WR28! Last season, only 21 points separated the two, 20 of which Fitz scored in week 1. Over the final 10 games, after Floyd warmed up, he outscored Fitz 95 to 91. I expect him to be firmly in the top 20 this year.

Keenan Allen is a steal at his current 4th round ADP. Last season, he took 3 weeks to hit his stride. Over the remaining 13 games, he racked up 1016/8. I’m usually not in favor of extrapolating stats, but over 16 games that would be 1250 yds and 9-10 TDs. The Chargers will lean on him heavily, and he’ll build upon his initial success. Allen has a spot reserved in the receiver top 10.

Even though Mike Wallace was disappointing last season, he still managed to land inside the top 25 (barely). With a new offensive gameplan including a more diverse route tree, he’ll improve on his 2013 numbers and outperform his current ADP of WR34. You can bank on him as a low-end WR2 that will finish inside the top 25 again this season.

Sleepers

These receivers are all being picked outside the top 50 and after pick 140 overall. First up, Rueben Randle. I was surprised to see him so low. He’s lined up for a good 2014 for two reasons. One, Nicks is gone and Beckham has been disappointing in camp so far, meaning Randle will have plenty of targets. Two, the Giants are sure to rebound from a disastrous 2013 season. He’s a top 40 lock.

With “trouble” recently becoming Josh Gordon’s middle name, Andrew Hawkins will be the one to step into the receiving void. Jordan Cameron will get a ton of targets, but Hawkins will be option numero dos. The Browns gave him a 4-year contract because they want to make him an important part of their passing attack. He has a slight build, but that won’t stop “Baby Hawk” from piling up the yardage.

There’s a big hole in the Steelers’ offense due to the departure of receivers Sanders and Cotchery, which begs the question: who ya gonna call? Answer: Marcus Wheaton. With defenses focused on Antonio Brown, Wheaton will get a healthy dose of targets. Look for him to get more comfortable in his second year as a pro, and take advantage of the fantastic opportunity.