WR preview, part 1

No one disputes the importance of acquiring the right running backs for your fantasy football team. That’s why I focused on this position for the last two weeks. There are landmines to avoid at running back – especially in those crucial first rounds. In contrast, wide receiver is the one position you can just let come to you on draft night. It’s such a deep position, but you have to be able to recognize value on the draft board when it’s your turn to pick.

I’m quite familiar with the concept of value because I’ve been a financial advisor for 30 years. When you invest in the stock market, you’re always looking for value. You’re looking for that company that has been beaten down by bad news but still has a strong balance sheet. But you don’t have to be a financial advisor, or an investor, to understand value. Just ask yourself if you’re capable of recognizing a bargain when you see one at Walmart.

I’m going to share a secret with you about how to find value at wide receiver and other positions. Just memorize, or become very familiar with the average draft position (ADP) of the top 100 players. If you search the web for ADP, you’ll find a hundred different lists. Many of these haven’t been updated since the ice age ended. Others are based on a limited pool of fantasy players, and some of them might not know very much about fantasy football.

It took me some time to find a reliable ADP source, but I found one. It’s the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) website. The NFFC was started in 2004 as the industry’s first multi-city, high-stakes fantasy football event. The highest grand prize is $200,000, and the entry fee for that contest is $20,000. My hunch is that if these guys are paying thousands of dollars to enter the competition, they are probably the best fantasy players in the world.

When it comes to wide receivers, I want to know who the NFFC contestants are drafting and in what order. It’s not hard to find out because they publish their ADP rankings, based on their drafts and continually update it. Do you understand how valuable this information is? If Keenan Allen has an NFFC ADP of 53, and I find Allen on the board in the ninth round, that’s value. I didn’t make this scenario up – it occurred in a recent mock draft I entered.

I participated in a Yahoo 10-team mock draft on Tuesday, and I only wish I could claim this team as my own this season. It started out with Christian McCaffrey, passed over with the first two picks. The first pick was Patrick Mahomes, and I honestly believe the person picking second already had Saquon Barkley in his cue and didn’t realize what had happened. I did and selected McCaffrey with the third pick. I followed with two more running backs.

After drafting McCaffrey, Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones, I was set at running back. At the end of the 4th round, Cooper Kupp was still on the board. I took Jared Goff’s favorite receiver with the 38th pick. His NFFC ADP was 35, so there was some value there. My fifth-round pick was D.K. Metcalf, and my 6th round pick was Robert Woods. I wouldn’t mind having Kupp and Woods on the same team at that kind of value. If one gets hurt, there’s more for the other.

Frankly, I didn’t plan it that way. But Woods was still on the board when I used my 58th pick, and I couldn’t pass him up. His NFFC ADP is 45. Although my focus was on wide receivers in these rounds, I noticed David Johnson was undrafted when it was my turn to select a player in the 7th round. His NFFC ADP is 42, so Merry Christmas to me. When opportunity knocks, you must be ready to seize it on draft night. This is how you win a championship.

Knowing tight ends were going to go quickly, I picked up Darren Waller at the end of the 8th and then found Allen still on the board in the 9th. But my WR shopping spree wasn’t over yet. Somehow, Will Fuller was still available, and I took him at the end of the 10th round (NFFC ADP 78). A.J. Green was undrafted and I took him in the 11th round (NFFC ADP 71). I had one open spot on my starting roster and took quarterback Daniel Jones in the 12th round.

The 13th round in a 15-round draft should be reserved for your handcuff, if you need one. I discussed handcuffs last week. To summarize, only a few key running backs need to be handcuffed. There is no handcuff for McCaffrey, so I had a freebie and took Julian Edelman. This left only a defense and a kicker to draft in the final two rounds. I finished up with one QB,  four RBs, seven WRs, one tight end, one defense and one kicker (see below).

3. Christian McCaffrey (Car – RB)

18. Josh Jacobs (LV – RB)

23. Aaron Jones (GB – RB)

38. Cooper Kupp (LAR – WR)

43. DK Metcalf (Sea – WR)

58. Robert Woods (LAR – WR)

63. David Johnson (Hou – RB)

78. Darren Waller (LV – TE)

83. Keenan Allen (LAC – WR)

98. Will Fuller V (Hou – WR)

103. A.J. Green (Cin – WR)

118. Daniel Jones (NYG – QB)

123. Julian Edelman (NE – WR)

138. New England (NE – DEF)

143. Younghoe Koo (Atl – K)

I know what you’re thinking. “I thought this was a wide receiver preview, and Doubting Thomas just gave me the results of his fantasy draft.” I hope you got more out of it than that, but you can conclude from what I shared that I like Kupp, Metcalf, Woods, Allen, Fuller, Green and Edelman at the right price. Again, the key is value – if you can find it. There are some other wide receivers that I also like at the right price, and I am going to cover all of them next week.

It’s more difficult to determine who the real difference makers are at the wide receiver position than at running back. That’s why I recommend drafting six or seven wideouts. Mike Thomas is in a class by himself, but you probably won’t want to spend your first-round pick on a wide receiver. The next tier of receivers have some warts, but the risk is mitigated by high volume. This group includes Devante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones.

At the risk of repeating myself too much, please do your homework before draft night. Ideally, you have done research on the top 50 wide receivers so that you know who you want on your team and who you want to fade. While volume is an important factor, it’s not the only factor to consider. Remember that a target is not the same thing as a catch. If the quarterback is not accurate, the percentage of targets caught will be lower for that receiver.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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