WR preview, part 2

In part one of the wide receiver preview, I told you drafting for value was the key – especially if you’re going to load up on running backs in the early rounds. The wide receiver position is deep, but there are four elite wideouts and one super elite. Michael Thomas is in a class by himself. However, if you want Thomas, you will have to pay up to the tune of a first-round pick. The four elite receivers are Devante Adams, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill and DeAndre Hopkins.

One or two of the elite guys might be taken at the end of the first round, and all of them will probably be gone by the end of the second round. I say probably because there is always a possibility someone in your league will go crazy with running backs, pushing one of the elite guys into the third round. The most likely one to slip is Hopkins, who is not getting as much respect this year after a down year in 2019. This led to his trade to the Arizona Cardinals.

I’m not against drafting an elite wide receiver, but I will probably wind up taking three running backs in the first three rounds and then start hammering the wide receiver position in round four. After the super elite and elite wideouts go off the board, there are 15-20 you can put in that next tier. If I get two or three standout running backs, I will hope find a breakout WR later in the draft. Chris Godwin was going in the fourth round last year, and that worked out well.

In part one, I told you about some of the wide receivers I like in the next tier, and the next one and even the next one.  If Thomas is tier one and Adams, Jones, Hill and Hopkins are tier two, then Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf, Robert Woods. Keenan Allen, Will Fuller, A.J. Green and Julian Edelman are tier four for me. What I want to focus on here is the top 15 tier three WRS based on ADP because this is the likely place for a breakout. These wideouts can often be drafted in rounds 3-7.

CHRIS GODWIN, TAMPA BAY, WR6, ADP 20.50

Godwin played 63.4 percent of his snaps last year in the slot and was second in the league in slot yards (838) behind only Cooper Kupp. His new quarterback, Tom Brady, is expected by most analysts to target Godwin more than teammate Mike Evans because he runs more shallow routes. Godwin’s average depth of target was 10.4 yards last year while Evans’ was 15.3 yards. The problem is that Brady and Godwin haven’t played together, and I’m reluctant to draft Godwin early in the third round. Iffy.

KENNY GOLLADAY, DETROIT, WR7, ADP 27.36

As Matthew Stafford goes, so goes Golladay. He had four games with 23-plus PPR points with Stafford in the lineup in 2019, and just one game with more than 18 PPR points when he was out. Even if Stafford stays healthy, it’s going to be hard for Golladay to repeat his league-leading 11 touchdowns. With T.J. Hockenson expected to take a step forward, there could also be more competition for targets. Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are still in the mix. Don’t spend a third-round pick on Golladay. Pass.

MIKE EVANS, TAMPA BAY, WR8, ADP 29.28

Despite averaging an elite 9.1 targets per game, Evans posted WR2 or better-type numbers in just 38.5 percent of his games last year, ranking 28th among wide receivers. With the gunslinger Jameis Winston gone, Evans now has a quarterback who will be far less willing to throw the ball into tight coverage. With Evans, you will have tight coverage because he doesn’t get much separation and relies on his athleticism to make catches. I believe Evans is a prime bust candidate in 2020 and a receiver to avoid. Pass.

ALLEN ROBINSON, CHICAGO, WR9, ADP 31.95  

Robinson is a wideout that should return value if you select him as early as the third round. He returned value last year with a 150-plus target season. He was No. 3 in total targets, trailing only Thomas and Jones. He posted WR2 or better numbers in 62.5 percent of his games, which ranked fifth behind only Thomas, Hopkins, Jones and Davante Adams. The fact that the Bears snagged Nick Foles only helps Robinson, as Foles has a more accurate arm than Mitch Trubisky. Robinson is worth a third-round pick.

ODELL BECKHAM, JR., CLEVELAND, WR10, ADP 32.59

In 59 career games prior to the 2019 season, Beckham was the best game-by-game fantasy wide receiver of all-time. Then, there was last year. Knowing that Beckham was playing through a hernia  explains some of a disappointing season. Many expect Beckham to bounce back in 2020, but I’m not one of them. New head coach Kevin Stefanski’s wide receivers combined for just 201 targets and a 43.1 percent target share last year in Minnesota – the fourth-lowest mark in the NFL. I pass on Beckham.

AMARI COOPER, DALLAS, WR11, ADP 33.41

It’s amazing that Cooper finished as the No. 9 receiver last year considering that he was No. 21 in overall targets. Based on the number of his targets and where they took place on the field, Cooper should’ve finished as the No. 23 wide receiver. Cooper averaged only 7.4 targets per game, compared to Michael Gallup, with 8.1. The addition of rookie CeeDee Lamb isn’t going to make getting targets any easier for Cooper.  Based on the low number of targets, I don’t believe Cooper is worth a fourth-round pick. Pass.

COOPER KUPP, LA RAMS, WR12, ADP 35.88

Cooper Kupp is the top slot receiver in the NFL, and he should be rostered.  The definition of a great slot receiver is a player with quick feet, precise route-running, reliable hands and the ability to rack up yards after the catch. Kupp checks all of the boxes. Kupp ran 65.5 percent of his routes from the slot last year. His 134 targets were the 11th most in the league, his 10 touchdowns were tied for second and his 524 yards after the catch were fourth best. Draft him in the third or fourth round, and you’ll thank me later.

D.J. MOORE, CAROLINA, WR13, ADP 36.47

It’s hard to believe Moore would be drafted ahead of Kupp, but it’s happening in many drafts. Moore’s fantasy value was capped in the first two years by poor quarterback play, and I don’t believe Terry Bridgewater is much of an upgrade. The Panthers also have a new head coach. Matt Rhule decided to bring in Robby Anderson, a receiver who previously played under him, which could mean that Moore loses targets in 2020. I don’t understand why you would take him in the third or fourth round. Pass.

JUJU SMITH- SCHUSTER, PITTSBURGH, WR14, ADP 38.89

Like Beckham, Smith-Schuster was being drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts last year. That was based on him posting 1,426 yards in his second NFL season in 2018. But that was when Antonio Brown was the No. 1 receiver, and Smith-Schuster was receiving less secondary attention. Everyone wants to attribute his decline in 2019 to injuries and poor quarterback play, and they may be right. But I remain skeptical that he returns third- or fourth-round value. There are better options for you. Pass.

ADAM THIELEN, MINNESOTA, WR15, ADP 41.17

Thielen was the best receiver in fantasy football in the first half of 2018, but he hasn’t been the same since. He turned 30 a week ago, and he also has back problems. That’s not a recipe for success for a wide receiver. The Vikings were 30th in pass attempts last year, and Thielen was targeted just 48 times in 10 games after seeing 298 targets over the previous two seasons. There should be some positive regression in 2020, but low volume and injury concerns make him too risky for a fourth-round pick. Pass.

A.J. BROWN, TENNESSEE, WR16, ADP 41.84

Speaking of volume concerns, consider Brown. The Titans were dead last in pass attempts last year, and I don’t expect to see them changing from a run-first offense in 2020. Brown averaged a ridiculous 8.9 yards after the catch last year, a number that isn’t repeatable. The best receivers rarely average more than 6.0 yards after the catch. If you move Brown down to the 5.5 range, he would’ve recorded 187 fewer yards and finished as the WR28 in 2019. Brown is talented, but the volume isn’t there. Pass.

CALVIN RIDLEY, ATLANTA, WR17, ADP 43.88

While the Titans were last in pass attempts last year, the Falcons were first. This should answer your question about whether Ridley and Jones could both be WR1s. Consider the Bucs last year with Godwin and Evans, and you have the answer. Ridley saw 49 targets in the six games he played after Mohammed Sanu was traded, which would amount to 131 over a 16-game season. He is worth a drafting.

ROBERT WOODS, LA RAMS, WR18, ADP 47.16

I’ve been able to get Robert Woods with the 63rd pick in Yahoo mock drafts, which is an incredible value. Despite scoring just two touchdowns last year, Woods was able to finish as the No. 17 wide receiver. He had the 9th most targets in the league – more than teammate Kupp. Under Sean McVay, he’s been a WR2 or better in 21-of-43 games, which is the same as the Chief’s Hill. He’s not as sexy as Hill and doesn’t have the high ceiling, but he has a higher floor. He could start every week on your fantasy team.

D.K. METCALF, SEATTLE, WR19, ADP 48.13

At 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds, the athletic Metcalf could be a breakout wide receiver on another team. But not the run-first Seahawks. Consider that Metcalf only averaged 6.3 targets per game last year. Then consider that the team was looking into Antonio Brown, which tells me they may add another perimeter wide receiver. It would directly impact his target upside if that were to happen, and not as much Tyler Lockett. Because of that, Lockett is the safer pick this year. There are better options available. Pass.

COURTLAND SUTTON, DENVER, WR20, ADP 49.68

Sutton finished as WR19 last year, with 125 targets – the 15th most among wide receivers. But he had zero competition for targets last year, which is why he saw more than half of the ones that went to  receivers. He’ll now have to contend with first-round pick Jerry Jeudy and second-round pick KJ Hamler in the starting lineup. That’s not to mention Melvin Gordon, who’s an established pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s being drafted essentially where he finished last year, and that’s too high. Pass.

In conclusion, I have identified four wide receivers you should roster on your fantasy team. Robinson is going in the third round of most drafts, Kupp in the fourth, Ridley in the fifth, and Woods in the sixth. Pound the running backs in the first two rounds and then pick up some wide receivers. If you add a third running back in the third round, you still have time to add three solid wideouts in the next three rounds. Of course, you will add at least two or three more later in your draft.

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