WR Preview: Part 2

In part one of my wide receiver preview, I told you that I believe the wide receiver position is extremely deep. That’s why I plan on rostering six wide receivers on my fantasy football teams. For example, I just completed a mock draft, and here’s who I drafted: DeAndre Hopkins (22nd pick), Robert Woods, (39th pick), Kenny Golladay (59th pick), Ja’Marr Chase (79th pick), Brandin Cooks (102nd pick) and Antonio Brown (122nd pick). In my opinion, every one of these receivers has a high ceiling.

We’ve already discussed my top 12 wideouts: Devante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, D.K. Metcalf, Justin Jefferson, Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb. These are my WR1 receivers, but there’s no big cliff between this tier and the next one for me. Robert Woods is my 13th WR, and I like him a lot and find myself drafting him in nearly every mock draft. The only reason I like Lamb more is because there is more upside.


Woods already has a couple of 1,000-plus seasons under his belt, and he just got a big upgrade at quarterback with Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ running game is a question mark following Cam Akers’ injury, and Woods could be poised for his best season yet. He has been getting more than 120 targets per season and some rushing attempts. Woods should see more catchable targets and be more efficient with Stafford throwing him the ball.


Evans is continually undervalued by the fantasy community, with at least 1,000 yards of receiving yards in seven straight seasons with a handful of different quarterbacks. He quickly became Tom Brady’s favorite red zone target with six TDs in the first five games of 2020. The volume may not tick up, but there’s a good chance Brady takes a step forward in his second year playing in the Bruce Arians system. Evans’ red zone role provides him an excellent floor.


Age and injuries have been catching up with Jones, and that led to Atlanta trading him away. He’s now in Tennessee with a huge opportunity. The Titans lost some key receiving weapons in free agency this offseason, and Jones should get a significant target share. While it might not be as much as it was in Atlanta due to the overall offensive philosophies and state of the teams, it’s still going to be plenty. The injury concerns are there, but so is the upside.


Cooper is another wide receiver with a solid track record. Even if Lamb is the WR1 on the Cowboys, Cooper is going to see 8-10 targets per game. Through Week 5 last year, Cooper was the WR13. He’s currently on the PUP list with an ankle injury, but reports from training camp indicate he’s in good shape. After having ankle surgery in January, and he’s not expected to practice until after the team’s second preseason game. However, he should be ready for the regular season.


Including the playoffs, Johnson played 13 full games with Ben Roethlisberger, averaging 11.8 targets per game. He saw double-digit targets in all but two of those games. The caveat is that Johnson has only a 61% catch rate, as he struggled mightily with drops in his second year. Since the Steelers have no shortage of receivers to throw to, there is no guarantee Johnson will still be a target hog in 2021. And they may throw less after drafting Najee Harris in the first round.


I’m higher than most on Moore in spite of the fact that he’s failed to live up to expectations after being drafted in the first round three years ago. He’s my WR18 because I like the addition of Sam Darnold at QB for Carolina. Darnold is known for targeting his slot receiver a lot, and I expect Moore to line up there more than any other wideout. Moore, who had 118 targets in 15 games last year, should exceed that number in 2021 and be the target leader for the Panthers.   


Godwin took a step back in 2020 with Brady taking over from Jameis Winston, being targeted only 84 times in 12 games. That’s only seven targets per game, compared to 8.6 in 2020. But Godwin is efficient, catching a career-high 77.4% of his targets last year. If he stays healthy, he could see more targets from his quarterback. Tampa Bay is not a run-first offense, and they don’t have a running quarterback, which means that Brady will be throwing the ball a lot.   


Like Godwin, I expect Kupp improve significantly this year with Matthew Stafford taking over for the dreadful Jared Goff at quarterback. Kupp still managed to finish 26th in fantasy scoring for wide receivers despite scoring just three touchdowns. The season before he had 10 touchdowns with Goff at the helm, so he should benefit from positive regression in 2021 in that important category. If he slips below his current ADP of 55, you should scoop him up.


There’s no denying that some rookie wide receivers are making an impact in the NFL (and fantasy). Consider D.K. Metcalf a couple of years ago and Justin Jefferson last season. Chase has just as much skill as either of those WR1s, and he’s landed in a great spot. The LSU star, drafted No. 5 overall is being reunited with his college QB. Chase and Joe Burrow had great chemistry in college, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue as professionals.


If you’re looking for a boom-or-bust WR, Lockett is your man. While his 2020 stats look great, there’s a greater context that might not be obvious when looking at the fact that he finished with 1,054 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The majority of Lockett’s production came in three games, which is extremely concerning for fantasy managers that are playing in weekly redraft leagues. This talented receiver does come with week-winning upside.


If you look at his total fantasy points last year, you might overlook the fact that Thielen had 14 receiving touchdowns. His other six seasons were all single-digit totals, so tell me if you think he’s a candidate for negative regression? He was incredibly efficient in the red zone, catching eight touchdowns on only 12 targets. With Jefferson stepping up and assuming the WR1 role in a run-first offense, this makes Thielen a risky investment for fantasy in 2021.


Golladay is my WR24, which means he’s at the bottom of my WR2 tier. In other words, he’s the last one I would trust as a WR2 in my fantasy lineup. There’s a lot of hype right now surrounding Golladay and it’s easy to understand considering that he just signed a massive contract with the New York Giants in free agency. But Golladay joins a crowded offense with a lot of mouths to feed. He may still be the Giants’ WR1, but his upside depends on Daniel Jones taking a step forward.


There’s plenty of upside for Aiyuk, who was the W15 from Weeks 4-16 in his rookie year. Of course, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle being in and out of the lineup certainly helped him reach that status.  Heading into 2021, the 49ers could see a change at QB at some point. With Trey Lance’s skillset, Aiyuk could potentially break out in a big way, but he’ll have to do it with high efficiency, as he’s unlikely to see the high target volume that other receivers in the league will.


It doesn’t seem that long ago that Beckham was being drafted in the first two rounds of every fantasy draft. But the years and the injuries have taken their toll, which makes him more difficult to select. With that said, he’s now coming at enough of a discount that it’s not going to significantly damage your team if Beckham misses time yet again. The upside is still there for someone of Beckham’s talent and he has the potential to be a very reliable asset for your lineup if he stays healthy.


With all of the hoopla surrounding Chase, Higgins’ value has been pushed down on many draft boards. That’s good news for the value-based drafting approach. If you take him with the 70th overall pick, he could exceed expectations – especially if Chase isn’t successful in his rookie season.  Even if Higgins takes a back seat to Chase in targets, there’s going to be enough volume to support both of them as top-24 WRs. And Higgins should be Burrow’s favorite target in the red zone due to his size.


Claypool was taken No. 94 overall in a recent mock draft, and that surprised me because this is another wideout with a high ceiling. He came out of nowhere in his rookie season in 2020, and had a few big games but was hot and cold throughout the season due to the offense’s struggles. If Johnson keeps dropping balls, Claypool could benefit. And his big play ability is going to lead to some fantastic fantasy performances even if he doesn’t become a target hog in Pittsburgh.    


It’s been a while since we’ve seen Sutton on a football field, but let’s not forget how good he can be when he’s fully healthy. Despite inadequate QB play, Sutton’s thrived the past few seasons and has displayed his talent. The quarterback position is still a weakness, but Sutton should be the favorite to lead this team in targets in 2021, although there’s plenty of competition in Denver. He has the talent to deliver you some huge performances all season.


If you’re looking for a value add to your roster in the middle rounds, consider Anderson. He’s being overlooked by many but had 136 targets, 95 receptions and 1,096 receiving yards last season. Those were career highs. Anderson will lose some target share with the return of McCaffrey, but he already has established chemistry with Darnold from their Jets days. I find myself drafting Anderson in nearly every mock draft because of the upside.   


After a depressing 2020 season, Chark gets a massive upgrade at QB with Trevor Lawrence. He has also taken some steps to improve. Chark played last year at 197 pounds and is now listed at 210. He was challenged by Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer to get stronger and play bigger and the fourth-year pro accepted that challenge. Chark is in a contract year, which should add motivation. As a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 on your roster, Chark is worth drafting at pick 90, or later.


The rookie out of Alabama has incredible talent and would be ranked higher than my WR32 if he had found a better landing spot. For Smith to return value, quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to take a big step forward as a passer from what we saw last season. In an offense that doesn’t project to pass the ball much, Smith is going to have to be very efficient to crack the top-30 at the WR position this year. If the Eagles turn to Joe Flacco to replace Hurts, Smith’s stock will rise.   


Taking wide receivers in the middle and late rounds boils down to finding value. I believe there is value to be found with Samuel. After a promising rookie year, injuries limited Samuel to playing in only seven games in 2020. But keep in mind that Samuel is one of the best in the game in getting yards after the catch (YAC).  He frequently gets the ball behind the line of scrimmage and takes off. Samuel had 401 yards after the catch in 2020, but finished with only 391 receiving yards.


The casual fantasy manager will select Smith-Schuster in the seventh or eighth round and think they have a bargain. Don’t be fooled. There’s a reason why JuJu has taken a free fall down draft boards in the last two years. After what appeared to be a breakout season in 2018, he failed to deliver in 2019 and 2020. This looks like another down year with the addition of Najee Harris. If the Steelers take a more balanced approach with Harris, JuJu may be an afterthought in this offense.


Like Anderson, I find myself drafting Fuller late in many mock drafts because of the upside he brings. He’s the epitome of a boom-or-bust wideout. While he can put up huge numbers when he’s healthy, avoiding injuries is tough for Fuller. With his big play explosiveness, plus the potential for an increased target share if Devante Parker struggles with injuries again, Fuller has the potential to smash his ADP. He will miss the first game of the season as he completes his suspension. 


After dealing with an injury for the majority of last season, Thomas underwent surgery in June to fully fix the issue. It’s a bit of a mystery right now as to exactly how long he’s going to be out, and that doesn’t bode well. If I project him to miss just the first five games of the season, Thomas drops from WR12 in my projections to WR36. I’m willing to let someone else in my league deal with the potential range of outcomes unless he falls to a ridiculous value point in my draft.


Jerry Jeudy, WR 37; Brandin Cooks, WR 38; Antonio Brown, WR 39; Tyler Boyd, WR 40; Curtis Samuel WR 41; Jarvis Landry, WR 42; Laviska Shenault, WR 43; Michael Pittman Jr., WR 44; Marquise Brown, WR 45; Michael Gallup, WR 46; Mike Williams, WR 47; Jaylen Waddle, WR 48; Devante Parker, WR 49; T.Y. Hilton, WR50.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter.

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