I’ll maintain my stance on wide receivers in startup drafts for as long as this outstanding era of wideouts dominates the league. Most owners feel inclined to go receiver-heavy in their drafts not only because receivers “have more longevity” and running backs “offer more risk”, but because the quality of receivers available is simply sky-high.
Even before we welcomed the 2014 class which offered the best group of receivers we’ve seen in decades, we were enjoying Julio Jones, AJ Green and Dez Bryant at their prime, as well as a whole host of others. On the flip side, the last “elite” group of fantasy backs have been declining in performance and rising in age (difference-makers like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte wouldn’t be early round picks as they approached their late 20s.)
So, it’s the era of the receiver. But what happens now when we welcome a class where half of the first round picks in rookie drafts may be spent on running backs? Now David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliot and Le’Veon Bell have single-handedly won leagues, will we see a shift towards a more balanced approach to startups?
It’s unlikely we’ll see a movement advocating a running-back heavy approach to dynasty startup drafts any time soon, but it makes a whole lot more sense now that we have young, established talent and will see a huge injection of stars from both this year’s class and the potentially special 2018 group. However, regardless of the incomers at the running back position, we still have an enormous amount of talent at receiver, so why would we stray away?
Here, I’ll look at the existing star receivers and examine how well they performed for your fantasy teams in games played in the last three years. How often do they score like a “WR1” or a “WR2?” How can we interpret their scoring, and what does it mean moving forward? If you missed quarterbacks or running backs, be sure to check them out, but let’s get started on the receivers.
Part one outlines the method and reasoning behind it in depth, but here’s how it works. First, I create benchmarks for a “WR1” (top 12), “WR2” (13-24) and “WR1/2” (top 24). These are formed by working out what it has taken to score in those positions on average in each week for the last three seasons. I then tally how many times the top players in the most recent DLF ADP data hit those benchmarks, and compare it to the number of games they’ve played, to create a percentage. From there, we end up with lists of the best and worst performers in each category.
This year’s benchmarks for wide receivers were:
WR1 – 20.1
WR2 – 15.0
Like running backs, I felt it was only fair to provide some form of qualifier for a player to be included in the study, otherwise we’d have our “worst” lists filled with players scoring zero in their category. I looked at the first eight rounds of receivers in the ADP data, and used the same qualifier as I did with running backs – the players had to have had at least two top 12 weeks or three top 24 weeks to be included.
The players removed in this study were Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, Tyler Boyd, Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon and Tajae Sharpe.
- GP – Games played
- WR1/2 – Weeks the player scored 15.0 points or more
- WR1 – Weeks the player scored 20.1 points or more
- WR2 – Weeks the player scored between 15.0 and 20.0 points
- % – Percentage of weeks the player placed in each category versus games played
- I used PPR scoring from the FFToday stats page
- Playoff games are not included
- Antonio Brown has finished as the top PPR receiver in three straight seasons. In this era, it’s simply unheard of. I don’t know if we’ll see another fantasy receiver like him.
- Demaryius Thomas, despite regressing in each of the last three seasons, has strung together five straight years with 90-plus catches, 1,000-plus yards and five-plus touchdowns. As his age will continue to push his ADP down (currently WR23), he can be expected to out-perform his price for a few more seasons.
- Julian Edelman tends to end up on here every year, and he should continue to be utilized by New England. He’s worth owning, but with the return of Rob Gronkowski and addition of Brandin Cooks, he could take a step back.
- I identified Eric Decker as one of my favorite dynasty buy lows early this year, and nothing’s changed. When he plays, he’s a solid scorer, we’ve just let him slip to WR54 because he didn’t play last year.
- A much-hyped young prospect, Dorial Green-Beckham has been a huge disappointment, and only recorded one top 24 last year in Philadelphia.
- Marqise Lee had a mini-breakout last season, but still didn’t score more than 17.1 points in any game. In fact, he hasn’t scored more than 19.5 since week 13 of his rookie campaign in 2014.
- Will Fuller was a hot name in the first month of the season, but didn’t manage more than five catches or 60 yards in any game after week four. However, he might be my favorite name on this list.
- The new Detroit Lion Marvin Jones turned heads with a 38.5 point performance in week three, but didn’t top 13.7 for the rest of the 2016 season. He’s a complementary receiver at best.
- Mike Evans has developed into somewhat of a boom-bust player, with 16 games in the top 12 compared to 21 games outside of the top 24. It was his touchdown total that propelled him to a top three finish in 2016, but he actually had the same number of single-digit weeks last year as in his disappointing 2015.
- Another player who tends to “go big or go home” is Keenan Allen, as his high WR1 score plus low top 24 scores suggest. He’s had five games with at least ten catches and 120 yards, which would be likely be week-winning totals.
- Brandon Marshall had a stunning 2015, followed by a one-WR1 week 2016. I’d expect a stronger season in 2017, but don’t think he’ll be back to his league-winning best.
- For all the Kenny Britt breakout talk, he actually only had one WR1 week (with five WR2 weeks) last year; not the most impressive. He outperformed expectations because they were so low, but I’m not sure he can match them now they’ve been raised.
- Jamison Crowder might have more of a role for Washington moving forward, but I wouldn’t bank on a huge breakout. He’s a great asset for the team, but the fantasy upside might not be there.
- Like Crowder, Sterling Shepard had a very solid campaign last year. But Shepard didn’t even have a WR1 week, and will he be able to with two top outside receivers in front of him? He’ll certainly be involved.
- Although we are well aware of the awful quarterback play DeAndre Hopkins has endured so far in his career, he’s done very well to maintain a regular place in the top 24. However, he only managed to put up one WR1 week in 2016. Who is his quarterback going to be?
- New Eagles addition Alshon Jeffery has similar numbers to Hopkins, and is going to arguably a stronger offensive situation. Is he set to fly?
- A player who compares favorably to both Hopkins and Jeffery is Chargers’ wideout Tyrell Williams. Our job is to decipher whether he was purely a beneficiary of the absence of Philip Rivers’ top two targets last year, or whether he can continue on his path moving forward. I fear he won’t be able to match his breakout season.
- It’s been quite the fall for Randall Cobb, who only has two WR1 games in the last two seasons. He’s now third in the pecking order, and should sit on fantasy benches until he can prove his worth.
- Devin Funchess is on every “bad list”, and didn’t place in the top 24 at all in 2016. He’s yet to show anything that makes him worth rostering.
- Kenny Stills had a strong nine-touchdown 2016, but only one 100-yard game in his first year in Miami. Not much has changed, but expect the touchdowns to drop. He’ll likely maintain the same type of consistent greatness numbers.
- Doug Baldwin and Jordan Matthews have very similar numbers. Are they closer than we think?
Highest Superstar Week %
Further than simply placing in the top 12 or 24, which players have consistently single-handedly won a fantasy matchup for you? Superstar weeks take our WR1 total (20.1) and the average top overall weekly score (37.0) and split them to create a benchmark of 28.6. Here are your top superstar scorers.
- Brown is in a league of his own, and perhaps Keenan Allen is being overlooked.
- It was a strong breakout season, and Terrelle Pryor’s two WR1 games were huge games.
- Jeremy Maclin and Emmanuel Sanders are perhaps surprise additions here, but both are falling further in ADP seemingly every month. I’ll be buying them both.
- TY Hilton is absent from the other top lists, but just sneaks in here. He’s always struggled to find the end zone (between five and seven touchdowns in all five seasons in the league), but his league-leading 1,448 yards put him in the top five in 2016.
Missing Player Thoughts
Naturally, there were a number of players who didn’t appear or any top and bottom lists and were sat somewhere around the middle. Fortunately, the full data set is at the end of the article and you can compare and contrast any players who didn’t show up. I was particularly interested in a foursome of 2014 draftees who are at pivotal stages in their dynasty careers.
We might have expected to see Allen Robinson somewhere on these lists after a fantastic 2015, but after an impressive stretch of eight straight top 24 weeks in that campaign, he couldn’t muster more than two in a row last season. I like him, but I’m not sure he’s earned his WR6 startup ADP. If he’s still demanding a king’s ransom, I might be selling.
Jarvis Landry has a lot of strong supporters, but his limited upside shows up here (as he doesn’t show up on any list.) He’s had no more than five receiving touchdowns in each of his three seasons, and hasn’t scored more than 26.6 points in any game. He can be plugged in, but don’t expect him to be a weekly game-winner. That said, his floor is outstanding. He’s played all 48 games since being drafted, and only had five where he didn’t manage a double-digit score. I’d prefer to look elsewhere.
It took us a while to see the Davante Adams breakout, but those of us who kept the faith were overjoyed as he had his first WR1 score in week seven of 2016, and finished with five on the year. He’s proven to be a good receiver, so we need to re-evaluate how much to take from his first two seasons. He has a very bright future.
Much has been made of the Brandin Cooks trade, but I’m of the belief he’ll experience the best days of his career in New England. He’s an outstanding player, and will be the best outside receiver Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Go out and get some shares.
As well as these four, there was one more player who I felt was worth talking about. Thankfully, we haven’t bought into Tyreek Hill the way we did Cordarrelle Patterson, but we should still approach him with caution. Gadget players find it hard to sustain fantasy success, and Hill had no 100-yard receiving games and only two games with over six receptions in his breakout year. I’m struggling to envision him being a reliable weekly asset.
What can we take from this?
I can’t stress enough how many factors go into identifying dynasty “values” and enjoying the success when they come through. This study is just a small part of a massive information-gathering process and price comparison that should be going on for dynasty owners 365 days a year.
Based on all of this, who do I think are players to target based on their ADP?
Stefon Diggs (WR19) is a firm favourite, as he’s been very similar statistically to Keenan Allen, and both of these players provide real upside and have bundles of talent. In fact, Diggs (26 games) and Allen (23) have both scored over 20 points in as many games (seven) as the WR16 Jarvis Landry, who’s played in 48 games. Demaryius Thomas (WR23) has every chance of having an “old-man” Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall or Jordy Nelson-type resurgent season in the next few years, so why not buy as he starts to fall out of favour with owners who have a youth focus?
Further down the list, Sanders (WR40), Edelman (WR41), DeSean Jackson (WR52) and Decker (WR54) are four 30-year olds with outstanding NFL talent and plenty left in the tank. Maclin (WR57) is in the same situation, but he’s a little younger at 28. These are more established players who are falling, but what about some youngsters who could break out? Josh Doctson (WR27), Kevin White (WR39) and Laquon Treadwell (WR49) didn’t even qualify for this study, but we haven’t even seen them on the field yet. Outside of some brief appearances, they haven’t played enough football for me to cast them aside. I’m willing to give them all a shot.
I like Jordan Matthews (WR32) at his price. He can be a polarizing figure, but my take is: he’s good, but not great – and that’s okay! He’s better alongside a star number one (which he will be with Alshon Jeffery) than when he’s the number one option, so he should thrive this season. I anticipate Martavis Bryant’s (WR44) value will skyrocket soon enough, but if he’s available now then go after him. Breshad Perriman (WR47) and John Brown (WR55) are two more who could surprise in 2017. Maybe it is time to invest in running backs early and wait on wide receiver after all.
As always, any feedback, comments and suggestions are welcomed. The full data set is below. Enjoy!
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