We’ve arrived at the final installment of this series.
Previously, we spanned the four foundational fantasy positions, looking at running backs to buy and sell, tight ends to buy and sell, and quarterbacks to buy and sell. The last piece worked through four receivers to buy, and now we’ll finish the series with four receivers who I think you should be selling.
As is the case anytime we’re talking about trading away a player, it’s only worthwhile to do so if you can get a fair return based on our market values. To gauge the current market, we’ll be using our April 2018 average draft position data (ADP).
When thinking about what kind of a return you should expect for any of these wideouts, you can use both the ADP information and our trade finder tool. While each league is different and each owner values players in their own way, utilizing those two resources should give you a good idea of what type of deals you should be aiming for.
Without further ado, here are four receivers I’d consider selling.
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SAMMY WATKINS, WR LAR
Things just haven’t clicked for Watkins yet in his NFL career, but it hasn’t hurt his dynasty value too much.
Taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Watkins was a precious commodity right away. In June of 2014, he was valued as the 19th overall player and WR11 — between Antonio Brown and Cordarrelle Patterson (maybe we stink at this) — after he went so high in the NFL Draft.
Even though he’s never been close to a WR1 (top-12) season and he’s been a WR2 (top-24) just once, Watkins value has fallen only a little bit throughout his career.
It wasn’t until these past 12 months that people started getting off the Watkins bandwagon, and while the ideal time to move him would’ve been pretty much any point before the middle of the 2017 season, I think he’s still valued way too highly.
Watkins does have some things going for him. His first two years were decent enough for a player who was young for his draft class, and he’s still just 24, preparing to enter his age-25 season. Plus, NFL teams have always valued him highly. Not only does he have superb draft pedigree, but even without great production through his first four seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs signed him to a three-year deal that makes Watkins the fourth-highest paid receiver in football by average salary.
Maybe the Chiefs overpaid for him — which they can afford to do (for now) with Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill all on cheap deals — but it also tells us that there was a pretty robust market for Watkins. In other words, Kansas City’s offer probably wasn’t an extreme outlier; other teams wanted to pay up for Watkins.
So he has a lot of value in real-world football, but that’s not what we play.
It was pretty easy to find reasons to cling tightly to Watkins throughout his first three seasons — serviceable numbers in 2014 and 2015 despite his age and the Buffalo Bills’ run-heavy ways and an injury-plagued 2016 season (foot) in which he never looked healthy. But Buffalo seemingly giving up on him (not exercising his fifth-year option and then trading him when they were almost completely bereft of talent at receiver) and then his poor showing in 2017 really dimmed his future outlook.
Playing on a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense with offensive mastermind Sean McVay calling the plays, Watkins managed just 39 grabs and 593 yards, salvaging what would’ve been a complete disaster of a season with eight touchdowns. Fellow skill-position players Todd Gurley, Jared Goff and Robert Woods all had the best seasons of their respective careers, with McVay helping them thrive, but Watkins didn’t do much outside of the trips to the end zone.
Going off Watkins’ history, however, the touchdowns appear to be a fluke and not something we should rely on going forward. Prior to last year, Watkins hauled in one passing score every 144.6 receiving yards. In 2017, he scored once every 74.1 receiving yards, something he’s going to have a hard time sustaining. For reference, Calvin Johnson, who might have been a computer-created red-zone weapon, had a receiving touchdown once every 139.9 receiving yards for his career.
Watkins is supposed to be an explosive playmaker, but he has just two games of 90-plus receiving yards across his last two seasons (23 total games). He’s pretty much turned into a field-stretcher who occupies defenses in the mold of Kenny Stills or Mike Wallace.
In fact, check this out. Here’s what Stills, Watkins and Wallace have done since the start of 2014 (Watkins’ first season).
Those numbers are pretty darn similar, granted Watkins has done a bit better on a per-game basis. Still, this isn’t great company to keep for someone who is entering their fifth season and has never been valued below a top-21 wideout in dynasty.
Even if Watkins had landed somewhere and assumed top-dog duties on a team’s pass-game ecosystem, I still wouldn’t be into him moving forward, but he’s far from the top option in Kansas City as the Chiefs gave 122 targets to Travis Kelce and 105 to Hill last season (plus Hunt saw 63 pass-game looks). It’s hard to imagine Watkins being a player you can start — or feel good about starting — on an every-week basis in fantasy since he’ll likely be feeding on scraps in the target department and he failed to make a fantasy impact in a similar situation a year ago.
As with every buy/sell recommendation, it comes down to value. If Watkins was valued as a borderline top-75 overall player, I would probably be interested in buying him at that price and seeing if it somehow works out for him down the road. But he’s still valued so highly — 40th overall and WR21 — that there’s no way I can get behind investing in him at his current price and would much rather sell him for almost any of the players in his ADP range (to name a few: Mark Ingram, Doug Baldwin, Jordan Howard, Derrick Henry, Alshon Jeffery and Evan Engram).
Watkins hasn’t done anything to make me think a breakout — or even a solid top-20 finish at his position — is coming, and this off-season may be the last time you can sell him as a top-50 asset.
STERLING SHEPARD, WR NYG
Shepard is entering his third season after a 2017 campaign in which he had three games of at least 130 receiving yards across his 11 outings.
His solid play last year has kept his value pretty steady. He was the WR37 and 67th overall player in April of 2017, and he’s 71st overall and WR35 right now. But when you take into account the context of last year, this off-season looks like the perfect time to cash out.
After averaging 6.6 targets per game as a rookie, Shepard saw 7.6 looks per game last year and averaged an additional 1.9 more catches and 21.8 more receiving yards per outing. Obviously, a big reason for Shepard’s increased production and role in the New York Giants’ passing game last season was the absence of Odell Beckham, who played just four games.
Shepard’s splits with and without Beckham are pretty drastic. In 20 career games with Beckham on the field, Shepard has averaged 6.3 targets, 4.0 catches and 45.1 receiving yards. In seven games sans Beckham, Shepard has put up an average of 9.0 targets, 6.29 receptions and 73.14 receiving yards per game,
Shepard has been really good when Beckham is on the sidelines, but barring another injury, that shouldn’t be the case much in 2018. Shepard will likely slot in as the team’s third option behind Beckham and Evan Engram, who saw 115 targets as a rookie tight end. If the team takes Saquon Barkley second overall in the upcoming draft, a much-talked-about move, Shepard could fall to fourth in the line for pass-game looks. Oh, and the G-Men may be in play for Dez Bryant, as well.
If you think the Giants are going to trade Beckham this off-season or let him walk when he hits free agency after this year, then there’s clearly a case to be made for holding onto Shepard as his numbers in the seven-game split without Beckham equate to a 16-game pace of 101 catches for 1,170 yards.
But even if Beckham leaves the Big Apple — either soon via trade or 12 months from now in free agency — the Giants will likely add to their receiver depth chart, and Shepard, who is 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, doesn’t fit the bill of a typical No. 1 receiver. There’s also the issue of Eli Manning possibly being toast now, which clouds Shepard’s outlook even further.
Shepard would likely need some dominoes to fall his way — namely Beckham leaving town and the Giants to improve at quarterback — to be an every-week fantasy starter in the future, and even if he does catch those breaks, there’s no guarantee he’s able to be a solid WR2 in fantasy.
JARVIS LANDRY, WR CLE
Landry has been a PPR monster throughout his career. After finishing as the WR31 as a rookie in 2014, he’s been the WR9, WR13, and WR5 in successive seasons. Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Landry are the only five wideouts to be top-13 receivers in PPR formats in each of the last three years.
Landry has been as consistent as they come — never missing a game in his four years — and he’s gotten incredible volume over the three aforementioned campaigns. He’s seen single seasons of 166, 131 and 161 targets from 2015 through 2017, and he turned that into 110, 94 and 112 catches, the latter of which led the NFL last year. He’s ranked sixth, 14th and fifth, respectively, in targets the past three seasons, and his 458 targets in that span are the fifth-most among all receivers.
He was clearly the top target for the Miami Dolphins, but he’s unlikely to see that kind of volume as a member of the Cleveland Browns, a place Landry will be for a little while after inking a five-year extension earlier this month.
The Browns have one of the deeper and more enticing groups of pass-catchers in the league. At receiver, Josh Gordon got 8.4 targets per contest in his five-game return last season, and Corey Coleman garnered 6.4 targets per game in his nine appearances. Elsewhere, tight end David Njoku drew 60 targets, third-most on the team, in his rookie year, and running back Duke Johnson was thrown to a team-leading 93 times.
Cleveland is completely in flux. The Browns will have a new signal-caller under center (Tyrod Taylor or a highly-drafted rookie) and a receiver depth chart that looks a lot different than what they had 12 months ago. Who knows how this will play out, but if everyone stays on the field — a big if for Gordon and Coleman — it’s hard to envision Landry receiving the same kind of immense volume he was getting in Miami.
Seeing fewer targets is a fantasy problem for any receiver, but it’s a huge deal for Landry, a chain-moving wideout who hasn’t traditionally made a lot of big plays or thrived in the red zone.
Landry bucked the red-zone woes in 2017 with a career-best nine touchdowns, which was one more than he had in 204 catches over the previous two seasons combined. He came into last year with 13 career scores and 3,051 receiving yards — good for a touchdown every 234.7 yards. In 2017, Landry scored once every 109.7 yards, a monster outlier to this point in his career.
As for the big plays, Landry has averaged 10.1 yards per catch over his career, and he picked up a career-low 8.8 yards per grab in 2017. Landry reeled off a mere one gain of 40-plus yards last season, and he had just six catches of at least 20 yards, which tied for 57th among wideouts and was one fewer than Brice Butler had on his whopping 15 total receptions.
Landry did have 16 catches of at least 20 yards in 2016, but in 2015, he racked up just 10 such receptions. That was the fewest among receivers with at least 74 catches that season, and Landry had 110 grabs.
The easiest way to score fantasy points in a hurry is via big plays and/or touchdowns, and those areas are not Landry’s strong suit. His fantasy production is largely based on getting peppered with a ton of targets, and he may not get peppered with a ton of targets any longer.
Of course, while the top of the Browns’ receiver depth chart looks pretty nice right now, it could fall to pieces quickly. Coleman has played only 19 of a possible 32 games through two seasons, and Gordon’s troubles have been well-documented as he’s played in a meager 10 games since the start of the 2014 campaign. But Landry would likely need at least one of Coleman, Gordon, Njoku or Johnson to miss significant time to see anywhere close to the 152.7 targets he’s averaged across the last three years.
Landry’s value is a liquid situation right now as the market is still adjusting to his hectic off-season, but he’s currently 32nd overall and the WR17. In standard formats, that’s definitely too pricey, and it’s probably too much in PPR leagues, too.
While Landry is a good player who is young — heading into his age-26 year — and has an established track record of consistently dope fantasy production, an expected dip in volume will likely have a pretty negative impact on his numbers, so selling now could allow you to move Landry before an impending drop in value.
MARTAVIS BRYANT, WR PIT
Bryant has the label of a boom-or-bust player who could someday be a big-time playmaker in the NFL. But there haven’t been many booms lately, and the rare ones he had last season weren’t very impactful.
In PPR formats last year, Bryant had a lowly five games of at least 10 PPR points and no games with more than 19 points. Jason Witten, who no one would describe as a player with any sort of enticing ceiling, had six games in 2017 with double-digit PPR points, including a 25.7-point day.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that it isn’t going to happen for Bryant with the Pittsburgh Steelers unless one of the team’s key cogs is removed from the equation. Not only do Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown hog so much of the pass-game volume — 269 of 584 targets in 2017 — JuJu Smith Schuster’s emergence makes Bryant even more of an afterthought in the Steel City.
Bryant ended last season with five more targets than Smith-Schuster (84 to 79), but as the year progressed, Smith-Schuster jumped Bryant in the pecking order. Smith-Schuster averaged 7.57 targets per game over his last seven outings, seeing at least five targets in each game. In that same span (Week 8 to Week 14), Bryant averaged 5.86 targets per game and garnered more than six looks only once. Bryant finished the year with just 50 grabs for 603 yards and three scores.
There is some upside here — even if we haven’t seen much of it since 2015 — as Bryant hauled in 76 passes for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first 21 games. But in the near future, Bryant can’t be viewed as more than a bench stash who could possibly be a startable fantasy option if Brown or Bell miss time.
Bryant is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2018 season, so maybe a change of scenery will do wonders for him. That’s the hope, at least, but there’s no guarantee that happens.
Considering that Bryant is currently the 93rd overall player and WR45, he’s not super expensive, but he’s also not all that cheap. Some of the players in his ADP range — Chris Thompson, Dion Lewis, and Kenny Golladay to name a few — probably have more promising outlooks for both 2018 and the next few seasons. If you own Bryant and have your sights set on contending, you may be able to flip him for a player who has a better chance to help you in your 2018 pursuits.
If your timeline for contending is still a few years away, I can understand why you’d be interested in Bryant. But there’s a pretty good chance he will be valued similarly to what he is now in the latter portion of the 2018 season — heck, he could be cheaper — since he’s unlikely to make a big impact this upcoming campaign, so the best window to buy him will likely be down the line.