Wide receiver might be the most pivotal position in all of dynasty. Stud receivers last much longer and hold more value compared to elite level players at other positions. Their output is more predictable from year to year and they are the currency that most dynasty drafters lean on during startup drafts.
Even in startup drafts, I like to draft zero-RB while focusing on young wide receiver talent. It’s a strategy that has worked for me for years. I feel it’s easier for me to accumulate assets at the position and move them around via trade to bolster other positions in my lineup.
Since I value the position more than most people, let’s take a look at five wide receivers I’m buying right now:
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR PIT
I get it. Everybody wants Juju Smith-Schuster on their team, but you don’t want him more than me. For over a year I’ve had him ranked as my WR1 in dynasty. I’m willing to draft him anywhere between the 1.01 to the 1.03 in startup drafts. Where everyone else is spending their draft capital on running backs, I’m snagging the 22-year-old receiver who has an easy ten more years of productivity in his back pocket. This is a safe long-term investment that also has a lot of upside.
Last year he caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, equating to 12.8 yards per receptions and 8.6 yards per target. He also led all receivers with 672 yards after the catch and accumulated 2.08 yards per route run. Smith-Schuster is a very efficient receiver considering he only dropped six of his 161 targets.
At the time of writing, Ezekiel Elliott is currently going through a contract situation that might impact his fantasy value, but I would make this trade every day and twice on Sunday. I’m extremely bullish here and that’s because I know when Elliott or Alvin Kamara are getting ready to wrap up their careers, Smith-Schuster is going to have a solid five or more years left in the tank.
While others are playing the short game with running backs, I’m bombing it down the fairway. When compared to the other top receivers in the league the one thing that separates him from the rest is age. Longevity matters in dynasty. It’s harder to win a dynasty league during the inaugural season. More chips you have stacked for the future, the better your outlook will be in the not so distant future. Smith-Schuster is a building block piece that I can build my teams around for a very long time.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR PHI
The Eagles drafted him in the second round of this year’s draft class. He’s going to be competing for meaningful snaps as early as this year. During the preseason he caught 12 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown. He looked good and it appears he is well on his way to being an important piece to the Eagles passing game.
He was very productive in college, catching 63 passes for 1,059 yards 14 touchdowns during his senior season which equated to a 39.05 dominator rating, ranking in the 85th percentile of wide receiver prospects. He also led the team in targets with a 24-percent target share.
We are not looking at a size-speed freak here. Arcega-Whiteside does the little things correctly to win on the field. Despite his large frame, he does a very good job of telling a story with his routes to cross up defenders. His footwork allows him to create separation when it comes time to break off his route. His best intangibles come in the end zone where he uses his size, catch radius and leaping ability to reel in jump balls. Carson Wentz is going to love tossing him the ball on contested-catch scenarios because he’s almost impossible to cover if the ball is thrown to the right spot.
His dynasty value has been volatile since April. According to DLF’s ADP, Arcega-Whiteside is being selected somewhere between the eighth and ninth rounds of startup drafts with an ADP of 108.17. He’s being drafted at a decent-sized discount right now. There’s a good chance that within the next six months we could see him receive a solid bump in value. He’s a young prospect who isn’t far from seeing meaningful targets in the passing game. Philadelphia isn’t a bad situation for him. He’s tethered to Wentz who is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Alshon Jeffrey is signed with the team through 2021 but his contract becomes dispensable after this year with just $6.95 million in dead cap in 2020 and $2.975 million in dead cap in 2021 if the team decides to cut ties from him in the near future. Arcega-Whiteside will easily slide in Jeffrey’s role to fill the void, generating more targets for the 22-year-old wide receiver.
This might be the last buying opportunity for Arcega-Whiteside. I suggest everyone gets onboard before the chips get hot. He will easily be a top-100 asset by the end of the season. He doesn’t have to do anything this year to maintain his value. This is a super safe investment considering his value is age-insulated.
Michael Gallup, WR DAL
Gallup will be entering his second season in the league. Last year with the Cowboys he accounted for a 14-percent target share while also seeing a 13.9 yard average depth of target. Gauging his progress from the preseason, it looks like he’s gaining a solid rapport with Dak Prescott. In three preseason games he caught four passes for 62 yards and one touchdown. Reports are glowing about his development and it looks like he’s ready to contribute more to the offense in 2019.
Amari Cooper is suppressing his value. Cooper owned 24 percent of the passing targets last year, making it hard for anyone else on the roster to eat a large share of the targets. The Cowboys are also notorious for being run-heavy with a 43-percent run rate in 2019 which was tenth highest in the league last year. The team may look to increase their passing volume, especially on first down where they run the ball 50 percent of the time, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Sounds good, but they are averaging 7.7 yards per attempt throwing the ball on first down. That said, passing attempts should increase to some degree whether Elliott is in the lineup or not.
Elliott is another elephant in the room for Gallup’s long-term player value. We don’t know fully what Kellen Moore wants to do with Elliott in the picture, but we do know that historically the Cowboys are guilty of forcing Elliott the football. If this trend continues and Cooper owns a large share of the targets, Gallup will be a volatile asset in fantasy.
I’m buying him because I see him taking another step forward in his development. I think he can be a valuable flex option on my dynasty team. Down the road, if not this year, he could eat into some of Cooper’s target share. His volume will increase if Cooper or Elliott are ever out of the lineup.
On top of that, I rated him highly as a prospect coming out of college. During his final season at Colorado State he caught 100 passes for 1,418 yards and seven touchdowns equating to a 37.19 percent market share of his team’s passing production. His athletic metrics weren’t overwhelming, but they are good enough to allow him to compete at the NFL level. At 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine. Not elite level athleticism, but not bad either.
Value is key when it comes to buying prospects. You don’t want to buy them when their value is at it’s highest and you want to take your shots while the player’s value remains low. Gallup’s value is nestled with a 127.83 ADP, making him the 54th wide receiver off the board. He will hold a featured role in the offense for the foreseeable future and his value should at least maintain its current price point, but will definitely spike if he shows an increase in production. I’m buying because he’s a stable asset that could increase in value.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR NO
Smith might be one of the most undervalued wide receivers in all of football. He posted two WR1 weeks last year as a rookie. He was second on the Saints with 496 air yards while seeing just a 59.3 percent snap share and 10 percent of the targets. Smith is expected to see an increase in snaps and targets this year which should equate to more fantasy points.
Michael Thomas, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara are the main threats to steal targets away from Smith. The team also established a 47-percent run rate which was fourth-highest in the league. The Saints want to run a committee out of the backfield between Kamara and Latavius Murray. However, there should be enough targets to make Smith fantasy relevant.
Drew Brees is the equalizer on this team. He’s one of the most accurate passers in all of football. When targeting Smith, he had a quarterback rating of 136.5. The Saints are expected to be in multiple shootouts throughout the season which will elevate his chances to seeing additional targets. Since he garners an average depth of target of 11.8, he is just a target away from hitting a big play.
According to DLF’s ADP, Smith has an ADP of 142.83, which values him as WR60 in drafts. Smith is dirt cheap considering his age and the fact that he’s one of the top receiving threats in the Saints passing attack. He’s still developing and should only get better. His price tag is primarily the reason why he’s a buy because it limits all risk associated with Smith. Buy him while the cost is low.
Rashard Higgins, WR CLE
Higgins is a pure speculation buy that’s predicated on his ultra-cheap price tag. If you’re not aware of his profile coming out of college, he was a mega-producer from Colorado State, catching 238 passes for 3,648 yards and 31 touchdowns during his three year collegiate career. He is a route running technician with limited athleticism. He has shown in spurts that he can win on the field at the NFL level.
The hang-up with him is that he has a lot of competition for targets. Odell Beckham will see a massive target share. Then down the line from him is Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. Not to mention the Browns just acquired Taywan Taylor via trade from the Tennessee Titans. The Browns are expected to have a high volume passing attack but with so many mouths to feed, will there be enough footballs to share the wealth?
There could be an opening for targets next year. Landry initially signed a five year $75.5 million deal in 2018 but his dead cap figures decrease significantly at the end of this season, making him a potential cut candidate if the team wants to save cap space. With the team trading for Taylor recently, this could be a likely scenario. If the team decides to cut Landry during this time, then Higgins will receive a massive increase in targets making him a must-own fantasy option.
There are multiple factors that could prevent Higgins from gaining substantial value. It doesn’t hurt that his ADP currently rests at 229.67 and he’s on average the 95th wide receiver off the board. We can swing for the fence here, totally whiff and not think anything of it because the price is so low. He could be a cheap addition to an even bigger trade, making him near free. Higgins might even be on the waiver wire in some leagues. We are truly playing penny stocks and with the low entry fee, if he even becomes a dependable flex option, we will experience a spike in his dynasty value.