The wide receiver position in fantasy football has been one of the more hotly debated topics in recent seasons. The depth at receiver and amount of consistent scoring led to the advent of the “zero running back” draft strategy.
Utilizing that approach, you would refrain from selecting a running back in the early stages of your draft while loading up on the upper tier of receivers to bolster your roster. What we have seen recently in the NFL is more teams starting to employ balanced and traditional run-based attacks. This change in philosophy has thrown a wrench into fantasy drafts regarding wideouts. As we head into 2018, drafts are once again very running back heavy early on, pushing receivers that we are used to seeing in the first round back into the second round and beyond.
The top tier of WRs is made up of the very elite. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) could be considered in a class all his own, but inside this superstar group you also have players such as Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants. Brown has led receivers in scoring the last several seasons by a wide margin, but Hopkins and Beckham are two that could close the gap and have first round draft value.
The next grouping is made up of players that will likely be taken during the second round of drafts. Players like Michael Thomas (New Orleans) and Keenan Allen (Chargers) provide solid floors but have the intrigue of an insanely high ceiling as well. Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green are stars from previous seasons, but is their time beginning to come to an end? Possibly, but they are still safe enough bets to bring you WR1 production. Davante Adams of Green Bay is the wild card among this group. Playing with Aaron Rodgers vaults his value and the touchdown production is there.
From Mike Evans (Tampa Bay) down to Golden Tate (Detroit), you’ll find players in the next range during Rounds 3 and 4 that can give you a mix of points-per-reception (PPR) league value as well as touchdown scoring in standard leagues. T.Y. Hilton of Indianapolis and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas find themselves back in this conversation as their quarterback situations have greatly improved from a year ago. Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs could have even better years in 2018 with the arrival of Kirk Cousins.
You have injury concerns with players like Allen Robinson (Chicago) and Alshon Jeffrey (Philadelphia). Players like Browns wideout Jarvis Landry, Rams receiver Brandin Cooks and Baltimore’s Michael Crabtree find themselves in new homes in hopes of making a significant fantasy impact. The potential is there for each of them, but they could struggle at times. Players in this grouping are being drafted between Rounds 5 and 6, a point where you certainly need the value but you can also swing for a bit of upside as well.
In the next tier, you start to see players that will be flex options or even matchup plays in given weeks. You have the upside of players like Corey Davis (Tennessee), Chris Hogan (New England) and Sammy Watkins (Kansas City). But even those receivers come with questions and concerns. Can they avoid the inconsistencies that have plagued them in previous seasons? Other players in this group have been disappointments. Those names include Randall Cobb (Green Bay), Devin Funchess (Carolina) and DeVante Parker (Miami). With WRs in this range, just know there will be weeks of poor play. But they can also give you matchup-winning performances if started in the right scenario.
Sterling Shepard of the Giants, Miami’s Kenny Stills and Buffalo’s Kelvin Benjamin are players that can provide safe floors in production but rarely have huge games that get you excited to put them in your lineups. Will Fuller of Houston and Nelson Agholor of Philadelphia are complete wild cards. They can both have big games or disappear for weeks at a time. Jordy Nelson (Oakland), Allen Hurns (Dallas) and Marqise Lee (Jacksonville) are players that don’t jump off the page. They could be worthy of flex consideration but most likely they will be bench guys for you with matchup plays in mind.
As you get into the double digit rounds, you can find the player that is getting undervalued that hits and becomes a weekly staple for you, leading to wins. You will start to see the rookies really come off the board later with a lot of talk surrounding WRs like Anthony Miller of Chicago, Denver’s Courtland Sutton and Pittsburgh’s James Washington in the preseason. The hype surrounding these rookies will greatly affect their average draft position, so if you like the player be prepared to jump earlier than usual.
The names you will see as you finish your draft off won’t give you that tingly feeling, but they will be quality receivers that can provide depth on your bench. Some may catch fire and find themselves firmly implanted in your lineup rotation, others could fall flat. The good thing is that you don’t waste much value in these later rounds, making these receivers expendable if they aren’t up to par.
Ultimately, you may keep hearing about how the wide receiver position is deep. Don’t buy into that. This position is very top-heavy with upper echelon players and can quickly fall off as you go through your draft. The best fantasy owner is one that isn’t fazed by curve balls being thrown their way during a draft. They are fully prepared for what comes, either good or bad.
ROTOEXPERTS TOP 15 WR
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Source: Fox Sports