It is important for fantasy owners
to limit their recency bias when it comes to valuing players in
the draft. The NFL is a fluid league that is significantly affected
by coaching trends, rule changes, talent influxes, injuries, and
other variables that can skew statistics from one year to the next.
For example, the 2017 season proved to be a dreadful year for fantasy
wide receivers, with just two players scoring more than 10 touchdowns
and only 13 players topped the 1,000-yard receiving plateau. The
drought in production at the position followed a 2016 campaign in
which five players scored at least 10 touchdowns and a whopping
23 players posted at least 1,000 yards.
As one would expect, many owners burned by wide receivers in 2017
who then opted to avoid using early draft capital in 2018 missed
out on a resurgent 2018 year in which seven players reached double
figures in TD receptions and 18 WRs reached 1k in receiving yards.
The moral of the story: Don't overreact to what happened in the
previous season. Value players based on their skill, opportunity
share, and situation, not what the league as a whole did in what
may have been a fluky down year.
Here are my way too early WR rankings for 2019.
TD Machine: Davante Adams has scored double-digit
touchdowns in three straight seasons.
Adams, GB: Adams quietly delivered one of the most valuable
fantasy seasons in history with regards to consistency in 2018.
Adams scored a touchdown or reached 100 yards in 14 of 15 games
last year, and in the one game where he didnít meet that benchmark,
he posted eight catches for 81 yards. Over the past three seasons,
only Antonio Brown has more touchdown receptions than Adams (36
to 35), and Adams posted those numbers with Rodgers missing most
of 2017 with a broken collarbone.
Hopkins, HOU: Hopkins has precisely what it takes to
be an elite fantasy wide receiver. Not only does he have the best
hands and body control in the league, but his 488 targets over
the past three seasons are also No.1 in the NFL, and he is a favorite
red zone target for Deshaun Watson. Regardless of who is throwing
the ball or who lines up on the field with him, Hopkins has proven
that he is an elite fantasy WR and should be ranked as such.
Thomas, NO: While I do not think Thomas is an elite
physical talent like Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr.,
or Tyreek Hill, he does have the most accurate quarterback in
history throwing him the ball in one of the most potent offenses
in the league. Thomas caught 124 balls for 1405 yards and 9 touchdowns
on 147 targets last season, finishing has the No.7 WR in fantasy
points per games. While I donít anticipate that he will ever get
the elite target volume of Hopkins, Julio, or Beckham, he is so
efficient that he does more with fewer targets than most studs
(77% career catch rate).
Jones, ATL: Jones drove fantasy owners nuts last season
by failing to post a touchdown in his first seven games, only
to lead the league in touchdown receptions in the final five weeks
of the season. Despite the slow start, Jones finished fifth overall
in fantasy points per game and continues to see elite target volume.
Hill, KC: Count me in as one of the people who doubted
that Hill would duplicate his breakout 2017 season. Hill posted
career highs across the board in targets, catches, yards, touchdowns,
and average yards per catch in route to ending the first overall
in FFToday standard scoring. The only reason why I have Hill outside
the top three is the fact that I donít anticipate Patrick Mahomes
will post another 50 touchdown season, which could mean some negative
touchdown regression for Hill.
Beckham Jr., NYG: Nagging injuries limited Beckham
to just 12 games in 2018. Although he was undoubtedly a disappointment
for fantasy owners based on his draft capital, Beckham still reached
1000 yards and six touchdowns. His 16-game pace was still a respectable
1,402 yards and eight touchdowns. If healthy, OBJ could be a steal
for owners in the second round this season.
Smith-Schuster, PIT: Assuming that Antonio Brown gets
his way and is traded away from the Steelers, Smith-Schuster will
slide into the alpha dog No.1 WR option for Big Ben. Is it possible
that Smith-Schuster struggles outside against the No.1 cornerbacks
for the opposing team? Sure, but it is also well within the range
of possibilities that he gets more targets in the red zone and
finishes with double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his
career. If that does happen and he puts up similar catch and yardage
totals, JuJu could lead the league in fantasy points at the WR
Brown, FA: Unless he goes to a favorable situation
like San Francisco or Indianapolis, Mr. Big shot, Big head, or
whatever he wants us to call him, will quickly learn that the
grass is not always greener. His talent alone makes him a WR1
for fantasy, but the days of him going as an early first-round
pick are likely gone.
Evans, TB: Evans finished the season as the No.6 ranked
wide receiver in fantasy points per game while setting a new career-high
in receiving yards (1,572). Considering the drama in Tampa Bay
and the quarterback roulette between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick,
it is impressive that Evans was able to end with such impressive
numbers. With Bruce Arians now at head coach and Winston the unquestioned
starter, perhaps this will be the season where Evans breaks through
and becomes a top-3 WR.
Green, CIN: For the second time in the last three seasons
injuries cut short a promising season for A.J. Green. Although
he has not reached double-figures in receiving touchdowns since
2015, Green is still one of the more gifted wide receivers in
the league, and I am bullish on the Bengals from a fantasy perspective
in 2019. Tyler Boyd is a solid No.2 option opposite Green, while
Joe Mixon is on the brink of a breakout season. Dare I say that
the Bengals and not the Steelers, will have the best offense in
the AFC North this year?
Hilton, IND: Hilton lacks the touchdown upside to ever
be considered an elite fantasy wide receiver, but that does not
mean he is not valuable as a low-end WR1 for an owner who drafts
a running back in the first round. There is a ton to like about
the direction of where the Colts are going, with Andrew Luck healthy,
a talented and young offensive line, and a ton of cap space.
Allen, LAC: Like Hilton, Keenan Allen will never be
able to put up elite WR numbers unless he makes drastic improvements
in the touchdown department. Sure, his target volume is nice,
and he has averaged 1275 yards over the past two seasons, but
with Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, and Mike Williams stealing red
zone looks, Allen will continue to be ranked as a low-end WR1
or high WR2.