Dynasty Wide Receiver Rankings

In this article, I breakdown my top 50 WRs for 2018 by tier. In each tier I give an overview of why the players are grouped the way they are and highlight some key players in each. I enjoy hearing feedback, thoughts, and ideas from my followers-feel free to send any my way on twitter: @Top2Matt.

See my full dynasty rankings HERE

Tier 1

There is little argument for the current tier 1 wide receivers. These three guys have dominated the fantasy world the past few seasons and have the ability to either form the foundation of your championship caliber team or be the piece that’s going to get you to that championship.

  1. Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham Jr. is coming off an injury that broke the hearts (and roster compositions) of his owners in 2017. Prior to the injury, he finished as a top 7 receiver in the first 3 years of his career. In those seasons, he caught an average of 96 receptions per season for at least 1300 yards and combined for 35 touchdowns in his career. Beckham is the perfect combination of the big play potential that Brown has, with the career consistency that Brown possesses. The Giants appear committed to Eli for at least two more seasons and the addition of Barkley should keep defenses honest again the previously pass heavy Giants offense.

  1. DeAndre Hopkins
  1. Antonio Brown

Tier 2

There is a ton of dynamic play and potential in this group of wideouts. These guys are all young, with the elder of the group being Jones at 29 years old. They’re all the featured wideout on dynamic offenses (with the exception of Evans and the Tampa Bay offense). They make perfect 2nd round compliments to your first round picks.

  1. Keenan Allen

In Weeks 11-17 of 2017, Allen showed me everything I need to see to take him before the rest of the tier 2 wide receivers. He caught 9 or more passes in 4 of those games, caught at least 100 yards in 5 of those games (3 games over 130 yards), and caught 5 touchdowns. He comes with risk, having sustained major injuries in both 2016 and 2017, but his injuries have no commonalities or trends which would suggest he deserves his “injury-prone” label. Entering the 6th year of his career, he’s still just 26 and it doesn’t appear Rivers or the Chargers’ offense is slowing down anytime soon.

  1. Julio Jones
  2. Michael Thomas

Thomas is a PPR machine and, thanks to Alvin Kamara stealing the spotlight last season, he’s still flying under the radar in New Orleans. The 25 year old caught 92 of 121 targets in 2016 (76%) and 104 of 149 targets in 2017 (70%). He’s averaging 1,191 yards and 7 touchdowns per season. Thomas has Brees for at least two more seasons, making him one of the most dependable wideouts with one of the most dependable quarterbacks in the league.

  1. Davante Adams
  2. Mike Evans

Tier 3

These are the wideouts I’m really targeting in dynasty leagues this season. These are the guys I can mostly get in rounds 3 or later in start-up drafts. Some of these players, like Baldwin or Green are guys you can sell draft picks and/or younger players for to elevate your win-now roster.

  1. A.J. Green
  2. Tyreek Hill
  3. Doug Baldwin

Baldwin is one of the best values you can draft this season. He’s coming off back to back career-high seasons where he finished as WR13 (2017) and WR8 (2016). Baldwin accounted for 21% of Russell Wilson’s targets in 2017, the season where Wilson finished as QB1, and 22% of Wilson’s targets in 2016. With the departure of Richardson (80 targets) and Graham (95 targets) there’s 175 targets that will be vacated without any significant additions to Wilson’s receiving weapons. That gives the 29 year old wideout a significant opportunity to finish as a top 5 fantasy quarterback, and a near guarantee for him to finish as a WR1.

  1. Golden Tate
  2. T.Y. Hilton
  3. Amari Cooper

If you’re cold on Cooper, I don’t blame you; but I haven’t given up on him. His 2017 season saw a significant drop in receptions (48) but he also saw a drop in targets, just 96 compared to 131 in 2016 and 130 in 2015. With a new coaching staff, led by Jon Gruden, the expectation is that Cooper gets back to the 130 target, or higher, range. In the seasons where he saw volume, he returned value: pulling in 1,070 yards in 205 and 1,149 yards in 2016; with a combined 11 touchdowns.

  1. Adam Thielen
  2. Jarvis Landry
  3. Brandin Cooks
  4. Allen Robinson

Tier 4

This is a small group, but consists of some high impact players with big upside. Thomas, Gordon, Jones Jr., and Jeffery have all flashed as some point in their career; but for different reasons. They all have the potential to act as great WR2s on your roster, and provide WR1 upside.

  1. Demaryius Thomas

Thomas has finished as a WR2 of higher in each of the last 6 seasons, which is every season he’s started the majority of a season in the NFL. Thomas held his fantasy truthers afloat while wading through the murky quarterback waters that have drowned the Denver offense in recent seasons. Now, Thomas has Keenum-who’s consistency in his first starting role rose Thielen from his career high WR27 finish to WR8 in 2017. Thomas is due for a revitalization of fantasy value that makes him the ideal WR2/3 to have on your roster.

  1. Josh Gordon
  2. Marvin Jones Jr.
  3. Alshon Jeffery

Tier 5

This is when things start to get messy, but within this chaos is some serious value, and history tells us that it is in these rounds where we get the players that will win us those coveted fantasy championships. So, dig in deep, and start getting your “my guys”.

  1. Stefon Diggs
  2. DJ Moore
  3. JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster had a meteoric rise to fantasy relevance in his rookie campaign, making the 21 year old a very enticing fantasy asset. His WR18 finish, however, was boosted by his performance in Weeks 15-17. In those games, he caught 21 receptions for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those were the three weeks Brown missed in 2017, raising serious concerns as to Smith-Schuster’s ability to replicate those numbers. In addition to Brown, he’s going to have to fight for volume with James Washington, Le’Veon Bell, Vance McDonald, and Jesse James.

  1. Corey Davis
  2. Michael Gallup

Gallup ranks towards the top of my rookie wideouts. I believe he will make the greatest impact in his first season; he’s in a position to be Prescott’s top target. Gallup has the opportunity to fill in for the 219 targets vacated by Bryant and Witten’s departures. Those 219 targets account for 44% of Prescott’s attempts in 2017. Gallup, however, has a ceiling that stops short of the upside of more dynamic players on high powered offenses like Moore and Ridley. That won’t stop him from quickly making a strong addition to your fantasy roster.

  1. Sammy Watkins
  2. Larry Fitzgerald
  3. Calvin Ridley

Tier 6

This tier digs into the mid rounds of your draft. The targets here make for prime contributors if you’re using a WR-zero strategy or if you’re looking for short term trade targets to fill in a roster with a shot at contending for a title.

  1. Julian Edelman
  2. Marquise Goodwin
  3. Jordy Nelson

I absolutely refuse to write off Nelson as a fantasy asset. Nelson, who finished as WR2 in 2016 when he pulled in 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. In the first 5 weeks of 2017, when Nelson had Rodgers throwing him the ball instead of Brett Hundley, Nelson had 19 receptions for 230 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nelson has since moved to Oakland, but stands to be a potent WR2, where he will draw weaker coverages than he ever has opposite of Cooper. Carr may be a downgrade from Rodgers, but he’s a significant upgrade from Hundley and I’m buying all of the Nelson shares I can find.

  1. Devin Funchess
  2. Cooper Kupp
  3. Quincy Enunwa

Enunwa has been forgotten about after a 2017 preseason injury that deterred fantasy owners from holding onto him. Enunwa finished as WR42 in 2016, catching a total of 58 receptions for 857 yards and 4 touchdowns. Now Enunwa finds himself as the lead wideout on an offense with only Robby Anderson as a weapon. Anderson, although not yet announced, is still likely to miss some game time in relation to his off-field conduct issues. That leaves Enunwa as the top target to grow with Darnold, the heir apparent to lead the Jets franchise.

  1. Jamison Crowder
  2. Dez Bryant
  3. Emmanuel Sanders
  4. Michael Crabtree
  5. Christian Kirk
  6. Pierre Garcon
  7. Will Fuller
  8. Sterling Shepard
  9. Cameron Meredith
  10. Courtland Sutton

Sutton is almost purely an investment at this point, however, he has great potential to contribute in 2019. Sutton comes out of SMU as an extremely dynamic option who totaled 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns in just 3 seasons. The Broncos are likely to move on from either Sanders (more likely) or Thomas to clear cap space after the 2018 season. The Broncos can save $8 million by cutting Thomas after the 2018 season or 10 million by cutting Sanders. Sutton, then will slide right into the WR2 role on a growing offense.

  1. Paul Richardson

Tier 7

I’m rounding out my top 50 with 3 wideouts who have serious upside but little to no NFL experience. They all have injury concerns and or competitive rosters that could jeopardize their volume. Still, they have WR2 or higher potential.

  1. Mike Williams
  2. John Ross
  3. Anthony Miller

Williams and Ross were top 10 draft picks with bigger names and bigger expectations than Miller. Miller, however, was dynamic in college at Memphis and his performance leading up to the draft, and into the preseason have drawn wide spread praise. Steve Smith compared Miller to himself pre-draft and Bears defensive backs haven’t stopped praising Miller for immediate coming out as a tough player to match-up against. Miller presents great upside and can be justified as a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick on rookie only drafts.

Dynasty Stashes Being Drafted Outside the Top 150

There are few better feelings in dynasty football then hitting on a late round flier.  Hitting on a flier can be that final piece that pushes your team over the top and make you a contender for years to come.  Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to figure out which late round guys will pay off.  The recipe for a late round pick to become a fantasy stud includes being talented, having opportunity and having upside when given the opportunity.  Based on these characteristics, I’ve found 4 late round players that you should be buying or drafting that can potentially become quality fantasy players in 2019 and beyond.

WR Antonio Calloway, Cleveland Browns (July ADP: 162 Overall, WR 75)

Antonio Calloway is one of my favorite late round fliers this year.  There is no doubt that Calloway is extremely talented, but due to multiple off-the-field issues and being suspended for the whole 2017 season, Calloway dropped to the 4th round in the 2017 draft.  If this wasn’t bad enough, Calloway got drafted to the Cleveland Browns, which seem to be loaded at the wide receiver position.  Perceived to be below Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman on the depth chart, it is hard to see a scenario where Calloway is fantasy relevant in 2018.  However, with reports of the Browns trying to trade Coleman and Gordon becoming a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) after the 2018 season, there is a realistic shot of Calloway becoming the WR 2 in Cleveland for 2019 and beyond.  If Calloway can get the opportunity and he can stay out of trouble, his talent should show, which could cause him to become a top 30 wide receiver.

WR Taywan Taylor, Tennessee Titans (July ADP: 180 Overall, WR 80)

When Taywan Taylor was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he quickly became one of the dynasty community’s favorite late round rookie picks.  Over shadowed by 5th overall pick Corey Davis, Taylor was slipping to the 3rd round or later in almost every rookie draft, and his value hasn’t seen much of an increase since.  Although Taylor saw limited work and production in 2017, there are a couple of signs that say Taylor could find some major value as early as next season.  One reason is the Tennessee Titans decision to enter the 21st century and bring in Matt LaFleur as the Offensive Coordinator.  LaFleur spent last season as the Los Angeles Rams OC, where he helped lead the Rams to become one of the top offenses in the league.  There is a ton of hope that Lafleur can bring over what he learned under Sean McVay and help develop this offense under Marcus Mariota.  Another reason to be hopeful for Taylor is the fact that Rishard Matthews is scheduled to be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) after the 2018 season.  If Matthews were to walk and sign somewhere else after 2018, Taylor would be primed to become 2nd in the pecking order for receptions.  If all of that weren’t enough for you, according to playerprofiler.com, Taylor’s SPARQ metrics are comparable to Doug Baldwin, one of the top receivers in the league.

RB Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons (July ADP: 192 Overall, RB 61)

Before being picked in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Ito Smith was very productive at Southern Mississippi.  Along with 3 straight 1000+ yard rushing seasons, Smith put up at least 40 receptions and 390 receiving yards in each of his last 3 seasons.  Being a smaller back (5’9”, 200 lbs.), Smith profiles to primarily be a 3rd down back in the NFL.  Luckily for fantasy owners, Smith landed in Atlanta, who has shown that they incorporate running backs into their passing game.  Unfortunately, Smith is currently behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the 2018 depth chart.  But as you probably have heard, Coleman is set to be an UFA after the 2018 season.  If Coleman were to leave Atlanta, which most of us expect, then Smith could find himself in a huge role in the Atlanta offense alongside Devonta Freeman.

RB James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (July ADP: 202 Overall, RB 67)

There is no doubt that James Conner is one of the best stories to enter the NFL in a long time.  After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015, Conner battled back to play a full 2016 season at Pitt.  In 13 games, Conner accumulated 1092 rushing yards, 302 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns.  This stellar production led to Conner being picked in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.   Currently slated as Le’Veon Bell’s backup, it is hard to see a scenario in which Conner produces any fantasy relevance in 2018.  The promising thing for Conner is that Bell is scheduled to become a UFA in 2018.  Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, Bell and the Steelers failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension, which means that Bell will most likely be on a different team in 2019.  Now, I am not going to sit here and tell you that James Conner is going to become the next Le’Veon Bell.  However, Conner is a very powerful runner that has shown he can produce in the rushing game and help out in the passing game.  If Conner is given the opportunity to be a starter, he could have top 24 upside in 2019 and beyond.

* All ADP is based on www.dynastyleaguefootball.com July ADP

** All stats are curtesy of www.sports-reference.com

*** All contract information is curtesy of www.spotrac.com

Way Too Early Week 1 DFS Thoughts

Upon the NFL schedule release in late April, there isn’t any other week that allows more time for DFS preparation than Week 1.  Even without the DraftKings salaries being posted before Wednesday, there’s enough data and information to identify players with favorable and unfavorable matchups and begin generating possible lineups.  Generally, I don’t plan past Week 3 as the trends from prior year start to become replaced with the narratives of the current season.  

These are my general thoughts after seeing the Week 1 salaries along with tidbits of information I found useful.  Remember, this is all before the first snap of the preseason taking place so some ideas and thoughts listed below are subject to change (Note: this only covers the main slate and excludes the Thursday opener, Sunday night, and Monday night games.  Also, FanDuel has yet to release their salaries as I conclude this article so this focuses more on DraftKings at this point).  

Buffalo vs Baltimore (-5; 47)

Buffalo: With uncertainty regarding LeSean McCoy’s playing status due to off the field issues, the state of the Buffalo offense remains a huge question mark.  Chris Ivory would assume the lead back duties in the event that McCoy misses time.  A new starting quarterback inherits the tough task of facing the Ravens, Chargers, and Vikings to begin the season, all teams that were in the top 5 in fewest FPA to quarterbacks in 2017.  Against these stout defenses, the Bills may have a tough time putting points on the scoreboard the first three weeks of the season.  

Baltimore: The NFL has presented the Ravens with the team that ultimately knocked them out of postseason contention when the Bills beat the Dolphins and the Ravens lost to the Bengals in Week 17 last year.  With revenge in mind, there isn’t much that should scare this Baltimore defense against the Bills offense, especially in LeSean McCoy doesn’t suit up.  An Alex Collins, Baltimore defense stack could be an excellent 1-2 punch as this game has the potential to get out of hand whether A.J. McCarron or Nathan Peterman is under center.  Last year, Alex Collins had a +2.814 FPPG differential in games the Ravens won, a +2.643 FPPG differential in games at M&T Bank Stadium, and a +4.67 FPPG differential in games the Ravens were favored.

Tampa Bay vs New Orleans (-7; 46.5)

Tampa Bay: The Bucs were dealt a horrible hand back in April when the schedule release had them slated to play the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers the first three weeks.  Then it later comes out that Jameis Winston will be suspended for this rough stretch against these opponents that combined for 37 wins in 2017.  In 4 starts last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 258.8 passing yds, 1.5 TDs, and .75 INTs along with 12.5 yards on the ground.  He returned value in two of those four starts at his listed $5000 DK salary for Week 1.

New Orleans: With Mark Ingram suspended the first four games, ownership levels for Alvin Kamara are projected to be extremely high at his $8500 DK salary.  Vegas has the Saints giving 7 points in a revenge game from Week 17 where the Saints needed a win and a Rams loss to clinch the 3rd seed in the NFC.  The Rams fulfilled their end of the bargain while the Saints couldn’t hold up their own.  The Saints have an excellent chance to win this game with revenge in mind and Jameis Winston suspended.  One of the bigger lineup construction questions for Week 1 will be deciding to pay up for Kamara and his projected increase in volume with a lot of other people, knowing full well that he may be an important piece for cash game and GPP success.  Or is it best to fade him, hope he busts and allocate that extra savings in salary to other options that others won’t be able to afford in selecting Kamara.

Pittsburgh vs Cleveland (6.5; 47)

Pittsburgh: There’s something to be said about players who come out of the gate fast.  Antonio Brown would be one of those players.  Since 2014, he has finished at worst the WR5 for Week 1 averaging 28.18 FPPG in full PPR scoring in Week 1 matchups from 2014-2017.  In 2016, Le’Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games and missed a Week 1 matchup vs the Redskins and last year, Bell missed all of training camp and didn’t see action until Week 1 against the Browns.  Amazingly, last year’s exact scenario can play out again with Bell expected to hold out and finally suit up against the Browns on September 9th.  The odds of Antonio Brown duplicating his Week 1 success seems favorable.

Cleveland: The Browns have added San Francisco’s starting running back, Miami’s heavily targeted slot receiver, and Buffalo’s starting quarterback.  Indeed, this roster is vastly improved from the 0-16 bunch not only on the offensive side of the ball but defensively as well.  However, there are a lot of mouths to feed when considering the following player’s targets per game in 2017 with the Browns or their former team:

Jarvis Landry: 10.6

Carlos Hyde: 5.5

Duke Johnson: 5.81

Josh Gordon: 8.6

Corey Coleman: 6.33

Browns TE position: 7.63

That’s 44.47 targets per game on a team that threw the ball over 40 times in a game last year just three times and over 45 times once.  Even Tyrod Taylor threw over 40 passes only one time with Buffalo in 2017.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the targets are disbursed among this talent.  One thing is for certain, if Hue Jackson can’t win more than a game with this roster, he’ll need to do more than jump in Lake Erie, he will need to swim away from Cleveland for good.  

Houston vs New England (-7; 51)

Houston: The last time DeShaun Watson was on the field, him and Russell Wilson dueled to put up 79 points in what was arguably the best NFL game in 2017.  He nearly conquered Tom Brady in Week 3 until Brady connected with Brandin Cooks for a TD with 23 seconds remaining.  This matchup lands the Texans in a favorable spot against a team that lost the Super Bowl.  In the last 10 years, the losing Super Bowl team is 2-8 ATS in Week 1 action with New England being one of those teams that did cover after a 2011 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.  That statistic suggests at worst, the Texans should be able to keep it close.  The bigger question will be if the teams can once again combine for 69 points given this is Watson’s first game since he tore his ACL.  Also, how long will it take for him to feel comfortable on his legs again to activate his rushing upside that saw him average 42 yards a game on the ground in six starts.

New England: With Zach Ertz playing the opening Thursday night game, it leaves Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski as two of the three top tight ends on the main slate.  The Chargers have contained Travis Kelce throughout his career thus leaving Gronk as the high end tight end to consider inserting into lineups.  With Julian Edelman suspended until Week 5 and Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola out of the picture, Gronk looks to be the familiar target and a safe play to accumulate double digit targets.  He turned 10 targets into 8 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in the Week 3 meeting against the Texans last season.  

San Francisco vs Minnesota (-5.5; 47)

San Francisco: The 49ers were cruising to a top 3 pick until they decided to see what they had in Jimmy Garappolo and now that franchise looks to have its starting quarterback of the future.  He started from Week 13 on and won all five of those games, including a thrashing against the second best defense in football in Jacksonville that paid San Francisco no respect heading into Levis Stadium.  There is definitely regression heading Jimmy G’s way at some point and it could be this Week 1 tilt with Minnesota.  He isn’t going to catch teams off-guard any longer, especially against a team in the Vikings that allowed 12.5 points a game at US Bank Stadium in 2017 and a league low 10.3 FPPG to QBs at home.

Minnesota: The Vikings have upgraded their offense with the addition of Kirk Cousins and the return of Dalvin Cook from a torn ACL in Week 4 against the Lions.  One player that is an upgrade at US Bank Stadium compared to playing on the road is Stefon Diggs.  His dominance at home saw him score under 14 PPR points just once in six games last year. Among wide receivers who played 12 or more games last year, Diggs had a +10.05 FPPG differential at home, the third highest home/away variance behind Davante Adams’ +11.7 differential away from Lambeau Field and Michael Crabtree’s +11.56 differential at the Oakland Coliseum.  

Cincinnati vs Indianapolis (-2.5; 46)

Cincinnati: Scroll over game logs from prior weeks of various seasons and the fact remains that more often than not, players that win their games score more fantasy points than those who don’t.  Andy Dalton would be the poster boy of this description as no quarterback who played more than 12 games in 2017 averaged fewer fantasy points in a loss than Dalton’s 10.28 FPPG.  In fact his +8.894 FPPG differential in losses was the worst such figure among quarterbacks last year.  Vegas has this game as essentially a pick em with the Colts giving three points as the home team.  With Andrew Luck possibly playing through rust, the Bengals have a chance to squeeze a Week 1 win on the road and the Red Rifle could be an inexpensive choice to return value on both Fanduel and DraftKings.

Indianapolis: The way to attack Cincinnati in 2017 was through the running back and tight end as the Bengals bolstered a secondary in which all positions were in the bottom half of FPA to wide receivers in the 2017 season.  That secondary remains intact heading into 2018 and the player that shredded them in the 2017 matchup also remains on the Colts roster.  The only difference now is Jack Doyle may have competition for some of the tight end targets with the addition of the wildly inconsistent Eric Ebron from the Lions.  The possibility of Doyle being vultured this coming season is small yet possible; Ebron does show flashes of why he was taken with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft.  With Andrew Luck returning to the field, tight end targets should increase compared to last year.  29% of Luck’s pass attempts went to the tight end in 2016 compared to just 19% with Jacoby Brissett under center last year.  

Jacksonville vs New York (N) (4; 44)

Jacksonville: The 2017 version of Blake Bortles was definitely one of the bigger surprises of last season.  DraftKings didn’t take him seriously until Week 16 when he was finally priced above $6000 as he reached 3x nine out of 14 games at that point.  With a solid receiving corps and his ability to use his legs to gain yards, Bortles has the potential to hit 3x in various games this year as well.  The Giants allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year and at $5600, the possibility of returning value certainly exists in Week 1.

New York: The Giants team that made postseason play in 2016 never recovered at any point last year from their infamous boat trip and getting booted out of the playoffs at the hands of the Packers.  Injuries decimated the roster on both sides of the ball along with a team that flat out quit on Ben McAdoo at various moments during the 2017 season.  If the 2018 Giants can play at half the level they did in 2016, they could arguably be the second best team in the NFC East.  Running back was addressed in a big way with the selection of Saquon Barkley.  Odell Beckham Jr. will be welcomed back to the receiving corp with open arms after recovering from ankle surgery that sidelined him beyond Week 5.  One of the current debates in the fantasy industry is with both Beckham and Saquon sporting 1st round ADPs in redraft leagues, why is Eli Manning being drafted as late as the 14th round to not being drafted at all?  If they both put up numbers that validate their first round selections, then Eli should be a bargain at where he is being drafted.  He will certainly be a bargain for the early part of the year at his salary on DraftKings and FanDuel.  Unfortunately, Week 1 won’t be one of those instances against a stingy Jacksonville team that allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last year.  

Tennessee vs Miami (2; 45.5)

Tennessee: Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator will be a nice addition to a Tennessee team that was mediocre and unimaginative on the offensive side of the ball in 2017.  With the talent that Tennessee possessed, that team should have averaged better than 20.9 points per game.  From a fantasy perspective, the Titans were one of two teams along with the Falcons that didn’t have a quarterback score 20 fantasy points in a single game last year.  With LaFleur as offensive coordinator of the Rams, that team scored 29.9 points per game in 2017.  He has the talent to put up wicked numbers in Tennessee with the addition of Dion Lewis to compliment Derrick Henry and a healthy Corey Davis who dealt with a lingering hamstring injury throughout last season.  Marcus Mariota could be available at a discount on both DraftKings and FanDuel for the early part of 2018 until he performs like the Mariota of 2016.  Showing the kickers some love, as quarterbacks coach for the Falcons in 2016 and the aforementioned OC for the Rams last year, Matt Bryant and Greg Zuerlein were the top kickers in fantasy in those years when LaFleur was on that respective coaching staff.  This should bode well for Ryan Succop who finished as the 9th best kicker in 2017.

Miami: Jarvis Landry retired his role as the #1 receiver in Miami after he was traded to the Browns, leaving a few receivers to compete for that role.  Devante Parker has yet to play a full season with the Dolphins and live up to the draft capital spent on him since being drafted 14th overall in the 2015 NFL draft.  In that same timeframe, Kenny Stills hasn’t missed a game and performed more as the second wide receiving option than Parker has when Landry was a Dolphin.  Danny Amendola filled in for an injured Juilan Edelman with New England last year and should slide into Landry’s vacated role after being paid $12 million over two years.  However, the Dolphins also invested $24 million over three years in Albert Wilson who played just over 60% of his snaps as a Chief in the slot and could cut into Amendola’s snaps.  This will be Ryan Tannehill’s first game under center since Week 14 of the 2016 season where he has experience with Parker and Stills but this will be his first game without his target hog in Landry.  With the Dolphins expected to play from behind in games this season, Tannehill will be throwing the ball often and time will tell who emerges as his new favorite target.

Seattle vs Denver (-2; 42)

Seattle: Looking at the over/under total of 42, Vegas is anticipating a lower scoring affair at Sports Authority Field.  However, this game screams potential shootout considering the legion of boom is no longer and Denver’s defense isn’t exactly the 2015 version that won Super Bowl 50.  For that to happen, Russell Wilson will look to continue his absolute dominance of AFC opponents.  In four games against the AFC South last year, Wilson averaged a remarkable 30.51 FPPG.  Going back further, in 12 games against the AFC since 2015, he has averaged 26.4 FPPG in which Seattle has scored 30.6 points per game and covered the over in 9 of those 12 games.  One thing to slightly consider is Wilson’s propensity for a slow start; he hasn’t eclipsed 20 FP in any of his six previous Week 1 starts.  He could make for a sneaky tournament play as the competition will see his “tough” matchup and look at other options.

Denver: The quarterback carousel will finally end for the Broncos who had Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Payton Lynch all start games at some point in 2017.  Case Keenum should provide much needed stability at a position that has been anything but since Peyton Manning retired.  Denver faces a Seattle defense that struggled immensely against the run in the final four games of 2017, allowing 579 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.   Assuming he is named the starter, Royce Freeman can be a cheap option at $4500 in a game that should see points put on the scoreboard.  He averaged 6.05 yards per carry and crossed the pylons 16 times in his senior year at Oregon.

Washington vs Arizona (PK; 44)

Washington: A lot of the focus in camp is on Derrius Guice and for good reason.  However, don’t sleep on Chris Thompson who is returning from a broken ankle he suffered against the Saints.  At his 15.88 FPPG clip in 9 games before last year’s injury, he was on pace to finish as RB8 in PPR scoring.  He will need Alex Smith to target him more than he was targeting his running backs last year as the Chiefs starter.  The Chiefs ranked 31st in RB target share which ranked only better than the Texans.  Smith falls into a Washington system that targeted the running backs 22.11% of the time.

Arizona: There is initial hesitation in starting players coming off injury; David Johnson should not be of such concern.  If anything, the only thing his wrist injury would have prevented him from doing is work in the weight room.  It shouldn’t have prevented him from maintaining his impeccable aerobic conditioning.  Bottom line: this wasn’t an ACL tear or other leg injury and he has been in the weight room since April 3rd when he was fully cleared so come September 9th, he will be ready for action.  Three of Arizona’s first four opponents are against teams that were in the top 10 in FPA to running backs on the ground.  Washington was shredded by such running backs in their final four games in 2017, giving up 654 yards and 3 touchdowns in that span.

Dallas vs. Carolina (-2.5; 44)

Dallas: Philadelphia’s path to the NFC East title was made easier when Ezekiel Elliott’s looming six game suspension was finally enforced.  Dak Prescott was certainly impacted by this as he scored 19.63 FPPG with Zeke on the field vs 13.39 FPPG with Zeke warming the bench.  With pass catchers that don’t invoke much fear among opponents, it will be curious to see if opposing defenses stack the box on Zeke and make Dak beat them through the air.  If so, will the Cowboys utilize Zeke out of the backfield more than they have in the past?  Elliott averaged 3.8 targets per game in 10 games last year, up 1.2 TPG from 2016.  This number fails in comparison to Le’Veon Bell’s 6.63 TPG, Todd Gurley’s 5.44 TPG, and David Johnson’s 7.5 TPG back in 2016.

Carolina: No running back in 2017 had a higher floor than Christian McCaffery’s 7.8 FPPG in PPR scoring.  He and Le’Veon Bell were the only two running backs that scored a minimum of 7 fantasy points each game last year.  While he isn’t on that tier of running backs, it’s still one hell of a name to be associated with after a successful rookie season.  Early reports out of Panthers camp indicate the team’s desires to give him the ball 25-30 teams a game.  He was targeted 7.06 times per game last year so he would be cutting into C.J. Anderson’s carries for that goal to happen.  He faces a Dallas team that ranked 13th in FPA to receiving backs. McCaffery has excelled at Bank of America Stadium in the early part of his career, posting 20+ FP games five times last year. 

Kansas City vs Los Angeles (A) (-3; 47.5)

Kansas City: Some players own teams and in Travis Kelce’s case, the Chargers own him.  Since 2015, he hasn’t found the end zone against the Chargers in six games and is averaging a meager 6.88 FPPG in that timeframe.  Tyreek Hill had a little more success in 2 starts last year finding the end zone twice, totaling 19.5 FPPG in two starts.  Then there’s Kareem Hunt who smashed in both starts to the tune of 327 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns, pounding his way to 32.45 FPPG.  How Sammy Watkins and Patrick Mahomes II factor into this equation has yet to be determined.  Kelce will no doubt be started in redraft leagues, but for DFS purposes, there are other tight end selections available with better upsides in Week 1.

Los Angeles: Philip Rivers faces a Chiefs secondary that gave up the second most fantasy points to receivers lined up on the left side and the third most fantasy points to receivers lined up in the slot in 2017.  On top of that, Marcus Peters is removed from the equation and replaced with David Amerson who allowed quarterbacks a league high 156.3 rating in just six games last year.  This sets up well for the veteran quarterback and his receivers.  Keenan Allen scored 21.21 FPPG at home and 23.53 FPPG as a favorite last year.  He will cost a pretty penny to insert into lineups while a cheaper option exists in Tyrell Williams.  A boom or bust option at $4200, he can easily return value with a deep shot and a score.  

Giant Confusion; The Numbers Don’t Add Up Without Eli

Recently, I’ve recognized a confusing trend. Fantasy analysts are overwhelmingly and appropriately giving love to Odell Beckham Jr, Saquon Barkley, and Evan Engram. Even though they are giving this love to the offensive players, they are still ranking Eli Manning as middling or failing. Even our own Top 2 consensus rankings have OBJ at WR2, Saquon at RB5, Engram at TE4, but Eli Manning is QB23. I conclude that the rankings of these players do not add up OR the fantasy community has the non-QB skilled positions ranked too high.

For a little background to how I came to that conclusion, let’s consider 2017 results.

RB WR TE QB
Hunt (RB4) Tyreek (WR9) Kelce (TE1) Smith (QB4)
Gordon (RB5) Allen (WR3) Henry/Gates (TE5) Rivers (QB8)

As you can see, players who are ranked high at their position equate positively for the QB. I can instantly hear your arguments against my, thus far, simplistic reasoning. Allow me to elaborate a bit.

Projecting Eli’s Floor

I’m not claiming that Eli will be the QB4 like Alex Smith in 2017. We are hard pressed to find a game-manager QB like Smith. He runs more than Eli and he is far more efficient in his interception rate (Last 5 years, Smith has a 1.4% to Eli’s 2.9%). To accomodate these differences, let’s take Alex Smith’s legs and efficiency last season and match them to Eli’s by adding 8 more interceptions while removing 330 yards rushing (subtract 49 points). Alex Smith is still the QB14. We can use this number to project a potential floor.

Projecting Eli’s Ceiling

I think the best argument for how Eli Manning should be ranked based on the projected stats of his receiving targets can be made by looking at Philip Rivers’ results in 2017. Their team makeup of 2017 is almost identical to the projections for the Giants in 2018. They had a clear #1 receiver in Keenan Allen just like the Giants have with Odell Beckham Jr., a clear bell-cow RB in Melvin Gordon (just like Saquon Barkley), and a solid TE combo in Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates who equaled the output of Evan Engram in 2017. Similar to Eli Manning, Rivers makes a lot of passing attempts and throws a lot of interceptions. Also like Eli, Philip Rivers simply does not run the ball.

Using these stats and projections, I believe the ceiling for Eli Manning is QB8 in 2018.

The Missing Game

In Week 13, the soon-to-be-ousted Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. The game was against a subpar Oakland Raiders defense. Granting Eli Manning a modest game of 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, he would have finished 2017 as the QB16. That’s right, with no running game, a bunch of injured receivers, and a rookie Tight End, Eli Manning would have finished the season 16th overall instead of 23rd.

Final Thoughts

If there are any naysayers or Giants haters who simply cannot project Eli better than a QB20, then those friendly analysts will need to drop their projections of OBJ, Barkley, or Engram. It is quite difficult to have a successful result at all 3 positions without having a successful QB. The addition of Saquon Barkley will take some of those 2017 pass attempts away, but it will also open the field for the receivers. I anticipate that this will improve Eli’s efficiency.

For the record, I have Eli at QB16. I have OBJ and Barkley right around their ADP according to Fantasy Football Calculator, but I have Engram much lower (TE9 as of today). With the addition of Barkley, the health of OBJ, and the skill of Sterling Shepherd, I don’t believe there are enough targets to make Engram as valuable as he was in 2017 when he was the only healthy target left on the team.

There is a potential 2018 where Eli Manning could finish the season as a top 10 QB in fantasy. If other analysts want to keep projecting OBJ, Barkley, and Engram at their current rankings, then they better take a long hard look at their QB rankings and adjust accordingly.

Utilizing Over/Under for DFS Player Selection

June was a historic month with the legalization of sports betting in the United States.  New Jersey and Delaware were ready to begin taking bets from patrons that have long awaited this monumental announcement.  By the time September comes around, Pennsylvania should join these two states as the regular season draws closer.  

Even before sports betting became legal last month, the utilization of point spreads and over/under totals has been a useful tool in DFS player selection.  Double digit point spreads can translate to a gamescript where the favorite leans on a running back heavily when that team opens a double digit lead.  A low over/under is an indication that Vegas predicts a low scoring game where a defense from such game can provide a viable option for a fantasy lineup.  These are definitely not concrete rules that should be followed like gospel; there will be times when using the Vegas odds and point totals as a guide can turn well designed lineups upside down.  Favorites that were expected to win end up falling behind or coaching decisions that don’t favor your lineup can certainly occur.  The Vegas lines are just one of a few tools available to utilize from the toolbox.  

THE CASE FOR PICKING STRAIGHT-UP WINNERS

Predicting straight up winners and losers can prove to be a more viable tool than who will and will not cover the spread or the point total.  Scrolling over various weeks from the last few seasons, the top performers from those weeks more often than not won the game straight up.  Taking a look at the FanDuel perfect lineups from 2017, those strong performances were backed up with more wins than losses.  Reviewing them shows that 13 of the 17 (76%) perfect quarterbacks were straight up winners along with 28 of the 34 (82%) perfect running backs, 16 of the 17 (94%) perfect kickers, and all of the perfect defenses. 

Running back is an illustration of gamescript where the team that is winning the game will rely on their running back more in the second half to drain the clock.  The instances where a losing RB ends up as a top performer can be linked to opposing teams that are horrible against pass catching backs.  Atlanta has been atrocious against pass catching backs dating back to 2016 (think James White in Super Bowl 51) so seeing Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery as losing perfect RBs in Week 1 and Week 2 respectively last year isn’t totally surprising.  Selecting a winning defense makes perfect sense; the last time the top weekly defense lost the game was Week 4 of 2015 when Detroit amassed 24 points in a loss to Seattle

Although 36 of the 51 (71%) perfect wide receivers and 11 of the 17 (65%) perfect tight ends won their games, these two positions have more variables in selecting the perfect player at that position.  A team playing from behind that needs to use its pass catchers, a receiver with a great cornerback matchup, or another pass catcher that benefits from a teammate with a tougher matchup are such variables that can come into play.  Consider the following:

  • Week 10 of 2014, the Steelers trailed late in the game against the Jets and went into the hurry-up offense to try to score as quick as possible and set up an onside kick.  Martavis Bryant went from WR 35 to WR 6 on a 80 yard deep bomb from Ben Roethlisberger with :12 remaining to make it a 20-13 game that would eventually become the final.  
  • Adoree Jackson had two weeks he liked to forget from Week 11-12 last year.  Antonio Brown torched him on Thursday night football to the tune of 10-144-3 in a blowout win.  The week prior playing from behind, AJ Green beat him on a 70 yard pass from Andy Dalton to give Cincinnati a lead late in the fourth quarter of that game.  Green finished WR3 for that week in an eventual loss
  • Cincinnati bolstered a secondary in which all positions were in the bottom half of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in the 2017 season.  The way to move the football on the 2017 Bengals was through the running backs and the tight end.  Jacoby Brissett peppered Jack Doyle with 14 targets that he converted into 12 receptions, 121 yards, and a touchdown in a Week 8 Indianapolis loss that saw him at the top tight end that week

Trends are validated through repetition; if you combine the 2017 FanDuel perfect lineup figures with the ones from 2015 and 2016, 43 of the 51 (84%) perfect quarterbacks, 85 of the 102 (83%) perfect running backs, 106 of the 153 (69%) perfect wide receivers, 37 of the 51 (73%) perfect tight ends, 46 of the 51 (90%) perfect kickers, and 49 of the 51 (96%) perfect defenses all won the game straight up.  

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Looking at a macro level, take a look at Week 3 from last year.  These are the highest scoring players in PPR scoring at their position and whether they won or lost the game:

QB1: Tom Brady- Won

QB2: Russell Wilson- Won

QB3: Case Keenum- Won

RB1: Todd Gurley- Won

RB2: Jordan Howard- Won

RB3: Chris Thompson- Won

RB4: Dalvin Cook- Won

RB5: Kareem Hunt- Won

WR1: Stefon Diggs- Won

WR2: Larry Fitzgerald- Lost

WR3: Brandin Cooks- Won

WR4: Odell Beckham Jr- Lost

WR5: Sammy Watkins- Won

WR6: TY Hilton- Won

WR7: AJ Green – Lost

TE1: Mercedes Lewis- Won

TE2: Rob Gronkowski- Won

TE3: Zach Ertz- Won

K1: Matt Prater- Lost

K2: Steven Hauschka- Won

K3: Ryan Succop- Won

D1: New York Jets- Won

D2: Cincinnati- Lost

D3: New Orleans- Won

With all statistics, variability exists where the top five running backs won’t always win their game or a top three defense actually loses a game.  These trends aren’t guaranteeing a 50/50 or GPP win, but they will absolutely help reduce the player pool to select from to generate the best possible weekly lineup.  

Chicago State of Mind: Buy or Sell Bears Edition

If I had to have a mindset for when I think about Chicago, it would be: worrisome. Through some of my research, I came up on some disturbing news: the Bears haven’t had a top 36 fantasy wide receiver in the last three years. Now, granted, we can excuse last year when they had Who, Freaking and Cares as their starting receivers. In 2016, however, both Cam Meredith (42) and Alshon Jeffery (57) ranked outside the top 36. Both ended up with 800+ yards/90+ targets but failed to crack the 100 target/1,000 yard threshold. 2015 was no better with only Alshon achieving pretty much what he did in 2016. I’m afraid that we will see an underwhelming Allen Robinson in the same position.

This Has to Be the Year Right?

Knowing that those two are gone now and the whole receiver corps has been retooled, we have to have at least one guy in those 3 tiers right? There should be and here’s why.

The Bears have since hired first year head coach Matt Nagy from the Andy Reid coaching tree. What we know about those offenses is that they don’t Fox things up. He’s worked with a whole lot of Alex Smith in his time as a quarterbacks coach. It gives me hope for sophomore quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has suffered under the grimy hand of John Fox. A big part of the fantasy community has been predicting that he will have a resurgence similar to when Jeff Fisher left the Rams causing that offense to take off. I see it happening, just not to the extent the Rams had. Trubisky is a more athletic QB than Goff and I believe we will see his rushing numbers increase over last years number of 41 for 248. It’d be crazy if we saw that double because that would be knocking on the door of Cohen’s attempts. I do believe that Trubisky will see an increase in passing numbers too, just not as much as Goff’s.

Because I don’t believe that Trubisky’s passing numbers will balloon as Goff’s did, I don’t think the Bears will have more than one wideout over 800 yards. I think with the way this offense is built, it’ll end up being Allen Robinson, Burton and Cohen atop the target chart. After that tier, I see Gabriel and Howard coming in next.

Growth is the Propane for Change

For such a paltry offense last year, I do see a change on the horizon for this team in 2018. Here’s my outlook for the prominent weapons for fantasy.

Allen Robinson

I like him in the second tier of receiver (13-24) as long as he can stay healthy. He has the tools to become a higher end receiver but it won’t happen this year with a new coach, different scheme and recovery from injury.

Taylor Gabriel

He was used as a gadget player in Atlanta and really similar to the Cohen/Tyreek build. With him and Cohen on the field, it’s going to be really fun to watch. So much elite speed together from the slot and backfield. He’ll end up as the third passing option (barring a Kevin White breakout) behind Robinson and Burton. Gabriel will be most teams’ 4th or 5th receiver drafted but will be worth the roster spot.

Trey Burton

Nagy has already mentioned how he’ll be used like Kelce was and that he will have him everywhere in the offense with Shaheen being more of an in-line blocking tight end. Burton will be able to create mismatches with linebackers on the inside and be the security blanket this young QB needs. I see Trey falling into the 8-12 range for tight ends.

Jordan Howard

I have him as a back end top tier running back (12th). He was 7th in total touches and I don’t see him losing much of that to Trubisky and Cohen. The only reason I won’t rank him higher is due to all of the pass catching work essentially going to Cohen.

Tarik Cohen

I get more excited than a kid at a candy corral with this guy. He was so electrifying last year catching passes and blowing by guys out of the backfield. Another one that Nagy has specifically mentioned having an increased role, I see him landing as a third tier running back with tier two capability. I have him ranked way higher (27) than my cohorts at Top 2 (unranked) and I didn’t realize how big that gap was until today.

Mitchell Trubisky

He embodies what I want in a fantasy QB, dual capability. Scoring normally always favors those types of QBs. He will end up being a great QB2 or streaming candidate depending on how you run your team. Our consensus rank has him at 17.

On the surface, this offense looks ready to take the leap and it resembles the Kansas City offense from last year, but they won’t. It’s going to take some time and we have to be patient. Trubisky possibly has a small scale Gronkowski on his hands in Shaheen (great dynasty asset) and Anthony Miller will be a starter within this offense very soon. Not to mention eyes should be kept on Bennie Fowler, Tanner Gentry (one of my favorites) and Javon Wims who is no slouch either. Don’t sleep on the Bears!