Part 3 of the series reviews a wide receiver position that rebounded from a real life and fantasy perspective from 2017. As a whole, wide receiver receptions, yards, and touchdowns saw sizable increases in 2018. Also notable, wide receiver rushing attempts and rushing yards had substantial bumps from the prior year.
As you will discover from this piece, the position can be a roller coaster to evaluate each week. 44 different receivers made the perfect lineup out of a possible 55 occurrences. Compared to the running back and tight end positions that saw 62% and 64% of its respective slots represented by different players, 80% for wide receivers shouldn’t be too surprising. Especially when you consider there are at least two reliable receivers on most teams vs a single bell cow back or tight end that is heavily relied upon.
Some of these receiver trends aren’t as concrete as those that were presented in the previous two articles of the series regarding the quarterback and running back positions. The wide receiver position displays more variables that show the fickle nature of the position. At times, these variables can make it feel rather unpredictable as the trend below and others discussed in this article will illustrate.
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THE PERFECT WIDE RECEIVERS COMBINED FOR A RECORD OF 29-24-2
Tyreek Hill was the WR1 in Week 10 in a win that he did nearly all of his damage when the game was still within reach for the Cardinals. In opposite fashion, Taylor Gabriel caught two touchdown passes in what already a rout against the Buccaneers. Remaining cognizant to how coaches and coordinators approach and utilize their passing games in positive gamescript can be critical when a game gets out of hand. Some may like to keep the foot on the gas while others may be content running the ball and draining clock.
Negative gamescript can move one from six DK points and WR63 for the week and boost him all the way up to 23 DK points and WR8 on a deep throw in hopes of a late rally. Of the 50 perfect receivers that did score a touchdown in their respective games, 30 of them did so when their team was trailing. This isn’t breaking news but sometimes, a reminder of the obvious can be a cure for the overthinking that is possible on a week-to-week basis. In this case, rostering receivers that are expected to be in a close game or playing from behind.
Defenses that possess a strong competency in stopping the run may be more targeted via the wide receiver. Take the Saints as they surrendered the fourth fewest FPA to running backs but hemorrhaged the most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers. These stout rushing defenses can funnel additional passing attempts and create more opportunity for damage through the air, especially when the secondary is a porous one. The Saints allowed four perfect receivers with their inability to contain the position.
As evidenced, a lot goes into deciding which receiver to choose. Where the perfect running backs show a positive correlation towards winning their respective games, it’s nearly a 50/50 proposition with their wide receiving counterparts. Of course, none of this matters if there isn’t opportunity to make a difference on the field.
THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF RECEPTIONS PER GAME FOR THE WIDE RECEIVERS WAS 7.96
Targets are fantasy gold that create opportunities for wide receivers to produce. Without them, that receiver serves no purpose in lineups, especially when running backs are seeing increased touches and roles in the offense. With the limited amount of opportunities they have each week, it is critical for receivers to capitalize on those balls thrown to them.
For those that achieved perfection, the average number of receptions per game was 7.96 off 10.23 targets. Michael Thomas saw a perfect lineup ceiling of 16 receptions in Week 1 while Tyrell Williams needed as few as three of them to do his damage. Of course, Tyrell needed more than three receptions for 118 yards to get on that list by scoring two touchdowns on the day. It’s no surprise that 50 of the 55 wide receivers on the list posted at least one touchdown.
35 OF THE 55 WIDE RECEIVERS WERE PRICED AT $6000 OR LOWER
Considering 21 of the 34 perfect running backs, not including flex options, we’re priced over $7000, inexpensive wide receivers needed to be rostered and were available each week. In fact, at least one perfect wide receiver was priced as low as $5000 in all but one main slate in 2018; Week 2 was the only week that featured all receivers over $6000.
Needless to say, a wide receiver under $6000 won’t land a team’s #1 option in most cases. However, a team’s second or third made the perfect lineup in 15 of 17 weeks as 44 different receivers made the list. Targeting susceptible cornerbacks comes into play in identifying those cheap receivers that have favorable matchups. P.J. Williams, M.J. Stewart, and Jalen Mills were just some of the corners that were weekly targets in the 2018 DFS landscape. One secondary fell victim to more perfect receivers than the other 31 teams and resides in a division with strong quarterbacks and receiving corps.
CAROLINA ALLOWED SEVEN PERFECT WIDE RECEIVERS
In one corner sits Matt Ryan with his lethal perimeter receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. In another contains the surgical duo of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. Don’t forget about Jameis Winston and his trio of talented receivers in Mike Evans, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin; it remains to be seen if DeSean Jackson returns in 2019. That’s a tall order of firepower for any secondary to endure in 6 of 16 games.
The damage inflicted upon a Panther secondary that was in the top 5 in FPA to perimeter receivers wasn’t just limited to divisional foes. Kenny Golladay got the best of them at one point as well as a pair of Seattle receivers in David Moore and Tyler Lockett that both posted 100+ receiving yard games en route to the perfect lineup. Odell Beckham Jr. threw a touchdown pass on top of the carnage he created opposite James Bradberry and Donte Jackson.
Carolina’s 2019 schedule outside of divisional play features some tough perimeter receiver matchups to include Davante Adams, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, the Rams duo of Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, and the aforementioned Tyler Lockett. For what has been an Achilles heel for this defense the last two years, the Panthers need Jackson to continue to develop as he enters his second year in the league and Bradberry to shut down opposing receivers not just named Mike Evans.
DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown were the only two receivers to eclipse 300 fantasy points in PPR scoring in 2017, the fewest receivers to hit that benchmark since 2012 when Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall were the only two to do so. In 2018, five other receivers joined Brown and Hopkins in this club, reiterating the aerial revolution that is sweeping the NFL.
As long as this pass-first mentality continues, the state of the wide receiver shouldn’t bottom out as it did in 2017 and maintain its current upward trend. Even with the running backs more involved in the passing game, the current household names at the receiver along with the ascension of some younger stars projects a bright outlook for the position for the next few years.