FANTASY PLAYS: Pool is deep for quality wide receivers

The WR position is one of the deepest in fantasy football.

Fantasy players focusing on RBs in the early rounds of drafts should have no problem finding middle round fantasy viable WRs.

DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams are two of the best receivers in the league. They’re almost always taken in the first round of 12 team drafts. Per consensus average draft position (ADP), Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr. are also often taken in the first round of drafts.

Jones is recovering from a foot injury, but should be fine for Week 1. Beckham is one of the best WRs in the game when he’s on the field, but he’s missed half of his games over the past two seasons.

Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill are generally being drafted just outside the first round. Both could return first-round value.

The aforementioned players all had at least 137 targets. A receivers total targets is one of the main criteria used in evaluating WRs in points-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats. Receiver’s targets influence total receptions, a focal point in PPR scoring. Standard scoring leagues focus on receiving yards and TDs.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (ADP 50) will see an uptick in targets and receptions and represents good value at his ADP. Last season (70 targets, 57 receptions, 965 receiving yards, 10 TDs), he was WR 11 in standard scoring leagues, but just WR 16 in PPR scoring formats.

Browns WR Jarvis Landry (ADP 63, 149 targets, 81 catches, 976 receiving yards, four TDs) was WR 19 in PPR leagues and WR 22 in standard scoring leagues.

Offensive scheme, as well as a wide receiver’s quarterback, plays an important role in WR evaluations. New Buccaneers coach Bruce Arian has a history of developing top QBs. Bucs WR Mike Evans (ADP 20) is already a top fantasy receiver, but if QB Jameis Winston reach his full potential under Arians, fellow receiver Chris Godwin’s (ADP 44) could be a draft-day bargain.

It’s important to identify WRs who’ll be the WR1 on their individual teams and available in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (ADP 40) is one such receiver. He’s been QB Tom Brady’s top receiver to target since 2013.

The Rams‘ trio of WRs Brandin Cooks (ADP 39), Robert Woods (ADP 41) and Cooper Kupp (ADP 47) are typically available in round four of 12-team drafts. All had remarkably similar fantasy points per game production last season and play in a fantasy favorable offensive scheme.

Kenny Golladay (ADP 43) has potential upside as the WR1 for the Lions. His production increased slightly after Golden Tate was traded away after Week 7. Golladay’s 2019 outlook largely depends on if QB Matthew Stafford can bounce back from a subpar season.

Bengals WR A.J. Green (ADP 53) is expected to miss multiple games recuperating from ankle surgery. Tyler Boyd (ADP 56) was having a breakout 2018 season until a knee injury forced him to miss Weeks 15 and 16. He’ll likely lead the team in targets early on. The Bengals want to run the ball more this season, but as a team expected to struggle they’ll probably be throwing the ball a lot late in games. Boyd should slightly out produce his current ADP.

Second-year WRs Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore are being selected near the fifth round of 12-team drafts.

With the Falcons having executed the third-most passing plays in football last season Ridley will have plenty of pass catching opportunities in 2019. He’s got great hands (69.6% catch rate), a nose for the end zone (10 TDs) and should build upon his 64 catch, 821 receiving yard rookie season.

Moore had a solid rookie season but RB Christian McCaffrey is the focal point of the Panthers offense and led the team in red zone target percentage in 2018. Fellow WR Curtis Samuel should see a similar target share as Moore. He’s being drafted two to three rounds later than Moore and might represent better fantasy value based on ADP.

The Packers executed the highest percentage of passing plays last season. New head coach Matt LaFleur may tweak their offense but with QB Aaron Rodgers under center the Packers will be a pass-happy team. Geronimo Allison (ADP 120) is expected to play out of the slot for the Packers and should outperform his ADP.

Second-year Bears receiver Anthony Miller (ADP 138) was also used out of the slot last season and if healthy is expected to build upon his 33 catch, 7 TD 2018 season.

Bills WR Zay Jones, largely undrafted this preseason, could be fantasy relevant by seasons end. He played some snaps out of the slot and had the second highest percentage of team red zone targets (39.5) in football last season. He also scored six TDs in his last seven games.

The Steelers had the second-highest pass play percentage last season and Antonio Brown’s 168 targets are there for the taking. Second-year WR James Washington (ADP 116) has excelled early this preseason. With the Steelers having a historical knack for producing top fantasy WRs, Washington is someone to target in drafts.

As for Antonio Brown (ADP 21), drafting him in the second round seems risky. He still has the talent to be a top-five fantasy WR, but he’s going to miss having Ben Roethlisberger as his QB and his drama-filled offseason makes you wonder.

Lastly, recently reinstated Patriots receiver Josh Gordon’s ADP will rise as the preseason progresses. He averaged three catches and 61 receiving yards last season and seems to have an excellent working relationship with QB Tom Brady. He’s likely to be the third-highest targeted Patriot behind Edelman and RB James White. He can potentially produce WR2 production.