Draft Prep: Boring is Better – Safe WRs

Kevin Taylor discusses four receivers that he considers safe-floor options in the draft.

A good fantasy football roster has a mix of high ceiling/high floor type players so one’s risk can be at a manageable level. I’m going to discuss four WRs after the top 12 (as they are pretty straight forward) that aren’t flashy but can provide you with a nice floor and bankable production. Especially in PPR settings, where catches are very important. I like to take a look at who will be getting a good amount of opportunity for those catches (targets).

I am using Fantasy Pros 2019 PPR Wide Receiver ADP on July 19th for reference.

 

Julian Edelman – ADP WR 15/ OVR 39

 

Edelman has long been a PPR monster in the middle of the field for the Patriots. In the last four years in fantasy points per game for a wide receiver, Edelman has ranked 12th, N/A (injured), 16th, and 7th. Last year he was 9th in targets per game, after missing the first four weeks with a suspension.

I like Edelman this year because of the high floor you get every week and the fact that there is the upside. The Patriots had a lot of holes to fill in their passing game this offseason, as they look to start 2019 without these pass catchers:

Player Reason for Absence Targets per Game
Josh Gordon Indefinite Suspension 5.9
Rob Gronkowski Retired 5.6
Chris Hogan Free Agency 3.4
Cordarrelle Patterson Free Agency 1.9
Targets Available Per Game 16.8

To replace these guys, the Patriots sign 31-year-old Demaryius Thomas, who is on the backside of a good career and had a career-low 59 receptions on an also career-low 89 targets. They also signed 38-year old Benjamin Watson coming off 2.9 targets per game season with the Saints. Lastly, Dontrelle Inman comes over from the Colts where he flashed at times but still only had 28 receptions on 39 targets in nine games for them. The biggest splash the Patriots made to their Receiving corps was drafting N’Keal Harry in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. It will be interesting to see how Harry performs in year one after recent Patriots’ WR draft picks have largely struggled (2016 fourth-rounder Malcolm Mitchell, 2015 sixth-rounder A.J. Derby, and 2013 second-rounder Aaron Dobson).

To sum it up, I believe you can draft Edelman banking on top-10 targets per game, with upside for top-five, with all of the turnover in the Patriots receiving corps. That kind of opportunity as your WR2 is money in the bank.

 

Dante Pettis – ADP  WR 33 / OVR 78

 

Pettis didn’t become a full-time starter for the 49ers until week 10, which is a bit surprising, considering the state of their receiving corps last year. Pettis missed one of the seven games at the end of the season. In the six games, he did play, he was WR22 in PPG and had 5-7 targets in every one of those games. According to Pettis’s player profile, he was extremely efficient when he started getting his opportunities. He was the number one WR in target separation (avg yards of separation distance to the nearest defensive back when the pass target arrives). He was also fifth in yards per reception and ninth in yards per target last season.

In year two for Pettis, it is reasonable to think he takes another step forward, as he is the number one receiver and should be the number two option in the passing game behind George Kittle. Jimmy Garoppolo is back from injury, which should lead to more consistency, and Pettis will have another year under his belt in the Kyle Shanahan offense. The 49ers drafted Deebo Samuel in the second round of this year’s draft but as Pettis himself showed last year, that doesn’t mean he will start right away. Pierre Garcon is gone this year and former sleeper Marquise Goodwin hasn’t lived up to the hype with his 4.27 sec 40 yard dash time and blazing speed.

Pettis is a nice pick in the sixth round, and at WR33 ADP, you are paying low-end WR3 price, but he could push for lower-end WR2 numbers.

 

Sterling Shepard – ADP WR 36 / OVR 89

 

Shepard comes into his fourth season as a pro with large shoes to fill. Superstar Odell Beckham Jr. is off to Cleveland and Shepard signed a sizeable four-year, $41 million extensions this offseason. Beckham Jr. leaves a sizeable 124 targets on the table and it is reasonable to expect Shepard to improve on his 107 targets from last year. The Giants bring in slot receiver Golden Tate who was on pace for another solid year (44 rec/517 yards/3 TD) until being traded to the Eagles before week eight. After that point, his production fell off significantly to a 30 rec/278 yards/1 TD line.

Reports from minicamp last month were glowing for Shepard. He will be asked to be a more complete receiver this year by having him step out of the slot more often. Stepping out of the slot should lead to less efficiency, but the volume he should receive along with more downfield routes should make up for it. With Beckham out the final four games last year, Shepard posted targets of 6,9,7, and 9 which is a healthy 7.75 target average and a 124 target pace for the year. Last year 124 targets would have been 14th best in the league, behind Robert Woods and ahead of T.Y. Hilton.

Shepard is currently being drafted in the middle of the seventh-round as a WR 3/4. I will gladly take a shot on a guy who has a solid chance for top-15 WR targets that late in my draft, even if they are from Eli Manning, who is a bottom 10-to-12 QB in the league at this point in his career.

 

Larry Fitzgerald – ADP WR 39 / OVR 100

 

Larry Fitzgerald will be playing 2019 at 36 years-of-age. He is not the fantasy option he used to be, no doubt, but he can help your team by providing a consistently safe floor. Last year, Fitzgerald was catching passes from Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen, who both struggled mightily. The Cardinals also ranked 31st in plays per game at a paltry 56.4. Despite these obstacles, Fitzgerald was the 25th ranked WR in PPR formats and was still 20th in the NFL in targets at 112 (7.0 per game) for the year. He did this while leading his team in WR snaps at 872, next was second-year receiver Christian Kirk at 542. To me, this shows Fitzgerald was so valuable to his team, they couldn’t take him off the field, even if he has slowed down some. It was encouraging as well that he didn’t slow as the season continued. Getting 35 targets the last four games (8.75 avg) was higher than his aforementioned season average. Lastly, he is 6’3″ and weighs about 220 lbs, Fitzgerald is a great red-zone target as he was top-15 in red-zone target share and end zone target share last year.

Moving to 2019, the Cardinals outlook is a bit different. New HC Kliff Kingsbury comes in looking to install a fast-paced, up-tempo, spread offense. One can expect the Cardinals to be near or at the top in plays run this year, compared to next to last, like in 2018. This can mean as many as 70-per-game, the top mark last year, and would also be about 14 extra plays per game. The Cardinals also bring in rookie quarterback Kyler Murray to be the leader of this new fast-paced offense and he should look to Fitzgerald often, as he is the veteran of a receivers group that includes two rookies and second-year receiver Kirk.

I would not be surprised if Fitzgerald leads the Cardinals in targets again and that it was more than last year, in Kingsbury’s offense. He can be had as a WR4, being the 39th WR taken in the eighth round of drafts, which is a slam dunk and his absolute floor in my opinion. I believe he should return easy WR3 value, securing plenty of targets and a solid amount of red-zone work as well.

 

(Photo by Kevin French/Icon Sportswire)

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