For fantasy, wide receiver production is about earning targets and then maximizing them. Simply looking at the players who are given the most targets can give you a good idea of which players are thriving in a more stable fashion, but determining those that are earning the valuable targets is critical. For instance, certain wide receivers are more likely to see more targets in the red zone (touchdown upside), while others bring big-play ability with field-stretching ability or production at the catch. At the wide receiver position, I’m mainly evaluating a player’s ability to earn favorable targets moving forward. The most talented players, theoretically, are the most likely to produce regardless of what their situation is, and also are the most likely to get that favorable role.
Before we get to the rankings, let’s go over some of the key points to touch on:
- With Aaron Rodgers likely on the move this season, who will Davante Adams be catching passes from next season? He himself is a free agent, and now that he’s 29-years-old, the last years of his elite production are coming. Thus, he needs to land in a favorable landing spot to maximize his short-term value for win-now teams.
- Whenever you can buy low on two talented receivers, you should entertain the possibility. Calvin Ridley and Michael Thomas are two terrific target hogs for win-now teams.
- I’m excited about Michael Pittman Jr. heading into his third season. He earned a 79.9 PFF receiving grade with 1.95 yards/route run, and simply needs a higher-volume passing attack to flourish. Look for a third-year leap here.
- DeVonta Smith impressed as a rookie last season with a 77.7 PFF receiving grade and a 38.9% air-yards share (sixth-best) in his rookie season. That being said, as long as Jalen Hurts is the team’s quarterback and they operate a run-heavy offense, his upside is going to be limited for now.
- Don’t forget about Marquise Brown. With Lamar Jackson last season, the 24-year-old averaged 1.99 yards/route run and 13.77 PPR fantasy points per game. He ranked in the top-ten in air-yards share and target rate last season, and although Mark Andrews is the #1 option in the team’s passing game, Brown’s the #2 option, and consistently commands air yards down the field. With Baltimore becoming more pass-heavy, he took off with Jackson this season, but his poor end to the season with Tyler Huntley makes him a great buy-low trade target right now.
- I’m worried about Mike Evans, especially with quarterback uncertainty in Tampa Bay. His yards/route run and target rates have been in the decline, and he’s reliant on being in a high-scoring offense where he can score a lot of touchdowns to generate fantasy production. I’m not sure that’s a pathway for success in his current situation, and the 28-year-old’s physical style of play likely won’t age well. It’s hard to trade him right after Tom Brady retired (his stock is down), bit you should certainly entertain offers for him.
- Quietly, KaDarius Toney was a pleasant surprise as a rookie when healthy last season. The University of Florida product averaged 2.12 yards/route run, and commanded a 28.9% target rate. Now that he enters his second season in a more offensive-friendly environment with new head coach Brian Daboll, his future looks bright.
- Speaking of Giants benefitting from the head-coaching change, here’s hoping Kenny Golladay can improve drastically in his second year with the team. The 28-year-old averaged 1.97 yards/route run in his first four games, but then got hurt in Week 5, and wasn’t the same upon coming back. I’m confident that a pass-heavy offense under Daboll can squeeze some juice out of him, making him a great buy-low if you can stomach it.
- How the Bills attack their wide receiver situation will be interesting. if they trust Gabriel Davis as the #2 option, his stock rises. Should they cut Cole Beasley and perhaps entrust Isaiah McKenzie in the slot, then he also is a sleeper to keep an eye. A lot of moving parts yet to come, but this is a passing game you want to be invested in.
- Before it’s too late, you may want to sell Terrace Marshall Jr. As a rookie, he fell out of favor with this coaching staff, and did not do well with a 52.9 PFF receiving grade and a paltry 0.50 yards/route run. Maybe it gets better in year #2, but he’ll still be the #3 option of a limited passing offense, and he simply might not translate well to the NFL level. While there is still faith in him, trading him makes sense.
|17||Michael Pittman Jr.||IND|
|29||Amon-Ra St. Brown||DET|
|39||Allen Robinson II||FA|
|41||Odell Beckham Jr.||FA|
|52||Will Fuller V||MIA|
|55||D.J. Chark Jr.||FA|
|56||Laviska Shenault Jr.||JAX|
|64||Marvin Jones Jr.||JAX|
|69||Terrace Marshall Jr.||CAR|