Staff Playbook: Which WR3 Can Be A WR1?

The QB List Staff shares their playbook and details which WR3 options have the best chance to finish the season as a top-10 WR.

Welcome to the QB List Staff Playbook Series. Every week throughout both the summer and season, we will conduct a staff survey, asking multiple fantasy analysts to share their insights on some of fantasy football’s most pressing questions. Essentially, we’re sharing our “playbook” with you, revealing the hard choices and strategic moves we would make to stay ahead of the competition.

This week, the QB List Staff was asked which wide receiver, drafted after the first 24 based on Fantasy Pros ADP for PPR leagues, had the best chance to break into the top-10 at the position. In short, which WR3 is most likely to finish the year as a WR1.

Let’s open the playbook:

 

Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): Dante Pettis – ADP 82.4, 32nd WR taken overall

Reasoning: In half-point PPR leagues, Dante Pettis averaged 12.2 Pts/g from Weeks 10-16. His 2.26 yards per route run during that stretch ranked 11th among qualifying NFL receivers. He averaged 6.2 targets, four receptions, and 61.8 yards with Nick Mullens throwing him the rock. The 6’1″ Pettis ran a 4.48 forty time at the NFL Combine; last season, he ran three deep routes, scoring one TD, during the only two games he played with Jimmy Garroppolo last season. Among all rookie receivers, Pettis graded the highest in YAC/reception (7.3) and 4th in passer rating when targeted at 125.7. He is slated to start as the X receiver in HC Kyle Shanahan’s system, a position with a historical track record for success. Even if we ignore what Hall of Fame talents Julio Jones and Andre Johnson accomplished at the X receiver role under Shanahan, consider that a quality receiver like Pierre Garcon still produced a 110+ catch, 1300+ yard season. Pettis is arguably a more physically gifted talent. Even still, expect Shanahan to creatively move Pettis around though, as the coach does a superlative job creating mismatches with receivers using pre-snap motion. When running routes in the slot, the QB Rating when targeting Pettis was an astounding 129.7. From the outside, it was still a solid 95.6. Moreover, Pettis has been refining his footwork and route running with former slot maven Wes Welker as his WR coach in San Francisco. Add it all up and you’ve got arguably the best wideout value in your draft.

 

Jeff Berckes (@gridironborn): Christian Kirk – ADP 83.2, 34th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Are the Cardinals going to be good at football this year? I sincerely doubt it. Will they be entertaining? Absolutely. New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury is bringing the Air Raid to the desert with Kyler Murray as the point man. Would it surprise anyone if the Cardinals lead the league in pass attempts? Christian Kirk, the 2018 first-round pick, had a solid rookie campaign (43-590-3) over 12 games with Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen under center. Kirk enters 2019 as the heavy favorite to lead the team in targets as an ascending player with the skills and experience to thrive in an air raid system as he did at Texas A&M. The sheer volume is intriguing but he also flashed big time playmaking ability down the stretch. As the WR34 in early drafts, he should be on your radar as an upside WR3 that could turn into a league winner.

 

Frank Costanzo (@FrankQBList): Robby Anderson – ADP 77.0, 31st WR taken overall

Reasoning: Robby Anderson is ready to make another jump. He broke out onto the fantasy scene two years ago when he totaled 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. That was all with a combination of Josh McCown and Bryce Petty at quarterback. Unfortunately, this past season, Sam Darnold and Anderson did not get on the same page until late. When Darnold came back from injury, he started playing like the top 3 overall pick he is and Anderson was the main beneficiary. Over the last month of the season, Darnold led the NFL in QBR. In those four games, Anderson put up 23 catches for 336 yards and three TDs. The rest of the season was up and down for Anderson, but he still managed to put up some impressive numbers in his 14 games. Anderson had an aDOT (average depth of target) of 15.8 yards and a 33.6% share of the Jets’ total air yards (per airyards.com), which was 9th best for WRs. This shows Anderson’s deep ball prowess which is key for fantasy. Gase has also said he plans to see how much more Anderson can handle and wants to have him run a full route tree. If Darnold and Anderson can keep up the rapport they showed down the stretch, Anderson can push for top 10 WR status.

 

David Fenko (@Velcronomics): Dede Westbrook – ADP 104.4, 31st WR taken overall

Reasoning: There were a lot of problems in Jacksonville last year, but Dede Westbrook was not one of them. In spite of the poor performance by Blake Bortles, Westbrook was able to grind out 717 yards with passes routinely thrown to him short and infrequently (Westbrook led the team with a 12.6% target share [by snap] and a 19.3% target share on attempts). 2019 offers a lot of renewed optimism in Jacksonville – even if you don’t believe in Nick Foles, he is going to outperform twice-benched Blake Bortles. The Jaguars welcome back Marqise Lee and Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Chris Conley to the team, which theoretically gives defenses more than Leonard Fournette to worry about. All of these factors stand to help Westbrook by opening up more space for Dede to get the ball in his hands and generate yardage after the catch.

 

Ryan Heath (@QBLRyan): Keke Coutee – ADP 119.4, 43rd WR taken overall

Reasoning: Keke Coutee is in what should be one of the premier offenses in the league that happens to lack an impressive tight end or satellite back. Most of the targets should concentrate around DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Coutee, with Coutee mostly manning the slot. This idea is supported by the limited sample from last season – though Coutee was only on the field for 68.4% of the snaps during games in which he was active, he had a 22.7% target share in those games, ranking inside the top 20 in the league. It’s clear that Deshaun Watson was often seeking Coutee out, likely because he ranked 2nd in the league in target separation, with an average of 2.32 yards between him and the nearest defender. Admittedly, top 12 or WR1 finish is a stretch… but, if Coutee stays healthy for the full season, he could potentially outproduce Fuller and crack the top 20, with his 4.43 speed giving him plenty of upside to bust long gains.

 

Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN): Mike Williams – ADP 67.2, 28th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Mike Williams managed to finish as a solid WR3 for fantasy owners last season despite seeing just 66 targets. That equated out to a 13% target share for the Chargers, 94th in the NFL. Williams parlayed those targets into 43 receptions for 664 yards and 10 TDs. That last number is the one to focus on. Williams saw 27.3% of the end zone targets that Philip Rivers threw, placing him at 12th best in that category among all NFL receivers. Tyrell Williams is now in Oakland, and his 64 targets are going to be divided up among Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Williams. If Williams can command 50% of those, that puts him right at 100 targets and probably 65 receptions. In PPR leagues, if Williams can turn those receptions into a 1,000+ yard season and eight TDs, that puts him in the top 20. If he remains the top end zone threat for L.A., he could easily surpass double-digit TDs again and wind up as a fantasy WR1 in 2019.

 

Brenden Schaeffer (@bschaeffer12): Tyler Boyd – ADP 64.8, 27th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Though A.J. Green is the marquee name in Cincy, Boyd actually achieved better numbers last season with him in the lineup. When Green played, it’s as though Boyd flew under the radar, averaging better than six receptions and 17.4 PPR points per game. In Green’s absence, Boyd didn’t elevate his game the way many analysts predicted. His FP per game dropped to 12.82 in those five games. Despite missing the final two games with a sprained MCL, Boyd still finished the season as WR17 in PPR scoring. He’s being drafted well below that mark at WR27 right now, but if the Bengals have their full complement of offensive weapons, I could envision Boyd sneaking under the radar for opposing defenses, playing his way into WR1 territory as a volume-based threat out of the slot.

 

Marc Salazar (@dingwog): Corey Davis – ADP 87.2, 35th WR taken overall

Reasoning: I’m old enough to remember when third-year breakout wide receivers were a thing. Before Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham, Michael Thomas, and Mike Evans came on strong in their rookie seasons. Nowadays, if you aren’t out of hiding by the second year, fantasy owners may well just give up on you. Last season Corey Davis found himself on a list of receivers poised for an early career year but couldn’t quite make the leap. I’m not ready to give up on Davis, and there are some promising signs that he may realize his potential in 2019. While Davis has underperformed, part of his struggles has been the offensive play calling in Tennessee. Davis finished with 112 targets yet couldn’t pass the thousand-yard mark, a feat that is hard to do. He accounted for more than a quarter of all the passing volume the team generated by himself. The Titans were one of the slowest-paced teams last season, running under 60 snaps a game on offense. This led to 185 pass yards a game on just 27 attempts. Their 437 attempts on the year ranked 31st in the league. When they did throw the ball, they did so with success. If the pace of play picks up and the Titans can approach the 500 pass attempts threshold, Davis is bound for a career year.

 

Mike Miklius (@SIRL0INofBEEF): Curtis Samuel – ADP 119.8, 44th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Panthers receiver A had 82 targets, 55 receptions, 788 yards, and two touchdowns while playing all 16 games. Panthers receiver B had 65 targets, 39 receptions, 494 yards, and five touchdowns while playing in 13 games. His 16 game pace would have been 80 targets, 48 receptions, 608 yards, and six touchdowns. Receiver A is D.J. Moore, who many consider a breakout candidate this year and a great WR1 candidate. Receiver B is Curtis Samuel, who profiles similarly to Adam Thielen and is going about 50 picks after Moore. I’ll take the discount, and I’ll take Curtis Samuel as a cheap shot at a WR1.

 

Caio Miari (@caioNFL18): Sammy Watkins – ADP 61.6, 25th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Sammy Watkins’ career hasn’t turned out as everyone expected after being drafted fourth overall in 2014. The Kansas City Chiefs was his third different team between 2016 and 2018. And it’s also hard to imagine Watkins with such a high production once he’s playing alongside with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. However, keep in mind that the opponents will desperately try to find a way to stop Hill, a scenario that might be favorable for Watkins. It’s a long shot, but I can see Patrick Mahomes targeting the 26-year-old wide receiver more frequently in 2019 after 55 targets (and 40 catches) last year, especially if Mahomes repeats another magnificent season. For the record, Watkins’ 72.7% reception rate was easily his career-best. Plus, the 9.4 yards per target were the receiver’s highest since 2015.

 

Dave Lathrop (@DaveLathropQBL): Golden Tate – ADP 103.8, 40th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Golden Tate just signed a four-year, $37.5 million deal with the Giants this offseason, including almost $23 million guaranteed. That’s not top-WR-in-the-game money but it’s not veteran minimum money either. He can still catch a lot of balls and should be primed to do so this season. The Giants traded away Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason and in doing so, they traded away 124 targets and 77 receptions. Both of those numbers would have been higher had OBJ not battled injuries during the last five games of the season. Those targets will now have to go elsewhere and while Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard are sure to see some of those, Tate should see the majority. Tate has admitted that he is on the backstretch of his impressive career, but he has also proven that he still has a lot left in the tank. Last year was the first year in the last five that he didn’t have at least 90 catches. During that previous four-year stretch, he finished as a WR1 just once (2014) but finished as WR17 in 2016 and WR13 in 2017. An extra two catches and three yards in 2017 would have put him in the top 10. He is just two years removed from that performance and I believe that 2018, a year in which he played for two different offenses, was more of a fluke than a sign of a WR on his way out. He is currently being drafted 101st overall and WR40, a WR4 in 12-team leagues. There is a chance he returns to former glory in his new offense and I would bet a fair amount of money that he drastically outperforms his ADP.

 

Marshal Hickman (@MHickQBL): James Washington – ADP 120.4, 45th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Despite a quiet rookie season in 2018, the former second-rounder from Oklahoma State finds himself in a land of opportunity in 2019. The Steelers supported two top 10 wide receivers in 2018, and the departure of Antonio Brown leaves plenty of targets to go around. The presence of offseason acquisition Donte Moncrief certainly complicates the list of potential outcomes for Washington in 2019. However, Washington has been the topic of plenty of offseason coach-speak and plays in a prolific passing offense notorious for its in-house wide-receiver development. There exists a world in which James Washington has a top-10 finish in 2019, and I’m excited to see if it’s ours.

 

Tom Schweitzer (@QBLTom): Allen Robinson – ADP 72.0, 30th WR taken overall

Reasoning: Allen Robinson’s career can be defined by two things: injuries and bad QB play. He spent his first four seasons toiling away in Jacksonville with Blake Bortles. Results were mixed, but he did manage to finish as the number six WR in PPR scoring in 2015. After tearing his ACL in 2017, Robinson struggled last year to get fully healthy and to get fully acclimated into the Bears offense. Mitch Trubisky was effective at times last year and a solid fantasy QB, but his work with Robinson was woefully inefficient. He provided Robinson with a catchable target rate of just 68.1%, one of the lowest in the league. Despite the lack of opportunity and four games lost to injury, Robinson still managed to lead the Bears in receiving yards. The fact is, Robinson has never fully been unlocked. His 124.1 SPARQ-x score is still one of the highest in the league among starting WRs. And even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s only 25, barely a year older than teammate and trendy sleeper pick Anthony Miller. Trubisky is a bit of a polarizing player, but if he can become more efficient and develop more of a rapport with Robinson, we might see A-Rob drafted as a top 10 WR this time next year.

 (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

 

6 responses to “Staff Playbook: Which WR3 Can Be A WR1?”

  1. alan buck says:

    This article lost all credibility when one of the “analysts” claimed Sammy Watkins could be a No. 1 WR this year. One of the worst calls I’ve read in quite some time.

    • Paul Ghiglieri says:

      I didn’t choose Watkins for this article, but I don’t believe the Watkins take damages the credibility of the article. Watkins was a big-time prospect coming out of college. Here’s a scouting profile for Watkins coming out for the draft from NFL.com: “A legitimate No. 1-caliber receiver who stepped onto the field as a true freshman and made an immediate, game-changing impact. Has rare speed, soft hands and the big-play ability to challenge NFL defensive backs as a rookie. A top-10 cinch.” Buffalo gave up significant draft capital to move up and take him at 4th overall in 2014 because of that makeup. Injuries have hampered his career, but he’s still a talented wideout. Consider that Watkins had the #1 passer rating last year when targeted on short passes in the NFL with a 131.6 rating, and he has the speed to turn a short pass into a long gain. He also had 6.2 yards after the catch per catch, which ranked 2nd in football last year, including the playoffs. Teams crowded the line of scrimmage last season to bring pressure from all angles and slow KC down. Highlighting Watkins in the short game is one way Reid could counter that. He has a full year with Reid’s playbook under his belt now and a full season of building chemistry with unquestionably the best QB he’s ever played with before.

      Mind you, none of this means Watkins will be a WR1 this year. There are many scenarios where Watkins remains a WR3 or injuries derail yet another season. It just means that there are contextual factors and analytical factors that make the take a genuine possibility, with little risk given his ADP, and thus, in no way compromises the integrity of the article. You have every right to say it’s a bad call, but just know that real analysis went into these takes and all are founded on some statistical merit.

      • alan buck says:

        I respectfully disagree that real analysis founded on statistical merit went into the Watkins take. The only data provided to support his claim was Watkins’ had career best numbers last year. Everything else was subjective conjecture (“hard to imagine”, “might be favorable”, “I see”)

        And your reference to Watkins’ college scouting profile only underscores what a colossal disappointment he’s been as a pro. (And completely ignores the vast amount of injuries that have contributed to his disappointment). He’s had ample opportunity to show he can perform at a sustained high level (you need sustainability to reach WR 1 status), and has not even come close. I actually enjoyed quite a few takes in this article as they were supported by strong data analysis. That’s why I left the comment to let you know that the Watkins take was so bad that it questioned my confidence in the editors. How could they not laugh at such a ridiculous take?

  2. Ron says:

    @Paul Ghiglieri, great takes and I enjoyed the article . All but C kirk are late targets on my draft board before even seeing this. I agree on your comment that Watkins is a game changer. It wasn’t long ago I was drafting him as a WR1, the talent is there and he may be able to pull it off with another team and more talent behind him. I’d love to chat Fantasy and pick ur brain. 4/5 cash league champion last year. Will probably never happen again, but winning 1 league is hard enough, 4 cash leagues… determination, effort and grit. Long season.

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  4. Hairstyles says:

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