Staff Playbook: Which WRs are being overvalued on Draft Day?
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 receivers are being overvalued on Draft Day based on ADP. Let’s open the playbook:
Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): Davante Adams (ADP 8.0, WR2)
Reasoning: Davante Adams is unquestionably talented, and he’s more than earned his place among the game’s best receivers. This has more to do with Adams’ ADP, where he’s flying off the board with the 8th overall pick in many leagues. So where does the hype come from? For starters, Adams is the only pass catcher with three seasons of ten or more TDs since 2016. He was top-5 in target share last season and calls Aaron Rodgers his quarterback. Surprisingly, that’s part of the reason why there should be reservations about taking him this high. Matt LaFleur replaces Mike McCarthy as HC, and LaFleur brings a play-action system that relies heavily on the QB under center sticking with schematics. For example, look how Jared Goff operates in HC Sean McVay’s scheme, the same system where LaFleur earned his stripes. This will require Rodgers to both adapt and conform after years of gun slinging and autonomy. Former Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who starred with Rodgers throwing him the ball, is on record with some noteworthy admonitions:
.@GregJennings has a few thoughts on Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur.
— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) August 12, 2019
Rodgers has also already publicly criticized LaFleur’s methods, and though both deny there is a rift, they’ve yet to be tested together. Last year in Tennessee provides the only insights into LaFleur’s offense, where No.1 receiver Corey Davis saw 112 targets across all 16 games; that’s a far cry from the 169 targets Adams received last year. LaFleur comes from Sean McVay’s system, and the Rams have successfully featured multiple receivers as part of their offensive philosophy, scheming various pass catchers open to exploit weaknesses in the defense each week. Make no mistake, Adams will eat and produce. The question is whether he will produce enough to warrant a top-10 overall draft pick, especially with some of the talented receivers being taken shortly after him. It’s just as possible that Adams finishes the year as the 5th or 6th best fantasy receiver as it is the first. That alone makes his ADP difficult to justify.
Kevin Taylor (@ktbeast918): Michael Thomas (ADP 10, WR3)
Reasoning: Michael Thomas is a guy who needs high volume to be a number one receiver. In the ten games, he didn’t receive ten targets, he was a WR1 in just one of those and that was because of a two TD game. He also had five weeks outside the top-36 last year. Guys like Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. can make a significant impact on fewer targets. Thomas was 80th at his position in yards per reception and 96th in average target distance. For as prolific as the Drew Brees-Michael Thomas pairing has been, take a look at the yards per attempt stat below.
Michael Thomas is the first non-QB offensive player to sign a $100M contract. 💰 @PFF_Chichester detailed why the Brees-Thomas partnership is key to the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl aspirations.https://t.co/RWjjCFyPKN pic.twitter.com/tkmCQSFNVt
— PFF (@PFF) July 31, 2019
As you can see, most of Thomas’ routes are underneath and rarely extend beyond the intermediate zone. His production is highly dependant on Bress’ efficiency since there aren’t a lot of big splash plays to buffer his stats. Thomas had a studly 85% catch rate in 2018 which is high for any position in the league but an outlier for receivers, where the top guys usually hover around 75%. Combine projected catch% regression with the fact that the Saints are passing less and less each year (2nd/19th/23rd in pass attempts the last three years), and Thomas should be valued as a mid-to-lower end WR1. Somewhere around top-6 to top-8 at the position, which is an every-week starter for you, sounds more reasonable, but he should be drafted more in the early to the mid-second round of drafts, not the back half of the first.
Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN): JuJu Smith-Schuster (ADP 16, WR6)
Reasoning: I went into more detail about my skepticism of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s prospects in my 5 Bold Predictions article earlier, but I’ll give you the short version here. First, I don’t know how well JuJu will respond to being the #1 option at receiver.
This year, it will be JuJu who is the primary focus for every defense, and unlike that clip above, everybody will see him coming this time. We only have two instances when JuJu started without Antonio Brown occupying the other side of the field. In the first game, JuJu had a very good game (9-143-1) while contributing to the final loss in Cleveland’s 0-16 season, but it was a Week 17 game in which neither team had anything to play for (other than Cleveland avoiding the 0-16 moniker). JuJu’s other AB-less game came in Week 17 last season. Despite Pittsburgh needing a win (and some help) to make the playoffs, JuJu suffered through a 5-37-1 stat line. Additionally, the Steelers have Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Jaylen Samuels fighting for receptions, so I can’t see JuJu seeing 165 targets again. Finally, Ben Roethlisberger set career highs across the board, and it seems reasonable to expect some regression there. If the volume isn’t there, it’s hard to justify drafting JuJu before guys like Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, Adam Thielen, and T.Y.Hilton.
Dan Adams (@Dadams0323): Adam Thielen (ADP 26, WR11)
Reasoning: Adam Thielen was the best receiver over the first half of last season, averaging over 25 PPR fantasy points per game and never failing to reach 100 receiving yards in a game. The second half of the year was a different story though, as Thielen only reached 100 receiving yards once and averaged only 13.2 points a game over his last eight games. Unfortunately for Thielen, it seems like this year’s version of the Vikings offense will look a lot more like it did towards the end of the year. Minnesota fired their offensive coordinator with three games to go last season because he was calling too many passing plays. That would indicate that this year they plan to run the ball a lot more, which aligns with what their coaching staff has been saying this offseason about running the offense through running back Dalvin Cook. Less passing volume is bad enough for Thielen, but it also looks like he will be moving to the outside this season in three-receiver sets with camp standout Chad Bebee taking over slot duties. It isn’t that Thielen has to be in the slot to be effective, but it has been his best role and his efficiency will take a hit if he is forced outside more often as opposed to wreaking havoc across the middle of the field on plays like this:
Lower volume combined with lower efficiency is enough to make Thielen a likely disappointment at his current ADP.
Mike Miklius (@sirl0inofbeef): Amari Cooper (ADP 32, WR13)
Reasoning: What if I offered you a wide receiver who was 25, has stayed healthy in each of his four seasons and finished as a top-24 receiver last year in PPR? What if I also told you he was going to have four massive games that would ensure you win four weeks of your fantasy season? I bet you’re interested. However, what if I told you that same receiver would only average 10.8 points per game in the other 11 games he played? That would have been 49th among receivers last year. Cooper only ranked 30th among receivers last season in terms of consistency. That’s not the only thing about Cooper that falls under the category of questionable consistency:
— The Athletic NFL (@TheAthleticNFL) July 5, 2019
Amari Cooper represents the highest of highs (he had weeks of 21.6, 26.8, 38.0 and 49.7 points last year) along with the lowest of lows (weeks of 3.7, 2.8, 2.0 and 0.0 points). I expect more of the same from Cooper, and that’s way too risky for his third-round ADP.
(Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire)