8.12 – Pre-season WR Update Pt1

So normally, people discuss QB/TE first since the pool of players is so much smaller for those positions, but I’ll skip TE for now and jump right into WR. With 0.5 PPR and starting three WRs (up to four if you start one in FLEX too), WRs have a lot of value in my main league. Perusing the available WRs, my impression is that the elite tier is very deep; there is like 10-12 bonafide WR1’s. The next tier populated with guys who arent the elite WRs, but good ones buoyed by being in good situations. After that, it’s guys with talent but maybe poor situation or kind of older guys with lower upsider. Finally, your lottery tickets round out the list.

After the Arian Foster injury, the group of elite RBs has shrunk even further. Starting off WR/WR has gotten a lot of hype this season. With a relatively deep elite group of WRs and the purported decrease in risk compared to RBs, it’s an especially popular strategy for those picking near the turn (end of 1st, beginning of 2nd rd). In a league with settings like mine (0.5 ppr/3 WR, 1 FLEX), the viability of such a strategy is magnified even further. Not only can you stack your WR corp, but the scoring gap between elite RBs and middling ones is diminished with the rise of pass-catching backs into that RB middle-class. Add in the fact that you only need to start two RBs and value of RBs is even less significant compared to WR. I’ll go into more detail about the RBs in a later post, but I think I like the idea of nabbing two elite RBs if possible in the first two rounds and letting them carry my team. If a lot of people in my league are proponents of the WR/WR start, I may be lucky to have an elite RB fall to me in rd 2. This strategy is probably better for if I have an early/mid first round pick and a mid/late second round pick, but is possible to pull off closer to the turn too if Im truly committed to it. There’s also the possibility of trading a pick closer to the turn to a WR/WR believer and maximizing the value of the pick that way. Im not really a fan of the middle tier of RBs and the thought of having them as my RB1 isnt too appealing. I think the WRs in like round 3-5 are a decent mix of floor and upside and there are a lot of names I find appealing there.

Anyways, here are my tiers/rankings. I kind of broke it up into loose tiers and grouped the WRs into if I would be comfortable with them as my WR1 or WR2, etc.

Elite tier is pretty much the same as when I previewed it. Contract situations out of the way, I think Dez, Antonio, and Demaryius are clear cut top-3. Julio is a guy I really want to love, but I wonder if he will have enough help from White/Hardy/Hankerson to challenge the first three. The pros are there; WR1 in a Shanahan offense, great QB, relatively weak defenses in the division, team with a poor defense of their own, but that supporting cast…>_>. Injury history isnt that big a concern to me, but it may be to some. I think Calvin and AJ are still up there in the elite WR group even after down years. Can Jordy repeat the magic of last season? I suppose so, really that GB offense should be identical to last year’s. Evans is kind of a divisive player. Some say a rookie QB, a raw/limited route tree, and the presence of Vjax will hinder him, but I dont buy it. In Evans, I see a physically dominant WR with elite ball skills and I dont expect Winston to be worse than what TB trotted out there last year. At the end of the 2nd round/beginning of 3rd, I see a WR with the potential to leap frog into the top5 of WRs.

As for this next group, the WR1/2, I would be ok with any of these guys as my WR1 (usually this would mean Ive gone RB/RB or RB/Gronk), but would be even happier with them as a WR2 behind one of the elite guys. If picking near the 2/3 turn, I think taking two of these guys is ok. It’s hedging a little bit, but two of these guys and an elite RB is a great start. Is the TD rate for Cobb sustainable? He certainly has a role the red zone with the GB offense. The ability of generate separation quickly in small spaces coupled with reliable hands and a QB with god-like anticipation hasnt changed so I think Cobb will be solid again this year. Alshon is another guy Im torn on. There’s plenty to like here; elite size for the position, playmaking ability, going to be fed targets but I cant shake the impression that he kind of plays softer than one would expect. My opinion is probably shaped by the fact that I had him on my team last year when he started a little slowly and had already traded him by the time he heated up down the stretch. I wouldnt be surprised if he was a WR1 at season’s end, but Im not sure that Im willing to pay the price to find out.

I have TY Hilton and Andre Johnson pretty much next to each other. I think TY is a better bet for the big plays, but I think Andre can still physically abuse DBs and rip chunks of yards in the 8-15 yd range. I have a dangerous obsession with Andre this year. Yeah he’s 31, but so was Reggie Wayne a few years ago and Andre is definitely a superior talent while working the same areas of the field. I dont particularly remember TY being used in small spaces like Cobb is used in GB, but I think he has that ability. IND just has an embarrassment of riches on offense with Gore, Andre, Hilton and even Allen, Fleener, Dorsett, Moncrief, and Carter. Luck will definitely spread the ball around, but I think the pie is big enough such that even however the split it, I think guys like Andre and Hilton will be putting up the points.

I marked the following as WR2’s on my list; guys that I dont think are quite WR1 worthy, but are still good based on their mix of talent and situation. Where as I think the top is relatively set, here is where you start to see a lot of variation and movement. You could draw the names I have 17-32 from a hat and be able to come up with a reasonable argument for the order, that’s how close they are in my opinion. My personal preference is picking guys with either one elite skill or a well-rounded game in reasonable situations here over older guys who have shown a hint of decline recently. With everyone so close, there is power in numbers. If you can go RB/RB and then take two/three of the guys around here, I think you can still make a solid WR corp. Your league settings also make a difference here. In PPR, more names in this group get appealing as the little boost to their bottom line makes up for the possible lack of TD production.

DeAndre Hopkins is someone who easily could be a WR1 and out of these guys, I do think he is the best bet to break out. With the loss of Foster however, he has no one to draw a defense’s attention away from him. I think DeAndre talent is undeniable, if he can overcome the limitations of his team and QB, he’ll get his, but at the same time, those are legitimate roadblocks to the young WR achieving his full potential. Not too sure about the TDs, but I think DeAndre can pile up the catches and yards.

It does seem a little disrespectful to have Sanders ranked all the way down at 15, but even he is expecting a lesser role in the offense than last year. You can actually move him up in full PPR as I think Peyton will still use him as a safety valve of sorts, but dont expect the numbers he put up last year. His skill set, particularly the ability to generate separation quickly, complements DT’s nicely.

So Cooks, Matthews, and Edelman are all similar kinds of players in my view. Cooks is probably the shiftiest, Matthews the biggest mismatch, and Edelman a little more proven between the three, but all three have similar roles in their offenses. Im a believer in Chip Kelly and the PHL offense, particularly Bradford and his health (though Sanchez did show a penchant for looking for Matthews in the middle of the field), so I like Matthews the best. [Slight note, I may be a bit biased, rooting for my fellow Commodore, but that’s probably countered by my dislike of the Eagles (just the team, I actually like their offense…)] We were kind of robbed of seeing what Cooks could truly do last year, but I think he could be a reliable target for Brees with the potential for some game-breaking plays. If there’s one team you trust to use their offensive weapons as optimally as possible, I think it’s NO. If you still think the NO offense will be favor the pass, with Stills and Graham gone, all those targets and yards have to go somewhere… With Brees under center, I think passing will still be NO’s modus operandi, but there will be more balance than in years past. Edelman probably will be the most consistent option of the three, but Im not sure he has the potential for huge scoring weeks like the other two do.

Maclin is a pretty contentious player. No way does he put up the numbers he did last year, but how big a drop off is another question. He is definitely better than anyone KC had running downfield last year, but it’ll come down to Alex Smith’s willingness to throw downfield more. If you think KC starts throwing more, you almost have to be willing to say you believe Smith will throw for like 3500+ yds, something he has never done before. I think Maclin is relatively safe, considering his role on the team, but projecting him for big yardage/TD totals is a bit optimistic in my opinion.

Keenan Allen is another guy that just boils down to how much you believe in the guy. He’ll probably cost you a 4th/5th round pick and Im not so sure he is the focal point of his offense. Rivers is a great QB, but I think his best skill is being able to spread the ball around and use every receiver that’s on the field, not just a few. Personally, I like Stevie Johnson a lot for this reason. If you had Allen during his rookie year, you might be inclined to believe last year was the result of injury, but Im not so sure Allen is talented enough to truly separate himself from the rest of the receivers in SD and warrant extra attention from Rivers.

Id also rank Cooper and Brandon Marshall around Maclin and Allen. If you buy the Cooper hype and he delivers, you may have a top-end WR2, borderline WR1 player. As of now, I havent really heard anything to derail the Amari Cooper hype train so it seems like he has a good shot of delivering on the hype and being a really fun guy to have on your fantasy team. As for Marshall, I think the change to Fitzmagic can help him. He has put up numbers before with worse QBs, but now that he’s older Im not so sure he can replicate his success. I think he still has the strength and savvy to body up DBs, especially in the red zone, so he’ll still have value. He’s a pretty solid WR2 for me.

I’ll stop here for now and discuss the rest of the WRs in a later post, particularly the why Im a little low on guys like Landry, Bryant, and Benjamin.

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