Wide Receivers: Free Agency Fallout

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The dust has settled from free agency and the draft and fantasy owners must take stock of the new landscape at one of fantasy’s best assets: wide receivers.

Free Agency had more than a few surprises even among the general shutdown caused by COVID-19.  While many veterans will find themselves in new destinations, a whole talented crop of rookie wide receivers entered the league as well. As fantasy owners begin to prepare for the upcoming season I will highlight the winners and losers. Even in non-ppr leagues the receiver position has only gained in importance over time. As more teams lean more on spread concepts of their offenses, wide receivers will be vital to every roster.

Because more importance has been placed on the passing game we now have an ever-increasing selection of viable wide receivers. Choosing these positions can make or break your fantasy season. In the past, rookie wide receivers were not expected to fulfill their potential until their second or third season. Recently though, we have seen more rookie wide receivers have success and this trend should continue this year. While the shiny new toys always get the most attention, owners should focus their roster on stable, high floor veterans.

Opportunity is vital for wide receivers to succeed but this position will continue to be tied directly to the quarterback play. Regardless of talent, poor quarterback play can sink even the biggest superstar’s season. This season is full of uncertainty but I will try to help you navigate your way to a fantasy title in 2020.

You can view our May 2020 ADP for Dynasty Football Digest here.

Winners

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Davante Adams

This is more of an upgrade by omission when looking ahead to Adams’ value heading into his 7th season. While Adams has always been the top dog in the Green Bay many experts expected him to get some help this offseason. Instead the Packers’ brain trust failed to sign any free agent or draft-eligible wide receivers.

This wide receiver draft class has been hailed as one of the most talented in recent memory so it was puzzling that they didn’t draft a single one. It appears head coach Matt Lafleur is going to double down on the running game in 2020. While the passing game will be even more reduced, when they do pass, Adams will still be the main target. Without a true second option Adams will get all the targets he can handle barring injury.

Last season Aaron Jones was a touchdown machine as he was fed the ball in the red zone. This success came at the cost of RZ looks for Adams and this doesn’t appear to be changing this year. While Adams could struggle to find the end zone he is still a safe, high floor WR1. I would expect close to 1,000 yards and 8-9 TDs for the 27-year-old this season.

D.J. Moore

D.J. Moore’s second season was a remarkable success considering the inefficient and at times horrendous quarterback play. Carolina limped along to a 5-11 record and 4th place finish in their division. Fantasy owners were still able to find some bright spots though among the wreckage. Christian McCaffery had an MVP season that was one for the record books and D.J. Moore was a revelation. Moore managed to post 87 receptions for 1175 yards and 4 touchdowns in his second season.

When Cam Newton went down to injury, Kyle Allen stepped in to lead Carolina down the stretch. While there were some bright spots it became clear he was not capable of running the offense. Even with the poor quarterback play, Moore managed to make the most of his receptions. Moore showed how dangerous he can be by posting an impressive 9.1 yards before the catch. This statistic shows that he was able to come into his own as a true WR1 by challenging defenses downfield.

The outlook for this season did improve when Teddy Bridgewater became the Panthers starting quarterback under new coach Matt Rhule. Bridgewater led the Saints to a 5-0 record in 2019 while still keeping Michael Thomas relevant. Bridgewater will be working with wonder-kid Joe Brady as the new offensive coordinator. Brady will be installing a wide-open attack using three-wide sets like he did at LSU. This spread passing game should open up passing and throwing lanes all over the field.

Bridgewater is familiar with this system as it is what he ran the past two years in New Orleans. Bridgewater won’t be putting up Drew Brees numbers but with a serviceable quarterback, D.J. Moore could be looking at an even bigger fantasy splash in his third year. The Panthers will still struggle this year but they could be fun to watch on offense and Moore should be able to post another 1,000-yard season and 8-10 touchdowns this year.

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Robert Woods/ Cooper Kupp

One of the big trades this offseason was when Brandin Cooks was shipped to Houston. The departure of Cooks opens the door for even more work to be heading in Kupp and Woods direction. Last year the duo combined for 184 receptions and 12 touchdowns. This was mostly the result of a disastrous campaign where the Rams were forced to throw the ball more than any team in the league last year.

The Rams lost Todd Gurley and his 49 targets this offseason. While Gurley wasn’t as much of a factor in the passing game last season his targets will have to go somewhere. The Rams will look to be more balanced this year so I doubt Goff will pass 626 times again this year. With a shortened offseason Kupp and Woods will be leaned on heavily to help lead the passing attack. If the Rams can be more balanced and explosive in 2020, Woods and Kupp can both be able to post high-end WR2 numbers.

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T.Y. Hilton

The 30-year-old Hilton will be entering his ninth season with the Colts but after a down 2019 help is on the way. Jacoby Brissett took over last year when Andrew Luck took everyone by surprise by retiring last offseason. While Brissett started off well as the season progressed it became evident that he wasn’t ready to measure up as an everyday NFL starter. Fast forward to this offseason when Phillip Rivers signed as a free agent after spending his entire career with the Chargers.

Hilton only played 10 games last season but he could be in line for a resurgence in 2020. Rivers will be running an offense he is familiar with under Frank Reich so there is familiarity with the offense. Rivers thrived for years making Keenan Allen a fantasy star and he should continue his magic touch with Hilton.

The Colts drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round and while they will look to continue to have a balanced offense. The offensive line of the Colts is one of the team’s strengths and Rivers will finally have time in the pocket. Hilton isn’t the same intermediate route runner as Allen is but with play-action, Hilton could regain his big-play potential. Hilton has never scored double-digit touchdowns but he could be in line for another 1,000-yard season and 80+ receptions.

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Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks finds himself on his 4th team entering his 7th season in the league when he was traded to the Houston Texans this offseason. Cooks has been lucky to have been able to play with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Brady and Brees. He once again hit the jackpot as he will now catch passes from young superstar Deshaun Watson. Cooks comes with risk as he has battled a number of concussions in recent years.

Last year Cooks only managed to play 14 games on his way to posting the second-lowest productive year of his career. He will be stepping into the shoes as the WR1 in Houston so he won’t have to share targets as he did the past two years in Los Angeles. He has always also been a potent deep threat and with Watson he could be in line for many big plays heading into 2020. Cooks currently sits at an ADP of 100 which represents an extraordinary value. The ability to get a wide receiver with low-end WR1 talent in the 8th round should be hard to pass up for any owner come draft time.

Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason and he will be in line for his most productive year since 2014. While Sanders isn’t a spring chicken at 33 years old he showed last year he still has plenty of explosions. Last year in San Francisco Sanders didn’t have an overly productive fantasy year but he showed flashes of excellence. The Saints saw first hand what Sanders can still do when he posted 7 receptions for 157 yards and 1 TD.

While Sanders had plenty of suitors for his services including the Cowboys and the Packers he chose to sign with New Orleans on a 2-year deal. He will be the clear second option behind Michael Thomas but Brees has always enjoyed utilizing his slot WR’s. Sanders could be in line to put up weekly WR 2 numbers and at only a 10th round ADP Sanders is an extreme value.

Sanders can’t wait for Saints offense

Losers

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Keenan Allen

Keenan Allen is coming off one of his best seasons but yet he finds his name on the losers list. Allen has been lucky enough to have played his entire career with Phillip Rivers but that will end in 2020. The assumption is that journeyman Tyrod Taylor will start the year as quarterback for the Chargers. They also drafted Justin Herbert 5th overall so he could also be in line for work later this season.

The bond Allen and Rivers had was special and it was evident in their production together. Now Allen must regain that confidence with a new starting quarterback in an already shortened offseason. Last season Allen posted 104 catches for almost 1,200 yards with 6 TDs. Allen will be hard-pressed to reach both the catches and yards that had become a given in years past with Rivers. Allen has never been a red-zone target so his touchdowns will probably hover in the 6-8 range.

Allen’s current ADP puts him in the middle of the 4th round but that should fall as the season gets closer. The other wide receivers right around this range are Tyler Lockett, Adam Theilen, and Robert Woods. I would much rather have any of those three than paying the cost for Allen heading into 2020. Unless his value continues to fall I would steer clear of Allen at this current ADP.

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Will Fuller

Will Fuller has always been a tantalizing player that fantasy owners looking for upside have always taken a chance on. With the departure of DeAndre Hopkins it appeared Fuller was in line for a bigger role in 2020. This was short-lived as Brandin Cooks was soon traded to take over as WR1 for the Texans. While Fuller’s talent has never been in question, his health has always been his biggest negative.

Fuller has never played a full season in his previous 4 years in the league. While he can win you weeks with one long touchdown catch he can also sink your roster. More often than not Fuller has disappointed fantasy owners with his injury history. Cooks is not your typical WR1 so he won’t get the number of looks that Hopkins demanded in the past. Fuller will also have to compete with slot WR Randall Cobb signed from the Cowboys. Fuller’s ADP is actually earlier than Cooks but I would stay far away from Fuller unless he sees a drastic drop come draft day.

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John Brown

Brown had a resurgence with the Bills leading them in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in his best season yet. The Bills made some strides offensively behind the continued development of Josh Allen in 2019. The receiving corps as a whole though was lacking a true WR1 and that all changed this offseason. Stefon Diggs comes over from the Vikings and will be the immediate top option in this passing game.

Allen still struggled to make his reads and he relied on making plays on the run which was to the benefit of Brown. If Allen is to continue to develop he must stay in the pocket and rely on a proven veteran like Diggs. While Brown will still have explosive plays from time to time he won’t approach the career numbers he posted last year. Brown’s ADP isn’t terrible as he can be taken in the 9th/10th rounds. I would rather use that pick though on younger, higher ceiling options such as Justin Jefferson and Henry Ruggs.

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DeSean Jackson

The 33-year-old Jackson returned to Philadelphia last year for his second stint with the Eagles. Jackson has been the absolute definition of a boom or bust player since entering the league in 2008. Jackson’s injury history is starting to catch up with him as he was only able to play 3 games last season. Jackson was brought back to this offense to take the top off the defense. Without this threat the Eagles struggled mightily on offense as defenses hunkered down and dared the Eagles to beat them downfield.

Philadephia knew they had to address this glaring need in the NFL Draft. It was clear they couldn’t rely only on a 33-year-old downfield threat. The Eagles did this by selecting TCU burner Jalen Reagor in the first round of the 2020 draft. Reagor is an explosive downfield talent that will be leaned on heavily to produce this year.

Jackson is currently being selected late in drafts around such other wide receivers such as Robbie Anderson, Michael Pittman, and Allen Lazard. I wouldn’t even consider Jackson when compared to the young talent that can be found at this ADP. Even though Jackson is nothing but a flier late in drafts, I would focus on the higher upside, younger players at this position.

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Julian Edelman

No receiver deserves to be on this list more than Julian Edelman. When the unthinkable happened and Tom Brady left town, it was nothing but heartbreak for this bromance. Over the past 6 years you would be hard-pressed to find a better connection between quarterback and receiver. Edelman has never been the most gifted talent but he has made a career being the go-to guy for Brady.

Edelman has been a PPR monster when he plays a full season but he will be entering his 11th season with a relative unknown at QB in Jarret Stidham. When the GOAT left town, most of Edelman’s production went with him. While the offensive play calling won’t change there is no way that Edelman will have the ceiling he once had. A lot of eyes will be on Stidham this offseason to see if he can truly be a starting quarterback. Edelman’s current ADP is hovering around the eighth round which isn’t terribly high. Unless we are all proven wrong and Stidham is the second coming I would fade Edelman until his ADP falls even lower come draft time.

Summary

In today’s NFL there have never been as many receiving options as we see today. The key to any successful fantasy roster is identifying upside and opportunity for success. The draft and free agency in this abbreviated offseason have left a lot of question marks at one of the game’s biggest positions. This article will help you identify players that will lead your team to fantasy success and avoid those that won’t. Keep paying attention to rosters once off-season gets rolling and always shoot for upside.

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