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Fantasy Football Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

By Shane Hallam | Updated on Mon, 22 Jul 2024 . 4:49 PM EDT
Amon-Ra St. Brown looks like one of the safer picks early in your 2024 fantasy football draft.

Wide Receivers: Backbone of Fantasy Football

Fantasy football reflects the NFL as a passing league with a heavy value on WR.

Watching experts push Zero-RB or Hero-RB as a strategy has become commonplace.

Does this mean you should load up on WRs early in your draft?

Or should you zag and invest in RBs while everyone else takes their WRs early?

Assess WRs on a Per-Game Basis 

Fantasy players often make mistakes looking back on last season and assessing season-long finish numbers.

The WR11 on the season who played in every game, for example, is a worse bet than the WR20, who only played in 10 games.

We calculate average fantasy points per game using our historical stats.

Targets Over Touchdowns

Per Sharp Football, the metrics that have the highest year-over-year correlation to fantasy points for WRs are:

  • Targets per game
  • Receptions per game
  • Receiving yards per game

The top eight WRs in fantasy points per game last year all ranked among the top 12 in targets per game.

Targets Per Game Fantasy Points Per Game Finish
Keenan Allen 11.5 WR3
Tyreek Hill 10.7 WR1
CeeDee Lamb 10.6 WR2
Amon-Ra St. Brown 10.3 WR4
Davante Adams 10.3 WR17
Justin Jefferson 10.0 WR5
Garrett Wilson 9.88 WR30
Michael Pittman Jr. 9.75 WR14
Stefon Diggs 9.41 WR15
Puka Nacua 9.41 WR7
A.J. Brown 9.29 WR6
Ja'Marr Chase 9.06 WR8

On the side, TD percentage has the lowest correlation. And receiving TDs per game aren't very predictive.

We can use this information to identify undervalued WRs to target.

For example, let’s look at a player like Chris Godwin. 

Last season among WRs who participated in 5+ games, he finished:

  • 24th in targets per game
  • 24th in receptions per game
  • 28th in receiving yards per game
  • 90th in TDs per game

His lack of TDs has pushed his ADP down to low-end WR3 territory in PPR -- even though he profiled closer to a WR2 in many areas.

This is why we are higher on Godwin in our rankings than consensus.

Want a tool that highlights values vs. ADP?

What Do Our Numbers Say?

Head over to our WR rankings, and you will see which WRs we project to earn the most targets this season:

Targets Projected Targets Per Game Projected
CeeDee Lamb 179.2 11.2
Amon-Ra St. Brown 158 9.875
Justin Jefferson 158 9.875
Garrett Wilson 156.8 9.8
Tyreek Hill 156 9.75
Ja'Marr Chase 156 9.75
Puka Nacua 147.2 9.2
Davante Adams 147.2 9.2
Chris Olave 142.4 8.9
AJ Brown 135 8.43
DJ Moore 134.4 8.4
Cooper Kupp 134.4 8.4

All 12 WRs land among the top 17 in our PPR rankings -- looking like good bets to score fantasy points consistently.

Will you target multiple of the WRs above? If so, you might be heading to an Early WR strategy …

Want to make sure you draft the right WR?

Sync your league and use our Draft War Room while you draft.

Early WR Strategy: Load Up Early and Often

As the NFL moves to value RBs less and WRs more, fantasy leagues move in a similar direction, especially in large best ball tournaments.

There are difficult decisions between deciding on a WR or RB at ADP in the first few rounds. Do you take:

  • Puka Nacua (WR7) or Jahmyr Gibbs (RB4)?
  • Chris Olave (WR11) or De’Von Achane (RB8)?
  • Deebo Samuel (WR15) or Josh Jacobs (RB12)?

Here are last year's PPR point totals for each of those spots:

  • WR7 (282.5) vs. RB4 (267.9)
  • WR11 (262.7) vs. RB8 (246.7)
  • WR15 (243.7) vs. RB12 (232.7)

Even with WRs being pushed up draft boards, they outscore RBs at similar ADPs.

Loading up early can be a sound strategy if you take the right shots on RBs later.

Three-WR Draft Strategy

Drafting WRs early becomes even more critical if you have to start three WRs.

If your league also has two flex positions, there is a massive advantage to having the strongest WR unit when you can start five.

Even if you have to stream RBs, the strong WRs alone can win you weeks.

Utilize our Team Intel tool to see the strengths and weakness of each team in your league to assess where you sit.

Learn more about how the tool works

Can Zero WR Strategy Work?

With so many people jumping to draft WRs early, is it worthwhile to load up on QB, RB, and TE while other teams take the top WRs?

Even though we like the RB value in drafts, leaving the first five rounds without a WR can set your team back.

Giving up the point advantage of drafting WRs, even over early RBs, in PPR is a recipe for failure.

Needing to hit on the next Puka Nacua and Nico Collins to have a chance lessens your odds of success.

But breakout types are important no matter how you build. So let’s look at some sleepers for this year ...

Sleeper Wide Receivers

There is no better feeling than finding the next stud WR in the late rounds of your draft.

The three WRs below are being undervalued in drafts, making them great bets to outperform ADP.

TIP

Sleepers are designated on your Draft War Room cheat sheet with a “zZ” icon

Diontae Johnson

Johnson getting traded to the Carolina Panthers as their presumptive WR1 makes him an ideal sleeper.

One of the best route runners in the league, Johnson had been underutilized by the Steelers in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.

In Carolina, HC Dave Canales will deploy Johnson both in the slot and outside to be a reliable target for Bryce Young.

Back in 2021, Johnson ranked WR11 in half-PPR leagues with a 39-year-old Roethlisberger in the QB's final season. Can he hit those heights again?

Johnson’s high targets per game gives him potential to outperform his WR4 ADP. 

Reaching WR2 range looks very possible.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Smith-Njigba disappointed as a rookie thanks to a limited role.

The Seahawks' new scheme under OC Ryan Grubbs should feature more "11" personnel, meaning at least three WRs on the field for most snaps.

Smith-Njigba played 69% of his snaps out of the slot last year, a lucrative position in the Grubb offense. 

Last season for the Washington Huskies, 30% of targets went to players in the slot. That beat the 2023 Seahawks' rate by about 10 percentage points.

Smith-Njigba could pass 31-year-old Tyler Lockett and carries real breakout potential into 2024.

Dontayvion Wicks

Wicks will have to compete with the Packers' bevy of receiving weapons, but there's breakthrough potential.

Wicks ranked 30th as a rookie in PFF receiving grade, among all 212 graded WRs. His film backed that up with smooth, consistent route-running and separation against zone and man coverage. 

Wicks led Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in both targets per route and yards per route and has been compared to Davante Adams by HC Matt LaFleur.

The big question will be playing time. Wicks trailed Watson, Doubs, and Jayden Reed there when all were healthy last season.

If that changes in 2024, though, Wicks could deliver big upside.

TIP

Dontayvion Wicks is just one of the fantasy football sleepers we've highlighted for 2024 drafts.

Quarterback & Wide Receiver Stacks to Build

In best ball leagues, building QB-WR stacks can give you an advantage, especially in larger tournament fields.

Success for one side of the stack increases the chances of the other half also scoring well. This means upside for big weekly scores to move up the standings.

The best approach is to target high-scoring offenses where at least one of the two pieces won’t cost you an early pick. If the offense scores plenty of TDs, so could your stack.

Here are a few targets for 2024:

Ja’Marr Chase & Joe Burrow

Chase will obviously cost a first-round pick. But Burrow looks like a value.

Burrow’s ADP has steadily decreased throughout the offseason, down to QB8 in Underdog Fantasy ADP as of this writing. 

If Burrow stays healthy, the Chase-Burrow connection can be a league winner -- like in 2022, when they put up WR1 and QB1 numbers in four different weeks.

Amon-Ra St. Brown & Jared Goff

Like Chase, St. Brown will cost a first-round pick. But Goff comes at an even bigger discount to Burrow.

Last year, the Lions' offense exploded in scoring (third in total TDs), and there is no reason to believe they will slow down.

There were four weeks last season where Goff was a QB1 and St. Brown was a WR1, making them an ideal stack.

Deebo Samuel & Brock Purdy

Samuel comes cheaper than Chase or St. Brown but posted two WR1-overall weeks last year. And his QB sits 12th in ADP across formats.

Kyle Shanahan's offense will continue to use Samuel uniquely -- but that includes deploying him as a favorite target of Purdy. He ranked 23rd among all WRs in target share, despite trailing teammate Brandon Aiyuk slightly.

We got four weeks last season with Purdy as a QB1 and Samuel as a WR1. All four came after the 49ers' Week 9 bye. 

 

Unlock Your Potential With This Draft Tool

The value of each player varies wildly depending on your league's unique rules and scoring system.

The best way to attack this process is to utilize our dynamic Draft War Room.

Get a custom cheat sheet specific to your fantasy league and scoring right now!

Shane Hallam Author Image
Shane Hallam, Writer
Shane has over 20 years of experience creating content and playing every fantasy football format including redraft, dynasty, devy, IDP, and more. He is a multi-year winner of $500 dynasty leagues on the FFPC and utilizes deep film and scheme study to enhance his fantasy performance.
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