We’re in the golden age of passing.
In Matt’s RB Strategy Guide, we learned there’s a rise in 30+ catch RBs.
In Jared’s QB Strategy Guide, we saw that QBs are dropping in ADP. Why? A jump in volume has helped boost the middle and bottom tiers.
Now consider this: From 2016-2018, the average number of league-wide pass attempts stood at 17,822 (557 per team).
Now consider the data from only 10 years ago: Between 2006-2008, league-wide attempts was 16,650 (520 per team).
Subtract the two, and we’re looking at a raw difference of 1,172 attempts — nearly 37 per team. That’s a full game right there.
As another comparison, note that we’ve seen thirty-three 4,000-yard passers over the last 3 seasons. But between 2006-2008? Only 18.
Of course, pass attempts aren’t distributed evenly. But you get the picture here: Increased passing equals more opportunities for WR production. WR depth is why we’re not against starting with 3 RBs in the first 3 rounds — or 2 RBs and 1 TE.
We’ll get to the late-round WRs in a bit, but let’s start with the top tier.
Note: ADPs are taken from PPR drafts on My Fantasy League.
We project only Julio Jones and Odell Beckham to cross the 300 fantasy-point threshold. Seven guys did so in 2018, but that followed years with 2 and 3 at or above 300.
DeAndre Hopkins sits 3rd with 287. Generally, we consider any 10-point gap in the projections a new tier. So it’s noticeable — but not gigantic.
- Michael Thomas was historically efficient last year with an 85% catch rate on 147 targets. Among 902 cases of a WR with 50+ catches since 2000, Thomas’ catch rate ranked #1. Only 2 other WRs have finished above 77.2%.
A crazy low average depth of target (7.93 yards) helped, but we’ll sell anything close to a repeat in efficiency.
That doesn’t make Thomas a bust. He’s simply not a target with a 1.10 ADP.
- Mike Evans, however, is a target. He’s lasting until late Round 2 heading into his 5th year alongside Jameis Winston. The 26-year-old (today) is one of only 3 WRs in league history to open his career with 5 straight 1,000-yard seasons.
The other 2? A.J. Green and Randy Moss.
In a draft featuring a starting lineup like 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs and 1 FLEX, we’re hamming this range of WRs. A starting lineup of 3 WRs changes your strategy a bit — always consult your MVP Board — but we’re still loving targets like:
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (ADP: 5.02)
Another Buc?! Yep.
Tampa Bay brought in a HC (Bruce Arians) who loves attacking defenses via the pass -- and doing so downfield. His most recent units (Arizona in ’16 and ’17) ranked 3rd and 5th in pass attempts. That stretch included 22 Carson Palmer starts, plus 5 from Blaine Gabbert and 5 from Drew Stanton.
Godwin projects as the biggest beneficiary after the Bucs lost 179 targets from last year with the departures of Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson.
Josh Gordon, Patriots (ADP: 8.07 and likely still settling)
Gordon performed as the WR28 in PPR last year during his time with New England. Yes, it’s not ideal that he missed training camp. But he’s familiar with the Pats’ system having been there a year, while he spent time with Tom Brady before reinstatement. Besides, recall that Gordon was traded last year on September 17. He didn’t suit up for New England until Week 4. So it’s important to note that he’s performed well under such a chaotic routine.
Gordon, after all, finished as a borderline WR2 on the strength of 18.0 yards per catch. That should drop, but his 4 TDs figure to rise — especially with Rob Gronkowski in retirement (at least for now).
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (ADP 9.05)
We don’t project Patrick Mahomes for anything close to the 50 TDs he tossed last year. We know that’s his upside, though. So we’re thrilled to get some shares of an uber-talented starting WR in this offense.
And the price? You can’t beat it.
On the scoring front: Kansas City lost 26 red zone targets via offseason departures. At 6’1, 211 pounds and with seasons of 8 and 9 TDs beyond him, Watkins should hit 6-8 scores this fall.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (ADP: 14.09)
Gallup appeared in our Sleepers article earlier this month. Since then, we’ve learned a bit more about Amari Cooper’s foot injury, which is plantar fasciitis. It’s kept the former Raider out of practice since August 3.
Cooper’s injury potential clearly benefits Gallup, whose best rookie-year performance came in the postseason (6-119 in the NFC Divisional Round vs. LA). Following a buzzy training camp, Gallup should pay off this price tag regardless of Cooper’s health.
Tyrell Williams, Raiders (ADP: 14.03)
We mention this guy whenever we get a chance.
Despite Antonio Brown’s nonsense, Williams is still a major draft value. In drafts since August 15, the former Charger is coming off the board at WR55. That’s 12 spots behind our ranking.
With deep speed, a projection approaching 100 targets and the potential for more, Williams remains one of our favorite values across positions.
Deebo Samuel, 49ers (ADP: 17.05)
Dante Pettis hasn’t stepped up to take the 49ers’ #1 role. Perhaps he does, but we’re not anticipating a large (20+%) target share.
Insert Samuel, who showed his speed and versatility with this preseason rush. If Trent Taylor is forced to miss games due to his Jones fracture, Samuel will have a chance to really establish his role.
Cole Beasley, Bills (ADP: 19.06)
Beasley’s drawn a surprising amount of preseason hype entering year 1 with Buffalo. We saw him used as an underneath option in Week 2 of the preseason, producing 5 catches for 44 yards. More importantly, though, is the progress he’s shown with Josh Allen throughout camp. One Bills beat writer echoed what many have indicated, tweeting that Beasley will have a “monster” season.
We can see it from a receptions perspective; 60-65 catches are attainable. The Bills simply don’t have a true #1 WR — or a go-to TE. Beasley, however, hasn’t cracked 5 TDs in his career. That’s why he’s strictly a late-round PPR target.
*** John Brown is worth highlighting given his speed and Allen’s aggressiveness. MFL has Brown coming off the Board in Round 9, but we’ve generally seen him lasting several rounds later.
D.J. Chark, Jaguars (ADP: 24.08)
Chark has a few things working in his favor.
Let's start with the depth chart, where little is settled beyond Dede Westbrook. Marqise Lee brings name value but missed almost all of training camp with a knee injury that cost him 2018.
The Jags spent a Round 2 pick on Chark last April. Clearly raw coming out of LSU, his developmental year should bring progress from a freak athlete with 4.34 wheels and a 40-inch vertical.
QB Nick Foles’ style figures to mesh with Chark’s speed. Per Pro Football Focus, 14.5% of Foles’ career attempts have come on deep balls (20+ air yards). That rate would have tied for 7th among 23 QBs with at least 50 deep passes last year.
In deeper formats, Chark’s well worth a bench stash.