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FIRING BULLETS – WR QUICK TIPS, TRENDS AND TAKES TO KNOW ENTERING THE SEASON
• Over the past six seasons the bust rate of WR1s (Players drafted inside the position's top-12 who finished outside the top-15) is 33.3 percent. Last year, Brandon Marshall, Keenan Allen and Pierre Garcon kicked owners where it counts.
• The biggest positive gainer at the WR position over the past month is Eddie Royal. Thanks to enormous buzz generated during OTAs/minicamp and now training camp, plus Kevin White's shin stress fracture, his value has increased from an ADP of 164.1 to 116.6. Muy caliente!
• On the downside, a bucket of ice has been thrown on Martavis Bryant. Ben Roethlisberger's glowing words about Markus Wheaton two weeks ago and Bryant's brief elbow setback crushed the hype. Since mid-July his draft day price tag has dipped from 43.5 to 53.1. Rough. However, his splash preseason debut (3-55-1) against Jacksonville may reverse the course.
• Last year's kings of inconsistency among those that finished as WR1s (Games less than starter league-average (WR1-WR36) 10.3 fantasy points): 1) Calvin Johnson (7 (in 13 gms), 53.8%), 2) Jeremy Maclin (8, 50.0%), 3t) Mike Evans (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%), 3t) Julio Jones (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%), 3t) T.Y. Hilton (7 (in 15 gms), 46.7%).
• Travis Kelce is arguably the most discussed tight end in Fantasyland this summer. After seeing 66.7 percent of KC's snaps last year, the well-rounded target is expected to earn a major uptick in PT, possibly topping out in the 75-80 percent snap range. Behind Gronk/Graham most agree he's the next best thing, provided his TGTs surge over 100 (87 in '14).
Below are nine pressing questions about WR/TE nearing the heart of draft season.
After exhaustive pre-draft research, you've concluded wide receiver is appropriate course of action in Round 1. Who do you take?
Andy – I don't really think you can screw up with any of the top-of-draft receivers, but I'd give a slight edge to DEZ BRYANT. Over the past three years, his lowest single-season reception total is 88, his lowest yardage total is 1,233 and he's never failed to score at least a dozen touchdowns (nor has he missed a game). It's tough to find a wideout with a higher floor.
Brad – ANTONIO BROWN. He's averaged a ridiculous 119 catches, 1,598 yards and 10 TDs the past two seasons. He's also throat-kicked one kicker. Dude is the definition of 'hoss.' In what should be an air-aggressive offense with a loose defense amplifying opportunities, he should come close to matching the two-year mean. Brown is about to clown ... again.
Brandon – DEMARYIUS THOMAS. I love DT's TD upside. He was the red zone target leader last season (39) and Denver loses Julius Thomas, who combined for 15 red zone scores over the past two seasons. I think Demaryius easily has a shot at 15-plus touchdowns to go with his usual top-shelf catch and yardage tallies.
Whether in expert or novice, PPR or standard drafts, Rob Gronkowski has consistently gone in Round 1 of 12-team exercises. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being Andrew Luck and 10 being Darren McFadden, how safe of a Round 1 pick is Gronk?
Brad – SIX. Acting as tackling dummy for J.J. Watt has more appeal than taking an injury-prone tight end, who has missed 15 games in his career. Yes, Gronk is basically the third-best WR/TE and a TD-scoring machine when healthy, but the risk is awfully heavy, especially if Tom Brady's four-game suspension is upheld. Give me a much safer Marshawn Lynch, Luck or Dez instead.
Brandon – FIVE. The downside of drafting Gronk in Round 1 is the injury history and the potential hurt you'll inflict on your RB/WR crew by skipping one of those positions in the first round. When it comes to drafting anything but a RB or WR in Round 1, I'm just not your guy.
Liz – EIGHT. Scarcity at the TE position is certainly a reason to nab Gronk early. After all, he closed out 2014 with 30 more fantasy points than the virtual game's second best option. A year ago, however, he only cost owners a third round pick. That's obviously a much better price, which allowed managers to add two potential studs before speculating on the hulking talent. To give up that sort of safety while also expecting Gronk's numbers to remain static (or rise) forces fantasy enthusiasts to hit on lotto tickets in the later rounds of their drafts.
Numerous old codgers at wide receiver are being overlooked for Pretty Young Things like Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry. Which of the following Metamucil chuggers has the best chance to outperform the whippersnappers: Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston, Roddy White or Anquan Boldin?
Brandon – BOLDIN. I'll be the Ambassador of 'Quan, who has averaged 84 catches, 1,120.5 yards and 6 TDs for one of the NFL's most run-heavy offenses over the past two seasons. The 49ers defense figures to be as bad as its been in years this season, and new OC Geep Chryst obviously took this defensive assessment to mind when he revealed that the 49ers will play at a much faster tempo this season. even if Boldin hits on his average for the past two years, he'll be tough for the young guys to beat. But the sytem should be a bit riper from a WR standpoint this season.
Liz – STEVE SMITH. He's announced that he'll retire at the end of the season. Given the boulder sized chip on his shoulder, I'm willing to bet he'll end his career with an exclamation point. Plus, with Torrey Smith now in San Francisco and Owen Daniels gone to Denver, he's Joe Flacco's most familiar target in the passing game.
Dalton – RODDY WHITE. I'm not in anyway bullish on any of these wideouts, but White scored seven times over 14 games last year, and he averaged 1295.5 receiving yards from 2007-2012. All of these receivers are clearly in the decline phase of their careers though.
Unlike 2014's historic rookie class, this year's crop of youngsters largely pales in comparison, at least in the average drafter's mind. Essentially it's Amari Cooper, Nelson Agholor and everyone else. Out of the leftovers, who has the best shot to shine: DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Dorial Green-Beckham, Devin Funchess or WILDCARD?
Liz – DEVIN FUNCHESS. I like DeVante Parker a lot, but with the news that Kelvin Benjamin will be lost for the season due to a torn ACL, Funchess has intriguing value. He's very raw, but so was KBen a year ago. Cam Newton - who has a habit of throwing the ball high and wild - benefits from receivers built like skyscrapers. At six-foot-four and 225 pounds, Funchess fits that profile. His involvement Week 3 of the preseason will be telling, provided his tender hamstring is healed.
Dalton – I'll stick with PERRIMAN, but it's tough with his injury situation (although Parker is hurt too). Devin Funchess also gets a boost with Kelvin Benjamin now out for the season. This really seems like a total crap shoot.
Scott – For the most part I'm fading rookie WR hype this year, thinking last year's historic output sets most of them up to be overpriced this time around. That said, DEVANTE PARKER might be a relative bargain in most drafts, given the foot injury that collapsed the price. It sounds like the rehab is going well and he might be ready for the opener. Parker has the highest long-term upside in Miami by far (Jennings is too old, Landry just a chain-moving possession guy).
What overlooked WR is the virtual game’s most undervalued?
Dalton – TORREY SMITH. His current ADP is 108.6 as the No. 40 WR off the board. Smith scored 11 touchdowns last season and had 1128 receiving yards the year before that. The 49ers' defense was decimated during the offseason, and the team is now projected to win just 6.5 games, so they should be throwing more than ever.
Scott – I love an Ibanez All-Star in any fantasy game, an boring but useful veteran who comes with a tiny cost. ANQUAN BOLDIN is the best fit for that suit, though I also like the names recommended by Behrens, below. I'm sure I'll have shares of all three, in the appropriate WR4 or WR5 tag of course. (And I'd also like to mention, the hate has gone way too far on Jeremy Maclin. Not everything was Alex Smith's fault last year; Dwayne Bowe can't play any more.)
Andy – Am I allowed to award this to both EDDIE ROYAL and STEVIE JOHNSON? Both guys are in line to see 100-plus targets and both have generated low-level camp/preseason buzz. For whatever reason (probably because we know these guys so well), neither Royal or Johnson is getting drafted inside the top-120 picks in typical Yahoo drafts. Both players have a clear path to top-40 value.
On the flip side, what WR is the most overvalued?
Scott – AMARI COOPER is drafted as a WR2 in many pools, which strikes me as foolish given the limitations of Derek Carr and the overall stench of the Oakland offense. I'd be head over heels for Cooper in most cities, but not in this wasteland. Hell, even the stadium stinks.
Andy – Well, since I went with a Bears receiver in the last question, I'll take a different one here. ALSHON JEFFERY is going a bit too high for my liking. For one thing, he's already dinged, dealing with a calf issue. We also have to accept the fact that Chicago doesn't want to be the sort of team that puts the ball in the air 600 times. And when the Bears are throwing, plenty of Cutler's attempts will be going to Royal, Bennett and Forte. Basically, I'm not ready to assign Alshon to the Jordy Nelson (pre-injury) or the A.J. Green class, but I've repeatedly seen him selected in that range.
Brad – T.Y. HILTON. Fast, a strong route runner and reliable, Hilton has plenty of plus attributes. However, given the sheer number of weapons Luck has at his disposal, including offseason additions Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and Phillip Dorsett, it's hard to imagine he matches or tops last season's 82-1345-7. Expect a slight regression, which means he's unlikely to profit at his 26.1 ADP (WR11).
To the point. Rank, in order, the top-five reception leaders this season. Also, include a catch projection in parentheses.
Andy – Antonio Brown (109), Odell Beckham (104), Demaryius Thomas (102), Calvin Johnson (100), Randall Cobb (98).
Brad – 1) Antonio Brown (112), 2) Demaryius Thomas (105), 3) Odell Beckham (102), 4) Julio Jones (100), 5) Brandin Cooks (98)
Brandon – 1.) Demaryius Thomas (115) 2.) Antonio Brown (112) 3.) Odell Beckham (101) 4.) Julio Jones (99) 5.) Brandin Cooks (97)
Universally, the Yahoo fantasy crew has Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett inside their TE top-five. Peering down the list, what oversized target has the best odds of joining the position's elite?
Brad – AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS. At 6-foot-5, 258-pounds, ASJ is an ogre. Yes, Jameis resembled refried butt in his pro debut, but you know Dirk Koetter will encourage him to lean on his tight end in the short field. Couple that with a generous Tampa D and the attention Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are sure to draw and Seferian-Jenkins has all the makings of a breakthrough campaign.
Brandon – TYLER EIFERT. I absolutely loved him coming out of Notre Dame. Had great athleticism, and was murder on the defense in jump ball situations. When he first entered the league, Jermaine Gresham was still a decent player, so Eifert had to take a bit of a backseat. When his opportunity to step up into the spotlight finally arrived in '14, he hit the IR and was lost for the season. Now fully healthy, he's got the skill and opportunity to take his fantasy game to the upper class.
Liz – TYLER EIFERT. With Jermaine Gresham out of the way and the shoulder/elbow injury that sent him to the IR in 2014 fully healed, Eifert offers legit breakout appeal. Since entering camp, he and Andy Dalton have been clicking and demonstrating serious chemistry. As much as I like Marvin Jones, he's been slow to recover from the ailments that took him out of last season. And Mohamed Sanu drops more balls than he catches. That leaves Eifert as the Red Rifle's potential number two option in Ciny's passing game.
Scott – I'm also an Eifert fan (he's well-documented above), but let's additionally keep an eye on VERNON DAVIS. Last year can mostly be written off to injury (and the Harbaugh/Kaepernick disconnect); Davis was a terrific fantasy producer in four of the previous five seasons.
Play the Powerball. What WR shocker special (100-plus Yahoo ADP) will come out of nowhere and rock the fantasy world?
Andy – JOHN BROWN. His highlights last year were as good as anyone's (click it), and he's such an ideal fit for a vertical passing game. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if he made the leap into the top-25 at his position.
Brad – JOHN BROWN. Eddie Royal is a windmill slam dunk with Kevin White shelved, but for the sake of diversification, give me the Desert Bird. With Carson Palmer on the field from Weeks 6-10, he was the 29th-best wide receiver in the virtual game. This spring, Brown tacked on 10 pounds of upper-body bulk to improve his execution against the press, an area he posted an already stellar 75-percent success rate last fall. Considering Floyd's sketchy availability early, he has 65-950-7 upside.
Brandon – MARQUES COLSTON. I know what you are thinking ... "Ewww!" But, while we all love Brandin Cooks, we have to consider who Drew Brees is going to look to in the red zone now that Jimmy Graham, who has averaged 23.5 RZ targets over the past two seasons, is off to Seattle. Sure, Colston has slowed down, but his been a solid TD guy throughout his career, five times scoring at least 8 TDs. At 6-foot-4, it's likely he'll be among the red zone target leaders in '15. I also like Anquan Boldin, and rookies Philip Dorsett and DeVante Parker for this question. And I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Colston's emerging teammate Brandon Coleman, who continues to build up buzz with an excellent camp.
Liz – CECIL SHORTS. I've been banging the Stevie Johnson drum since the early summer, so I figured I'd change things up. While Houston's talent under center is decidedly sub-par the team will have to throw the ball with the centerpiece of their offense likely to miss half of the regular season. DeAndre Hopkins is the Texans clear-cut No. 1 receiver, but Cecil Shorts could very well fill the vacancy left by Andre Johnson. He's certainly not as studly, but with the ability to play both the outside and the slot he could see a decent amount of targets while Foster is on the shelf.
Dalton – NELSON AGHOLOR. He's in an ideal situation in Philly for a team that scored the third-most ppg last season and has impressed so far in camp. The Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin (and his 143 targets) during the offseason, and Zach Ertz is questionable to be ready to start the season.
Scott – Apparently everyone loves John Brown now. Glad that wasn't the case when the Stopa Auction went down in July. I like EDDIE ROYAL to be a handy value at the 128 ADP buy-in; the Kevin White injury opens up a few targets, and Royal and Jay Cutler had some fun in Denver.
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