Wide receivers have crashed the Fantasy Football draft party with a vengeance in recent seasons — they now run the room for the first few rounds. Ten of the Top 18 picks in current Yahoo ADP are wide receivers, and with that in mind, we need to spend extra time considering them — and extra time examining where we do and don’t agree.
Three of our Yahoo pundits have an interesting divergence of opinion on a handful of name-brand receivers: A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson and Alshon Jeffery. Which Northwest Pass Catcher makes for the best cornerstone? Brandon Funston, Brad Evans and Scott Pianowski are here to play the feud.
Pianow Says Go Green: I’m all about early picks that combine a juicy upside with a sturdy floor. A.J. Green looks like one of those rare but wonderful combinations of the two.
All Green has do through five NFL seasons is produce — an average campaign of 83-1234-9. He’s been remarkably durable, missing just four games in five years. And now he’s on a Bengals team that is scrambling for pass-catchers. Marvin Jones and his 103 targets — gone. Mohamed Sanu has also left the building. And tight end Tyler Eifert, last year’s shocking 13-touchdown man, is questionable for Week 1. (If you have lofty expectations for rookie Tyler Boyd or retread Brandon LaFell, that’s lovely. Keep it to yourself.)
There’s a long-running chicken-egg debate with receivers — is it better to have opportunity or protection in an offense? I’ll always side with the opportunity angle, so long as we’re talking about an elite talent, someone not easily eliminated from defensive attention (think Julio Jones, 2015). Green clears that hurdle for me, checks that box unquestionably. He was the No. 4 fantasy wideout during his heaviest target days — the 2012 and 2013 season — and I expect the Bengals will lean on him, out of desperation, at that level again.
I have nothing against Alshon Jeffery — I just feel that his resume is an eyelash behind Green’s, and the Bears could have a major target distraction in Kevin White. As for Jordy Nelson, it’s pretty simple — at his age and given his injury history, I’m looking for reasons not to draft him until the price comes down. I won’t consider him in the Top 20 picks, which means I won’t even have to ask the questions on draft day.
Funston on The Jeffery Show: Alshon Jeffery is one of three wideouts entering the ’16 season that has played at least nine games in each of the past three seasons and has averaged at least 11.0 fantasy points in each of those campaigns (the others are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and A.J. Green). And I believe he’s set-up for his best season yet.
Like Jacksonville last season, you have the perfect storm in Chicago, with a generous Bears defense –allowing nearly 25 points per game in ’15 and not appearing to have improved much, if at all, in the offseason — and an inexperienced backfield lacking in wow factor. It should lead the Bears to the air much more than head coach John Fox would prefer. And if the Bears are chucking it, Alshon Jeffery is going to be on the receiving end an awful lot – QB Jay Cutler targeted Jeffery an average of more than 10 times per game last season. A physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Jeffery also stands out in the red zone, where only Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall have seen more targets from 20 yards and in over the past three seasons.
At the prime, and perfectly seasoned, age of 26, and in the position of playing out the final year of his contract and looking to cash in heavily for ’17, I think a healthy Jeffery could push 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 10-12 TDs.
Evans takes a Lambeau Leap: Last August an invisible turf monster munched on Jordy’s right ACL derailing his season before it began. His premature demise set in motion a tidal wave of disappointment for a Green Bay team with Super Bowl aspirations. As a result everyone in Yellow and Green suffered, particularly Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, who simply looked lost without Nelson in uniform.
Now nearly a year removed from the setback and reportedly well ahead of schedule in his recovery, the former Pro Bowl receiver is destined to resurrect his WR1 worth. Don’t be overly alarmed by his recent tendonitis bout. All indications suggest it’s a ‘hiccup’ and nothing serious. Thanks to the achievements of modern medicine, he is fully expected to regain his DB-dusting speed in no time.
Given his size (6-foot-3, 217-pounds), chemistry with Rodgers and play-making explosiveness, bank on Jordy picking up where he left off in 2014, a season in which he posted the fourth-best fantasy output among WRs (98-1519-13). That year he also ranked top-10 in air yards (6.5 per/tgt), red-zone receptions (13), yards after catch and yards per target (10.1) at the position according to Player Profiler. When healthy, Nelson is unequivocally one of the virtual game’s most consistent and dynamic weapons, a player who Rodgers will look for at least 25 percent of the time (28.3% targets share in ’14).
Without question Jeffery and Green are viable WR1s. Both should see handsome target totals this season, especially Green who could flirt with 200. But ask yourself, would you rather have your receiver tied to, erratic passers Jay Cutler and Andy Dalton or a future Hall of Famer in his prime? Throw in the Packers’ offensive balance and plus offensive line, and this is an open and shut case.
In this battle of Round 2 wide receivers, believe in the power of Cheese.