Way-too-early 2019 fantasy wide receiver preview: What to expect next season

Whether you’re basking in glory or wallowing in defeat, the 2018 fantasy season is officially in the books. Because owner minds never rest, the Yahoo Fantasy crew looks ahead to what the New Year may hold. Today’s position under the microscope: Wide Receivers.

Among wide receivers that finished inside the position’s top-24, who do you believe could experience a decline in 2019?

Matt: Everything that’s about to be written will look foolish in a matter of weeks when the Patriots go on another deep playoff run. That said, the 2018 version of the New England offense casts great doubt on the future firepower of this unit. As such, it’s hard to see perennial value JULIAN EDELMAN repeat what ended up being a WR22 overall performance, despite missing time with an early season suspension.

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The Patriots were at their best this season when they deployed their deep stable of running backs as the focal point of their offense. The passing game looked like it needed to take a deserved back seat. Anyone could see Rob Gronkowski suffered a steep drop off; the more astute observers and bold proclaimers among us could rightly declare Tom Brady wasn’t the same surgeon, but even Edelman looked a step slower.

The Patriots will always adapt to whatever their team’s peak construction is in order to win. With their quarterback in decline, the run game more in focus and new additions desperately needed in the pass-catching corps, Edelman may struggle to match his nine targets per game average of this past season.

Liz: ADAM THIELEN. Sure, I could serve up Emmanuel Sanders (WR23), but you already know that a 32-year-old coming off of an achilles tear is likely to regress. What you might not know (and I’m sure if you do you’ll @ me telling me so), is that John DeFilippo was fired for being too pass happy. His play-calling may not have resulted in wins for the team, but it did mean a ton of targets for Thielen.

Over the last three weeks of the season, after DeFilippo’s departure, Thielen averaged just four looks per game. Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball. That’s why Dalvin Cook saw season-high rushing attempts in two of his last three outings. Assuming Kevin Stefanski, a Zimmer acolyte, stays in Minnesota, Thielen’s volume figures to take a significant hit.

Scott: TYLER LOCKETT needed the best efficiency of all time to turn a 70-target season into the WR15 grade. Are the Seahawks smart enough to give Lockett the opportunity spike he deserves (same for Russell Wilson), or will Seattle conclude that its limited use of Lockett was optimum all along? I love the player, hate the coordinator. And those long touchdowns have a ton of year-to-year variance.

Conversely, what wide receiver outside the 2018 WR1/WR2 ranks do you think jumps in value next season?

Liz: ROBBY ANDERSON. He may have closed out 2018 as the WR36, but from Weeks 14-16 Anderson was straight money. Demonstrating thrilling chemistry with Sam Darnold after the QB’s return from a sprained foot, Anderson scored in three consecutive games and averaged over 100 yards per outing. Admittedly, his targets increased partially due to Quincy Enunwa’s absence.

Still, the Temple product’s success as a red zone weapon can’t be discounted, as he also managed 7 TDs in 2017 and 6 in 2018. If Darnold continues to ascend and under an offensively-minded HC, the 25 year old could bring Fireman Ed out of retirement (again).

Scott: CHRIS GODWIN had a respectable rookie year in 2016, and while his efficiency didn’t spike in the second season, he did get to seven touchdowns and 842 yards despite a modest role. Now we look to a possible third-year breakthrough and we welcome Bruce Arians back to coaching. Throw in the logical departure of DeSean Jackson, and I want a strong Godwin position next year. Improvement isn’t always linear, but the dots sure seem to connect here.

[Early position previews for 2019: QBs | RBs | WRs]

Matt: D.J. MOORE finished his rookie season as the WR38 and CURTIS SAMUEL as WR47 in his sophomore campaign. Both receivers should clear those marks with ease next year. The Panthers look committed to this young exciting duo as their future and will likely let Devin Funchess walk in free agency. Moore is a bonafide natural in the after-the-catch game and Samuel was easily the best separating route-runner on the team in 2018. Carolina has major questions at quarterback with Cam Newton shutting it down late in the season with a sore shoulder. Expect that issue to be raised all offseason.

However, as long as Newton makes it back in time for the season, both Moore and Samuel’s game complement the evolving style of Newton’s game as a passer. These two will be popular among breakout candidate lists and while Moore will be the more coveted asset, don’t rule out Samuel being right on his tail or even ahead of the 2018 first-rounder in total points by the time 2019 ends.

Listomania. Scribble down your initial top-12 wide receiver ranks for next season.

DeAndre Hopkins unanimously leads our experts top-10 wide receiver lists. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DeAndre Hopkins unanimously leads our experts top-10 wide receiver lists. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Scott: 1) DeAndre Hopkins, 2) Michael Thomas, 3) Julio Jones, 4) Antonio Brown, 5) Davante Adams, 6) T.Y. Hilton, 7) Tyreek Hill, 8) JuJu Smith-Schuster (shocked I’m the only person listing him), 9) Keenan Allen, 10) Mike Evans, 11) Adam Thielen, 12) Robert Woods (most underrated receiver in the league)

Matt: (I don’t even do rankings for this website, I demand a raise!)

1) DeAndre Hopkins, 2) Antonio Brown, 3) Tyreek Hill, 4) Michael Thomas, 5) Odell Beckham, 6) Julio Jones, 7) Mike Evans, 8) Davante Adams, 9) Keenan Allen, 10) Adam Thielen, 11) Stefon Diggs, 12) T.Y. Hilton

Liz: 1) DeAndre Hopkins, 2) Tyreek Hill, 3) Antonio Brown, 4) Michael Thomas, 5) Julio Jones, 6) Odell Beckham, 7) Mike Evans, 8) Davante Adams, 9) Keenan Allen, 10) Stefon Diggs, 11) Kenny Golladay, 12) Brandin Cooks

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