Fantasy WR values: Davante Adams graduates to elite territory in 2018 Shuffle Up

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/27581/" data-ylk="slk:Davante Adams">Davante Adams</a> is kind enough to wear his (rough) ADP on his uniform (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Davante Adams is kind enough to wear his (rough) ADP on his uniform (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Wide receiver is a fun place to shop this year. You can find someone you like in pretty much every tier. With that in mind, I’d prefer to have at least one running back in the first two rounds, and maybe two of three. It’s fun to get vanity wideouts, sure, but you can do well with several different paths. After quarterback, wide receiver is the one position (of the four major ones) where I feel I can jump in or out at any time and do just fine.

The idea of the Shuffle Up series is to show where clusters of value lie. Some prefer to take a tier approach, and do a fine job with it. I like a number attached. That said, the dollar value is simply used as a comparison tool, and it’s more gut-feel than anything. I am not a formula guy.

Obviously we all care about numbers in this game, but I always want to merge that with scouting observations, tea-leaf reading, market analysis and the like. (And heck, fantasy sports is leveraging a market as much as anything. Whatever scouting and information edge the best players had 20 and even 10 years ago, that’s largely gone now. Too much information is easily available, even to the weakest players in your league.)

Players at the same cost are considered even (and a one or two buck difference might not mean that much, either). Assume a generic scoring system, with a half point per reception, one point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving, and six-point touchdowns.

Disagreements? That’s why we play! Bring your best arguments to me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski

$47 Antonio Brown
$45 DeAndre Hopkins
$42 Odell Beckham
$42 Julio Jones
$38 Davante Adams

Brown is making a run at the No. 2 receiver of all time — Jerry Rice is probably out of reach, but no one else is. Brown’s last four positional finishes: WR2, WR3, WR1, WR1. He’s doing a nifty job hiding Ben Roethlisberger’s (subtle) career decline.

Even if Hopkins has to deal with a regressing Deshaun Watson, he’s a very safe place to park your money. The Texans have a narrow passing tree, and Hopkins is one of those players who’s open even when he’s not open. He’s dynamite winning 50-50 balls, and might be the best boundary receiver in the game.

With Beckham, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and engaged. Eli Manning’s slippage in recent years has not been enough to sink OBJ.

At this point we have to accept Jones as this generation’s Andre Johnson — a freakish, Hall of Fame talent all over the field, but a mild disappointment in the scoring area. Mind you, Julio is probably still a good bet for seven or eight touchdowns, but something less than that is always in play, and we can’t expect a random 14-16 touchdown season. It’s also difficult to trust OC Steve Sarkisian, who’s been struggling, again, in his second summer with the team. I’d probably pick a bell-cow back over Jones in the first round of any draft, but he’s reasonable anytime in the second.

Adams leads the NFL in touchdown catches over the last two years, bagging 10 and 12. And keep in mind he maintained a reasonable production level even when Brett Hundley played last year. Here’s a good example of how players can improve, because Adams looked absolutely lost his first two seasons. For years we watched Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson preform back-shoulder magic; now Adams is the beneficiary there. A defender can’t have leverage on all sides of a receiver. Adams should be a lock for a career high in targets, and a good bet for another double-digit target season.

$37 Keenan Allen
$35 Michael Thomas
$32 Tyreek Hill
$32 A.J. Green
$29 Mike Evans

If Allen more injury-prone or accident prone? That question pushes him to the second round, but he’s demonstrated an excellent rapport with Philip Rivers and could easily lead the NFL in catches.

I wish Thomas were a little more in command of money looks in New Orleans — the Brees/Payton scheme has never been about forcing the ball to one player. Thomas also lacks true afterburners, the ability to threaten the distance from any reception. He’s more a floor pick than an upside selection in the second round. But you’re also buying on likely positive regression for Brees’s touchdown rate, and if anyone is going to benefit from that, it will likely be Thomas.

Hill doesn’t get chippy touchdowns and it’s hard to bet on someone continuing to score from distance like he does. And the Chiefs have three other dynamic ball-commanding players in Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins. Hill is more reactive pick than proactive pick for me.

I recognize Tampa Bay’s offense has been terrific with Jameis Winston this summer, but he’s still a guy on a three-game suspension, and there’s some lingering knucklehead risk with him. And the Bucs have one of the wider usage trees in the league, especially if Chris Godwin makes the leap I’ve expected. I’m looking for reasons not to draft Evans; another reactive pick, not a proactive pick. If I do take him, it will be with a shrug and a knot in the stomach.

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$29 T.Y. Hilton
$29 Adam Thielen
$28 JuJu Smith-Schuster
$28 Stefon Diggs
$27 Amari Cooper
$27 Larry Fitzgerald
$27 Doug Baldwin
$23 Golden Tate
$22 Jarvis Landry
$21 Marvin Jones
$20 Chris Hogan

Your Hilton price depends on how comfortable you are with Andrew Luck’s comeback progress, and how comfortable you are with the touchdown chances of your other wideouts. We’ve seen what Hilton’s upside is — he won a yardage crown just two years ago — but he’s not utilized at the goal line, and the Colts have other options who will hog those targets.

It breaks my heart to price Baldwin this low; I considered him a wonderful third-round pick and a possible second-round option six weeks ago. But I don’t like to draft into injury problems, so now he slides into fourth-round territory. I’m not concerned about the Seahawks junking the passing game; the messy Seattle defense is going to keep Russell Wilson playing with his hair on fire.

Diggs is the sports car, Thielen is the Camry. I think they’ll both get excellent mileage with Kirk Cousins; it’s just a matter of if you want upside or floor at that point in your roster construction.

I want to believe Jon Gruden will be creative and modern with his Cooper usage and formational strategy, but Gruden’s already said a zillion things that concern me. In a league that’s moving forward and becoming smarter all the time, Gruden still wants to embrace concepts that are decades old. I’d prefer Cooper be someone else’s problem.

Fitzgerald turns 35 at the end of the month and his quarterbacks are an injury-guarantee journeyman and a green rookie. I’d rather be a year early than a year late on Fitzgerald; it pushes me off him, regretfully. Toggle around Football Reference for a while; age-35 isn’t kind to many receivers.

If you want to ding Hogan for durability, fine. He’s been an efficiency monster in New England, and most of his target competition took a step back this summer. 

$17 Marquise Goodwin
$16 Brandin Cooks
$15 Demaryius Thomas
$15 Nelson Agholor
$15 Will Fuller
$15 Robert Woods
$15 Cooper Kupp
$14 Emmanuel Sanders
$14 Josh Gordon
$12 Jamison Crowder
$11 Kenny Stills
$11 Robby Anderson
$11 Corey Davis
$11 Allen Robinson
$11 Sammy Watkins
$10 Kelvin Benjamin
$10 Devin Funchess
$10 Sterling Shepard
$10 Keelan Cole

Somehow has to take the No. 1 mantle in San Francisco, why not Goodwin? Pierre Garcon is deep into the back nine of his career, and is not a touchdown scorer . . . On the Rams wideouts, I prefer to take the cheapest options given to me, which usually means fading Cooks and scooping up the cheaper Woods and/or Kupp. Remember Kupp led this team in red-zone looks last year, and the slot is where you find easier throws and lesser coverage . . . I probably have Thomas and Sanders lower than consensus, reflecting some healthy skepticism tied to Case Keenum.

Stills is a little less screened with DeVante Parker injuring his finger, but he was always the sharp bet to lead Miami in receiving production. He also has the most familiarity with Ryan Tannehill . . .Benjamin is an “own, don’t watch” player — I wouldn’t mind if all Buffalo games were removed from television this fall. The quarterbacking might be a mess. But someone will fetch 115-130 targets, even if they’re low efficiency targets, with Benjamin the likely recipient. He’s also lost some weight and is in a contract year, if that matters to you . . . Cole was the receiver I wanted even before the Marqise Lee news; now, he’s an obvious pick for everyone. You might have to arm wrestle for him a little bit . . . You can probably get Agholor a tier lower than I’m slotting him, and I want you to try to do just that.

Alshon Jeffery won’t be on Pianow’s rosters this fall (AP)
Alshon Jeffery won’t be on Pianow’s rosters this fall (AP)

$9 Tyrell Williams
$9 Michael Crabtree
$9 Kenny Golladay
$9 *Julian Edelman
$7 Randall Cobb
$7 Tyler Lockett
$7 Pierre Garcon
$7 John Brown
$7 Jordy Nelson
$6 *Alshon Jeffery
$6 Ted Ginn
$6 *Rishard Matthews
$6 Dede Westbrook

I almost left Jeffery off this list completely. Remember he’s probably unstartable for fantasy until we see that one “prove it” or “show me” week; that tacks an extra wait week onto the timetable. And it gets late early in any fantasy season; most leagues offer just 13 weeks to make your playoffs. I want a fluid and flexible roster, especially in September (when the waiver wire must be attacked). I’ll let Jeffery be someone else’s problem . . . Matthews would be at least double this price if we knew he was healthy, but Mike Vrabel’s decided to be Belichickian with injury disclosures. It’s a bad time to be on the sidelines, with the Titans installing an entirely new offense . . . The Lions are heavy with three-wide packages and don’t have a major threat at tight end, so Golladay has breakout potential even if Tate and Jones play complete seasons. Golladay made plenty of splash plays in his limited rookie year, and also has the size to become a featured guy inside the 10-yard line. And with all three of these talented wideouts on the same offense, I beg you to get some Matthew Stafford exposure this year.

$5 Mike Williams
$5 Josh Doctson
$5 Anthony Miller
$5 Chris Godwin
$4 Mohamed Sanu
$4 DeVante Parker
$4 Danny Amendola
$4 Michael Gallup
$4 Cameron Meredith
$4 Quincy Enunwa
$3 Taywan Taylor
$3 DeSean Jackson
$3 Paul Richardson
$3 Geronimo Allison
$3 Allen Hurns
$3 Dez Bryant
$2 Calvin Ridley
$2 John Ross
$2 Ryan Grant
$2 Taylor Gabriel
$2 D.J. Moore
$1 Jaron Brown
$1 Tyler Boyd
$1 Christian Kirk
$1 Terrance Williams
$1 Trent Taylor
$1 Cole Beasley
$1 Chester Rogers
$1 Cordarrelle Patterson
$1 James Washington
$1 Courtland Sutton
$1 Albert Wilson
$1 Willie Snead
$0 Travis Benjamin
$0 Jermaine Kearse
$0 Martavis Bryant
$0 Bruce Ellington
$0 Laquon Treadwell
$0 Torrey Smith
$0 Donte Moncrief
$0 Adam Humphries
$0 D.J. Chark
$0 Zay Jones
$0 Terrelle Pryor
$0 Antonio Callaway
$0 *Marqise Lee

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