2014 Fantasy Football: Where to Draft Your Wide Receivers
An annual conundrum for many fantasy football owners is the age-old question of: Where do you draft your receivers? Certainly when entering the first round of a draft, the emphasis is on choosing the top tier players who you will expect to be gone by the 2nd or 3rd round of you wait.
Conventional wisdom has always told us that you choose a marquee quarterback with a proven track record for consistency like a Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady or a running back with consistent high numbers like Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles or Alfred Morris.
However, as we have learned even top tier players can get injured and be lost for an entire season as in the case of Tom Brady in 2008, Peyton Manning in 2011 and Jamaal Charles in 2011. Also we all received an education in the famous book and movie ‘The Blind Side’ that QB’s can get sacked when not protected well, or fall prey to a freakish line backer and get injured. Running backs can also get season ending knee injuries and concussions perhaps in higher ratio to other positions on the field.
With this in mind, choosing a solid wide receiver corps can be a smart move to get those weekly consistent fantasy points. So grabbing Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Josh Gordon or even Demaryius Thomas as your 1st or 2nd pick might seem strange, but when considering injury at various positions, the wide receivers generally have a better chance of making it through the entire season.
With this philosophy we ran test fantasy teams in the past, drafting 10 different teams and having 5 drafted conventionally with tier QB and RB players first, and then the other 5 with drafting a solid receiver corps and ignoring the QB and RB pick until the 4th or 5th round. In side by side comparison, the teams with a high WR and TE corps performed slightly better than the conventional approach.
Of course there are always variables in every league. Your fellow fantasy players for one, and the other is which players your chose on the rest of your roster. So this experiment has a margin for error in either direction. However, it is interesting to shift one’s traditional thinking process as a fantasy approach, and see the outcome.
This approach does not say that the wide receiver cannot get injured. We all learned that lesson with Julio Jones in 2013, when he went down with a season-ending injury in game five. There is also the variable of off-the-field trouble that can get a talented player suspended as we learned so well with Justin Blackmon who violated the league substance abuse policy twice in the 2013 season.
Let’s consider three groupings of receivers with your top tier group to consider in rounds 1-2, and the middle round group to consider in rounds 3-5, and the last group to consider in rounds 6+. Here is how we would break them down in the fantasy draft at this stage:
Top Tier Options
Calvin Johnson, DET
Josh Gordon, CLE
AJ Green, CIN
Demaryius Thoms, DEN
Middle Tier Options
Dez Bryant, DAL
Eric Decker, NYJ
Brandon Marshall, CHI
Antonio Brown, PIT
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
Julio Jones, ATL
Randall Cobb, GB
Keenan Allen, SD
DeSean Jackson, WAS
Lower Tier Options
Cecil Shorts, JAX
Percy Harvin, SEA
Justin Blackmon, JAX
This is by no means a complete list. This is just taking into consideration what the players have done in the past, as well as the off season changes that the teams have made in coaching, trades and in changes in other positions on their teams that could make a difference on how they are valued. Keep in mind that even after the NFL draft, there can be changes in value depending on what their respective team does in the draft.
This brings us to the next key point about receivers, and that is the new rookie class. Perhaps in no other year has the receiver class in an upcoming NFL draft looked more promising with rich talent than this one. There is most certainly going to be a lot to consider with many of these new players, depending on which team they land with.
Top profiles receivers in the draft are likely to make huge impacts such as Sammy Watkins (Clemson), Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Lee Marqise (USC), Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) and Odell Beckham (LSU) who will most certainly be hot talents to draft on your upcoming fantasy teams, depending on which team they are drafted by. The key in determining their value is who the team has throwing to them at the quarterback position and whether you have confidence in them to effectively target this new rookie during the course of the season.
Just because New England might draft a WR, does not mean that they are going to be a surefire target by Tom Brady for example, as their offensive model is quite diverse. However, a player like Mike Evans or Watkins going to a pass-happy team like the Lions or Broncos might be an exciting option as an early round pick. Therefore it is important to do one’s homework, and study the roster moves of their new team carefully.
Drafting a receiver corps in your fantasy league should not be overlooked in value, as often the receiving points can make the difference in whether you edge out your opponent each week. So don’t draft your receivers as the last option to fill your roster, but consider drafting one top tier early, and concentrate on a larger corps of middle round candidates for your roster, with one or two low tier options in case they have a rebound season that rocks the charts.
It is always wise to be willing to take a little risk now and then to account for those fantasy anomalies that inevitably happen! Nothing makes watching football in the fall more exciting that knowing that the player who caught the long bomb was yours!