Draft day is rapidly approaching and every fantasy player is searching for that bit of information destined to propel him to the top of his league standings.
Mock drafts and early drafts are already providing data on average-draft-position (ADP). As always, we see several instances where owners are buying the hype and drafting certain players too early.
These wide receivers are worthy of roster spots. However, they are risky picks at their current ADP. Your early rounds should be spent on other resources. If any of these players slide down the draft board, grab them.
But if you jump on them early, don’t say you weren’t warned.
1. Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots (ADP- WR11)
Word from New England is that Tom Brady is working hard to develop a rapport with his new wide receiver. Then he will throw him into the pack with the rest of them.
That’s not to say Cooks won’t have a couple of 100-yard receiving games. He will. Julian Edelman also has at least one 100-yard game coming. Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Mitchell, James White, and probably someone we don’t even see at practice yet will too. That is just the way things work in New England with their plethora of receivers and backs grabbing passes.
Quite simply, Cooks will not see the number of targets he saw in New Orleans. He will also play outdoors in Foxboro, where weather has been known to happen. Cooks’ career fantasy numbers outdoors are three full points less per game than inside domes.
He has value in the WR20-24 range, where Edelman is now. Here’s a bonus sixth pick to avoid: Edelman is not worth a top-30 draft pick this season.
2. Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins (ADP- WR13)
According to Washington’s wide receivers coach, Pryor is “freakishly talented.” He put in a huge amount of time and effort to become Cleveland’s leading receiver with 77 catches and 1,007 yards in 2016.
It’s hard to bet against a player like that, but we didn’t tell him to go to Washington. Much is made of the receivers that Redskins let go. Pryor is largely assumed to be the recipient of all those lost targets, but head coach Jay Gruden has already said Pryor will not see the 140 targets he saw last season.
Jamison Crowder is not sure Pryor will even be the Redskins’ number one receiver. All Crowder did last year was catch 67 passes for 847 yards and six touchdowns as the third option. He fully expects to see additional targets in his third season. Josh Doctson is anxious to prove he can be the big hitter Washington hoped for when they drafted him, too.
Tight ends will be looking for passes, as well. Jordan Reed was activated from the PUP list this week. If he is not ready, Vernon Davis looks ready to take his touches. Running back Chris Thompson is running multiple routes from the backfield and the Redskins were surprised to see rookie Samaje Perine catching the ball well, too.
Pryor and his XXXXL-sized hands will be a big threat for Washington, but he will be hard-pressed to achieve WR13 or higher status.
3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City (ADP- WR17)
How many of you complained about Kansas City not throwing the ball enough to Jeremy Maclin? Remember when the Chiefs went a full season without throwing a touchdown to a wideout?
What makes everyone think things will change for Tyreek Hill? The Chiefs still have a run-first offense. Maclin only had 44 catches last season, 17 less than Hill. Other wide receivers will still be on the field including Chris Conley who also had 44 catches in 2016.
Kansas City’s leading receiver by far was the tight end, Travis Kelce. That doesn’t figure to change. Backup tight end Demetrius Harris is having a great preseason and will grab some throws as well, along with the running backs, who garnered 66 catches between them last year.
Tyreek Hill is fun to watch, but now that he is the main guy, he will go up against the best cornerbacks and be double-teamed enough to keep the other receivers busy and hold his fantasy value lower than last year’s WR20.
4. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (ADP- WR21)
Despite receiving the same number of targets in 2015 and 2016, Robinson’s yardage dropped from 1,400 to 883 yards and his touchdowns fell from 14 to six. Apparently, everyone blames Blake Bortles and forgive Robinson. They continue to draft him as a WR2 even with Bortles at quarterback.
Now Bortles might have played himself out of a starting role in Jacksonville. Coach Doug Marrone has announced an open competition for the job but says their 2017 quarterback is already on the roster. (Sorry, Colin!) This means Bortles could be replaced by veteran Chad Henne, he of the career QBR of 75.5, or 2016’s sixth-round draft pick Brandon Allen.
The inexperienced quarterback could make things more interesting for Jacksonville receivers and their fans. Brandon Allen played in a pro-set offense at Arkansas and actually had higher yards-per-attempt and efficiency ratings than the other quarterbacks from the 2016 draft- some guys named Prescott, Wentz, Goff, and Lynch.
However, Jacksonville’s offense is likely to go conservative. They drafted Leonard Fournette to pound the ball on the ground along with a healthy Chris Ivory and Corey Grant. An improved running game, along with a rising defense, may limit the amount of garbage time the Jaguars’ passing game historically used to pad statistics, dropping Robinson’s stock even further.
5. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina (ADP- WR23)
Carolina is another team where disappointing quarterback play affected receiver statistics. Cam Newton’s tough season, however, does not fully explain Kelvin Benjamin’s WR50 rating between Week 3 and Week 17.
Benjamin reported to camp this season noticeably overweight. Although he is expected to be close to last year’s playing weight by Week 1, this raises some concern, though not the biggest concern we have about Carolina’s top receiver.
Change is coming to Carolina. Cam Newton has taken a beating over the first six years of his career and needed offseason surgery to repair his shoulder. He has not yet thrown the ball in camp. In an effort to extend Newton’s career, he and the team are preparing a quick-hitting, short passing scheme.
Benjamin’s game is the deep, contested passing game Newton thrived in for so long. With Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel on the field along with capable veteran receiving backs, (not to mention a quarterback with a surgically-repaired throwing shoulder) the deep passing game may be a thing of the past in Carolina.
For his part, Cam Newton changed some of his offseason routines and reported to camp at his college playing weight for the first time in his career. He seems ready to change and that will cost Benjamin a few notches in your fantasy game.
Heard enough? Let the debates begin and don’t forget to check back after the season to see what you should have listened to.
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