NFL Fantasy: Top six wide receiver surprises of 2017

These players were drafted as little more than flyers and handcuffs but will end the season no worse than WR-2. Plus, the three biggest disappointments of 2017!

(Photo credit: Adam Thielen)

Names like Kenny Golladay, Tavarres King, JJ Nelson, Chester Rogers, and Jakeem Grant had their moments on the weekly leaderboards; but when all was said and done, more familiar names were among the top NFL fantasy scoring wide receivers. 

Not many were elite. Only two, DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown, were among the top 11 non-quarterback scorers overall, lending credence to the death of the no-running back theory of fantasy drafts. The WR-24 only averages 7.6 points per game, but that does not mean we shouldn’t celebrate the under-drafted lot who will warrant more consideration in 2018. 

Here are the top six surprises and three biggest disappointments of this season, based on the difference between their average draft position (ADP) and their actual ranking through Week 16. 

#6. Adam Thielen ADP: WR-48, rank: WR-11

Thielen kicked off the 2017 season by racking up more yards than any other receiver in the first half. If he began catching touchdowns earlier, he could be a top-five NFL fantasy receiver. His emergence helped Case Keenum shock most of the NFL, too. 

#5. Marvin Jones ADP: WR-46, rank: WR-7

Jones has caught between 50 and 80 yards of Matthew Stafford passes in 13 of 15 games. In each of the seven weeks he caught at least one touchdown, he made the top 20 scorers list. His overall effort gave him a 1,000-yard season and the WR-7 ranking. 

#4. Cooper Kupp ADP: WR-66, rank WR-23

Cooper Kupp was mentioned in a good deal of preseason sleeper discussions, but when the Rams acquired Sammy Watkins, most prognosticators took Kupp off their boards. In the RealSport sleeper article, I claimed Watkins’ presence would help Kupp by providing a top-notch distraction. Kupp wound up with the most wide receiver fantasy points for the most explosive offensive team in the league. 

#3. Robbie Anderson ADP: WR-61, rank: WR-14

In the preseason, Jets quarterback Josh McCown, only played for one series in one game. That series ended with a long touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson. It was a precursor of what was to come, especially after Quincy Enunwa’s season-ending injury. 

#2. Devin Funchess ADP: WR-74, rank: WR-20

Few people predicted Kelvin Benjamin would get traded away during the season or that tight end Greg Olsen would miss a bunch of games, but it all worked out well for Devin Funchess’ owners. Since the trade, Funchess is among the most-targeted wide receivers in the league. 

#1. Nelson Agholor ADP: 85, rank: WR-16

The word from Philadelphia sportswriters before the 2017 draft was to look out for Nelson Agholor. They claimed he was catching everything thrown to him, a dramatic change from his disappointing 2016 when he was among the league leaders in drops and nothing else. 

When the Eagles traded a wide receiver for defensive help, it was the productive Jordan Matthews they sent to Buffalo, not Agholor. Coach Doug Pederson joined the crowd singing Agholor’s praises, saying he was comfortable with Carson Wentz throwing to his remaining slot receiver. 

Despite the contentions of Philly folks, Nelson Agholor went largely undrafted. Even when he scored some early touchdowns and had a few long catches, his doubters warned against trusting him. He had the last laugh, winding up among the top 20 rostered players on playoff teams and settling in at the WR-16 ranking, a whopping 69 slots better than his ADP of 85. 

Then there were these guys:

A bad ankle robbed us of a classic Odell Beckham season. Top-24 draftees Adrian Robinson and Chris Hogan were also beset by season-ending injuries. Martavis Bryant’s self-centered implosion upon returning from suspension helped make him the WR-51 this season, unworthy of his ADP of WR-24. 

Other bad performances were inexplicable. This was the season Amari Cooper was going to break out of the shadow of Michael Crabtree and become the star of the Raiders’ passing game. As such, he was drafted as a top-ten wide receiver across most boards. 

He answered the call… for one week. That was Week 8. But his 210 yards and 2 touchdowns did not kick-start an NFL fantasy points tear. Instead, Cooper remained a ghost in the red zone and settled in as the WR-37, thanks to the one big game which accounted for more than a third of his 2017 point total. Without that game, he would be the WR-65. 

Jordy Nelson was another disappointment. He started the season well enough with three top-ten NFL fantasy wide receiver games in the first four weeks. Then he fell off the charts, failing to register a top-25 performance for the rest of the season. Brett Hundley took a lot of the blame for Nelson’s demise, but he did not quarterback every game during Nelson’s down period and Davante Adams managed several top-ten games with Hundley at quarterback. 

Terrelle Pryor was going to be the top receiver in the heavy passing attack of the Washington Redskins after his breakout season in Cleveland. He never got it together in Washington before the Redskins ended his season early. He officially finishes as the WR-106 for 2017 with an ADP of WR-16. 

What does it all mean? 

Looking at the season-ending NFL fantasy points is a start, but it does not offer all the information you need to know who the best wide receivers on the 2018 draft board will be. Points-per-game is a better barometer of expectations since we go into each year assuming good health will be dealt to our rosters. 

There will also be players changing teams, new coaches changing offensive gameplans, rookies and free agents changing the expected target shares to consider before selecting anybody. 

But there will still be surprises as some player click and other go clunk without warning. As the 2018 drafts kick into gear, check out RealSport for all the information you need to draft a championship team. 

Thanks for following NFL fantasy at RealSport. Hopefully, we helped you get the most out of your team. Look for off-season updates, rumors, and draft advice throughout the year as we cover the impact of free agent signings, retirements, coaching changes, trades, and the NFL draft so you can draft another championship team in 2018. 


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