“Big Rigg” Catching Up With New Wide Receiver Signings
Last week I wrote about running backs who found new homes for the 2017 season. This week I will be discussing the pass catchers who will have new signal callers throwing them the rock in 2017. Three years ago, in 2014, Golden Tate signed with the Detroit Lions and returned mid range WR1 numbers. In 2015, Brandon Marshall joined the New York Jets and in his first year in a new uniform, he was the third highest scoring wide receiver in fantasy football. Other than Marshall, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree were the only two WR’s on new teams to put up at least WR2 numbers in 2015. In 2016, Rishard Matthews and Mike Wallace were both back end WR2’s for the Titans and Ravens respectively. The point is that most of the top 24 WR’s in fantasy football are not doing it in their first year with a new team. When teams have studs at the wide receiver position, they are highly unlikely to let them get away in free agency unless they are not a scheme fit or a headache for the coaching staff. For reference, all ADP information is based on 12 team ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator.
Kenny Britt (28 years old) 6’3″ 215 – Cleveland Browns – Britt has a career 15.8 yards per catch and is coming off his first career 1,000 yard season with the LA Rams. Britt had 68 catches in 2016 which was also a career high. Britt started slow as a 20 year old rookie in 2009 and began to come around in 2010, scoring 9 of his 30 career touchdowns. In 2011 he was off to a thundering pace before tearing his ACL early in the season. It took Britt a few years to get back to full strength after the injury and on top of that, he didn’t have the greatest quarterback play while with the Titans and Rams. In 2016, Britt started 15 games and saw 111 targets, both career highs, and was a high end WR3 with horrible QB play. Now with the Browns, Britt will have better play calling from Hue Jackson and more consistent quarterback play regardless of who the starter is. Britt has shown he can take care of business when given the volume, and the Browns signed him to be their #1 receiver. Britt should be drafted as a back end WR2 and is an absolute steal at his current ADP, 11th round PPR and 12th round standard.
Pierre Garcon (31 years old) 6′ 210 – San Francisco 49ers – Under Kyle Shanahan in 2012 Garcon put up 44 catches for 633 yards and 4 TD’s while dealing with a nagging foot injury from week 1 on. In 2013, Garcon saw 181 targets as the #1 WR in a Kyle Shanahan offense and put up 113 grabs for 1,346 yards and 5 TD’s. Now age 31, Garcon is coming off a 1,000 yard season playing in an offense in Washington with several mouths to feed (Reed, Jackson, Crowder) and showed he still has the ability to be a successful wide receiver in the NFL. Some may think that playing with Brian Hoyer is a red flag, but Garcon had his best season to date in 2013 with an extremely hobbled RGIII throwing him the ball. As the clear cut #1 option in San Francisco, Garcon has the potential to be a high end WR2. At his current ADP, 7th round PPR and 8th standard, you aren’t risking the farm taking a shot on him. If he’s available at his current ADP, I am taking him in every league as my WR4 or WR5, hoping to get big returns.
Ted Ginn (32 years old) 5’11” 178 – New Orleans Saints – Ted Ginn is a one trick pony through and through who should have never been drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. Ginn has a career 13.9 yards per catch and scored 25 career touchdowns. Ginn is coming off his second best statistical season in 2016, putting up 54 grabs for 752 yards. The one intriguing thing to keep in mind here is that this one trick pony has never played with a quarterback with the skill set of Drew Brees. Although the intrigue is there, Brees played with a wide receiver built-in a similar mold when he first joined the Saints in Devery Henderson. While with the Saints, Henderson averaged 17.9 yards per catch and in 2008 he went for 32 catches, 793 yards and 3 scores, averaging a crazy 24.8 yards per catch in the process. Ginn’s current ADP has him going around the 14th round, but if you are relying on him as a starting wide receiver, you are in trouble because he simply won’t offer consistent points. Ginn is best served as a bye week filler or a guy who gets you through an injury situation.
DeSean Jackson (30 years old) 5’10” 178 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Out of a possible 48 games over the last three seasons, DeSean Jackson has only played in 40 of them, starting only 37. Jackson has a career 17.7 yards per catch and 46 TD’s. Jackson had his best season in 2013 playing with Nick Foles, hauling in 65% of his targets, catching 82 for 1,332 and 9 TD’s. If Jackson can stay healthy, he will be playing with the best deep ball quarterback he’s been paired with since playing with Michael Vick in 2010. In 2016, Jameis Winston had a QB rating of 71 when throwing deep (more than 20 yards down field) without a true “burner” at his disposal, completing 34.8% of his 69 deep attempts with 11 TD’s (2nd best in the league) and 6 INT’s. The arrow is pointing up for Winston and he loves throwing the deep ball, having Jackson will only help his cause. With Mike Evans on the other side, Jackson is sure to draw the #2 corner from each team. If he can stay healthy, Jackson’s 7th round ADP standard and 8th in PPR looks to be a fairly decent value. Jackson is no more than a boom or bust WR3, but he could be a difference maker for you from week to week. Buyer beware though, because if you draft him you need to accept the weeks when he goes 2 catches for 38 yards and 0 TD’s.
Alshon Jeffery (27 years old) 6’4″ 230 – Philadelphia Eagles – Jeffery has only played in 20 of a possible 32 games over the last 2 seasons, 4 of those missed games were due to a PED suspension, not the usual soft tissue injury that has plagued him throughout his career. Carson Wentz has a big arm and has the IQ to succeed in the NFL but he has some accuracy issues. Jeffery’s big catch radius should assist with Wentz’s accuracy woes. Like every year he’s been in the league, Jeffery will have big time WR1 potential averaging 15 yards per catch over his career, but his availability is the main issue. Jeffery will be the #1 receiving option in Philly, but he needs to stay on the field. Alshon has been going in the late 3rd round in both standard and PPR leagues, meaning he is being drafted as a WR2 or WR3. If he can stay healthy for 14+ games this year and haul in 80 passes, he will come through as a borderline WR1. Jeffery’s current ADP is fair market value, but you need to be willing to accept the injury risk. Some people may pass on him entirely not wanting to assume any risk. If people in your league pass on him on draft day, you may be posed with a tempting decision to make in the 4th round of your draft. If you address the wide receiver position early in your draft and Alshon slips into the 4th, you need to be prepared to evaluate (quickly) whether you want to take another WR or balance the rest of your starting roster with a QB, RB or TE.
Brandon Marshall (33 years old) 6’4″ 229 – New York Giants – Over the last 5 years, Brandon Marshall has ranged between 11.8 and 13.8 yards per catch. Marshall has shown to be extremely volume dependent and has hauled in 82 TD’s in his career. In 2016, Eli Manning attempted the 7th most passes in the NFL, completing 377 of 598 attempts. Marshall will not see bracket coverage this year and he surely won’t see the opposition’s best corner. Even if his yards per catch dips as he ages, Marshall remains a red zone threat and will see volume. Marshall currently has an ADP in the late 5th round, so if you are drafting him, you are taking him as your WR3. The volume should be there, so the fantasy points should be there, but his advanced age is slightly concerning and he’s never played second fiddle before like he will in 2017 to Odell Beckham Jr. I have a feeling Marshall will either be a league winner for you or drafting him will be a decision you regret with no in between.
Terrelle Pryor (28 years old) 6’6″ 240 – Washington Redskins – Pryor dropped 1,000 yards last season with Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan throwing him the ball, let that sink in. Pryor will go from that situation, to having Kirk Cousins throw him the ball which is an instant upgrade. Pryor was a WR2 last season while scoring only 4 TD’s. I point this out for one reason, touchdown production from year to year can vary greatly, and Pryor wasn’t dependent on a large volume of touchdowns for his fantasy points. This is a good thing. Pryor is only going to get better with another full year at the wide receiver position under his belt with a better quarterback throwing him the ball. Pryor’s current ADP in both PPR and standard is late 3rd round. That is a little too rich for me. With guys like Doug Baldwin, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffery being drafted around Pryor, I will go will one of the more proven options.
Torrey Smith (28 years old) 6’1″ 205 – Philadelphia Eagles – Torrey Smith is another one trick pony who got signed to a bad contract by the 49ers in free agency. As I said in my intro, if a wide receiver is truly a stud, their current team is not going to let them go unless non-talent related issues were overpowering. Smith averages 17 yards per catch over his career and catches less than 50% of passes thrown his way for his career. This stat may be attributed to the fact that most passes thrown his way are deep balls. Smith’s projected usage in Philly this year is currently up in the air, but he surely won’t be the #1 WR, that role will go to Alshon Jeffery. That being said, in Smith’s best season with the Ravens he saw 137 targets, caught 65 of them for 1,128 yards and 4 TD’s. Smith won’t see those targets, so it’s unlikely he will have the production he had in 2013. I think it’s more realistic to expect 100 targets, 50 catches and 800 yards for Smith this year with TD’s being the wild card. If you’re drafting Torrey Smith as a starter for your fantasy team, you are either a close friend of his, University of Maryland alumni or in a league where you can only start NFC East WR’s. Smith is best suited as a boom or bust injury or bye week filler.
Kamar Aiken (28 years old) 6’2″ 213 – Indianapolis Colts – In 2015 Kamar Aiken was given an opportunity to start 14 games due to injury and did extremely well, hauling in 75 of 127 targets for 944 yards and 5 TD’s. After a breakout 2015 season, Aiken only started 6 games in 2016 and was unusable in any fantasy format. The Ravens threw the ball 127 more times than Indianapolis did in 2016, but Andrew Luck averaged 7.78 yards per attempt while Joe Flacco averaged 6.42 yards per attempt which was 26th best in the NFL. My point is that volume isn’t always a good thing. Luck has also been better than Flacco in the red zone over his career. Joe Flacco has only thrown 25 or more touchdowns twice in his career, his career high of 27 TD’s came in 2014. Aiken’s ceiling will be higher in Indianapolis than it was in Baltimore as long as he can hold off Phillip Dorsett for the #3 WR spot. Here’s the thing, Aiken and Donte Moncrief have similar body types and skill sets, albeit Moncrief is better. Moncrief was slowed by injuries in 2016 only playing in 9 games and if he goes down again, Aiken is better suited for that possession role than Dorsett, and would likely be a full-time player. If you draft Donte Moncrief as a starting wide receiver, you should almost consider draft Kamar Aiken with one of your last picks as a rare “handcuff” to a wide receiver.
Michael Floyd (27 years old) 6’3″ 220 – Minnesota Vikings – Michael Floyd looks the part and has the athletic ability to be a solid NFL wide receiver but for some reason he simply hasn’t been able to pull it all together. Floyd does have a high 15.4 yards per catch, but his catch rate is fairly low at 53%. The Vikings have very little invested in Floyd, only paying him $1.4M this year, and has a similar body type to Laquon Treadwell. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen already have their roles in the offense, so it almost looks like Michael Floyd was brought in as Laquon Treadwell insurance in case he doesn’t pan out. Floyd is not worth anything more than your Mr. Irrelevant pick at this time and is nothing more than a flier, but if the Vikings have an injury at wide receiver or Treadwell looks like a bust, Floyd may become relevant very quickly.
Marquise Goodwin (26 years old) 5’9″ 183 – San Francisco 49ers – When you evaluate what Marquise Goodwin is this year, think Taylor Gabriel. Taylor Gabriel is a burner and has a similar skill set to Goodwin, although Gabriel is probably a more polished overall receiver of the football. In the Kyle Shanahan offense in 2016, Gabriel caught 35 balls for 579 yards and 6 TD’s with a long catch of 76 yards. Taylor Gabriel’s 2016 season should be considered the ceiling for Marquise Goodwin in 2017, he was brought in to take the top off the defense in San Francisco, and that’s all. Over 39 career games played, Goodwin has been targeted 111 times, caught 49 balls for 6 TD’s, averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Goodwin is more of a DFS flier if the corner back matchup looks good than a guy you want to roster on your season long fantasy team. If you are rolling Goodwin out in season long leagues, you are in trouble. Goodwin is nothing more than a boom or bust bye week filler, he simply won’t provide consistent production warranting weekly consideration.
Cordarrelle Patterson (26 years old) 6’2″ 216 – Oakland Raiders – I am reaching deep with this one. Cordarrelle Patterson has been a Pro Bowler, but not in the way the Vikings envisioned. Patterson has been a Pro Bowl kicker returner, not a receiver. Patterson only has 132 career catches for 1,316 yards, but he’s never played in an offense as good as the Raiders and Derek Carr is the best QB he’s ever played with. If something were to happen to Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper, Patterson could surprise some people. Unless that happens, however, Patterson should remain undrafted in all formats.
TRADE – Brandin Cooks (23 years old) 5’10” 189 – New England Patriots – Coming out of Oregon State in 2014, Brandin Cooks was touted for his elite speed, tremendous football IQ and ability to pick up a playbook. This is important because he now plays for the New England Patriots. Word on the street is that the Patriots think Cooks is even better than they thought he was when they traded for him. Tom Brady has not had a receiver with Cooks’ talent or athletic ability since Randy Moss left in 2010 and will be a real difference maker in 2017. Cooks has been going at the top of the 3rd round in both PPR and standard leagues which is fair market value for what he is expected to do. Cooks usage has been the topic of discussion since the trade because the Patriots rarely “feature” a player and will roll out game plans that are specific to the opponent, but in my view that doesn’t matter. While playing for the Saints, Cooks would disappear at times because of the number of weapons had on their offense, and that is no different from what he will face in New England. In 2016, Cooks was the WR8 in standard leagues with only 117 targets, the fewest amount of targets of any WR1 from last year. From those 117 targets, Cooks had 78 grabs for 1,173 yards and 8 TD’s, and that should be his floor this year, making him a great 3rd round pick. If the Patriots make an effort to really get him the ball this year, then Cooks may end up a top 5 receiver.
Digging Deep – Justin Hunter (26 years old) 6’4″ 196 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Hunter was a great prospect coming out of Tennessee but since entering the league, he has underwhelmed and had injury problems. Hunter has the size to be a red zone threat, but he catches balls thrown his way less than 50% of the time. Hunter has bounced around the league the last few years, and will play with the best QB he’s ever played with in his career. If Hunter cannot get it done playing with Big Ben, then this will likely be his last chance, and he could find himself out of the league. The Steelers are fairly deep at WR this year, getting Martavis Bryant back from suspension and drafting JuJu Smith-Schuster to go along with Antonio Brown, so it is unlikely Hunter gets a shot in the regular season unless one of those guys goes down. You cannot waste a draft pick on Justin Hunter at this time, he’s simply a name to monitor during training camp.
Big Rigg Wrap Up
As I said from the beginning, absent Brandin Cooks, if any of these receivers were truly elite pass catchers, they never would have left their original teams. Out of all the receivers on this list, Brandin Cooks is by far the best. Cooks is a good bet to repeat as a WR1 in 2017, but outside Cooks, Terrelle Pryor, Alshon Jeffery and Pierre Garcon are the other receivers on this list with any potential to achieve WR1 production. Terrelle Pryor is likely to ascend because he has another year under his belt at the position and will be playing with a better QB this year in Kirk Cousins, but until we see it the fear remains that Pryor is a one trick deep threat pony who just had one good year. It’s possible Pryor is just a 6’6″ version of DeSean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery has been a WR1 in the past and could put up WR1 numbers again in 2017, but his health is a major concern. Jeffery always seems to have soft tissue problems and I personally don’t want to worry about his status each week of the 2017 season, so I am likely to pass on him. You could make the argument that Jeffery is in a contract year and will play through nagging injuries, but he was in a contract year last year too, and injuries still slowed him before he was suspended. Pierre Garcon is not an elite level WR, but I think he has WR1 potential because he is the #1 WR in a Kyle Shanahan offense, and that’s the only reason. Garcon is going to get a lot of volume, and if he finds the end zone enough, he could be a borderline WR1, at worst he is a WR2.
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