I have to admit I have a weakness for the WR position. I like strong WRs, which allows me to make fewer decisions at the position when setting my starting lineup. Here’s look at the top 12 WRs over the last four seasons:
WR1: Last year the average top 12 WRs averaged 92 catches for 1,231 yards and seven TDs (2016 – 92 catches for 1212 yards and 9.2 TDs, 2015 – 103 catches for 1,396 yards and ten TDs, 2014 – 97 catches for 1,406 yards and 10 TDs, and 2013 – 95 catches for 1,401 yards and 10 TDs), which translated to 259.11 Fantasy points in full point PPR leagues or 16.19 points per week. The WR1 position had its weakest output (16.19) over the past six seasons (2012 – 292.28 average Fantasy points, 2013 – 296.65, 2014 – 302.52, 2015 – 308.11), and 2016 – 269.95).
2017 continued its downward trend at WR, which was almost a complete reversal of 2015. The average WR1 outscored the average RB1 by 4.74 Fantasy points in 2015, which is the big reason WRs were flying off the boards in the 2016 draft season. Last year the top 12 RBs won the battle by 0.26 Fantasy points in PPR leagues thus putting them on an even playing field with the top WRs in the game. The top four WRs last year average 290.60 Fantasy points (more than 50 Fantasy points lower than 2015) or 102.75 catches for 1.323 yards and 16.3 TDs.
Observation: Overall, it is clear that an elite three-down back has an edge in almost every season. There will be an exception when a top receiver catches plus receptions or scores plus TDs (Randy Moss 2007 – 98/1523/23, Calvin Johnson 2011 – 96/1681/16, Marvin Harrison 2004 -143/1722/11, and Wes Welker 2011 – 122/1569/9).
We added Antonio Brown into this category after his elite 2014 season (129/1698/13) only to see him raise the bar even further in 2015 (136/1834/10). Julio Jones had his career year in 2015 as well (136/1,871/8), but he hasn’t put together that special season in TDs so far in his career. The whole Fantasy world also knows the high upside of Odell Beckham (91/1305/12 in 12 games in 2014). His next step could be that special season that matches or beats the best receivers in the game in NFL history.
Last year one wide receiver (Keenan Allen) had over 1,500 yards receiving with no one breaking that mark in 2016. In 2015, four WRs had over 1,500 yards receiving (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Brandon Marshall) while Brown and Jones both posted 136 receptions (2nd highest total in NFL history). They finished with 1,871 (Jones) and 1,834 (Brown) yards, which placed 2nd and 4th all-time as well. The passing game needs a rebound, which will come with the next generation of elite WRs.
At any position, plus touchdowns will separate the top players from the field. Over the last 20 years, we have seen some amazing RBs that posted some crazy touchdown totals. On occasion, we have seen a WR be an edge player in Fantasy football. In the past, there will be a handful of receivers that will score between 280-300 fantasy points each year in PPR leagues. Over the last four seasons, 22 combined WRs scored more than 280 Fantasy points due to the recent changes in the NFL rules. In 2015, there were 842 passing TDs, which were the most in the history of the NFL by 25 TDs after setting high in each of the previous four years (2010 – 751, 2011 – 745, 2012 – 757, and 2013 – 804, and 2014 – 807). In 2016, WRs only scored 786 passing TDs, which was a drop of 56 passing TDs followed up by only 741 passing TDs in 2017. The value of the passing game in the NFL is moving in the wrong direction leading to mediocre QB play and weaker talent at WR.
One of my goals on draft day is to eliminate as many weekly lineup decisions as possible. The more decisions a Fantasy owner has to make from week-to-week; the higher the chance a Fantasy owner has of being wrong. The WR position is very volatile. If a Fantasy owner has too many players that look the same, it is nearly impossible to maximize your success over a long football season.
A Fantasy owner that decides to draft a WR strong team in a PPR league will eliminate much of the decision-making process for two possibly three WR positions. This owner MUST draft one strong RB as the core of his roster.
Here’s a look at the second 12 WRs over the last four seasons:
WR2: It is interesting to see the gaps tighten up at the WR2 position. Last year the second 12 wide receivers averaged 67 catches 904 yards and 7.3 TDs, which works out to be 203.97 Fantasy points. The top four WRs at the WR2 position averaged 217.7 Fantasy points. The gaps tighten up in this group of players (13th ranked WR in 2017 scored 222.5 Fantasy points compared to 187.50 by the 24th ranked WR), but a Fantasy owner can’t afford to wait too long to draft wide receivers. As I mentioned earlier, the easiest mistakes to make in Fantasy football will happen at the wide receiver position. There’s nothing worse than having five wide receivers that have similar value. It makes it extremely tough to predict on a weekly basis. A WR2 will average about 12.75 Fantasy points per week in 2017, which was more than one point lower than the last four seasons (2013 – 14.17, 2014 – 13.87, 2015 – 14.25, 2016 – 13.72). The RB2s averaged 11.32 Fantasy points last year.
Observation: The second wide receiver for most teams is just a steady piece to the puzzle. When you’re making this selection, you are looking for a solid 200+ point receiver. The closer we get to the live draft season; the inventory will tighten up. In most seasons, there are about 17 wide receivers that will score 225+ Fantasy points in PPR leagues (19 in 2015, 15 in 2016, and only 12 in 2017). As much as some Fantasy owners want to finesse the position, they can be short at WR if other Fantasy owners decide to triple up at the WR position in their first three or four draft picks.
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By the end of round five, most of the secure WRs will be drafted. The first five rounds in 2018 should consist of about two QBs, about 28 RBs, about 27 WRs, and three TEs in PPR leagues. A Fantasy owner will need to identify the opportunities at each position to help them determine which direction they want to go when building their team. A Fantasy owner from an early position will have a much different thought process than a player from a late position. A team selecting two WRs early in drafts will be shopping in a different aisle than a player selecting two RBs with their first two picks. Every draft will be different, but the opportunities after round five will somewhat be consistent.
Based on our early projections at ScoutFantasySports, here are the expected gains or losses in Fantasy points for the top 12 WRs compared to the 2017 results (16.87 Fantasy points per game by the top 12 WRs):
For almost everyone in the Fantasy world, DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown will be the top two WR choices in 2018. The next group of options has a similar game as previous seasons except for Cooper Kupp, which should come as a shocking Top 10 revelation, who I have rated much higher than most.
If you would like to see the full offensive projections, they can be found here.
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