Here are the results from the 25th through 36th ranked WR over the last four seasons:
WR3: Last year the 25th through 36th WRs averaged only 169.45 Fantasy points in full-point PPR leagues or 10.53 Fantasy points per week which works out to be 59 catches for 789 yards and 4.8 TDs. The top four WRs in this group averaged 177.8 Fantasy points.
Observation: The quality of the WR3 in 2017 was dramatically lower than the previous three years. In 2016, all 12 of the final WR3s in PPR leagues scored higher than the 25th ranked WR last season. Wide receivers can be inconsistent from week-to-week and many times touchdowns will determine their success. If a Fantasy owner builds his team with too many weak wide receivers, he will have a very difficult time getting his lineup right on Sunday. As you can see as we maneuver our way through the wide receiver pool, they consistently outscore the RB position at the backend.
As I mentioned earlier, if a Fantasy owner could draft three top WRs inside of the first four rounds, you can see that it is possible to gain a five or six point edge at the WR3 position if you can hit on the right group of wide receivers. By having three strong wide receivers, your team may be slightly stronger during bye weeks if you structure your roster properly. A team selecting a QB and TE in the top five rounds will be under pressure to get their 2nd RB and backend WRs right on draft day.
Here’s the fourth group of WRs:
WR4 or Flex Player: The 37th thru 48th WRs averaged 173.34 Fantasy points in full-point PPR leagues or 50 catches, 687 yards, and four TDs. The 4th WRs on the average outscored the 3rd group of RBs. Last year 42 WRs averaged more than 10.0 Fantasy points per week compared to 48 in 2016. Our goal at the flex position has to be a lot higher than 10.5 points if we expect to win our league or compete for an overall title. Some of the gains at the backend of the WR pool was due to injuries at the top end of the WR position.
Observation: If we add up the average score from each starting roster position, we come up with a total of 137.41 Fantasy points per week based on 2017 results. Each Fantasy owner’s goal should be to beat the average score at each position, which means they need to have a player in the mid to upper tier at each position.
The WR position runs deeper than the RB position, but WRs are so much tougher to manage at the lower tiers. Many Fantasy owners use two different philosophies. First is to draft one solid RB and then build your team around a deep WR core plus a solid TE. They then load up on RB depth. If one or more of their backup RBs gain a full-time job, their team will contend for a title with a healthy season. The second is to be RB strong and hopefully hit on the backend WRs.
I’ll use a baseball comparison as I think it is easier to understand for Fantasy owners that play multiple sports. A backup RB is like a closer in waiting. If they get full time carries, they can turn into a top player and sometimes an elite player. They just need the opportunity, but backup RBs tend to have no value without a job if needed to cover an injury or bye week.
WRs are more like starting pitchers. It’s either they have talent, or they don’t. Each year a couple of WRs will breakthrough, but what are the chances the draft breaks right for you to secure the right ones? If you went RB strong, do you need to hit one or two WRs? Maybe you even need three. In the high-end leagues, your opponents will also know the player pool which will make it tough for you to get out if you wait too long at the WR position. The second part is a backup WR can’t match an elite WR just because he has an opportunity. If Julio Jones gets hurt, his replacement won’t deliver his production. His opportunity will be spread out between the other good players on the offense. A mediocre RB can get a job in high powered offense and produce by the sheer volume of touches, which is the main reason why many top Fantasy owners will cheat the RB2 position. They avoid the injury risk by selecting one RB early, and they try to gain an edge at four or five other positions.
The best team structure for a Fantasy owner that pushes the QB position back would be balanced after five rounds (two RBs, two WRs, and one TE). This structure will allow a Fantasy owner to take advantage of the positions that slide in the draft. Each league will be different, so there isn’t a perfect way to draft. You need to understand the player pool, the player flow, and how you want to build your team. The kicker to all of this is that players will get hurt and many will underperform your expectations.
Another point on another tangent, I know Fantasy owners consider some players injury risks. Football is so much different than baseball. You can’t ignore talent even you think a player may break down. Brian Westbrook comes to mind when I think of this. I passed on him many times as I thought he was an injury risk, but I also knew he had talent. If he was on the field, he was going to play at a high level. I’m all about avoiding injuries, but I know my crystal ball that works inside my head doesn’t translate into real football. If a player has difference maker talent and is still in the prime of his career, you have to take the edge when you can, but you must protect your investment.
I would approach the draft this way. It is really important to evaluate your opponents when you’re sitting at the draft table. If you are in a league with less talented owners who you feel don’t know the inventory as well, drafting a quarterback early will probably make a lot of sense. In these types of leagues, it is important to grab the edge players when you can because you know a possible stud player at another position will be discounted if the other owners don’t understand the player pool. In the high stake’s market, every Fantasy owner will most likely know the player pool. They will also respect the wide receiver position. By knowing your opponents, you may be able to understand your opportunities later in the draft. In other words, in a live draft on the opening-day weekend, you may want to push up the wide receiver position. In an online draft in late July when Fantasy owners don’t understand the player flow, you can gain an edge by selecting the quarterback earlier. As each week passes, drafting information will circulate, and the player pool will tighten up.