If you read my latest Sleepers and Busts piece, you’ll find that I said Bryant was a bust at his current ADP (60.40 in the NFFC). Well, that’s not even debatable now. Forget the fact that Opening Night of football doesn’t have Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount and now Bryant, the Steelers offense is seriously starting to have concerns. Don’t forget, they just lost Maurkice Pouncey for at least the first half of the season.
I already had Bryant as my WR42 before the news, as the talk of Wheaton being the team’s No. 2 flooded the interwebs the past few weeks. We now know the real reason (teams often know of suspensions before they’re announced). Bryant finished as WR42 last year thanks to unreal per catch numbers even though he only played 10 games. Well, now he’s only playing 12 this year, and Wheaton’s time is now or never. As mentioned in the other piece, Wheaton hasn’t stepped up in his two years so far, but the Steelers obviously expect him too now. For Bryant’s ranking, I have to move him down, even though I already had him lower than most. You simply can’t remove four games and expect to remain in the Top 50. I’ll slide him in at WR52 just after Allen Hurns. Bryant still has WR3 potential once he’s back; don’t forget that.
(Side note: what do you guys need to see for Hurns to go higher in drafts? He’s a big-play receiver and the clear No. 2 with Marqise Lee out for weeks. C’mon guys!)
As for Wheaton’s ranking, this news firmly puts him on the cusp of the WR3 conversation, especially with Bell out for the first two games. However, due to Wheaton’s mediocre play in his career so far, you take him over options such as Eric Decker, Steve Smith, Jarvis Landry, Nelson Agholor or even Anquan Boldin. We simply need to see the production from Wheaton first, which means he’s still a WR4. Obviously, there is more upside with Wheaton than the Smith and Boldin types if you’re looking for the higher ceiling, but remember the risk. Don’t forget about Sammie Coates, but don’t go crazy. As I mentioned during the NFL Draft, those hands are abysmal. He does have a terrific size/speed/strength combo and good IQ, but he needs route running work and his hands… to work. He’s worth a deep league flier only, as even if he pushes Wheaton early, Bryant will be back and take over again.
This hurts Ben Roethlisberger a tad, but it’s not a significant drop. I already had Big Ben at No. 8 for quarterbacks since his year-end numbers look better than his weekly totals (just look at his season outside of the two six-TD games). I’m not moving him down, but others will likely start to agree with my ranking.
As for Antonio Brown, he’s as good as they come and you can’t ignore his five-catch/50-yard streak, but what do you think he’ll face the first two weeks now? I wouldn’t be surprised to see defenders draped on him like One Direction fangirls (that band is still a thing right?). If you want to take Dez Bryant, Julio Jones or Demaryius Thomas over Brown, I won’t argue much, especially Dez. Still, it’s only two games of 100 percent defensive attention and maybe, just maybe, Wheaton can finally step up.
Photo Credit: Gordon Dedman