Six Building Block Fantasy Football Wide Receivers In 2019
One of the most important things to learn as a fantasy football player is to value players in tiers as opposed to single entities. That is why we have tiered rankings for all of the positions for RotoExperts subscribers! However, that does not mean you should not go into any given draft with a group of players that you want on your roster. Generally speaking, there are a group of players I prefer at each position that makes up my “core ownership” across hundreds of best-ball leagues, weekly management leagues, industry drafts, and dynasty fantasy football rosters. Given the nature of the passing revolution in the NFL, fantasy football wide receivers are the most important position to have nailed down coming out of your draft. The attritional nature of the running back position means that stashing high-end handcuffs or running backs in uncertain backfields is likely to have an exponential payoff whereas WR fantasy football production is more skill-based. Playing the waiver wire intelligently can net you multiple usable running backs whereas finding Julio Jones-level production at WR on the waiver wire just isn’t going to happen.
This group of wide receivers makes my core targets throughout the course of the average weekly management (or best ball) draft. Whether it be in my home league with my friends from college or a high stakes draft with real money for first place, these are the wide receivers I consider core parts of my strategy for building anti-fragile and successful fantasy football teams in 2019.
Six Building Block Fantasy Football Wide Receivers In 2019
Of all the players that our projections likes, I am most in agreement with them on Juju Smith-Schuster. He is our fourth overall wide receiver while being projected for 153 targets; that is actually fewer targets than he saw last season! We are projecting the Steelers to be a little more run-heavy and less pass-happy in 2019 which is why Smith-Schuster’s raw totals are not as high as last season. However, he clearly has upside for over that 153 target number as Antonio Brown leaves a massive vacuum opposite Juju. Brown had more than 163 targets in five of the last seven seasons; the offensive coordinator has changed but the head coach and quarterback have stayed the same. The most likely outcome is that Juju gets some touchdown regression (only seven touchdowns on 166 targets compared to AB’s 15 touchdowns on 168 targets), a similar volume to last season and continues along with his career progression that so far makes his only career comparables Randy Moss and Josh Gordon. The argument I have heard from people on Twitter against Smith-Schuster as a first-round pick (where I have taken him on occasion) is that he will be “double covered every snap” or struggle against the best cornerbacks.
This should be obvious, but double coverage doesn’t really happen in the NFL. That just isn’t the way things work, the math doesn’t add up. Matt Harmon has done some excellent research on this topic. Additionally, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson and James Conner/Jaylen Samuel are not schlubs. It is not as if Smith-Schuster has been transported to the Jaguars. He is still on quite a good offense. Even if Washington doesn’t develop, Moncrief was second-fiddle to high-end fantasy football wide receivers seasons from T.Y Hilton in 2015 and 2016 before the Jacoby Brisset experience came to town. I
If I am able to leave my draft with Smith-Schuster in the first round, I am happy. I know that I have secured my top wide receiver spot for the entirety of the season. If I am able to lave with him in the second round, I am ecstatic. Starting a draft with a combination of David Johnson/Juju Smith-Schuster is the absolute best outcome and I have probably only been able to do it in something like 5% of drafts.
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Godwin was a fairly popular option as a “breakout” fantasy football wide receivers candidate towards the start of the offseason but over the last month, there has been some negative buzz around his ADP. Jameis Winston has “struggled to throw outside the hashes” and other mind-numbing sorts of analysis have been bandied about. The most important thing to note for Godwin is this: Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries and their 179 targets are now not in Tampa Bay. The previous coaching staff has been replaced by Bruce Arians, who runs one of the most efficient vertical passing offenses the NFL has seen. The replaces for Jackson and Humphries are all coming from in house. Only Breshad Perriman and assorted UDFA’s have been added to the roster as pass-catchers.
Godwin has elite company in terms of age-adjusted production. These are the only players since 1990 to have at least 1,300 receiving yards and over 14 yards per reception before their 23rd birthday: Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Randy Moss, Josh Gordon, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Koren Robinson, David Boston, Hakeem Nicks, Godwin himself, Kenny Britt, Kenny Stills, and Odell Beckham.
In other words, Chris Godwin is very good. He is going to play in an offense that has created great fantasy football seasons for second wide receivers: Donnie Avery, John Brown, Mike Wallace, Michael Floyd, Hines Ward, and Quincy Morgan all had very viable fantasy football seasons while playing second-fiddle in a Bruce Arians offense. While the most recent memory the fantasy football-playing public has of Arians is the Cardinals flaming out in 2017, the data shows a man who knows how to call passes and to throw them deep. Getting Godwin as a second or oftentimes, third wide receiver in best ball drafts and weekly management leagues has been a gift all offseason. He is inside our top 20 projected fantasy football wide receivers and I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up well inside of there at years’ end.
Perhaps even more than Godwin or Smith-Schuster, D.J Moore is my make or break player. If I am able to take him in the fifth round, I feel great about my draft. If I miss on him, I feel decidedly less great. Of all the fantasy football wide receivers who might break out in 2018, D.J Moore is the most obvious choice. Moore’s historic rookie year games are basically a list of guys who were fantasy football WR1’s. Players who more than 14 yards per reception on 75 or more targets as rookies younger than 22: Randy Moss, Mike Evans, Juju Smith-Schuster, Antonio Bryant, Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, Josh Gordon, Kenny Britt, Robert Woods, Deandre Hopkins, and Moore himself. Before even starting to account for things like offensive coordinator, quarterback skill and Moore’s teammates, you are looking at a prototypical breakout candidate.
Moore is a former first-round NFL draft pick who played well his first year, his team ditched Devin Funchess (Moore fantasy points per game with Funchess in was 9.31 and in two games without Funchess, it was 14.95), only signed one cheap vet wide receiver in free agency (Chris Hogan) and should be the clear top option in the passing game. Curtis Samuel is another intriguing fantasy football draft option but Samuel’s historic comps based on size and previous production are more 120-target per year style players who play on the interior. Moore is the next in line of the Julio Jones/Michael Thomas/Deandre Hopkins variety of 6’2, 220 pounds high NFL draft pick wide receivers who exploded in their second year in the league.
Essentially, Moore plays with an All-Pro caliber quarterback, a historically successful offensive coordinator, lost his main competition for WR1 targets (Devin Funchess) and fits the mold of what a WR1 in fantasy has looked like for the last decade. That player, available in the fifth round, is just too good to pass up.
Tyreek Hill is back in the Kansas City Chiefs lineup, sure. Sammy Watkins is still one of the best values on the board. We have covered him extensively throughout the course of the offseason here on RotoExperts but he really is one of the most unique players in fantasy football. Somehow, the fantasy football market agrees that all three Los Angeles Rams wide receivers should go between the third and sixth rounds but the Chiefs most valuable pass catchers have a seven or eight round spread between them. In healthy games last year, Watkins averaged 6.9 targets per game and finished the regular season with 9.4 yards per target.
We all expect Patrick Mahomes to continue his progression as the best quarterback in football (though he is unlikely to go for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns again). We even expect the Chiefs to perhaps go a little more pass-heavy in 2019. Our projections, which really try to regress offenses and players back to their career norms instead of trying to project outliers, have been in love with Watkins all offseason and remain so even with him third in line for targets in the Chiefs offense. As I am writing this, Tyreek Hill was carted off the practice field with some form of lower-body injury. While he is probably fine, this highlights the secondary value of drafting Watkins. If Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce miss any time during the regular season, Watkins is going to be thrust into a much higher volume role instantly.
For some reason, the very obvious second-fiddle wide receiver in Green Bay is not getting much attention from the fantasy football-playing public. In Aaron Rodgers’ career, his second WR has seen 92, 121, 99, 127, 93, 98, 96, 87, 113, and 116 targets. Even if Davante Adams completely dominates the end zone targets and gets 30% market share of the teams total passing targets, there is still room for MVS to be a WR2 in fantasy. One of the biggest things that Matters in the Packers offense is Aaron Rodgers’ trust. I think it is stupid to talk about and try to project but it definitely has had on-field impacts in the past.
Rodgers had this to say about Valdez-Scantling “I think one guy that has really jumped out, in the spring, was Marquez (Valdes-Scantling). He’s always timing really fast. Now he’s playing to his time. Marquez is starting to play with more confidence, and that’s pretty good to see.” If more anecdotal evidence is your thing, MVS also spent the offseason working with Randy Moss. These are not the reasons that I am drafting Valdez-Scantling but I imagine they are probably persuasive to some. The real reasons to draft MVS is that he seems to have won the WR2 job in an offense that features a good-to-great quarterback and that his upside is one of the vintage Randall Cobb Robin-to-Jordy-Nelson’s-Batman type of seasons. This is not the most likely scenario but towards the eighth round or later, MVS has an extremely tantalizing upside.
Finally, we reach one of my absolute highest owned wide receivers in fantasy football this year. I am not particularly a fan of Stills’ game the way I am of D.J Moore or Juju Smith-Schuster (though he is one of my beloved Oklahoma Sooners). The fact is that for all of the fantasy football wide receivers, the first thing you should evaluate is their cost relative to their projected targets. Stills’ Average Draft Position has floated between 150 and 170 for most of the offseason but at no point has it been possible to look at the Dolphins offense and think he projects for less than the 97 targets that we have him projected for. Albert Wilson, Davante Parker and now Allen Hurns are Stills’ primary competition for targets with reports that Mike Gesicki is nowhere close to ready and no significant additions other than Brice Butler (not a lock to make the 53).
Stills is our model’s 29th overall fantasy football wide receiver. After WR24, there is a massive cluster of players within a small amount of per games points from one another. The thing I am looking for with my fifth and sixth wide receivers is some week to week stability in terms of playing time while also having some touchdown upside. Still has 32 touchdowns in 94 games and should be the pretty clear WR1 in the Miami offense where they will still be running plays every other NFL team. Miami wide receiver ADP seems to believe that none of their pass catchers are going to be fantasy relevant (none drafted inside the top-150 of fantasy players) but that math behind projections simply doesn’t work that way. Getting Stills as my fifth or sixth wide receiver is a pretty massive win, per our projections. In a best ball format, it is locking in a few spiked weeks and in weekly management, it makes the bye week scramble or fighting through injuries that much easier.