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    Top 10 Second-Year Wide Receivers: No. 8 Will Surprise You

    Chris Ventra June 8, 2017 8:59PM EDT
    1) Michael Thomas (Saints)- Thomas is tops among the second-year wide receivers on this list for a few reasons. As a rookie, Thomas was targeted 121 times and finished with 92 receptions, 1,137 yards, and nine touchdowns. Those are top flight stats for any wide receiver, let alone a rookie. Take note of the 121 targets because that was with Brandin Cooks as the primary receiver in the New Orleans offense. In fact, the Saints’ offense had quite a few options in the passing game last year, so the assumption that Thomas will see a more substantial number of targets in 2017 is not only valid, but very likely.

    He doesn’t have Julio Jones’ freakish metrics because he isn’t nearly as fast, but he’s big, strong, and a deadly red-zone target in a high-flying offense. What more could you ask for? Adding Adrian Peterson should take some pressure off Drew Brees, which, in turn, should allow for more open spaces downfield for the receivers. Thomas is currently being drafted in the early second round in Fantasy Football drafts for 2017, and quite honestly, even that’s too low. You should expect a monster season from Thomas with around 100 receptions, 1,350 yards, and 13 plus TDs.

    second-year wide receivers

    Sterling Shepard’s Fantasy value was crushed by the Giants’ front office moves. Photo by Bennett Cohen/Icon Sportswire

    2) Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)- It’s close between Corey Coleman and Hill; consider it more of a 3A and 3B situation. These three second-year wide receivers are alike – Coleman, Fuller and Hill. Fuller and Coleman were first round picks, Hill a fifth rounder; all three are undersized and all three are burners who can make a big play at any given moment. With Fuller on the shelf for two to three months, Hill is the favorite to succeed of this trio in 2017. Hill is already a proven versatile weapon in separate roles (six touchdown receptions, three rushing TDs and another three on special teams) and the sheer volume he’ll receive should keep him relevant, for this he ranks ahead of Coleman. Coleman was injured for the majority of his rookie season, which is another reason to trust Hill more. Both players should receive solid volume, but Hill’s simply more proven, plus with Kenny Britt now on the Browns Coleman might not receive the bulk of the red-zone targets. The Chiefs and Browns don’t have high-powered offenses by any means, however Hill has the advantage because of his rapport with Alex Smith, while the Browns QB situation is very murky so offensive inefficiency will be a problem.

    3) Corey Coleman (Browns)- Once again, Coleman’s the 3B on this list because you can’t deny his talent and play-making ability. He’s clearly stuck in an unpleasant situation with the Browns, especially with the teams’ offensive identity being run-heavy and the additions of WR Kenny Britt and rookie TE David Njoku as more appealing red-zone options. Coleman needs to stay healthy to become a consistent Fantasy factor, and even if he does the Browns offense doesn’t offer much upside. He can easily end up being a viable option in Fantasy, but many things need to click and everything must go right for him… a lot of ifs.

    Most of all, the QB situation in Cleveland is very unreliable, all options in this offense will be very inconsistent, with the exception of Isaiah Crowell at RB who the Browns will heavily rely on.

    4) Laquon Treadwell (Vikings)- It’s a close one between Treadwell and the Redskins’ second-year wideout, Josh Doctson. So close, in fact, that they were selected back to back late in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Both had rookie seasons that were plagued by injury, and neither could get on the field much at all. For 2017, I give Treadwell the slight edge due to the lack of top-notch weapons around him. Clearly Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph are the go-to options in this Vikings offense, but none of them are truly super-talented. The Redskins have the better quarterback and better overall offense, but Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor and even Chris Thompson represent a much more talented group than the Vikings. Treadwell should have a better opportunity to receive more targets, and he could even take over as a main weapon in the offense. He’s looked very good in camp as well, the talent is there for him to breakout so he’s worth a late-round flier in Fantasy Football drafts.

    5) Josh Doctson (Redskins) – Doctson is very talented, like Treadwell, but his situation leaves much to be desired. Although Doctson’s quarterback is better than Treadwell’s, he may not be on the field as much or ever become a consistent target for the ‘Skins. If this was a list for the future, he might be higher. However, how many targets do you realistically think he will get? The Washington pass attack is very good and diverse, but there’s not much room for Doctson’s services right now. Unless one of their main receivers gets injured, or the running game is lackluster, creating a scenario in which they must throw the ball 50 times a game, he won’t be utilized very often. Like Treadwell, he’s worth drafting in the late rounds, but with all the different targets around in the Redskins offense he’ll be a boom or bust type player all season long.

    6) Braxton Miller (Texans)- Miller is a risky proposition, but with the recent injury to WR Will Fuller, Miller becomes a top-option in the Texans passing game. His value should increase as preseason progresses, right now he’s listed as the number two WR on the Texans depth chart with Fuller on the shelf. He’s a former QB turned wideout for the NFL; he’s super athletic with good speed. Just based on where he was drafted (Round 3, 85th overall) should indicate how much ability he possesses because he’s a major work in progress. He’s worth a flier in drafts because of the upside, but the Texans are another team with unstable situation at QB so inconsistency will be issue for the entire offense.

    7) Eli Rogers (Steelers)- Rogers was a serviceable slot receiver for the Steelers in 2016, but nothing more. He isn’t going to wow anyone with his style of play, he’s very similar to Sterling Shepard in that regard. He’s a small receiver that can be relied upon in the underneath pass-attack. The difference between Rogers and Shepard is the situation, the additions the Giants made has crushed Shepard’s value, while Rogers should still be in a similar role. Yes, WR Martavis Bryant will be back on the field, but he’ll simple fill the role that Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates were in last season. If anything, Bryant being back will help Rogers find more open spaces in the short to intermediate passing game. And, with LeDarius Green gone, the Steelers don’t have a big-time weapon at TE, unlike the Giants who drafted Evan Engram in the first round. Overall, the Steelers offense has a lot of fire-power so Rogers won’t be a big Fantasy option either way, but their offense is more efficient than the Giants so Rogers should be a more consistent play overall in Fantasy.

    8) Sterling Shepard (Giants)- As a die-hard Giants fan, it saddens me to admit that Shepard’s value was crushed for 2017. Based on last year’s numbers, Shepard would easily be Top 5 on this list, but last year’s numbers are history. The addition of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram will be crippling for Shepard’s production; there’s no way around it. Odell Beckham Jr., plus both new additions are simply more talented. They’re all bigger and stronger, and Engram is probably faster in a straight line. Major regression is in order, forget about last season’s stats, Shepard will be nothing more than a reliable third-down possession receiver to help move the chains for the Giants’ offense. On a high note, Shepard should get the least attention from opposing defenses, and he will sneak in some big plays and TDs on sporadic occasions. However, he’s probably the last red zone target option in this passing game; there’s just too much talent on this offense. Overall, he’s a solid football player in a tough spot, not a productive Fantasy option anymore.

    9) Tyler Boyd (Bengals)- When the Bengals grabbed John Ross with the ninth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, Tyler Boyd’s value took a hit. Boyd was the second-round pick for the Bengals in 2016, so they invested in him and he should still be in the mix for targets. But, with the elite A.J. Green, John Ross, Gio Bernard, Tyler Eifert, and last year’s number two receiver, Brandon LaFell all there to gobble up targets, it’s difficult to project much value here. Boyd is a possession receiver; he won’t wow you with anything special. Like Sterling Shepard, Boyd will be nothing more than a reliable third down target for short to intermediate passing plays. If you must, take a flier on Boyd as sort of a handcuff and limit your overall expectations.

    10) Will Fuller (Texans)- I had Fuller much higher on this list before he went down with a collarbone injury that will keep him from playing until week five at the very earliest. Even when he gets back, whenever that is, there’s no guarantee he’ll be effective upon returning. Fuller had his fair share of issues with drops last season, so even if he was healthy going into 2017 he would be nothing more than a late-round pick in Fantasy anyway, although one worth taking a chance on. Now that he’s out, he won’t be getting drafted in most leagues, but he’s still definitely someone worth monitoring throughout the season because he could end up being a weapon for Fantasy teams down the stretch, and even in the playoffs.

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