NFL Offseason Report: Wide Receivers
Each year, the NFL offseason shuffles the deck for all 32 clubs, causing a ripple effect across the league that’s also felt in Fantasy circles. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the players that have changed squads and what that’s done to their Fantasy appeal. We’ve already reviewed the quarterback, tight end and running back positions. Let’s wrap up our look with the wide receivers…
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots: Cooks’ arrival in New England sparked many to opine that he’s instantly the best receiver Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Maybe. There’s no doubt Cooks has more versatility than anyone else on the Pats — he can work deep or underneath — and he’s been consistent the past two seasons, topping 1,100 yards receiving while playing in all 32 games.
That being said, the move from Drew Brees to Brady doesn’t necessarily portend a step up statistically, especially when you consider the weather. But it doesn’t exactly pull the rug from under his Fantasy value, either, especially since the loss of Julian Edelman and Malcom Mitchell could put more on Cooks’ shoulders. Cooks is a top 10-15 option… and no, he’s not playing into the hype surrounding his return to The Big Easy this weekend (see video below).
Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins: A converted quarterback, Pryor was one of the few bright spots in Cleveland last year, posting a 77-1,007-4 line despite the veritable poo-poo platter that took snaps for the Browns in 2016. Personnel folks remained skeptical, however, and he signed a one-year deal in Washington to help offset some high-profile defections at the position.
The jump to Kirk Cousins is significant, and the ‘Skins love to throw the ball so the potential for another career year is very real. Pryor warrants selection as a midrange WR2.
Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles: Jeffery has the size and talent to be a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but injuries have cost him 11 games over the last two seasons and limited him in numerous others. With so many questions about his durability, Jeffery had to settle for a “show me” contract from the Eagles so he has ample motivation to stay on the field and produce to secure a better deal next offseason.
He could be your No. 2 receiver, but he carries considerable injury risk so make sure your depth is solid.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers: There was never much juice to Garcon’s game, and now on the wrong side of 30 and lining up for arguably the NFL’s least talented team, there’s little reason to believe we won’t see some erosion. Still, if you want to adopt an optimistic approach, it’s rooted in this: Garcon is a volume possession target that’ll play from behind a lot this year with quarterbacks that may throw check downs aplenty. He’s a WR3 with decent upside in PPR leagues.
Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens: Kansas City’s No. 1 receiver in 2015, Maclin struggled with injuries last year and was deemed expendable following the emergence of Tyreek Hill. Maclin latched on with the Ravens and immediately becomes their top target. On paper it looks like a good fit, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Maclin has just two 1,000-yard campaigns spread over eight years in the league. His upside probably tops out as a WR3. Act accordingly.
DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Even at 30, D-Jax is essentially the same player he was back in 2008 and one of the NFL’s preeminent vertical threats. His output swings wildly from week to week, however, and he’s dependent on the deep ball to produce value, having caught fewer than 60 balls in six of his last seven seasons. Jackson is a borderline third or fourth receiver — albeit one that’ll carry you one week and bury you the next.
Brandon Marshall, New York Giants: Seeking a complement opposite Odell Beckham, the G-Men signed Marshall. It’s fair to wonder how much the 33-year-old has left after he sandwiched a pair of sub-800-yard campaigns around a huge 2015 (109-1,502-14). One thing is for certain, though, he’ll see tons of single coverage as defenses angle to slow ODB. Consider Marshall a WR3/WR4.
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams: Another “talented when healthy” guy, Watkins was shipped from Buffalo to L.A. during the preseason. That puts his prospects for a big year squarely in the hands of second-year QB Jared Goff, who looked just north of terrible as a rookie. How much of the blame you rest on Goff vs. the porous talent around him is up for debate, though, and Watkins will be a free agent after the season so there’s a lot of money on the line. Watkins is worth rolling the dice on as your third wideout.
Jordan Matthews, Buffalo Bills: Matthews sputtered as Philly’s nominal No. 1 option last year, and the move from an up-and-coming Carson Wentz to a run-heavy Buffalo offense led by inconsistent Tyrod Taylor is bad news for his 2017 outlook. Consider Matthews decent late-round depth but nothing more.
Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans: Part of the Jets’ plunge last year was because of the absence of Decker, who had at least 80 receptions and 1,000-plus yards in three of his previous four season before injuries sidelined for most of 2016. The move to Tennessee is an interesting one, though where he’ll fit in the pecking order with Delanie Walker and rookie Corey Davis remains to be seen. Decker is a nice WR4.
Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns: A perpetual tease based on his physical gifts, Britt enjoyed his best season last year (68-1,002-5) on a putrid Rams offense. He parlayed that into a big-money deal from the Browns — a dubious choice given Britt’s previous seven seasons of middling production. You can roster him as your fourth or fifth guy, but history suggests last year was an aberration.
Phillip Dorsett, New England Patriots: Flipped for third-string QB Jacoby Brissett at the end of training camp, Dorsett figures to be something of a deep-ball specialist for New England, though it may take a while to contribute after arriving so late. Dorsett is not worth drafting.
STILL OUT THERE
Dorial Green-Beckham, UFA: A second-round pick in 2015, Green-Beckham has already had two teams give up on him. That’s impressive considering his physical credentials (6′5″, 237 pounds) are unimpeachable. He may latch on somewhere, but he’s of no interest for Fantasy owners.
Vincent Jackson, UFA: One of the league’s more underrated receivers for years, Jackson may have reached the end of the line. Now 34, he missed 17 of 32 games the past two seasons, but if he resurfaces in the right scenario (unlikely) he might have something left.
Victor Cruz, UFA: Leg injuries ruined Cruz, and although it was a credit to his perseverance that he played 15 games last year, he offered little. It was telling that the Bears, a team light on talent at receiver, decided not to keep him. If Cruz signs, simply salsa in the other direction.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which wide receiver from the 2017 free agency class has your attention.