22 Jul Easy Receiving Value
There are all sorts of different draft strategies floating around these days. I don’t pretend to know what’s best between Zero WR, Robust RB, or anything in between. I do know that I often target running backs in the first two rounds, so I’m always looking to find potential WR1’s in rounds three and four. These three wideouts are my favorite to target in that range. Each one coming off of a WR2 finish in 2020, here’s why I believe they will all be in the Top 12 this upcoming season.
Easy Receiving Value
Once a player gets a certain label early on in his career, such as “injury-prone” or “boom/bust”, it’s hard for most fantasy managers to shake that initial judgment, regardless of what the player does later. This is the case with Amari Cooper who still has a reputation for being an inconsistent fantasy receiver. Ever since he hooked up with Dak Prescott, he has remained an elite fantasy option. These are his ranks, if we only count his full games played with Prescott:
Season PPG WR Rank
2018 (weeks 9-17) WR 12
2019 WR 15
2020 (weeks 1-4) WR 2
Granted, his 2020 start is an extremely small sample size that was boosted by a ridiculous 50 pass attempts per game average from Dak, but it does give us a good view of his range of outcomes with Dak – anywhere from high-end WR2, to a Top 3 overall WR ceiling. Cooper was no less consistent than any other receiver going in his range. He had fewer finishes outside of the Top 30 wide receivers than Mike Evans, Terry McLaurin, and CeeDee Lamb (all going in drafts before Cooper, according to FantasyPros ADP). Once you get past the top tier of wide receivers, consistency is rare. You are better off swinging for the highest upside, and Cooper has shown Top 5 ability in a dynamic offense.
There are some concerned with the emergence of CeeDee Lamb, but Cooper was able to pace the team in overall targets (130), RedZone targets (16), and routes run (605), despite the rookies’ breakout. Lamb’s development will only attract defensive attention away from Cooper, and provide more scoring opportunities for the entire offense. Currently being drafted in the WR15 range, Amari Cooper is a sure bet to outperform his ADP.
Robert Woods is another example of a player whose current fantasy value is depressed due to a negative first impression. After failing to produce a Top 40 WR finish during his four years with the Buffalo Bills, Woods broke out in his second season in LA and was the WR11 in 2018. He’s coming off his third consecutive Top 15 season, and has a quarterback upgrade going into 2021, yet his ADP is barely in the Top 20.
2020 was close to the worst-case scenario for the Rams offense. In the previous two seasons, they were a Top 10 scoring offense and Sean “Wonderboy” McVay seemed unstoppable. Last season, Goff took a huge step back, and while he and McVay struggled to get on the same page, the offense had its worse output during the McVay era. This didn’t stop Woods from finishing as the WR13 (WR19 in PPG). We just witnessed the floor for Woods, but what does his ceiling look like with Stafford?
Jared Goff was a disaster at the end of 2020 – there is no better way to put it. We will likely never know what exactly went wrong between he and McVay, but it was ugly. The offense had no downfield passing game, as Goff ranked in the bottom four among quarterbacks in intended air yards per attempt, and 19th in deep-ball attempts. Matthew Stafford will take more deep shots and allow Woods to open up his route tree. He was in the Top 5 in intended air yards per attempt (8.6), and had the 12th most deep ball attempts (61). As long as Robert Woods maintains the same target share that we’ve seen in previous years, Stafford’s more aggressive style of play should boost Woods into the Top 12.
The hype train for Terry McLaurin has been loud and consistent, and I’m here for it! After a rookie season where he received PFF’s 2nd best rookie wide receiver grade of the decade (only behind Odell Beckham), McLaurin was off to a solid start in 2020 as the WR12 through nine weeks. At that point, quarterback Alex Smith seemed to hit a wall, and his play took a steep decline. Weeks 13 and 14 was the worst two-game stretch of McLaurin’s career, with only 4 receptions for 38 yards in both games combined. We later learned on the Jim Rome show that Terry dealt with multiple high ankle sprains throughout the year, which is a good explanation for his mid-season dip. Even though we often see high ankle sprains derail players’ seasons, he fought through it and put up some respectable games to end the season.
McLaurin has had no problem with dominating his team’s targets so far in his young career. 25.5% target share was the 10th highest among wide receivers in 2020. The second-most productive wideout in Washington was Cam Sims with 477 yards. Some will see the addition of Curtis Samuel as a hindrance to McLaurin’s fantasy outlook, but don’t make that mistake. Terry is an established alpha, and alternate threats on the field will only open up more opportunities for him to make plays.
I don’t think we can overstate how bad the Washington quarterback situation was last season. Dwayne Haskins had the second-highest bad throw percentage among quarterbacks with 200+ attempts, and Alex Smith, while more accurate, was at the bottom of the league in air yards per attempt (5.0). They ran a watered-down version of the offense for much of the season, which capped everyone’s fantasy output. Ryan Fitzpatrick will do a better job than Smith of pushing the ball downfield while also providing an upgrade over Haskins in accuracy. Especially on deep balls, as Fitzpatrick was the second-best in completing passes of 20+ yards in 2020. I’m confident that the first Terry McLaurin WR1 season will be this year.
Liked this? Check out another from Andrew –> Startup Running Back Targets
A hardcore St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, Andrew found a passion for football via the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf”. He works in IT sales during the day, but much of his free time is spent obsessing over his Dynasty teams.