Early RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 22nd 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information.

Our last volume in the series ends with the wide receiver position.  This group is the deepest in fantasy football, reflecting the emphasis in the NFL on the passing game.  Targets have recently trended away from the primary receiving option for each team and spread out to multiple receivers.  This has resulted in many secondary targets on NFL teams having bigger and more reliable roles creating more fantasy value across the position.  I view some of the best values found throughout early auctions and players you should probably avoid based on market cost.

Top Avoids

Wide receiver production relies heavily on the abilities of the quarterbacks throwing the ball.  It stands to reason that RSO owners should make their large wide receivers investments in those receivers with good quarterback play.  Houston quarterbacks Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson, while likely upgrades over Brock Osweiler, do not exactly qualify.  The Texans are merely hoping for competent quarterback play at this point.  This makes DeAndre Hopkins (WR8) a dangerous investment at his cost.  Hopkins does not possess great size, speed, or athleticism and struggles at times creating separation.  He relies more on body control and great hands to make contested catches.  Hopkins’ RSO cost is largely a relic of his absurd 192 target season.  This is a scenario unlikely to ever happen again.

Jarvis Landry is a very good football player.  Let us get that out of the way.  He is very elusive with the ball in his hands picking up a lot of yards after the catch.  However, Landry’s fantasy value depends on a high target load more than most receivers due to his extremely low average depth of target.  Any slight decrease in volume with new quarterback Jay Cutler could substantially impact Landry’s worth.  There is also a lot of uncertainty in Miami regarding Landry’s future role.  The Dolphins have shown minimal interest in extending his contract and Landry statistical production likely drops significantly if he moves on from Miami as very few teams in the NFL feature the slot wide receiver like Miami has over Landry’s career.  The main problem is that RSO owners are treating Landry (WR14) as a definitive WR1 for the Dolphins and any future team he might move to.  We no longer can take that for granted at this point.  Landry compares favorably to a player like Golden Tate, who had similar production last season and someone you can buy for about half the cost of Landry.

Some things never change as the football season approaches.  Another season, another “This is the year Donte Moncrief breaks out” cry inevitably comes from the fantasy community.  There is no good way to sugarcoat it.  Moncrief (WR24) has been one of the least efficient WR2s in the league over his career on a occasionally prolific Colts offense.  The yardage numbers are ugly no matter whether you look at a per season basis, per game, per target, with or without Luck.  There might not be a single player in fantasy football who receives more hype based on so little production.  Moncrief was one of my favorite rookies typically going in the late 2nd / early 3rd rounds of rookie drafts.  Unfortunately his athleticism has not translated to the NFL game at this point.  Moncrief’s future in Indianapolis is uncertain at best.  The Colts reportedly made a strong push for Alshon Jeffrey this offseason trying to replace Moncrief and the Indy WR2 only has a year left on his contract.  Moncrief is also dealing with another shoulder injury this preseason.  There are far too many cheaper players available with more upside and safer floors to put your RSO cap dollars in Moncrief at his current price.  I am OK giving Moncrief a very cheap long-term speculative contract based on his age and athletic profile but that appears unlikely in the current market.

Best Values

As stated earlier, the wide receiver position boasts value deep into the board.  I would have no issue filling my receiver core in deeper league strictly with players who are priced as WR4s saving big money for other positions.   I do not have the space to detail every good value, but I will highlight a few of the best ones below.

There might not be another wide receiver more underrated in the fantasy community this decade than Jordy Nelson (WR11) as one of the premier big play threats in the league.  He finished as a WR1 every full season played since 2011 in standard leagues and has consistently produced big touchdown numbers.  Nelson finished as the overall WR2 in 2014 and the WR1 in 2016 after returning from an ACL tear prior to the 2015 season.  Nelson clearly did not have the same explosiveness last year that we are used to but should look even better another season removed from his injury (which is downright scary for opposing defenses).  Nelson is surely near the end of his career at the age of 32.  Do not let that worry you.  The Packers top wide receiver could produce enough for most of his contract value in a single season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm of the Green Bay passing attack.

If you are searching for a WR2 at WR3 prices, look no further than Emmanuel Sanders (WR34).  The Denver wide-out ended as the WR20 or better and accumulated at least 137 targets each of the last two seasons.   The key for Sanders is target concentration.  There might not be another team who focuses so much of its receiving work on two players with fellow standout Demaryius Thomas gulfing down the other main share.  The next highest target player in 2016 after Sanders’ 139 targets was running back Devontae Booker with only 46.  There are simply no other significant receiving options in Denver.  The quarterback situation likely limits the upside of Sanders but that situation is also unlikely to get worse than what Sanders dealt with over the last two years.  The Bronco wide receiver is one of the safer bets to beat their auction cost.

The Baltimore Ravens surprisingly led the NFL in pass attempts each of the last two seasons.  This has not been a particular effective NFL strategy with quarterback Joe Flacco.  His yards per attempt, passer rating, and QBR all plummeted below his career averages over that time span.  While not necessarily good for Flacco and Baltimore, this emphasis on the passing game is good news for Ravens wide receivers in the fantasy realm, particularly Mike Wallace (WR43) and new arrival Jeremy Maclin (WR42).  The Ravens lost around 390 targets from last year’s team highlighted by newly retired Steve Smith (103 targets) and injured Dennis Pitta (119 targets).  The Baltimore tight end group has been decimated by injuries and suspension this offseason leaving bottom of the barrel athlete Nick Boyle and 36 year old Ben Watson atop the depth chart.  This will not be a heavily targeted group.  Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman is, once again, dealing with injuries also.  Combine all of this information together and you get a picture where both Wallace and Maclin are in line for a lot of work this season.  Both should easily out-produce their RSO market contract costs and at least one of them likely crushes their value.  This should be one of the top wide receiver combos to target for RSO owners going with a cheaper approach at wide receiver.

 

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

 


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

FA Expectancy: Jeremy Maclin

Updated: July 16th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

The first big surprise, post draft, of the offseason was the Chiefs releasing veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. After having consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2014 and 2015 Maclin dropped of statistically last season because of injury. In 2016 Maclin had less than 45 catches and only 2 touchdowns. For these reasons and believing that he may have “lost a step” going into his age 29 season, the Chiefs decided to move on. The Ravens swooped in and picked up Maclin on a 2 year/ $11MM deal. This has had a positive influence on several players’ value (including Maclin’s) which makes a re-evaluation of the position on both teams necessary.

What does this do for Baltimore?

The two stats that kept getting thrown around regarding Baltimore this offseason was that they had the highest amount of pass attempts last season (672) and have one of the highest amount of vacated targets from last season with the departure of Steve Smith. Translation: any receiver that joined the Ravens would become highly sought after on volume alone. Now with Jeremy Maclin opposite to Mike Wallace Baltimore has a similar, albeit older, possession-to-speed wide receiver combo like in Tampa Bay, which I applauded in my last article. From that article, you should be able to take away that I don’t think that Wallace will see a significant drop in targets and fantasy value. Joe Flacco on the other hand needed a receiver more consistent than Wallace to be the team’s WR1 and it should increase the usability of Flacco in fantasy, especially in Superflex/2QB. Breshad Perriman is the player that most people have pointed to as the loser in this scenario but I think people’s expectations of what Perriman was going to be was too high to begin with. He could have bye week/flex appeal for a period this season but I don’t see him being more than a WR4/5 this season. I have never been high on Perriman and saw him and Phillip Dorsett of Indianapolis as similar one-skill players. The window to sell Perriman is closing with the signing of Jeremy Maclin.

Does this help Maclin’s value?

jeremy-maclin-baltimoreJeremy Maclin came into Kansas City as the savior that could remove the stink of not having a receiver catch a touchdown in 2014. Some were skeptical that he was a product of Chip Kelly’s offense and would not have the same stats with Andy Reid. He answered with 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns and saw a big spike in his value. This lead to a number of RSO owners signing him to a multi-year deal at auction last offseason. Stephen Wendell and I even complemented RSO frontman Matt Papson last season on his 4 year/$26MM contract for Maclin in the Writer’s League. Unfortunately for all Maclin owners last year they were left wanting with his underwhelming 2016 season. Depending on how deep one invested they may have been able to trade out or just release Maclin earlier this offseason. If you did hold him through the low point you might as well hold him now till we see how he fits with the Ravens and what his value will bounce back to. In auctions, I will be treating Maclin much like I did Ryan Matthews last year where he could be a buy for a contending team that has the extra cap space this year but doesn’t want to commit money to the future for a sexier receiver. He should max out at $14MM for 2017, $25MM/2 years for those that really love the landing spot.

A “Hill” to die on in KC

No player has been more talked about (positively or negatively) in the 2017 offseason than Tyreek Hill. The rookie became the must waiver add midway through last season and many people were projecting his role to only increase heading into this season. Now with Maclin out and no obvious top option on the roster Hill will be locked in as one of your auction’s longest lasting bids. If you think Hill will be THEE player to get on your team be prepared to be spending over $15MM/year. If you are not a big Hill fan he’s definitely a player you want to nominate and watch other owners spend their cap on.

**As a tip I find that the first players at each position nominated actually go for less than their expected value since everyone is mildly hesitant to spend right away. Try not to nominate Hill (or any player you want out as a decoy) in the first round of selections. Instead, wait for a second or third pass to make owners set the market. **

Of course, the other Chiefs receivers have seen a bump in their value and are all worth acquiring, for the right price. Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, and even Jehu Chesson have a chance to be the WR2 (or WR1) in this offense but the Chiefs are not a team that is known for producing multiple fantasy relevant receivers. The drafting of Patrick Mahomes likely signals the change at QB from Alex Smith in the next year or two which could increase the depth of passes and overall aggressiveness of the offense. Ultimately there may be value in any three of these receivers if they can become a flex contributor. However, I would rather wait till the preseason to see which player looks like they will be playing the most snaps and pay the premium. Wilson and Chesson are likely available in your auction and could be bought near the end for close to the minimum. Conley has been gaining interest from the dynasty community and will be the most expensive of the three to acquire. A late second should be the ceiling that you pay to acquire him before we know more in August.

Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.