2021 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 9th 2021

My annual look at RSO auction values moves to wide receivers.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize PPR per game scoring.

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts


It might surprise some that Jefferson ranks this high on the contract list.  The second year Minnesota receiver exploded in his rookie season for 1.400 yards and a top-10 fantasy finish despite coming out of the gate slow in his first two games.  The overall WR1 might be a bit hefty but not completely out of line as a locked and loaded WR1 barely starting his career.  Hill offers near-unparalleled weekly upside as the most dangerous receiving threat in the NFL combined with Mahomes at quarterback and adds additional rushing yardage.  The only potential concern is a target load not commensurate with the top wide receivers.  Metcalf also broke out in his second season with 1,300 yards and a top-10 fantasy finish as one of the most physically gifted wide receivers in the NFL with Russell Wilson attached.  The Seattle run-heavy offense, Tyler Lockett in tow as a co-WR1, and Metcalf’s limitations as a route-runner likely dampen truly-elite season long possibilities.  Once again, RSO GMs pay a premium for the top rookies and Chase is no exception.  It could be a slow start after a year away from the game.  Maybe the biggest surprise from last year is the way Diggs helped change the game in Buffalo with a massive first season for the Bills that ended with him finishing first in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.  He’s a strong bet to finish with another great year though some Josh Allen regression might pull him from the very top.  Ridley exploded as the WR4 last season for Atlanta and the Falcons lost superstar Julio Jones to Tennessee.  Does the Atlanta offense revert to a more run-heavy approach?  Is the addition of the highest drafted rookie tight end ever in Kyle Pitts enough to offset the loss of Jones and prevent stacking of defenses against Ridley?

The upside exists for Lamb to be one of the top fantasy receivers in the league depending on Cooper’s health and Gallop’s longer-term standing with Cowboys.  Brown has been one of the best receivers the first two years in the league ranking top-15 each season per PFF.  The addition of Julio Jones either limits volume in a run-heavy offense or opens up the field for a team with a possibly more passing.  Hopkins topped 150 targets each season the last half decade with an ascending quarterback.  Adams outscored Hill (the WR2) by almost four points per game thanks to an absurd 18 touchdowns in 14 games.  We can count on some regression in that category but Adams scored double digit touchdowns in four of the last five years with Rodgers at quarterback in Green Bay.



The future holds significant uncertainty for Thomas with late summer ankle surgery and without Brees at quarterback.  Robinson keeps trucking along with quality fantasy seasons despite suboptimal quarterback play.  Does Chicago finally have an answer for their quarterback future and will Robinson be there for it? Allen caught between 97 and 104 receptions each of the last four seasons producing an extremely high PPR floor.  His role might not have a big ceiling in other formats.  The addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel raises the Washington offensive ceiling and that of McLaurin after a great first two seasons with poor quarterback play.   Godwin suffered through injuries in 2020 while still managing a top-15 wide receiver fantasy finish despite playing with a crowded, talented group of play makers in Tampa Bay.  He was PFF’s highest graded receiver in 2019.  Cooper posted three consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons with Dallas.  There are some foot injury questions in a strong Cowboy receiving core.  Moore fought through awful Carolina quarterback play for consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and is still just 24.  The Panthers invested in Sam Darnold who has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL over his first three years.  Evans consistently dominates with at least 1,000 yard every season in the NFL and possesses extremely high touchdown upside.  As mentioned previously, Tampa Bay is loaded with receiving weapons.  The RSO community expects a big leap from Jeudy despite continued low-end quarterbacks and the return of Sutton in a young but strong receiving room.

WR3s and more

This tier of wide receiver contracts is the reason an RSO GM might choose to not invest heavily at the position.  It’s full of starting caliber players and receivers with lots of weekly upside.  Aiyuk blew expectations out the window once he received the chance to seriously contribute but must deal with the return of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel in completion for targets on a run-heavy offense.  Kupp finished with 90+ receptions the last two years while Woods ranked WR18 or better each of the last three seasons for the Rams and they get a QB upgrade in Matt Stafford.  Beckham missed out on Cleveland’s cupcake schedule finish after a season-ending knee injury but is reportedly ahead of schedule on his rehab in what should be one of the best overall offenses.  Johnson ranked sixth in targets last season thanks to some of the top route running in the league.  Julio struggled with injuries last season but was his normal efficient self last year when on the field and Tannehill is an upgrade on pure arm strength over the noodle-armed Ryan.  Waddle and Smith should assume significant roles as rookies in Miami’s and Philadelphia’s offenses.  Sutton displayed dominant traits in 2019 with abysmal quarterback play before an ACL tear ended 2020 before it began.  Lockett and Metcalf finished with nearly identical fantasy finishes but the former comes at sharp discount.  Golladay is already injured and the quarterback position got worse for him but he should be the primary target for the Giants.  Higgins and Shenault represent ascending second year players attached to the top selected quarterbacks in the last two draft classes.  The Bengals and Jaguars added significant offensive talent in addition to the quarterbacks.  Thielen caught a ridiculous 14 touchdowns on only 74 receptions, a figure set to reduce.  There’s not a lot of upside with Boyd but should provide a low-cost weekly flex option.  Samuel gives Washington much needed help in the passing game opposite McLaurin combined with understated rushing potential on a team without many significant options.

Beyond the Top-40

The receivers outside the top-40 still present considerable value and potential. Robby Anderson considerably out-targeted Moore in Carolina last season and gets old running-mate Darnold at quarterback on an offense which lost Samuel. Will Fuller produced an outstanding eleven games as the WR8 in Houston before suspension ended his year. Brandin Cooks has 1,000+ receiving yards in five of his seven NFL seasons and is the undisputed WR1 in Houston with the departure of Fuller. Antonio Brown and Michael Gallup should have stout tertiary roles on what should be excellent passing offenses. Rashad Bateman and Elijah Moore highlight rookies who showed well in the offseason and have chances for immediate significant roles.

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.




More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 30th 2020

My annual look at RSO auction values moves to wide receivers.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize PPR scoring.

Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Top Plays

It is no surprise Thomas sits at the top.  He caught 45 more balls than any receiver last season and easily finished as the WR1.  Houston traded Hopkins to Arizona but it has not deterred RSO GMs from paying him as the overall WR2.  There’s unacknowledged downside at this price as receivers moving to new teams have not finished up to expectations very often.  Mahomes to Hill blends upside to potentially win fantasy weeks and decent target load.  A significant injury history with smaller stature adds week to week uncertainty.  Adams’ target load might be one of the few volumes which rival Thomas as next to nothing of a legitimate threat on Green Bay exists.  He does not offer upper-level efficiency and a disproportionate amount of his production historically comes from touchdowns.  Godwin and Evans both produced top-4 per game fantasy production in 2019.  What this offense and target distribution looks like is anybody’s guess with Tom Brady replacing Winston and Tampa Bay bringing in future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski.  Jones is among the most consistent yearly performers and the team is set up for big offensive production.  His efficiency notably dipped slightly last season for the first time.

Young Upside Receivers

Smith-Schuster produced a 1,400-yard second season at the age of 22 after an impressive rookie year.  That work was done with Antonio Brown as the Steelers’ WR1.  It’s questionable if JuJu can attain close to those heights without someone to take away top corner coverage.   We saw two quality back to back fantasy seasons from Golladay.  Matt Stafford depth of target in 2019 was incredibly high and Marvin Jones was injured for significant portions last year.  Golladay is a safe bet but may be priced near his ceiling.  Moore, Brown, McLaurin, Chark, and Sutton all could be excellent long-term alpha receivers who possess high upside potential with short-term questions concerning quarterbacks, volume, and/or new coaching staffs.  Metcalf, Ridley, and Cupp are secondary options attached to quality, stable quarterback situations who could be, or have been, closer to 1B type receivers for their teams.  Each has limitations in their respective skill-sets which likely limit the fantasy ceiling of each but also quality abilities in one or more areas which boost potential scoring.

Discount and Volatile Veterans

Hopefully Beckham returns to full health after playing last year injured.  Cleveland’s projected passing schedule eases this season.  Questions abound with a new coaching staff, Mayfield’s quarterback abilities, and whether injuries depleted the crazy upside of Beckham.  Cooper posted 1,000 yard seasons in four of five seasons in the league and is still only 26. He is consistently one of the most inconsistent week to week wideouts, destroying bad corners and completely taken out of the game by good defenders.  While many consider Diggs and Allen among the top receiving talents in the league, both receive significant passing downgrades at quarterback.  Thielen struggled with injuries last year and is already 30 despite limited seasons in the NFL but had two quality years previously.  He maintains a stronghold on the WR1 spot and keeps quarterback continuity in Minnesota.  Woods might be the best wide receiver value in RSO leagues at WR26.  Woods ranked WR17 and WR14 in per game fantasy points the last two seasons despite limited touchdown luck and Brandin Cooks left the Rams through trade.  The story for Lockett mirrors that of Russell Wilson in a certain way.  Hyper efficiency as the number one target for Wilson makes a weekly fantasy starter but a potential lack of throwing volume in run-heavy Seattle limits the ceiling.


Lamb comes in as RSO’s highest-priced rookie receiver and someone I see as the most complete rookie receiver.  His opportunity may be limited short-term in a very good Dallas receiving group.  Many consider Jeudy the best rookie separator.  He lands with a strong WR1 talent in Sutton and Lock is a huge long-term question mark at quarterback in Denver.  Ruggs and Raegor land in spots with immediate fantasy production possibilities and are the most explosive rookie wide receivers in the class.  Raegor’s landing spot tied to Carson Wentz could prove an excellent long-term match.

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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Early 2019 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 14th 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values turns to the wide receiver group.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.


Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Safety and Depth at the Top

From holdouts to health to usage to surrounding talent, the running back position presents question marks for many of the most costly RSO contracts in 2019.  The argument for putting your big RSO cap dollars in wide receivers relies on their relative safety.  Grabbing Hopkins, Adams, Beckham Jr., Thomas, Smith-Schuster, Evans, Jones, or Allen assures a dominant, high-volume receiver attached to efficient passing offenses.  Maybe just as impressive is the depth of top receivers available.  For example, T.Y. Hilton goes off the board at WR16 as the top receiver for Andrew Luck after finishing 2018 sixth in yards per game.    An RSO GM wanting a reliable high volume pass catcher should have no problem finding one in most leagues.

The top paid wide receivers are not completely devoid of risk, however.  Brown and Green are dealing with lower-leg injuries already with Brown also bizarrely threatening retirement based on his choice of helmet.  Amari Cooper remains one of the most volatile receivers in all of football attached to a low-volume pass offense which is difficult to stomach at his price.  The Minnesota tandem of Diggs and Thielen face their own questions going into 2019.  Diggs was among the most inefficient wide receivers of the heavily targeted players last season.  Thielen’s production fell off a cliff the second half of 2018.  Minnesota probably transitions to a more run-heavy approach potentially reducing volume to both.

Who Steps Up?

While there is a good amount of quality top-end targets, not every team’s target share is set and not every offense racks up big yardage.  Many young pass catchers have the chance to move up the ranks of receivers.  RSO GMs priced Corey Davis aggressively so far as WR17.  The former top-5 pick improved in his second season and appears locked in as the top target for Tennessee.  The problem for Davis is the limited upside in the Titans’ pass attack.  Tennessee ranked no better than 28th in pass attempts the last three seasons and is going with quarterback Mariota yet again in his 5th year.  The Titans also spent high draft capital on A.J. Brown and gave a big contract to Adam Humphries.  There is a lot of preseason buzz, both good and bad, about Dante Pettis in San Francisco on potentially a breakout offense.  The slight receiver must stay healthy and battle a host of other good receiving options at multiple positions for targets.

Joe Flacco’s ability to throw with velocity downfield represents a much better match for Courtland Sutton’s strengths in his second year over the weak-armed Case Keenum.  Flacco is still Flacco, one of the most inefficient quarterbacks in the NFL over the last few years, and Emmanuel Sanders looks ahead of schedule coming back from a late season Achilles tear.  New York will look for more consistency from Robby Anderson, to go along with the growth of 22 year old quarterback Sam Darnold, after displaying flashes in his young career.  The Jets made significant investments among the skill-position group with the additions of Bell at running back and Crowder at wide receiver.  The Arizona Cardinals project as a far more up-tempo passing offense in 2019 with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and second year pro Christian Kirk seems to be a big part going forward.  As dynamic as the offense could be, we must consider the possibility that a first year head coach with a rookie quarterback leading a new offense might have trouble adjusting to the NFL.

Upside NFL WR2s and WR1s in Questionable Situations

The Bears employ a diverse offensive scheme adjusting significantly each week under Matt Nagy which makes predicting the target distribution questionable at best.  Allen Robinson is one more year away from his ACL tear and second round pick Anthony Miller looks for a second-year jump after playing with shoulder injuries for most of his rookie season.  Some people forget about Marvin Jones after his injury-marred 2018. Despite new Lions coach Matt Patricia attempts to set offensive football back thirty years in 2018, Jones ranked top-10 in air yards while on the field and might be closer to the 1B in Detroit than his RSO price suggests.

Aaron Rodgers’ second receiving option provides significant possible fantasy value.  Geronimo Allison could be that piece seeming fixed in the starting slot spot.  Marquez Valdez-Scantling appears locked in as the second outside wide receiver opposite Devante Adams and comes at a discount so far in comparison to Allison.  Panthers’ wide receiver Curtis Samuel has been the talk of training camp in Carolina routinely destroying attempted coverage by defensive backs.  Many analysts believe he is the better receiver opposite D.J. Moore.  The afore-mentioned Emmanuel Sanders instills excellent value on RSO rosters if he is indeed fully healthy.  It would be an extremely quick recovery from an Achilles injury.  Pittsburg is another team for which the second receiver might carry significant fantasy value.  RSO GMs are paying the most for James Washington early.  He faces lot of competition in former Colt/Jaguar Donte Moncrief who currently heads the depth chart while many consider rookie Diontae Johnson the best replacement.

Others Outside the Top-50

DeSean Jackson will put up some big games this season with Carson Wentz without the need for big target loads.  Move Tyrell Williams up your boards this based on the wild news surrounding Antonio Brown.  Somebody has to catch passes in Oakland.  Do not be surprised if Jamison Crowder leads the Jets in receptions.  We won’t see a high volume passing offense in Buffalo.  The speedy John Brown, however, best fits the relatively high-volume, high-target depth throws Josh Allen makes.

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.


More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Early 2019 Free Agency Look: WRs

Updated: February 18th 2019

We see an interesting wide receiver class this offseason.  The free agent group holds lots of variety with everything from smaller slot receivers to big deep threats and much in between.  There is not a player in free agency which most teams would consider as their top receiver, however.  Every available free agent possesses some shortcoming which likely limits the role each will play with a new team.  This fact should not confuse anyone into thinking they will not be paid.  Players including Sammy Watkins and Donte Moncrief received big paydays last year in free agency.  With more teams predominantly playing three or more wide receiver sets, receiver depth becomes more important.  The group is potentially hurt by a deep class of wide receivers entering the NFL draft.

Golden Tate

This is the top receiver available, if based on resume, accumulating four 90 reception seasons to go with three 1,000 yard seasons.  Tate plays with uncommon strength, drive, and short-area movement which combine into one of the most evasive receivers in the game accumulating big yards after the catch.  The main questions entering free agency are his age (31) and the fact that much of his production in Detroit relied on short, gimmicky, manufactured touches.  Will a new team have a plan in place catering to Tate’s strengths or will he be forced into a more traditional receiver role into which he might not have as much success?

John Brown

Brown profiles similarly to T.Y. Hilton athletically as a small receiver with great speed who also displays some good route running with quality cuts into breaks.  Brown has a 1,000 yard season with Arizona and was on pace for a 1,000 yard season this year for Baltimore prior to Joe Flacco’s injury and subsequent benching.  The insertion of Lamar Jackson at quarterback decimated the passing attack for the Ravens and, with it, any meaningful production from receivers.  Brown struggles with health sometimes in part due to his sickle-cell trait.  The diminutive speedster offers a lot of potential for his new team.

Tyrell Williams

Williams boasts a lot of qualities teams covet from wide receivers.  He stands 6’-3” with upper level athleticism, including enviable speed, and a large wingspan to boot.  The former undrafted free agent is at his best stretching defenses as a deep threat and running underneath drag routes to utilize his long strides.  Williams produced a quality 2016 season with Keenan Allen injured.  Unfortunately, the numerous negatives match his positives.  Williams struggles with drops, is a limited route runner, and his thin frame gets taken advantage of by physical corners.  Despite his limitations, Williams’ other strengths make him a good bet for highest paid wide receiver free agent.

Jamison Crowder

Injuries and the Washington quarterback situation diminished what was expected to be a big year for Crowder in 2018.  On the surface, Crowder is a smaller receiver who tested poorly at the NFL combine.  There is more than appears, though.  He plays with a game speed and quickness that makes defensive backs appear silly at times.  Crowder offers a diverse route tree with experience working all levels of the field and lining up inside or out.  A solid market should emerge for Crowder but his size may limit teams’ envisioned role to primarily a slot receiver.

Adam Humphries

The timing just works out sometimes.  Humphries put up his best season as a pro in 2018 racking up 76 receptions on the verge of free agency.  This is the very definition a primary slot receiver in the NFL.  He provides a smart option with very reliable hands for teams in need of underneath help. Humphries knows how to find holes in zone coverage and fights hard for extra yards with the ball.  Humphries does not possess the traits needed to consistently win on the outside.  He can be a productive receiver in the right system.

Donte Moncrief

If one could build an X- receiver in a lab, that player would probably look much like Moncrief.  He possesses a big, thick frame while running extremely well with incredible hops.  Unfortunately Moncrief did not develop as a receiver in Indianapolis where his route running never really progressed.  He is a one-speed player who does not play up to his athleticism.  Moncrief swindled the Jaguars out of $10 million last season.  It is highly unlikely that scenario happens this year but you can bet some team will take a cheaper gamble on his athletic traits again.

Devin Funchess

There were questions about what position Funchess would play in the NFL.  The former college tight end remains somewhat of a “tweener” at the pro level.  He profiles as a big possession receiver but does not have the tools necessary to optimize that role.  His hands have stayed inconsistent and he does not win as many contested catches as someone with his size should.  Funchess displays some great playmaking skills at times but not with the regularity needed to stand out.  Teams will have interest in the very young (24) talented player who might still improve going forward.

Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, Robby Anderson

The odds are against each of these players hitting free agency for different reasons.  They showed dynamic deep-threat ability in the past, though, which makes them worth keeping track of.  The league indefinitely suspended Gordon and Bryant for yet another substance abuse infraction and we have no idea when or if they play again.  Gordon and Anderson are also restricted free agents limiting their chances of switching teams this year.  Watch the situations for updates.

Others to Monitor

Cole Beasley fits teams with a pure slot receiver need.  He is a professional receiver who just knows how to get open.  Injuries have taken their toll on Randall Cobb.  He has not looked like the same dynamic player from his early years in a long time.  If healthy, he provides a versatile player capable of filling slot and receiving roles in the slot and out of the backfield.  Buffalo players nicknamed Chris Hogan “7-Eleven” when he played for the Bills because he was always open.  We might need a new nickname after Hogan struggled to find any separation in 2019.  Is Dez Bryant done after an Achilles injury ended his 2018 season before it began?  Injuries and the retirement of Tony Romo sent Bryant’s career into one of the sharpest tailspins in recent memory from a top receiver.  Kelvin Benjamin produced a couple of quality seasons in Carolina to start his career.  He’s probably looking at a part-time role now as a short-yardage or redzone specialist now.  Jordan Matthews started his career with three consecutive 60+ reception seasons for Philadelphia playing considerably as a big slot receiver.  He can be a useful player for teams utilizing a similar role.  Former first-round picks Kevin White, Phillip Dorsett, and Breshad Perriman will look to free agency after disappointing initial contract years.  On the older side, Dontrelle Inman and Rishard Matthews both proved very solid professionals throughout their careers when given ample opportunity.  The Texans recently released Demaryius Thomas after an Achilles tear ended his season.  It will be a tough comeback for 2019 given the late date of his injury.

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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: WRs

Updated: August 18th 2018

The early RSO auction value examination concludes with the wide receiver position.  Receivers offer the most choices among fantasy positions with the deepest group of quality options available.  The problem with all that depth is the lack of clear separation in projection from one player to the next, especially as you move away from the top performers.  Let’s take a look at some of the top paid receivers in RSO leagues working through some of the good and bad situations to get a better grasp of players for the coming season.

The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: TEs


Average RSO Wide Receiver Contracts

Top Targets (WR1-9)

The case for Brown is very easy.  He finished inside the top three wide receivers in PPR leagues since every season since 2012.   Hopkins garnered 151+ targets each of the last three seasons.  Apparently only Brock Osweiler can limit his fantasy success.  In case you forgot after an injury ruined his 2017 season, Beckham Jr. has never finished outside the top-4 in PPR points per game.  There is more volume competition in New York than ever before with second overall pick Saquon Barkley and second year phenom Evan Engram.  Thomas racked up an absurd 52% of the Saints receivers’ targets in 2017 on his second consecutive year with at least 92 receptions and 1,137 yards.  That percentage of the pie probably decreases in 2018 but an increase in New Orleans passing volume could balance the effect as the Saints went from one of the most pass happy teams to middle of the pack last season.  The inconsistency of Jameis Winston and random nature of touchdowns is in full view when one looks at Evans who scored 12 touchdowns in two seasons and five or less in his other two years.  He holds a decent floor with four 1,000 yard seasons to start a career.  Allen averages 163 targets, 112 receptions, and 1.396 yards per 16 games over the last three seasons and the Chargers lost potential breakout Hunter Henry already.  For whatever reason, Jones has never been a huge touchdown scorer finishing with just three TDs last year.  That means a potential discount for a player with four consecutive 80+ catch, 1,400+ yard seasons.  2017 also felt like a disappointing year for Green who saw his lowest standard PPG of his career.  Look for a rebound from Green and a Cincinnati offense who struggled last season with injuries and an underperforming offensive line where upgrades have been made this offseason.  Adams scored 22 touchdowns the last two seasons and gets back Aaron Rodgers.  This is still a player averaging below 12 yards per reception for his career with no 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Potential WR1s with Risk (WR10-22)

Hill might count as the most explosive player in the NFL with six 50+ yard plays last season.  His relatively low volume combined with increased target competition and new quarterback makes for a risky WR1 option.  Robinson produced a huge 1,400 yard season in 2015 but the resume is barren otherwise. Uncertainty abounds returning from an ACL-tear with a young QB and unknown role in new offense.  Cooks posted three consecutive 1.000 yard seasons with Brees and Brady at QB.  No receiver in a Sean McVay offense (Washington or the Rams) amassed a 21% target share in any of the last four years.  Thielen and Diggs should dominate targets in Minnesota from new QB Kirk Cousins on what should be a quality passing attack.  Cooper ranked just 51st in receiving yards from a disastrous 2017 season despite a monstrous 210 yard game.  New coach Jon Gruden gives hope to those looking for a return to Cooper’s promising first two years.  Jeffrey played through a severe shoulder injury last year and might not be ready to start the season but remains one of the top targets in the Eagles passing attack.  The 21 year old Smith –Schuster impressed his rookie season gaining 75+ yards in 5 of his last 7 games.  He remains behind both Brown and Bell for targets in the Steelers’ offense but looks like a quality long-term investment.  Baldwin should dominate targets on a depth chart with little competition.  Questions surround the Seattle wide receiver going into season with a mysterious knee injury that will keep him from most of preseason.  Davis is a popular breakout receiver on a revamped Tennessee offense with new coaching staff.  Lot of competition for targets exists on a likely low-volume passing attack in Cleveland where Landry and Gordon will fight for main billing.  Landry’s prospects increase daily as Gordon remains away from camp.   The depth chart in Indianapolis behind Hilton is one of the shallowest in the league.  His top-level production possibilities remain tied to Andrew Luck’s health.

Lots of Quality Options, Upside, and Questions Left (WR23+)

Detroit boasts one of the most stable WR duos in Tate and Jones on a regular top-10 volume passing offense.  Thomas leads the Denver receiving core with what should be an upgrade at QB.  Fitzgerald posted 108+ receptions in three consecutive seasons and gets check-down machine Bradford at QB.  Kansas City paid Watkins a huge amount to be a big part of the offense but his role is uncertain given the other weapons for the Chiefs.  The Rams’ receiving core projects as a three-headed monster with similar target shares for Cupp, Woods, and Cooks.  Funchess’ role becomes unclear with the addition of rookie Moore plus the return of Olsen and Samuel.  Will Parker take control of a Miami receiving group previously predicated on short passing to Jarvis Landry?  Crowder heads a deep receiving group in Washington with lots of talent but injury questions and little on-field production.  Is Edelman the same player at 32 after a torn ACL and PED suspension?  Will Bryant find a meaningful role in a revamped Oakland offense?  Benjamin should be a target hog on one of the worst offenses in football.  Similar to Benjamin, Crabtree could head the receiving core for a low-upside, Flacco-led Baltimore offense.  Nelson goes from one of the most efficient passers in history (Rodgers) to one of the least efficient passers in his time in the league (Carr).  An owner can pay WR4/5 prices for Garcon and Goodwin on a projected top-10 passing offense.  Anderson is the top receiver for the Jets but could be hit with a suspension at any time.  Cobb remains a quality flex option as the WR2 on a Rodgers-led passing attack whenever he is healthy.  Questions remain on how long that may be.

Interesting Names outside the Top-50

Hogan (55) is the only returning starting receiver for New England from last year with Edelman suspended to start the year.  Sanders (59) suffered through bad QB play and ankle injuries in Denver last year but could achieve near-Thomas target levels.  It is conceivable Stills (60), Wilson (93), or Amendola (99) ends up leading the Dolphins in receptions.  Lockett (63) flashed explosive play-making ability at times in Seattle and the Seahawk receiving depth chart is very shallow, particularly with questions about Baldwin’s availability.  Matthews (68) might still be the number one target in Tennessee with a new, hopefully improved, offensive scheme.

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.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2016 Stories and Lessons

Updated: May 28th 2017

Happy holidays everyone! I hope everyone is having a great end to the year.  The fantasy season concluded recently for most of the fantasy community with the week 16 championships (we do keep in mind our wild brethren who finish in week 17) and the NFL season finishes shortly in week 17.  While some of you out there may still be celebrating your successful season and others might be crying after disaster, it is a good time to look at stories that dominated the fantasy season and examine a few lessons learned from the year.

Return of the Running Back

What a difference a year makes. Running backs were the ugly step-child of the fantasy community coming into the season with seemingly every analyst avoiding them like the plague.  We heard everything from “Running Backs are always hurt” to “Every team is going to a committee” or “Nobody runs the ball in a passing league”.  The much-maligned position group came back with a vengeance in 2016 absolutely dominating in a way we have not seen for years.  Table 1 details the big increase in weekly scoring among running backs this season, particularly among the top scorers.  The top running backs have also been far more reliable losing fewer games to injury this season.  The top six scorers per game from 2015 lost 41 games to injury while this year’s group has lost only 6 games total (including 3 games from LeVeon Bell’s suspension).   While the injury rate for running backs returned closer to historical levels, the scoring was far higher than recent years.  I do not expect the increased scoring to continue and will likely be lower on running backs than the consensus next season.

Table 1: PPR PPG for running backs

                RB1        RB2       RB6       RB12     RB18     RB24

2016       26.69     26.45     19.28     14.78     13.68     12.49

2015       21.09     20.22     16.95     14.52     12.80     12.24


Tight End is the new Running Back

Similarly to running backs in 2015, the top of the tight end position lost a lot of time to injuries in 2016. The top-6 per game scorers lost only 7 games in 2015.  That number ballooned to 19 so far this season primarily including top options Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, and Tyler Eifert.  This number does not include a bunch of “decoy” games with minimum use due to injuries and reincorporation to the offense following an injury which lowered player scoring averages dramatically as seen in table 2.   Many in the fantasy community will use this data as evidence of how “injury-prone” tight ends are.  I will use it as a buying opportunity to obtain one of the few game changers at the position on the cheap.

Table 2: PPR PPG for tight ends

               TE1         TE6       TE12

2016       14.7        12.1        11.0

2015       18.1        14.7        10.8

Avoid Injured Players

Here is a small sample of stat lines for players returning from injury in 2016:

Julio Jones: 4 receptions, 60 yards; Stephon Diggs: 2 receptions, 18 yards;  Steve Smith: 4 receptions, 47 yards

Donte Moncrief: 4 receptions, 41 yards;  Julio Jones: 4 receptions, 60 yards;  Rob Gronkowski: 0 receptions, 0 yards

Tyler Eifert: 1 reception, 9 yards;  Jordan Reed: 1 reception, 10 yards

The conventional wisdom has been to insert your star players into fantasy lineups whenever they are available. The reality is that any player either returning from an injury or playing with an injury is a gargantuan-size risk usually not worth taking.  We will not know how effectively each individual will perform and, perhaps more importantly, how coaches will limit their snaps and thus the opportunity to put up fantasy points.  Coaches and front office personnel tend to the conservative side with players the organization invested heavily in.  It may not seem smart to bench your star players but, in many instances, it is exactly the correct move.

Avoid Skill Position Players with Bad Quarterbacks

There is a common belief among many that talent supersedes situation in dictating fantasy production. The reality is that situation plays a far larger part.  Perhaps no other situation highlights this dynamic more than the relationship between quarterbacks and skill players.  In particular, bad quarterback play negatively impacts fantasy production of attached players dramatically.

This negative impact manifests directly on wide-outs by receivers accumulating less yards for every target. Bad quarterback play also limits the opportunity for receivers to score touchdowns as drives tend to stall much earlier with fewer plays near the end zone.  Competitive teams shield bad quarterbacks in many cases by decreasing passing attempts which means fewer targets for wide receivers.  The bottom 9 NFL teams in passing rating so far in 2016 are:  New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, and the Chicago Bear.  What does this “stellar” group have in common?  There is not a single wide receiver that managed even a WR2 season so far this season (based on PPG) in PPR leagues.  Terrelle Pryor is currently the highest ranked wide receiver out of these teams at WR25.  Those who invested in Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, or Brandon Marshall likely saw their fantasy seasons end early due to abysmal quarterbacks.

Bad quarterback play can also have a detrimental impact on running backs. Backs suffer from the same loss of touchdown opportunities as wide receivers but also see negative indirect consequences which limit effectiveness.  Defenses adjust to bad quarterbacks by placing more men closer to the line of scrimmage forcing teams to choose between passing with their awful quarterback and running against stacked boxes in low upside situations.  Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley and Houston Texan Lamar Miller provide two examples (both currently top-6 in rushing attempts) which demonstrate the effect.  Both suffered from bottom of the league QBs and faced extensive loaded defensive fronts (along with marginal offensive line play and predictable offensive play calling) throughout the season.  The heavy volume should dictate RB1 numbers but QB play has heavily impacted each resulting in RB2 seasons.

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.

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