How long will the top fantasy WRs be fantasy starters?
A week ago in this space, we looked at the longevity of starting fantasy running backs, and it wasn’t pretty — none of the top 10 from even four years ago, in 2012, appeared in 2016’s top 10, and in fact, for now at least, the only ones from that group who are even under NFL contract are Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and C.J. Spiller, with Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and maybe Marshawn Lynch candidates to join.
Wide receiver has a better reputation for sustained success, and it’s true that the 2012 crop of starring receivers fares better today than their running back counterparts… it’s not by much.
Of the top-10 receivers from 2012, the only one who reached top-10 status again in 2016 was Atlanta’s Julio Jones. On the other hand, there’s a lot more general holdover. 2012 top-10 finishers Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, and, if you’re being charitable, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are still floating around in potential-starter relevance, while Vincent Jackson is hunting for a contract. The only guys from the list out of the league now are Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Roddy White.
So yes, even at the theoretically reliable wide receiver position, turnover can rear its ugly head. Football is a fickle mistress.
With that in mind, I summoned the team again to make their predictions.
The premise: You can keep Player X for as long as you want, but you have to decide on that duration right now.
The cost: You can keep the player indefinitely at the cost of the last starter at the position. So a quarterback will cost you the draft slot of the 10th quarterback off the board, while a wide receiver will cost you the 20th receiver.
With those rules in place, I solicited the input of three PFF Fantasy writers: Brandon Marianne Lee (@BrandonHerFFB), Michael Moore (@PFF_Moore), and Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL). They gave their answers for a list of names, along with a short explanation.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
(Age at start of 2017 season: 28; 2016 statistics: 16 games, 1,130 receiving yards, 7 receiving TDs, fantasy WR10)
3 years: Probably the most underrated WR1 in the league, I’ll take Baldwin until he’s 31 and a year before the end of his contract. — Brandon Marianne Lee
2 years: Baldwin is unlikely to ever replicate his magical 2015 stretch run, but his chemistry with Russell Wilson and mastery of the slot position in a slot-friendly offense will keep him at the back-end of starter status for at least another two seasons. — Dan Schneier
3 years: Baldwin got a late start being fantasy relevant and was 26 before his first 1,000-yard season. Even three seems generous to me. — Michael Moore