Eight fantasy wide receivers who look like 2016 breakouts
For as long as anyone can remember, running backs dominated the first round of fantasy drafts. But as the NFL continues its pass-happy trend, pass-catchers are becoming more and more important in fantasy leagues.
In fact, early 2016 ADP data reveal that pass-catchers make up seven of the first 12 players currently going in fantasy drafts. Six of those seven players are wide receivers, and the other is tight end Rob Gronkowski.
By comparison, in 2015, four wideouts were drafted in the first round of fantasy leagues. Three were taken in the first round in 2014, and only one wideout was taken in the first round in both 2013 and 2012. In other words, fantasy players are banking on wideouts like never before.
But what exactly makes a WR1 a WR1? And how can you use that knowledge to spot a potential WR1 before he becomes one of the obvious choices — like Antonio Brown or Julio Jones? (For an alternative to this approach, dodging WR1 options altogether, check out Mike Tagliere’s piece on the possibility of a zero-WR strategy.)
We combed through our unique stats from the past nine NFL seasons to quantify what separates a WR1 from the rest of the pack. We examined all season-long WR1s — defined as wideouts who finished the season among the top 12 scorers at the position — in eight key categories, including average depth of target (aDOT), yards per reception (YPR), yard per target (YPT), run after catch (RAC), points per snap (PPS), points per opportunity (PPO), touchdowns per target (TD %), and catch percentage (C %).