Four WRs To Target Before Their Price Spikes
Spring practices in the NFL are packaged with an overwhelming amount of coach- and player-speak. With less than a full handful of these practices open to the media, sometimes upside can get overlooked.
The good news: Training camp and the preseason are on their way. During camp, practices are mostly open to the media, the media has more access to players, and the pads finally come on. Player values are certain to change as camp battles take shape.
With the recent boom in MFL10s along with running dynasty leagues and early drafts, the pre-training camp period is a key time frame to take advantage of the values available to you. Some players haven’t made the depth chart jump just yet, but with a couple of weeks in camp, they will.
In this piece, I take a look at four wide receivers you will find late in any redraft league. I will offer advice for how to handle selecting them in redraft, MFL10/best ball leagues and dynasty leagues. The latter two options are where you will find the most value in making a move for these players.
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
Nelson Agholor is a hyped prospect in the fantasy community. He joined an offense that perfectly fits his skill set — according to Chip Kelly — and he joins a team that lost its leading wide receiver from 2014. Agholor ran primarily with the second- and third-team offense during OTA and mini-camp practices, and this is a blessing in disguise. Agholor’s hype train should fill up fast within the first couple of weeks of training camp, so now is one of the final chances to get him at a discount.
During spring practices, Agholor ran behind second-year wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, and behind veteran Riley Cooper. Huff struggled with drops and concentration lapses throughout spring practices. Cooper was awful as a starter in 2014 — he finished 110th out of 110 qualifiers at wide receiver.
In 2014, the Eagles led the NFL in deep pass attempts with 96, and 55 of those went to Cooper and Maclin. Cooper managed to drop two of his seven deep targets deemed catchable. Don’t expect new Eagles QB Sam Bradford to make the same mistake and target Cooper 21 times again in 2015. There are big plays for the taking in this Eagles offense, and it won’t take long for Kelly to recognize that Agholor gives the team a better chance at completing these plays than Cooper and/or Huff.
Redraft advice: Target Agholor at his current ADP in all leagues.
Dynasty advice: Trading for Agholor may be more difficult, considering he was likely a high rookie draft pick and his owner won’t give him up cheap.
MFL10/Best ball advice: Since June 1, Agholor is coming off the board as the WR31 in MFL best ball leagues. Matthews finished as the WR25 in PPR scoring in 2014. If Agholor can win an outside wide receiver spot outright, he could very likely meet or surpass Matthews’ production. That’s a gamble, however, and his upside is already built into his price. I would pass until he drops into the WR4 range.
Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers
Stevie Johnson was miscast in Greg Roman’s 49ers offense in 2014. Despite the poor schematic fit, and the often erratic play of Colin Kaepernick, Johnson was very effective on a per-snap basis. He beat out all 49ers wide receivers, including Anquan Boldin, in his overall receiving grade (+6.6) and his yards per route run (2.13).
Johnson can do damage in the slot. The 49ers used him on just 69 routes in the slot and he saw 18 targets — both were career lows. Despite the usage, he managed to reel in 17 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown. In 2012, in an expanded role in the slot, he turned 137 routes in the slot into 39 targets and a 27/359/4 line with a 2.62 YPPR — good for third-best among all receivers.
Now that he’s with the Chargers, his usage should see a major spike. Eddie Royal, the Chargers’ 2014 slot receiver, saw 773 snaps last season. He played on over two-thirds of the offense’s snaps in 10-of-16 games last season. He saw 66 targets in the slot, and only two other wide receivers saw more total snaps in the slot.
I don’t expect the Chargers’ 11 personnel usage to drop significantly, and this means more opportunities for Johnson. With an aging Malcolm Floyd (34) set to return as the team’s starting outside receiver opposite Keenan Allen, there is also an opportunity for Johnson to carve into Floyd’s snaps in two-wide receiver personnel packages. In 2011, Johnson did most of his damage on the outside, where he saw 113 more targets than in the slot, and racked up a 65/843/6 line.
According to Chargers beat writer Eric Williams, Johnson has already developed a good rapport with Philip Rivers.
Redraft advice: I expect Johnson to flirt with back-end WR3 numbers in an offense that utilizes the slot with a quarterback who relies on timing and precision routes.
Dynasty advice: Johnson is still just 28 years old. You can probably send a couple low-ball offers that include late draft picks or an underwhelming rookie to get a deal done. Johnson could carve out a nice three-year run with the Chargers.
MFL10/Best ball advice: I am targeting Johnson at the very end of every MFL10 league, and he is almost always around in the final rounds. He usually fills out my WR7 spot.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks didn’t trade up to select Tyler Lockett only to use him as a return man, but they do plan to use him as their primary return man in 2015. Lockett’s impact as a receiver could come sooner than expected. Pete Carroll pointed to Lockett and Jimmy Graham as the two players who impressed him most during spring practices — Lockett’s preparation and ability to pick up the outside and slot receiver responsibilities stood out most to Carroll.
PFF’s Sam Monson wrote, “If Lockett was four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier he would be a Top 10 pick,” but after recent success stories like Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton, why should there be any discount attached to him? In 2014, Lockett gained the third most yards per route run — 3.64 — behind only Amari Cooper and Tony Lippett. Although Lockett is smooth in and out of his breaks, he is also a threat in the deep passing game. He finished with a 16/559/4 line on 30 deep pass attempts — good for the third-most receiving yards on deep passes.
Lockett will battle through a somewhat crowded wide receiver corps, but players at the top of the depth chart like Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette have been with the team for several years, and none of the three have emerged as a No. 1 receiving threat.
Redraft advice: With Jimmy Graham in town and within an offense that skews toward the run game, Lockett could find production difficult to come by. However, he has the talent to emerge as the Seahawks’ best outside wide receiver threat. Golden Tate’s 68/898/5 line from his final season with the team is Lockett’s ceiling. I can think of worse late-round fliers.
Dynasty advice: Buy now, and buy quickly, before he shoots up that depth chart and starts seeing a majority of his snaps with the first-team offense.
MFL10/Best ball advice: Lockett is a risky flier in this format given the options that are available at the end of these drafts.
Devin Street, Dallas Cowboys
Last May, I advised to target Devin Street at the end of your rookie dynasty drafts. For a second consecutive offseason, the second-year wide receiver made noise during the Cowboys’ OTAs. Only this time, Street had the opportunity to work primarily with the first-team offense in Dez Bryant’s absence. Street talked about the advantages of working with Tony Romo, and Jason Garrett claimed that Street looks “stronger, quicker and faster” after a year in the Cowboys’ conditioning program.
As of now, Terrance Williams is slotted to start across from Dez Bryant with Cole Beasley manning the slot, but how long will that last? Williams has finished ranked 89th and 73rd among 111 and 110 qualifying receivers, respectively, over the last two seasons. Over the Cowboys’ final eight games in 2014, Williams saw just 25 targets compared to 79 combined targets for Bryant and Beasley.
Remember, the the Cowboys traded multiple draft picks to move up and select Street in the 2014 NFL Draft. He only played 150 snaps as a rookie and compiled two receptions for 18 yards, but he has potential to evolve into the team’s second-best option in the red zone. He stands 6-foot-4 with a 37-inch vertical jump, and he showed unique quickness for his size while at Pittsburgh. For comparison’s sake, Terrance Williams stands a little more than an inch shorter and registered just a 32.5-inch vertical at the combine.
Redraft advice: Keep him on your watch list, but he’s not worth a flier just yet.
Dynasty advice: Target him in all dynasty leagues at his current value. I’ve even seen him on some waiver wires.
MFL10/Best ball advice: Pass on Street. It’s tough to justify picking him with Beasley currently available at the end of many best ball drafts.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he also covers the NFC East for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.