Post-Draft Value Shifts: Receivers
The afterglow of the NFL Draft tends to leave football fans needing a smoke and contemplating all that’s right with the world. The possibilities seem limitless for our favorite teams and players. Fertile minds invariably focus on the most exciting names in fantasy football. Reality, however, dictates that less titillating players also see their values altered by the NFL’s annual meat market. These are their stories …
… well, the receivers anyway. We’ll take a look at running backs tomorrow.
Reggie Wayne (WR – Indianapolis Colts)
Wayne finished 2012 as fantasy’s eighth best wideout in PPR leagues, and in 2013 was drafted as the 17th receiver on average. However, there were hints that he reached that level in fantasy mainly by sheer volume. He ranked 32nd at his position with a Points Per Opportunity (PPO) mark of 0.39, and declined as his age 33 season went along. Of course, through seven games in 2013 he did earn his average draft position (ADP*) as the 17th highest scoring PPR wideout in fantasy. He then missed the rest of the season with an ACL tear.
Wayne is set to return for training camp, and despite the fact that he is coming off of a serious injury and will turn 36 in November, he is being drafted as the 42nd wideout in the ninth round of early drafts. He has much stiffer competition for targets than he did when he went down, with the emergence of T.Y. Hilton, the addition of Hakeem Nicks, the drafting of Donte Moncrief, and the incorporation of tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. That says nothing of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s run-based tendencies that should continue to be counted on until proven otherwise. Wayne’s PPO before he was injured last year was a still less than efficient 0.39 (32rd among wideouts) and his situation has declined since then.
Kenny Stills (WR – New Orleans Saints)
Stills was poised to parlay an excellent rookie year into more consistent production. Over 30 percent of his targets came on deep balls (9th most of 80 qualified receivers), of which he hauled in every catchable pass, averaging 56.7 yards per reception. His Wide Receiver Rating of 139.3 led the NFL. Lance Moore departed in free agency, and Robert Meachem played 307 fewer snaps than Stills last year. Instead the Saints traded up in the first round for speedster Brandin Cooks, and although he will not play the exact role Stills was projected to, he will syphon attention away from the sophomore.
Cooks is likely to assume targets that used to go to Moore and Darren Sproles, although an increased emphasis on running back involvement will also absorb some of those. Moore ranked second to Marques Colston in Saints’ receiver targets each of the last four seasons. Stills will return to his inconsistent, if explosive, role as the field stretcher. He will handle the lion’s share of those snaps, along with Meachem and the now-healthy Joe Morgan. His current ADP as the 52nd wideout sounds fair considering he was fantasy’s 47th highest scoring receiver last year. However the up-and-down nature of how he scores leaves him poorly suited for most league structures.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR – Denver Broncos)
The buzz that surrounded Emmanuel Sanders after he signed with Peyton Manning’s Broncos has apparently dissipated. If anything, it’s starting to head in the opposite direction. Denver’s addition of draftnik favorite Cody Latimer, as well as the generic coach speak that spawned a belief that the rookie can win a starting role, are pushing Sanders’ price tag into WR4 territory. Dynasty leaguers also have a wary eye on Manning’s eventual retirement, in addition to Sanders’ uncertain role.
Wes Welker likely won’t be back in 2015, and Sanders will assume his slot role. The former Steeler has not been much of a deep threat, but Manning is not a downfield bomber (12th in deep ball percentage of 21 qualified quarterbacks) at this stage anyway. Sanders will help replace the departed Eric Decker’s red zone production and will benefit from a sizable bump in overall passing game volume. The Broncos threw nearly 100 more passes than the Steelers did last year and averaged 1.4 more net yards per attempt. Sanders was the 35th highest scoring fantasy wideout (32nd in PRR) in 2013, and currently is being drafted in the ninth round as the 44th receiver.
Jerricho Cotchery (WR – Carolina Panthers)
Banking on a repeat of Cotchery’s 10 touchdowns is a recipe for disappointment, as his 22 red zone targets are due to regress. Ten targets inside the 10-yard line are also unlikely to occur again, especially with the Panthers having drafted the hulking Kelvin Benjamin with their first pick. But Cotchery is not as small as many imagine him (6’1”, 200 lbs.) and could easily emerge as Cam Newton’s top wideout, no matter Benjamin’s draft pedigree.
Carolina watched 261 combined wide receiver targets leave in free agency this offseason. Jason Avant was signed to man the slot, where 59 targets were directed in 2013. That leaves roughly 200 targets to distribute between Cotchery and Benjamin, assuming no other wideout emerges (aka Marvin McNutt becomes the Metric Messiah). Cotchery was 13th in wide receiver rating last year (110.8), and Benjamin will take time to get up to speed in anything beyond a specialized role. Other than tight end Greg Olsen, expect Cotchery to garner the most targets on the team. He was fantasy’s 30th best wideout on just 74 targets last year, and can be had in the 20th round as the 91st receiver selected.
Malcom Floyd (WR – San Diego Chargers)
What remains of Floyd’s fleeting fantasy value received a stay of execution when his Chargers failed to meaningfully address their biggest need on offense. His upside is capped in San Diego’s run-heavy scheme, but the 201-pound, 6’5” deep threat produces when healthy. Of course, that’s the rub for a wideout who missed all but 90 snaps in 2013. Floyd has played 16 games just once since entering the league in 2004, and has never cracked 900 yards or seven touchdowns in a season. He did, however, lead the Chargers in PPO from 2008 through 2012, with the exception of one season in which Vincent Jackson edged him out. Last season he actually registered a higher PPO than rookie sensation Keenan Allen, albeit in limited snaps.
Expect San Diego to employ plenty of 12-personnel so they can get both Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green on the field. Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal are about as ordinary as they come, and neither sub-six footer is a redzone threat (despite Royal’s flukey eight scores last season). Floyd has excellent hands, dropping only six of 148 catchable balls over the last four seasons, and is a greater threat to score in close. Most of Royal’s 14 red zone targets would have been Floyd’s had he been healthy. Assuming diminutive rookie Tevin Reese takes a while to acclimate himself, Floyd remains the Chargers’ best deep ball wideout as well. He’s not sexy, but he’s so cheap he’s free – and someone who you feel better about after last weekend.
- All ADP data courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com
Pat Thorman is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy and was named 2013 Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @Pat_Thorman
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