When it comes to the wide receiver position, I personally like grabbing a stud early, a pair in the middle rounds, then waiting on this position. There is so much value you can get in the late rounds of a draft, so I think it is worth it to wait when finding your bench receivers. Of course, should anyone slip in early or middle rounds I have no issues grabbing someone due to this value.
When deciding on whom to draft and when to draft a wide receiver, the most important thing is, without a doubt, your league settings. Playing in a point per reception, long catch bonus, or a standard league will dictate the type of wideout you should target. Out of those three options, it is a point a point per reception (PPR) league that yields the most opportunity for waiting and still finding value in the later rounds.
Draft Day Outlook
Gone are the days of drafting two running backs with your first two picks. Now, most teams will be looking to grab a running back and pair them with an elite wide receiver. Based on average draft position there will be four wide receivers gone by the middle of the second round in a standard 12 team league. I believe that Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and A.J. Green all will finish inside the top five, at the wide receiver position, barring injury. It is amazing how little the turnover is year after year with who finishes in the top tier of wideouts. Therefore, drafting any of these guys early does not yield too much risk and the return on the investment should be exactly what you expect.
If you do not have a pick at the end of your first round (and therefore beginning of the second round on the turn) don’t stress too much, as you still will have a chance to grab a solid wide receiver. With that said, you need to look at your league settings this early when deciding between the likes of Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Randall Cobb or Alshon Jeffery. That is why knowing your league settings is so important. Antonio Brown had more catches and yards than even Calvin Johnson last season. While I do not see him having more yards again, another 100 catch season seems like a lock to me. On the flip side, Jeffery and Jones will be your deep threats and should be considered over the likes of Brown and Marshall in long catch bonus leagues.
After the top 12 or so wide receivers have been drafted, I am only drafting a wide receiver in the middle rounds that has slipped in the draft and is good value for my team. If WR2s start flying off the board, I’m not going to panic or reach to fill a positional need.
In point per reception leagues guys like Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Wes Welker, and Victor Cruz are the middle round talents that I hope slip. Yes, I included Cruz into that mix as the new Giants’ offense is going to be much more pass happy in terms of quick slants and hot routes. Both of those are prefect for Cruz and I see 100 catches out of him for the first time in his NFL career.
In touchdown heavy leagues/long catch bonus leagues I see Jordy Nelson, Vincent Jackson, and to a less degree, T.Y. Hilton, Keenan Allen, and Torrey Smith as my hopefuls to slip into the early middle rounds. All could find the end zone double digit times this season and all certainly are deep threat targets for their respective teams.
Once we are past the early and the early middle rounds, I feel it is alright to go for the boom or bust players a little bit more. You need to have solid starters to gamble in these rounds but drafting a player like Cordarrelle Patterson or even Mike Wallace and their upside might be worth it.
Once I have my starters, I will not be drafting any bench wide receivers in the late middle rounds. There is so much talent you can get late and based on history a late middle rounder, on average, produces as much as a late round wide receiver. This is because players breakout every year at this position and finding them is just as likely to happen in the later rounds as the late middle rounds.
I would not be shocked if guys like Terrance Williams, Andrew Hawkins, and Jerricho Cotchery outperform wideouts going 20 picks higher such as Sammy Watkins (yes I said it), Cecil Shorts, and Eric Decker. So I am drafting my stud early, couple of high upside receivers in the middle rounds, then waiting till the end of my draft to round out my wide receiver corps this 2014 fantasy football season.
Draft Day Advice
Drafting a stud early is something all teams should shoot for but be sure to know your league settings prior to your draft. Based on those settings have at least ten players in mind that you believe you can draft late that could yield great returns based on those settings.
Wide Receiver Notables
Top Rookie: Sammy Watkins – I have been hating on Watkins, only based on his average draft position, all year long but that does not mean I believe he will not be the top rookie. All that means is he will probably not make any of my rosters. I think Watkins will be featured in the Bills’ offense but defenses will also double team the rookie early in his career. If he slips into the late middle rounds I would scoop him but his ADP of 68 is just not right for me.
Guy That Will Slip But Shouldn’t: Kendall Wright – Wright had a solid season last year with over 1,000 yards and almost 100 catches but no one thinks of a great passing attack when they think of the Titans. There is a real chance Wright will yield top 20 production at the position which is great for a player going in the middle of the seventh round in standard 10 team leagues.
Will Be Owned On All My Teams: Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders made headlines by stating that Peyton Manning is better than his former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger but let’s get serious here, of course he is. With Eric Decker leaving Denver to get paid in New York, I believe Sanders will step right into that role for the Broncos. In fact, I believe Sanders is a better receiver than Decker so I am expecting similar numbers to Decker’s last season and with an average draft position of 69 (one spot higher than Watkins) I believe that is a steal!
PPR Sleeper: Andrew Hawkins – Talent is clearly important when it comes to drafting a late round player but opportunity is sometimes more important. Hawkins has both going for him heading into this fantasy football season. He has a burst of speed that is impressive, nice hands, and most importantly there is no other wide receiver to throw the ball to in Cleveland. I believe Hawkins will be targeted a ton and average at least five catches a game.
Late Round Sleeper: Markus Wheaton – After going to the no huddle last year the Steelers started to throw the ball all over the field and with the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers need a receiver to step up. It is still a little too early to tell but I believe Wheaton has a golden opportunity to snag that second receiver spot. Should he get that job he has a chance to catch between 7-9 touchdowns. Not bad value for a player whose average draft position is after the majority of kickers!