We’re officially in the heat of the 2018 season as week one is in the books. As always, there were a few surprises after the dust settled. Below are the Dr’s favorite highlights and stat lines from the games this past week and weekend.
Alvin Kamara, RB – NO
With Mark Ingram out for the first few games and a backfield featuring depth players and castoffs, it’s little wonder that last years rookie sensation turned in one of the weekends best performances. While the numbers on the ground were certainly underwhelming, with 29 yards coming on his eight attempts, he was again a massive factor in the passing game as this one turned into a shootout early on. In ESPN PPR leagues, Kamara’s 43.1 points paced the entire league.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
With all the off season focus on the swap at QB from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, there were concerns with Hills volume as his fantasy production comes from his big play ability. That ability was the marquee attraction as his 2 long TD receptions and kick off return TD were proof that he’ll continue to dominate opposing DB’s regardless of who’s throwing the football. Further proof of his monster ability was his outrageous 24.1 yards per catch that helped him pace all wide receivers with 42.3 PPR points.
Michael Thomas, WR – NO
With how well Kamara produced in the passing game, it’s a wonder that Thomas was able to post a career high (and franchise record) 16 receptions on 17 targets for 180 yards. Thomas consistently found ways to get open down field and Brees rewarded him for it. Going forward, Thomas is one of the safest set and forget receivers as he’ll likely garner one of the leagues highest target percentage numbers wire to wire.
Odell Beckham Jr, WR – NYG
Despite drawing arguably the most difficult match up he’ll see all year with Jalen Ramsey opposing him, Beckham returned to dominate the target share, receiving 15 of Eli Mannings 37 attempts (40%). His stat line of 11 catches for 110 yards was encouraging, and it appears as though Odell Beckham has returned as one of the leagues top fantasy options at the wide receiver position.
Adrian Peterson, RB – WAS
When Adrian Peterson was signed following Derrius Guices season ending injury, many speculated as to how much “All Day” had left in the tank. His performance on Sunday should dispel any worries as to how effective he can be even at 33 years old. The 3.6 yards per carry mark wasn’t earth shattering, but it’s clear that after 166 total yards on 28 total touches (and a touch down) that AP will be featured heavily in an offense that looks committed to the run.
Randall Cobb, WR – GB
We could have selected Rodgers himself for this spot on the list, but concerns around any lingering effects of the seemingly-serious knee injury suffered Sunday has us unconvinced of his availability going forward. The same cannot be said for Cobb who dominated from start to finish in a wild game that saw Green Bay recover from a 20-0 deficit at half time. While we should temper expectations regarding the 15+ yards per reception mark, it’s important to note that despite Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams presence, Cobb led the team with 9 receptions (4 more than Adams and Allison who both had 5) and posted 142 yards and 1 TD in week one. Of course, Cobb’s continued success may rely on the health of Rodgers, but he should feature heavily in game plans going forward for the Packers.
Week 1 Duds
Amari Cooper, WR – OAK
While the Denver D may not be lauded as one of the leagues finest anymore (ignoring the pass rush of course) they certainly put a beating on Cooper who managed only 1 catch on 3 targets in a week one loss. While I wasn’t willing to put any stock in the player this year myself, I didn’t completely distance myself from Cooper as a bounce back candidate. With the type of talent he has and a lack of play makers around him that aren’t 33 (Nelson) or tight ends (Cook) it may not be long before Cooper is back in the green, but Week one was one of the leagues worst duds.
Josh Doctson, WR – WAS
Lining up opposite of Patrick Peterson will lead to some frustration, but to secure only a single 11 yard reception despite playing nearly 90% of the offensive snaps is beyond disappointing. While I was more interested in owning shares of Crowder, I understood that Doctson stood to gain the most if Smith continued to throw the deep ball. Hopefully the dud from week one can be put in the rear view mirror, but there’s a chance that Doctson never really performs like the high end receiving talent many expected him to be in the Redskins offense.
LeSean McCoy, RB – BUF
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the lead back in Buffalo, but despite the team taking a beating, McCoy was never really featured in the passing game despite his history as a pass catcher. His 22 total yards on 7 carries and 1 catch was a dismal stat line, and may be the first signs that age and situation are conjoining to destroy any value McCoy has as a premier fantasy running back. While he’ll figure to be used a bit more judiciously going forward, he’s a difficult start at this point unless you’re strapped for options.
We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!
- Antonio Brown
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Odell Beckham Jr
This list gets shorter every year, and while there’s still elite wideouts besides these three, the kind of production you can expect here is a level above what the rest of the field offers. As top targets, these three receivers should pace the league in per game targets as well as red zone production. There’s a handful of set it and forget it receivers, but none like this trifecta.
- Julio Jones
- Michael Thomas
- Davante Adams
- A.J. Green
- Keenan Allen
- Stefon Diggs
- Mike Evans
- Tyreek Hill
The beauty of the wide receiver position this year is that as the game has evolved, the need for a high volume top wide out has forced teams to adopt players like this as their offensive catalyst. Despite the presence of talented receivers and backs, this is as safe a 2nd tier of players in all of fantasy. There’s may be some concern surrounding the last three names, but the talent is just too great to suppress their value.
VERY GOOD Tier
- T.Y. Hilton
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Brandin Cooks
- Allen Robinson
- Adam Thielen
- Demaryius Thomas
- Josh Gordon
- Amari Cooper
- Golden Tate
- Doug Baldwin
- Marvin Jones
- Corey Davis
- Jamison Crowder
- Juju Smith-Schuster
The “rainbow” tier as I like to call it, this group of players has some of the largest range of outcomes of any in fantasy. The ceilings are undeniable as several of these players have finished top ten at the position before, but question marks abound that force them further down the list. Still, hitting on a player in this tier is the kind of league winning pick that champions have been making for years. Much like Diggs and Hill last year, there’s a ton of value here if you’re building your team right.
- Randall Cobb
- Devin Funchess
- Alshon Jeffery
- Jarvis Landry
- Chris Hogan
- Robert Woods
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Marquise Goodwin
- Jordy Nelson
- Michael Crabtree
- Will Fuller
- Kenny Stills
- Kelvin Benjamin
- Cooper Kupp
- Sammy Watkins
- Robby Anderson
- Julian Edelamn
- Keelan Cole
Before you say that such a large list of “good” players is a cop out, remember that there’s not much separating the top of this tier with the bottom. Each player is a threat to finish any given week as a WR1, but there’s obstacles we expect that will keep them from pushing into the top 10 for the season. I love the names here as depth and flex players, especially the later half of the list thanks to the current ADP on the middle of the wide receiver position. It’s unlikely that these players will be weekly starters, so you can ignore the suspension and minor injury issues many players experience coming out of the pre-season.
BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier
- Pierre Garcon
- Rishard Matthews
- Mike Williams
- Allen Hurns
- Nelson Agholor
- Tyler Lockett
- DeSean Jackson
- Calvin Ridley
- DeVante Parker
- Chris Godwin
- Michael Gallup
- Sterling Shepard
- Josh Doctson
- Dede Westbrook
- Ted Ginn
- Anthony Miller
The title of this tier of players is a bit misleading, but the truth is that you want to be selecting from this group of players to fill out your bench depth, not as a weekly starter. There is plenty of value as the wide receiver position continues to feature prominently at the top of the fantasy hierarchy. Grabbing these guys as back end WR3 or WR4 options will set you up for a very solid season.
DEEP DRAFT Tier
- John Brown
- John Ross
- Cameron Meredith
- D.J. Moore
- Mohamed Sanu
- Christian Kirk
- Corey Coleman
- Albert Wilson
- Cole Beasley
- Danny Amendola
- Tyrell Williams
- Antonio Callaway
- Geronimo Allison
- Dante Pettis
So you’re looking at drafting in a deep format and you want to know who’s worth throwing a dart or two at in the last few round; well this is the tier for you. While no one here is a lock for fantasy relevance, the talent or the opportunity supports the narrative that there’s a breakout on the horizon. As “wait and see” candidates, the wide receivers offer a ton of value, even on the waivers in standard leagues.
Much like our updates to the sleeper list, the Dr. is here to tell you who he’s avoiding in drafts this year. Of course, any time we’re suggesting to NOT draft a player, it’s understood that we’re referencing the current cost to acquire said player. All players have value, we’re just trying to help you maximize the value you receiving with each of your picks.
Tom Brady, QB – NE
As a card carrying member of the Tom Brady fan club, it pains me to include him on this list, but it’s important to remain realistic. His late season struggles in the last few years has been well documented, and much of the blame can be assigned on his offensive line. At 41 years old and behind one of the worst offensive lines he’s had in years, Brady is no safe bet to stay healthy all year, and the late season regression he’s seen for years now is a near guarantee. Sure, he’ll win 12 games for his football team, but he’s not as safe a pick as he has been in the past for your fantasy one.
Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
I’m not suggesting Wentz isn’t a good quarterback by including him on this list; I’m merely drawing attention to the fact that he’s being ranked far to high for my liking. While it’s encouraging that he’s returning from his injury so quickly, it’s important to remember that QB’s returning from knee injuries tend to take time to get up to speed. Head coach Doug Pederson went as far as to describe Wentz’s play as “tentative” further reinforcing the idea that he may not be 100%. Expecting the rushing game to return to the levels it did last year isn’t realistic, and neither is expecting him to remain hyper efficient in the face of NFL defenses. Expecting a low end QB1 finish isn’t outrageous, but drafting him at QB5 is expecting him to play at his ceiling; something I’m not confident a QB returning from injury can do.
Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
When McKinnon was handed a three year contract by San Francisco in the offseason, I was one of the first to declare that McKinnon was set to breakout in a big way. After all, he was playing the lead back role in an up and coming Kyle Shanahan offense. Then, I put the time in to research, and while most of the industry is expecting big things, there’s a well defined group in the community who expect McKinnon to fall flat on his face. While I exist somewhere in between, the truth is that McKinnon has never really shown that he’s got lead back ability. Between losing snaps to Matt Asiata when Adrian Peterson went down, to posting sub 4 yards per carry in limited action over the last two seasons, it appears that we were a bit premature anointing the second coming of Emmett Smith. Expecting him to play all season as a RB1 is a recipe for disaster.
Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
Henry is a back that I personally think has the talent to be a top 10 RB in the league, but Tennessee had the great idea to add elite satellite back Dion Lewis to muddy the waters that had begun to clear when DeMarco Murray left town. Currently being drafted 25th overall, Henry has a steep hill to climb to secure a three down workload, and with a pick in the third round, I’m not sure I’m willing to spend it on a back who’s whole claim to the position was his college production. Henry could prove to be a very useful fantasy asset, but it’ll be only at the expense of Dion Lewis, who’d need to suffer a major injury to open up passing downs for the young Henry.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
I’d like to preface this by saying I think Hill is one of the most talented down-the-field receivers in the NFL, but not enough is being made of the situation he’s facing with a first year starter and added weapons suppressing his overall value. Alex Smith may be rightly panned over his career for being a conservative quarterback, but expecting Pat Mahomes to step in and play even close to the season Smith had last year is insane. As an MVP candidate, Smith was one of the most efficient deep ball practitioners last year, and while Mahomes features a monster arm, there are going to be growing pains. While Hill should still be productive, he’s a regression candidate yet he’s being draft as though that’s a fallacy. If he falls a round or two, he’d be worth grabbing, but not as a WR1.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
I’m amazed at how quickly a player went from being un-drafted to being over drafted, but Juju managed it in record time. While he’s a name that I was hoping to target in drafts this year, I’m not touching him at his current price. Being drafted before Brandin Cooks, Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald, and Demaryius Thomas, there’s clearly an unreasonable expectation that the Pittsburgh offense can support both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell as top 5 players and elevate Juju to anything more than a back-end WR2. The issue with drafting him at 42nd overall, his current ADP, is that you can’t expect him to outperform that position. We say it all the time, never draft a player at their ceiling, unless you’re prepared to be disappointed.
Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
Sure, it wasn’t long ago that Graham was considered one of the two or three best pass catching tight ends in the league. His time in New Orleans saw him secure no less than 85 catches over a four year period from 2010 to 2014, but the wheels came off in his first year with the Seahawks. While he was much better in 2016, the now 31 year old TE looked his age last year, performing admirably in the end zone but failing to record more than 65 receptions for the third straight year. In Green Bay, he’ll likely be asked to play a similar role, featuring mostly in the red zone, with less target share thanks to a deeper wide receiver corps. Expecting a return to the pre-Seahawks form is asinine, yet he’s being drafted 5th at the position, before Greg Olsen, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Delanie Walker; all candidates I expect to finish ahead of Graham by seasons end.
Adam Theilen has seen his ADP drop a bit, so he’s no longer a focus on these bust lists, but he’s still being drafted a bit too high for me to like his value. Kenyan Drake was impressive in his limited time last year, but he doesn’t have the pedigree or track record to perform as a top 10 RB over a full season, and Miami’s offseason moves seem to say the same thing. DeShaun Watson has had plenty of time to recover from his major knee injury, but the obvious regression coming seems to be ignored when setting expectations. As the 4th QB off the board, I’m out on Watson.
I’d like to preface this by saying that every player has some kind of value, but the real issue I take with the following players is the value other fantasy players have assigned to them. As always, take these with a grain of salt, as I’ll likely look at any of them if they fall into a round with appreciable value.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – San Fransisco: It sure looked like Jimmy G was the real deal as he lead the listless 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the season. And it certainly helped his stock that he beat three playoff teams in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and the LA Rams. But has he done enough in his brief time as a starter to warrant being drafted as the 9th QB off the board?
Instead of targeting a QB with 7 career starts and expecting a top 10 finish at the position, it’s a far safer proposition to look at the names directly behind him on the list. Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers can all be had, and all offer far more consistent value in my opinion. Do I think Jimmy G is a bust candidate? No, not particularly, but with all the buzz surrounding the former heir to the Tom Brady empire, I’ll let someone else overpay for the unknown commodity.
Tom Brady, QB – New England: This may surprise some, especially being a Patriots fan living in Massachusetts, but the news out of New England has been mostly terrifying, yet Brady is still being drafted as the QB4. Between a lack of off season work, his top target from last year being traded, and his former safety net in Julian Edelman facing a 4 game suspension after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and you have a recipe for disaster if you lob and early round pick at Brady.
Of course, he’ll probably prove me wrong, but there’s no way I’m drafting Brady before Brees, Wentz, or Newton – the next three QB’s on the list. If I can get Brady for a discount, I’m comfortable with his superior talent making up for these things, but in the 5th round I’m drafting skill players and snagging someone else several rounds later.
Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee: Every year the final running back rankings reveal a few surprises, and Dion Lewis’ 203 points (RB13) was certainly the stand out name to me. But now a member of the Titans, Lewis’s name keeps popping up on watch lists as a name to watch, something I just can’t get behind.
While he’s undoubtedly an electric player when healthy, 2017 was the first time Lewis turned in 16 games in his career, and betting on anything more than 7 games is a crap shoot with the diminutive back. Also against him is his role in the Tennessee offense, as he slides in neatly on the depth chart as the 3rd down back behind elite runner Derrick Henry. Sadly, no team targeted their backs less than the Titans 66 total RB targets. The ceiling is so low in Tennessee with a healthy Henry on the roster that I’m staying away from Lewis at all costs.
Kenyon Drake, RB – Miami: On the surface, Drake seems like a logical name to take the “next step” into fantasy relevance, especially after he dominated the touches for the Dolphins down the stretch, turning 91 touches into 444 yards and 2 TDs from week 13 on. How did the Dolphin front office repay him? By bringing in Frank Gore via free agency and adding Kalen Ballage in the draft.
We’ve seen similar situations before, and I’d argue caution when investing in the Miami backfield. Much like the Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt situation last year, there is likely very little room for error when it comes to touches for Drake. Of course, staying healthy should see him resume the roll of the top dog, but touches will be limited, and his prospects of turning in a top 20 RB season are slim in my estimation.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND: It’s easy to look at the bottom line and say “but Hilton was productive” while ignoring the deficiencies playing in Indianapolis’ offense creates. The news on Andrew Luck has been mostly positive, but it still doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon, yet fantasy drafters haven’t seem to given up on Hilton as an elite WR.
A closer look reveals how inconsistent Hilton was with Jacoby Brissette throwing him the ball. More than half of his yards (966 on the season) came in only three games (505) which in this case can’t be offset by the threat of scoring, as his 4 TDs is about what you can expect for the smaller receiver. If he continues on the pace he’s at, he’s a flex start at best, which is something that you can’t afford out of a 4th round pick.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC: This one may sound strange, as I was a big fan of Hill’s going into last season, even going out of my way to own him in several leagues, but every year we must re-evaluate each players value and leave the past love in past when ranking players. Hill is currently the 10th WR coming off the board, but presents many of the same problems highlighted above with T.Y. Hilton.
Similarly, his final stat line is a bit of a mirage as the 75 catches for 1,183 yards only represents half of the story. Aside from four big games (552 yards and 3 of his 7 TDs), Hill failed consistently to hit 5 catches or 100 yards. Add to the roster a WR the caliber of Sammy Watkins, and he’s now relying on the big play to score, further damaging his fantasy value. While I can see a similar 100 targets, the effects of additional receiving weapons, an elite run game, and a first year starter are too much to overcome when drafting a player as early as Hill needs to be drafted.
Evan Engram, TE – NYG: Another player I preached judiciously last year, Engram turned in one of the finest fantasy seasons for a rookie TE ever, and is being rewarded for it by being the 5th TE off the board in 2018. As a TE being drafted in the 6th round, you’d like to be relatively sure that his production will remain consistent, but that’s where the problem begins.
Last year, as we all know, was a perfect storm for Engram, as the receiving corps for the Giants was decimated all year, leaving Engram as the only reliable starter capable of catching the ball. Now, he’ll be fighting for targets with a healthy Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, and he’ll see far less usage in the red zone as the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, the best RB prospect for Big Blue in years. Could he surprise, sure, but will be finish as the TE5? Not a chance.
Jay Cutler signs in Miami: While the consensus is that this was bound to happen, I can’t help but feel that Matt Moore was a better option to run the offense in Tannehill’s absense. Either way, expect this offense to run like Gase has traditionally operated, and his wide receivers should maintain the value they had prior to the Tannehill injury. Cutler himself is a middle of the pack fantasy QB, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few games for him to shake off the rust.
Paxton Lynch struggles in Denver: Despite the only competition comes in the form of former 7th round pick (and incumbent starter) Trevor Seimian, Paxton Lynch continues to fall short of the expectations set forth when Denver spent a first round pick on him in 2016. While it’s far from over in terms of being labelled a bust, Lynch has shown very little spark in practices and will need a huge turnaround or a Seimian injury to win the starting job,
Quarterback Battle in Houston: There seems to be some contention surrounding the quarterback competition in Houston. There are reports that both Savage and Watson are playing far above their head in terms of the on-the-field stuff, but it’s being reported that Savage has the resect of his teammates while Watson is still getting acclimated to the NFL. Assuming Savage wins the starting gig, it’ll be a difficult road to keeping it with games against Jacksonville and New England presenting elite secondaries.
Tyreek Hill gains Chemistry with Smith: The opportunity will be there regardless for Hill in the absense left by Maclin’s depature, but his budding chemistry is good news for Hill fans. Experts are speculating a 70-80 catch season which would put Hill solidly in the WR2 camp with a potential to push top billing as the #1 in Kansas City.
As the NFL transitioned in the 2000’s to the made-for-tv passing attacks that led to high flying offenses around the league, it became clear that wide receivers are the new “must haves” in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Consistency is the key, and with so many targets to go around, it’s unlikely that stud wide outs fall from grace unless injuries to themselves or their quarterbacks derail their season.
Still, the NFL is an ever changing landscape and the wide receiver pool features new names every year. Who can you count on to make the leap into the top 10?
Least Risk: Dez Bryant, WR – DAL
If you want an in depth look into Dez Bryant and his prospects this year, check out this fantastic article at FantasyPros.com, the data is pretty clear; Bryant isn’t done. A combination of injuries, ineffective play, and the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott as the catalyst for the Dallas offence led Bryan to finish as the WR 29, far below the expectations levied on him in the preseason. He’s still being selected as early as the end of the 2nd round, but the truth is that as his rapport with Prescott improved, Bryant quietly returned to his effective self, setting up a likely return to the top 10 of WR’s and the potential to push into the top 5.
A Little Risk: Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
Hill has gone from a sleeper pick to rocketing up draft boards following the release of WR Jeremy Maclin. As of the writing of this article, his ADP is in the 6th round but climbing. He presents a difficult assesment because the young receiver has never been tested as his teams #1 so regression is a potential concern as defenses cue up on him much more. Still, aside from Kelce, Hill offers strong upside as one of the most likely targets between the 20’s. Despite the unknowns, his ability and Kansas City’s committment to him as their guy should propel him up the standings by the time the season ends.
Most Risk: DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
While you may think Jackson in the top 10 is a stretch, remember that he’s sliding into the number two spot on Tampa’s Targets list and he’s protected from defenses thanks to the otherworldly ability of Mike Evans. With Jackson’s ability to stretch the field and get behind defenders firmly in tact (Jackson’s 17.9 YPC led all receivers with more than 25 receptions) expect Winston to look his way early and often and a career year could be in the cards for the crafty veteran.