Free Agent WR Class 2016[the_ad id=”58837″]The days of running backs dominating the fantasy landscape are long gone. These days, it’s an impressive group of young wide receivers that seem to be carrying their fantasy squads to new scoring heights. With their numbers on the rise, wideouts are now becoming more and more valuable in drafts and free agency.
2015 had it’s share of huge season from the ever-growing group of talented wide receivers. Unfortunately, the quality of receivers hitting the free agent market in 2016 is poor. Things can always change, but there doesn’t appear to be many big-play pass-catchers due to hit the jackpot with new teams this offseason.
Alshon Jeffery is easily the most prized pass-catcher to hit the market, and the only one who could command a high-dollar, multi-year deal. However, the expectations are that Jeffery will either re-sign with the Bears or be hit with Chicago’s franchise tag. Jeffery, who battled injuries throughout 2015, has been a star and remains a potential WR1. Should he somehow hit the open market, Jeffery will be one of the hottest free agents in the league and could be due to command a contract that exceeds the 5-year, $65M extension signed by TY Hilton.
After Jeffery, there’s a huge dropoff in talent. Travis Benjamin is a nice player and all, but nowhere near the talent that Jeffery is. But that doesn’t mean Benjamin won’t benefit. He could potentially cash in nicely, as many teams will have plenty of money to spend with the higher salary cap. There’s a good chance that Benjamin will also stay in Cleveland, after a career season with the Browns, despite abysmal quarterback play. As a free agent, he’d make sense to a lot of teams looking for a speedy WR2.
Marvin Jones as shown flashes of star potential in his first three years in the league- especially during his breakout 2014, 10-TD campaign. Whether he’s benefited from playing opposite of A.J Green or been held back by being a secondary target is the huge question, and one that Jones said he’s looking forward to exploring on the open market. Chances are his days in Cincinnati are over, and he’ll land a contract in the neighborhood of $5-$6M annually as a WR 1 or WR2.
At 36, Anquan Boldin is past his prime, but still very capable of helping a team as a reliable WR2/3. Boldin missed two games for a San Francisco squad that struggled, but still steadily produced a stat line on pace for a 78-901-4.5 season. He remains a trusty, underrated asset to consider in the tail-end of fantasy drafts.
After a mostly-middling career, Rishard Matthews timed his best season nicely, and should attract decent attention in this market. He’s probably best suited as a team’s WR3, but could get a look a starter, especially with the number of NFL teams starting three wideouts. Matthews is not expected to re-sign with the Dolphins.
After quietly scoring a career-high 8 touchdowns last season, 24-year-old Rueben Randle hopes to attract attention from a team that can give him the opportunity to do something he was never able to do with the Giants: become a consistent, featured starter. Don’t count on him breaking out once he breaks out of New York.
Jermaine Kearse steadily improved his production each year for the run-first Seahawks and is now ready to cash in with this underwhelming free agent class. He should draw moderate interest from teams looking for a WR3 with return potential.
Although he’s not a free agent yet, it’s all but assured that trusty veteran Marques Colston will be released from New Orleans. Colston is an aging player who has battled injuries and is unlikely to make much of a fantasy impact was removed from his status as a favorite of Drew Brees.
As with the rest of the Rams wideouts under Jeff Fisher, Brian Quick is hard to get a read on. Quick has flashed big plays with maddening bouts of completely disappearing. Maybe paired with a more creative offensive mind, Quick could thrive in a complementary role.
After a tremendous start last season, veteran wideout James Jones cooled off and his declining overall physical ability became more evident as Green Bay’s passing attack sputtered. Jones isn’t expected back with the Packers, who have Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, and Jared Abbrederis ready to take over.
Nate Washington has long been an underrated favorite of mine, but at 32, his days of making a modest fantasy impact are probably behind us. Still, he’ll attract attention as a reliable WR3/4 and could be worth a stash in deep leagues as a matchup-dependant spot-starter.
Percy Harvin still attracts attention, but has only played in 28 out of his team’s last 64 games and hasn’t been an impact player since 2011.
Senior Writer Gridiron Experts. 2012 FantasyPros Most Accurate Fantasy Expert. Member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. 26-year fantasy football veteran. Featured on NFL.com, Fantasypros, Football Diehards annual magazine, local AM sports radio, podcasts everywhere and SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game for Polk High School.