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The Hunt For This Years Breakout WR2 in Fantasy

The Hunt For This Years Allen Hurns

Wide receivers are such a fickle subject in fantasy football when it comes to draft day. Yes, now more than ever, the wide receiver position is proving it’s consistency and value in fantasy, especially over the course of the last couple of seasons.

Players like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have proven to be solid building blocks for a championship-winning roster. As a result of this, these fantasy studs are going early and often in just about all mock drafts. Many Fantasy owners use their first two or three picks to lock up receivers, but then are forced to spend the following picks trying to find lackluster value picks to fill the other key positions on their roster. Having sure-fire starters here is the safe and possibly the smart play given the frequency of injuries today, but there are other options.

Trust and consistency has earned wide-receivers in the NFL high grades from fantasy owners, the top-25 ranked receivers are going off the board by the middle of the fifth round, which isn’t leaving a lot of wiggle room for those who like to spend a few of their early picks on other stud position players. More than 90% of these top-25 receivers are obvious WR1’s on their respective teams. These are household names with fantasy owners everywhere on draft day.

 

The Road Less Traveled

For those who don’t want to go all-in on wide-receivers in early rounds of fantasy drafts in 2016, targeting second-fiddle players on teams with high-production offenses can be an efficient strategy with surprisingly high upside. Especially with the high number of pass-heavy offenses in the NFL today, there are more opportunities for fantasy upside deeper on the depth charts.

Allen Hurns, who recently received a new contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars, is a prime example of a fantastic WR2 that was passed on by many in fantasy drafts last year just because of an expected emergence by Allen Robinson. This came despite him being the team’s leader in receiving touchdowns and yards in 2014; and everyone that underestimated him going into 2015 got caught with their tail between their legs.

Hurns, along with a few others last season, proved the true power of the WR2.

Team WR1 FP GP WR2 FP GP Comb. FP/G*
A. Brown 246.2 16 M. Bryant 120.2 11 26.3
B. Marshall 230.2 16 E. Decker 172.7 15 25.9
A. Robinson 224 16 A. Hurns 161 15 24.7
D. Thomas 162.4 16 E. Sanders 148.4 15 20
D. Baldwin 190.9 16 T. Lockett 102.4 16 18.3
A. Cooper 140.7 16 M. Crabtree 146.2 16 17.9
TY Hilton 142.4 16 D. Moncrief 109.3 16 15.7

*FantasyPros; standard scoring

All injuries aside; the fact that you could roster two wide-receivers from any one of these offense last year, and be a practical lock for a minimum of 15 points per game from them on a consistent basis, is pretty impressive. Granted, these may not seem like overwhelming numbers, but the consistency coming out of a singular offense is promising. With many additional teams bringing in new talent, and developing their offensive schemes, this list of powerful duos is bound to grow in the coming seasons.

Allen Hurns

 

Wide Receiver Battles

Team Proj. WR1 2015 FP GP Proj. WR2 2015 FP GP Comb. FP/G* WR2 Challenger 2015 FP GP WR2 Challenger 2015 FP GP
B. Marshall 230.2 16 E. Decker 172.7 15 25.99
A. Robinson 224 16 A. Hurns 161 15 24.7
A. Brown 246.2 16 M. Wheaton 106.9 16 22.07 S. Coates 1.1 1
J. Brown 142.5 15 L. Fitzgerald 171.5 16 20.22 M. Floyd 120.9 15 J. Nelson 39.9 10
D. Thomas 162.4 16 E. Sanders 148.4 15 20.05
D. Hopkins 220.1 16 C. Shorts 67.9 11 19.93 W. Fuller ROOKIE 0
J. Jones 239.1 16 M. Sanu 58.5 16 18.6
D. Baldwin 190.9 16 T. Lockett 102.4 16 18.33
K. Allen 94.5 8 T. Benjamin 123.8 16 18.19
J. Landry 159.4 16 D. Parker 67.4 9 18.14
B. Cooks 169.6 16 W. Snead 113 15 18.13 B. Coleman 57.4 16 M. Thomas ROOKIE 0
A. Cooper 140.7 16 M. Crabtree 146.2 16 17.93
S. Watkins 158.8 13 R. Woods 71.2 14 17.31
A. Green 187.7 16 B. LaFell 52.4 11 16.49 T. Boyd ROOKIE 0
J. Edelman 111.5 9 C. Hogan 57.6 15 16.23 M. Mitchell ROOKIE 0
M. Evans 136.8 16 V. Jackson 74.3 10 15.98
T. Hilton 142.4 16 D. Moncrief 109.3 16 15.73
D. Jackson 74.8 9 P. Garcon 113.7 16 15.42 J. Doctson ROOKIE 0
O. Beckham 223.3 15 S. Shepard ROOKIE 0 14.88 V. Cruz I / R 0
J. Maclin 155.9 15 A. Wilson 59.7 14 14.65
G. Tate 119.4 16 M. Jones 108.9 16 14.27
T. Austin 140.7 16 K. Britt 86.1 16 14.17
S. Smith 85 7 M. Wallace 59.9 15 13.17 K. Aiken 122.4 16 B. Perriman I / R 0
D. Bryant 58.1 9 T. Williams 102 16 12.84
J. Matthews 145.7 16 N. Agholor 32.3 13 12.27 R. Randle 127.7 16 C. Givens 43.1 14
K. Wright 60.5 10 D. Green-Beckham 80.9 14 11.83 R. Matthews 90.6 11 T. Sharpe ROOKIE 0
A. Jeffery 104.7 9 K. White I / R 0 11.63
K. Benjamin I / R 0 T. Ginn 139.9 15 9.3 D. Funchess 75.3 16
T. Smith 92.3 16 Q. Patton 45.9 16 8.64 D. Smelter INACTIVE 0 A. Burbridge ROOKIE 0
J. Nelson I / R 0 R. Cobb 129.9 16 8.12
S. Diggs 97.3 13 L. Treadwell ROOKIE 0 7.48
C. Coleman ROOKIE 0 A. Hawkins 27.6 8 3.45 J. Payton ROOKIE 0 R. Higgins ROOKIE 0

Key
New Players, New Places

During the offseason, a few offensive players were traded to other teams that are sure to have a role early. The San Diego Chargers and the Detroit Lions are both teams that throw the pigskin an excessive amount. Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford have not been superstars in the league, but they are gunslingers that allow for high-upside receivers to reach their full potential. Cue Marvin Jones and Travis Benjamin.

Marvin Jones is a big-bodied talent that is extremely dangerous in the red-zone, but has been in the shadow of star wide-out A.J. Green for his entire career. Now he gets to go to Detroit to fill a massive target void left by the departure of Calvin Johnson, and play as the presumed second-fiddle to Golden Tate.

Travis Benjamin was playing for the Browns last year, and was still able to amass 966 yards and 6 total touchdowns. He has landed in a near perfect spot, and is bound to receive plenty of targets this year opposite of Keenan Allen. Past receivers Malcolm Floyd, Steve Johnson, and Ladarius Green are all gone; and Antonio Gates is sadly fading away. You can expect consistent numbers out of Benjamin as a WR2 based on pure necessity for that offense.

Incumbent Receiver Battles

The Pittsburgh Steelers already have arguably the best receiver in the NFL today in Antonio Brown. Last year, although starting only eleven games opposite of this stud because of a suspension, Martavis Bryant still managed to average 11.9 FP/game in standard format. Fantasy owners lucky enough to own stock in this physical freak were drooling at the performance, and were probably very excited for his future WR2 prospects as the 2015 season came to a close.

Now, in 2016, owners and fans alike find Bryant suspended again; and this time for the entire season. This leaves a huge void opposite of star Antonio Brown; a void that will be filled by either incumbent Markus Wheaton, or possible star-in-the-making Sammie Coates. Wheaton received praise by QB Ben Roethlisberger last offseason, and is also entering the final year of his rookie contract. Sammie Coates on the other hand, was only active for one game last season because he was seen as a raw-rookie talent, and unneeded with other depth on the roster in Darius Heyward-Bey.

If Wheaton can rise to the occasion, and keep Coates behind him on the depth chart, a Hurns-like year for the fourth year receiver is not out of the question.

Breshad Perriman FantasyAnother AFC North team with an intriguing group of receivers is the Baltimore Ravens. While this team’s play was atrocious last year, it is a well-known fact that this was highly attributed to injury. The Ravens lost players at nearly every position on the football field, and still managed to come very close to victory in many of their games. In 2016, with a healthier squad; Steve Smith, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, and Kamar Aiken are all eager to earn their targets in a Marc Trestman offense, and hopefully emerge as respective target-favorites. What this boils down to is a competition between experience and youth. When we start to get a more clear situation during training camps, and also more clarity on the injuries to Smith and Perriman, a juicy situation will surely emerge for fantasy purposes. They still have a high-caliber offense when healthy, and have more than enough potential to field more than one relevant receiving-option.

Now we have the rookies. The shiny new toys that have emerged from college, and are getting over-analyzed up and down based on a set of statistics from their college days. Drafting rookies in redraft formats is very risky, no matter what draft experts claim to know about these young players. With this said, this year in particular, there are a couple of rookie receivers entering pass-heavy offenses, with little competition for the team’s WR2 spot.Shiny New Toys

Sterling ShepardSterling Shepard’s now in New York to hopefully start opposite of Odell Beckham, and Victor Cruz is still a huge question mark coming off the torn-patellar tendon. You have Tyler Boyd coming into Cincinnati to fill the void left by both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones leaving; and Andy Dalton is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Finally, Will Fuller found his way to a completely revamped team in Houston, and hopes to finally take some pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins.

Corey Coleman was left out of this mix because he appears to be the clear-cut WR1 on the Cleveland Browns already, so he doesn’t fall into WR2 consideration anyways. However, with this said, the team approached the draft this year with a “money-ball” strategy in that they spent four of their draft picks on receivers. With Coleman in the WR1 slot, and Andrew Hawkins being very underwhelming, there is a chance that one of these newcomers will get the chance to make an impact early. In particular Jordan Payton out of UCLA, and Rashard Higgins out of Colorado State, have already turned heads in OTA’s. Yes, the Browns have a very long way to go, but at the end of the day they are still an NFL team, and their points have to come from somewhere.

Again, I’m not for drafting rookies on draft day, but keeping these players and depth-chart situations at the front of your mind over the course of the season is pertinent to making smart waiver-wire and free-agency moves. If one of these rookies can develop trust quickly, any one of them could be more than a startable option by time fantasy playoffs roll around, especially considering their respective WR1’s.

Don’t Get Cute

Some teams just aren’t cut out to support more than one quality receiver for fantasy football purposes, if supporting any receivers at all. A number of teams that come to mind immediately are the Titans, Vikings, Chiefs, Rams, and 49ers. Not to say that the before mentioned teams are not good, or do not have other quality fantasy options on their rosters, but these are all teams that have a run-first mentality, and therefore aren’t worth the risk. It’s always very tempting to go after the pre-season target-favorites after hearing of great work ethic or high praise from teammates; and year and after year we see people fall into the trap.

A prime example is the Vikings’ camp the past few seasons, with players such as Cordarelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, Stefon Diggs, and now Laquon Treadwell, being hyped up endlessly. The simple matter of the fact is that expecting consistent production and upside from WR2’s on such run-heavy offenses just isn’t realistic.

Lesson Learned

What it all boils down to is that depth at wide-receiver on NFL rosters allows fantasy drafters today more flexibility than ever. Whether you want to load up on stud running-backs early, or if you just want quality depth at wide-receiver in 2016; knowing the depth chart landscape, and second-fiddle options on teams is invaluable. Be sure to check out our draft-kit tools to assist in staying up to date, and in particular our depth charts for all 32 NFL teams. Keep all of these deeper position players in mind come draft day, and throughout the season, and you just might find that ever-elusive diamond in the rough from a WR2.

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