Biggest Wide Receiver Changes for 2018
With rookie wide receivers finding new homes, it is leaving notable wide receivers affected. We will be looking at situations and how their target share and overall upside might be impacted. Are some of these top wide receivers benefited or hurt by the recent moves?
After falling victim to an ACL injury in the preseason last season, Julian Edelman is primed to be ready for Week 1 this season. He comes two years removed from a stellar 2016 campaign where he accumulated 98 catches, 1,106 yards and three touchdowns. That ranked him 15th among all receivers in Fantasy, and there is no reason to believe that Edelman can’t finish as a Top 20 WR again this season. The Patriots trading away Brandin Cooks paved the way for Edelman to be the leading target for them again. Surprisingly, he finished third among all WRs in targets in 2016 with 158. In the other season that Edelman played 16 games, he finished with 151 targets and finished WR14 in Fantasy. When he has been able to stay healthy, Edelman has been extremely productive, and I would gladly take the gamble on him in 2018. At his current price, Edelman is being severely undervalued at WR47 on FantasyPros. His ranking is subject to change by Fantasy drafts, but Edelman will likely still be a value by then and be a WR2 in Fantasy.
Off an up-and-down season in Oakland, Michael Crabtree is now looking to reignite the Ravens lackluster passing attack. Looking back at last season, Crabtree came flying out of the gates with 46 Fantasy points in the first two weeks, leading all wide receivers. He then severely slowed down after that due to injuries and the Raiders offense struggling to find their footing all year. Now with the move to the Ravens, I do not see Crabtree being as effective as he was in his tenure with the Raiders, as he is now in a worse offense that wants to run the ball. He will also see tighter coverage as the clear No. 1 guy without Amari Cooper opposite him, who helped take attention away. To see how bad the Ravens passing offense was, we can look at Joe Flacco’s numbers. He threw for just 3,141 yards, which put him around the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Josh McCown and DeShone Kizer. On top of that, he averaged a measly 5.7 yards per pass attempt, which was last in the NFL. It looks like tough sledding for Crabtree. I do not see him eclipsing 1,000 yards in this offense, but by being the clear No. 1 option and still a great red zone threat, he will still be on the WR3 radar this year.
One of the biggest surprises in Fantasy at WR last year was Robby Anderson. He ended up quietly finishing WR18 with 63 catches good for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. Currently, his great season is being written off, as he is ranked WR40 on FantasyPros. I still see the potential for another big year, as he is in a similar spot as he was last year. The biggest changes to the Jets receiving corps is Austin Seferian-Jenkins leaving, Quincy Enunwa back from injury and the Jets taking a gamble on Terrelle Pryor. Seferian-Jenkins’ over the middle role will be replaced by Enunwa. Pryor’s one-year deal is more of a negative on Jermaine Kearse as they play more similar roles to the speedster, deep threat that is Anderson. We don’t know who will be starting at QB week one for the Jets, but Josh McCown exceeded expectations last year and Sam Darnold is a highly praised prospect. Anderson will be fine with whoever is in at quarterback, and Darnold could be a potential upgrade for him if he plays up to his ability this year. He is line to be the No. 1 option on a capable offense and will finish as a Top 25 WR again this season.
A steady decline in production has happened to Demaryius Thomas over the last three years. It hasn’t happened in just one area either, as his receptions have gone down, yards have declined, and yards per catch have went each of the last three seasons. With Thomas being 30 years old this year and entering his ninth season, it makes you worry about a possible decline in his ability. Even more concerning on top of that is the insane 25.4 percent target share he had last year (12th among WRs) that should go down. Emmanuel Sanders missed four games last year giving Thomas more looks, and the Broncos drafted Courtland Sutton in the second round and DaeSean Hamilton in the fourth. This showsthat the Broncos have their eyes set on developing younger talent. Those two WRs, and even TE Jake Butt, who missed last year due to injury, should eat into Thomas’ target share and possibly even some of his snaps. With the steady decline in Thomas’ numbers and more mouths to feed in the offense, I am avoiding him this year. I see him finishing outside the Top 20 WRs for the first time in seven years.
A player that I am very excited about and has the opportunity for a big year is Allen Hurns. He showed his potential in 2015 when he got 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Jaguars. His great opportunity stems from Dez Bryant and Jason Witten headed out of Dallas freeing up 220 or 45 percent of the targets. Hurns’ biggest competition for targets most likely will be rookie Michael Gallup, who was drafted in the third round. Rookie WRs usually struggle to have big seasons in their first year and Hurns entering his fifth year should be the trusted, move the chains guy for Dak Prescott. The Cowboys showed some trust in Hurns as the No. 1 guy by taking a linebacker and offensive guard with their first two picks. Currently Hurns is ranked way too low at WR57 on FantasyPros, and I expect him to rise up the ranks by drafts. Hurns is a player I will be targeting in my Fantasy drafts and will finish as a Top 25 WR.
Everyone has a bad taste in their mouth after expecting a big season from Amari Cooper last year and were left very disappointed. Cooper has a great chance of having a bounce back year, and a big bounce. The Raiders brought deep threat Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson, who did not look like the same Jordy last year. Bryant and Jordy are players that could struggle to create separation consistently making Derek Carr be locked on to Cooper. Even Jon Gruden has come out and praised Cooper for his ability and calling him the “main vein” of the offense. In Cooper’s first three seasons, he has split WR1 duties with Michael Crabtree, and with Crabtree now on the Ravens, we should see the full ability that Cooper has. I expect Cooper to set career highs in receptions and receiving yards leading him to finish as a WR1. While people sour over his poor season last year, go and draft him before his best season yet.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
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