Scott Engel examines the player pool and tries to come up with a plan for drafting wide receivers for the coming season of fantasy football.
When looking at FanTrax PPR ADPs, if you grab any one of the first 11 WR selections off the board, you will likely be content with employing one of them as your Fantasy WR1. The players from 12 to 24 will slot in as WR2 types, and a good portion of the third group of 12 can be considered as WR3 selections.
That means when it comes to drafting wide receivers there are about 36 or so respectable starters available before you fall into the territory where you are looking at upside plays, sleepers, and backups.
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Drafting Wide Receivers in 2019
The WR1 Landscape
DeAndre Hopkins (6.6 overall ADP) and Davante Adams (9.2) are the guys going firmly in the Top 10 overall, while Julio Jones (12.3) and Michael Thomas (12.4) have been going late in the first round or early in the second in many drafts. These four WRs truly represent the top tier at the position, as they are unquestioned superstars that come with the least concerns about their high-level production. Some past injury issues and TD outages does make me personally prefer Thomas over Jones, but the latter may have the most single-game upside of any WR in any given week.
Odell Beckham Jr., JuJu Smith -Schuster, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans all have ADPs that are placing them in the second round. If Beckham can stay healthy he could have one of his best years ever playing with Baker Mayfield. Smith-Schuster must prove he can excel without Brown, and Brown must show he can still play at a very high level outside of Pittsburgh. If both pass-catchers can answer the questions surrounding them they could return first round production.
Adam Thielen, Keenan Allen, and T.Y. Hilton are the eighth to 11th WRs off the board and truly signal the end of the real No. 1 guys at the position. Thielen could outproduce other players ahead of him if he is more consistent this year. His 448 yards and three TDs in November and December were lesser than what he produced in the entire month of October. His September reception and yardage totals were also more than what he delivered in the final two months.
Navigating Through the WR2s
When drafting wide receivers in this tier, you’re looking at supremely talented players with obvious potential to fully breakout and threaten that top tier.
Amari Cooper (30.5) is the 12th WR being taken and with a full training camp and preseason with Dallas, he has the promise to come through with his best Fantasy season ever. But Cooper has disappointed us before, and while those concerns are lesser now with the Cowboys, his lingering past does prevent him from truly being regarded as a WR1.
Stefon Diggs (31.3) and A.J. Green (32.2) are certainly capable of producing WR1 numbers. For Green, it is just a matter of staying healthy. With an emerging Tyler Boyd and a hopefully improving John Ross taking some pressure off him, Green could easily be one of the better players at the position, but he missed six games in 2016 and seven last year. Brandin Cooks and Julian Edelman are also going as deserving WR2 types. For the most part, after those 15th and 16th WRs are taken, there is a bit of a drop-off in the WR2 group.
Kenny Golladay (43.5) caught only 70 passes and five TDs last year but could see a boost in both categories this season. Robert Woods (44.5) actually deserves to be taken a little earlier after a Top 10 finish at the position last season. Tyler Lockett (49.6) caught 10 TD passes last year but could see a role change this year now that Doug Baldwin’s career is over. He should improve on his 57 catches for 965 yards from last season but might score less.
The 20 to 24 range unofficially fleshes out the rest of the WR2 group, and includes Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, D.J. Moore, Jarvis Landry and Calvin Ridley. Kupp is a shaky pick as he may still not display his best form for the full year as he continues to make his way back from a major knee injury. Godwin is an upside play who has not yet proven he can consistently perform at the Fantasy WR2 level. Those who draft Moore are hoping he continues to build on his rookie year promise, and Landry may not truly belong in a WR2 discussion at all. He is coming off a disappointing season and now Beckham is in Cleveland to take away more potential targets.
Ridley is the one guy in the group that should really soar above all the others in Year Two, and truly should be inside the Top 20. He should take another significant step forward in terms of consistency this season, and he has been learning the finer points of the game from Jones. If I can get anyone from Cooper to Lockett, or Ridley as my WR2, I will be pretty happy with who I have slotted there on my roster. The range from Kupp to Landry is less comfortable. But Godwin and Moore do have the potential to make good on their upside appeal.
Your No. 3 WRs
Drafting wide receivers in this tier entails looking for players with a relatively high floor but who also have enough upside to offer breakout games of WR1 production.
Sammy Watkins starts the WR3 run as the 25th WR being taken according to ADPs. He could operate as Kansas City’s No. 1 WR if Tyreek Hill gets suspended, but his injury history is well documented. Tyler Boyd is coming off a breakout year and is a fine WR3 target who is capable of WR2 production. Alshon Jeffery seems to be overrated and unreliable, and Hill has seen his ADP fall to 66.3, I wouldn’t even take him at that point because you never know what type of discipline the NFL will hit him with.
Another year removed from a major knee injury, Allen Robinson is going just before Hill and has some rebound potential. Mike Williams is the 30th WR being taken but he has a lot of promise to leap into WR2 territory this year. Corey Davis (31st) is on the verge of losing his starting WR status in Fantasy, and Robby Anderson is well worth being the 32nd WR taken. Will Fuller, Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, and Sterling Shepard round out the Top 36, or unofficial WR3 types. Shepard could have his best Fantasy season yet as he takes on a bigger role for the Giants with Beckham gone.
Views from the Bench
New Shepard teammate Golden Tate (37th) is another rebound candidate. Courtland Sutton (39th) could emerge as Denver’s WR1 and has the abilities to be a Fantasy WR3 this year. Mecole Hardman may be a bit of a reach as the 42nd WR off the board, as it may be too challenging for a rookie to replace Hill if he has to. N’Keal Harry, another first-year WR, is the 46th wideout being taken, and has a real opportunity to make a quick impact in New England. D.K. Metcalf (50th) is another new pro and may have the most upside of all the rookie WRs as a unique size/speed combination working with Russell Wilson.
Tyrell Williams and Michael Gallup can be great value plays as the 56th and 57th WRs off the board. Williams will benefit heavily from playing across from Brown in an improving Oakland offense, and Gallup seems set to step up as Dallas’ No. 2 WR in his second year. Robert Foster (64th) could be Buffalo’s top WR and flashed some promise late last season. Tre’Quan Smith (65th) may truly break out in his second year, and Donte Moncrief (66th) could become an effective starter for Pittsburgh.
Once we’re drafting wide receivers outside of the Top 65 or so, you’re looking at guys who may not be even worth a roster spot. Start addressing the WR position by trying to get one of the Top 11 as your primary starter, then stay inside the Top 20 for your WR2. If you can ideally get one of the Top 30 as your WR3 you’ll be looking good and then you can simply load up on depth and grab value types after that.
Are you onboard with Scott’s plan for drafting wide receivers? For more great rankings, sleepers, and analysis check out the 2019 Fantrax Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
Scott Engel is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame and a four-time award winner. He was one of the driving content forces in the rise of RotoExperts.com and was the lead host on the RotoExperts in the Morning for six years on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He was also instrumental in the launch of the FNTSY Sports Network. Scott was the first-ever Senior Writer and Managing Editor at CBS SportsLine and won a company Hall of Fame Award. He was also an Associate Editor and Fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He has been the featured Fantasy Writer on Seahawks.com since 2012 and his work has been syndicated to the Associated Press, NFL.com, New York Daily News, New York Post, Yahoo Sports, Bloomberg Sports, Sports Illustrated and many others. He is a credentialed media member who won an FSWA award in 2016 for his Insider Fantasy Reporting. Known as “The King”, Scott is on Twitter @scotteTheKing