How 2016's wide receiver results will impact 2017 Fantasy Football drafts


In 2016, wideouts caught 6,590 passes, an all-time high and 366 more than in 2015.

In 2016, wideouts gathered 83,924 yards, an all-time high and 2,515 yards more than in 2015.

In 2016, wideouts scored 503 times, second-best all-time behind 512 scores in 2015.

So why, in 2016, did Jordy Nelson and Mike Evans tie for the most Fantasy points by a receiver and score just 200 points each? That's the lowest since Brandon Lloyd finished No. 1 in 2010 and totaled 203 points.

What happened?! Wasn't this supposed to be the year where drafting stud receivers would pay off in championships? WHERE ARE MY FANTASY POINTS?!?

While receptions and yardage were up year-over-year among receivers, touchdowns dipped because of those dastardly, pesky running backs. They were much more effective and opportunistic, scoring nearly 70 more times in 2016 than the previous season. That's a big reason why touchdowns didn't grow at the same rate as catches and yardage did for wide receivers, and why their Fantasy points weren't as huge as we had hoped.

10.7

See that gross number? That's the average Fantasy point total for the receivers that finished in the Top 12 at their position.

Ten. Point. Seven. That's it.

It's a point-and-a-half less than what it was in 2015, and it's three full points less than what the Top 12 running backs averaged this past season!

Worse yet, only seven receivers averaged more than 10.7 Fantasy points per game -- and none more than the 12.9 notched by Antonio Brown .

8.1

For the receivers that finished 13th through 24th in year-to-date Fantasy points scored, this is their average per game. Theoretically it means that you did fine if you landed eight Fantasy points from your No. 2 receiver in a given week ... though frankly no one should be fine with eight points from anyone except a tight end or a kicker.

The scary thing is that this number was 8.9 last season, meaning that there was a 10 percent drop-off. Again, that's right about in line with the decline from No. 1 receivers year-over-year. It's not a good thing.

7.3

This is the average Fantasy total for No. 3 receivers, guys that finished 25th through 36th. This number is just a smidge off of last year's average of 7.4.

So let's throw a party with big balloons because finally there's an area where receivers weren't totally depressing! Except it's strictly No. 3 receivers we're talking about here, which is totally depressing.

Here's more good news

Of every receiver in the NFL, none were remarkably consistent. Running backs blew them away. The most consistent Fantasy wideout? Antonio Brown, of course, though he only matched the "good enough" standard of 10-plus Fantasy points 66.7 percent of the time.

Seven running backs had a better consistency rate for the same 10-plus-point margin.

Compare it to last year when four receivers were solid 73 percent of the time, including Brandon Marshall who was golden 81.3 percent of the time!

Seriously, WHERE THE HECK DID THE FANTASY POINTS GO?! DID THEY GO TO FRANCE?! HAWAII?! WHERE?!?

Sorry, it takes me a while to get over these things.

Here are the most consistent receivers from 2016:

Antonio Brown 66.7% Davante Adams 56.3%
Julio Jones 64.3% Michael Crabtree 56.3%
Odell Beckham 62.5% Dez Bryant 53.8%
Jordy Nelson 56.3% Michael Thomas 53.3%
Mike Evans 56.3%
A.J. Green , T.Y. Hilton, Tyrell Williams , Cameron Meredith , Sterling Shepard : 50.0%

Here's a pleasant surprise: We had more receivers deliver on consistency this year than last year. Fourteen receivers got 10-plus Fantasy points in at least half of their games in 2016, better than the 11 who did it in 2015.

But not as good as the 18 who got there in 2014.

Most inconsistent in top 12

Stats are stats and receivers who accumulated tons of Fantasy points are always welcomed on our teams. But several receivers racked up their points in woefully inconsistent ways. It's time to expose them for the polarizing producers that they are!

Brandin Cooks WR / New Orleans Saints (2016 stats)
TAR: 117 REC: 78 YDS: 1,173 TD: 8

Cooks finished eighth in Fantasy points scored with 159 but was better than 10 Fantasy points just six times. He had nine games with seven Fantasy points or fewer including the donut against the Rams where Los Angeles double-teamed him. Remember when he also was "due" for a ton of targets after that game? That didn't happen for another three weeks -- and when it did he exploded for 30 Fantasy points.

This could be an interesting offseason for Cooks. If the Saints opt to exercise their fifth-year option on him, it'll cost them over $8 million for 2018 (he's due just $2.67 million in 2017). If they don't want to pay him that much then they probably don't see him as a fixture in their offense for years to come. Maybe Cooks gets traded, maybe he plays in a contract year.

Doug Baldwin WR / Seattle Seahawks (2016 stats)
TAR: 125 REC: 94 YDS: 1,128 TD: 7

The Seahawks' top receiver proved 2015 wasn't a fluke, but it's how he accumulated those numbers that flustered us. Baldwin was good for a minimum of 15 Fantasy points five times ... and below nine Fantasy points in his other 11 games. In fact he was at six Fantasy points or fewer seven times.

There's no doubt Baldwin was affected by Russell Wilson 's inconsistent play, just as there's no doubt Wilson was affected by his offensive line's inconsistent play and his own injuries. But he still saw an uptick in targets and caught 75 percent of them for the second year in a row. Baldwin's inconsistency could be a strike against him for 2017, but unless and until the Seahawks add a player who will take away a sizable amount of targets from him, he should have a chance to be a better Fantasy contributor.

Most consistent outside of Top 12

No pass catcher that finished outside of the Top 12 was as consistent as Dez Bryant, who had 10-plus Fantasy points in 7 of 13 games. Considering his injuries and playing with a rookie quarterback -- and a dynamic rookie running back -- that's not so bad. Bryant also had a monster game in the playoffs to keep optimism running high heading into his eighth season.

Three other wideouts from outside the Top 12 tied for 10th-best in consistency with a 50 percent rate.

  • A.J. Green: An obvious stud who suffered what wound up being a season-ending hamstring injury in Week 11. No one will sleep on him in drafts this summer.
  • Sterling Shepard: He maintained his consistency with an better-than-expected eight touchdowns spread out over the regular season. Unfortunately, he fell below 75 yards in 15 of 16 games, something that will have to change for his Fantasy prospects to improve next year.
  • Cameron Meredith: This is an interesting guy to keep track of this summer -- Meredith technically played in 14 games but barely played in two others. Nonetheless, he still found 10-plus Fantasy points in seven matchups, six with backup quarterbacks. Could he develop into one of the league's premier slot receivers in 2017?

Conclusions

There's no doubt that receivers will be prominent picks in drafts. You might even see more receivers go in Round 1 than running backs.

But what happens after those "sure things" get taken?

A case could be made to land one stud receiver early on and then collect four or five other receivers. Given the lack of points scored by No. 2 receivers (8.1 per game) and the proximity of their numbers to No. 3 receivers (7.3), why not land a bunch of them and simply start the one or two who have the best matchups?

It's the same strategy employed by many folks when it comes to running backs -- get one you can hopefully lean on from week to week, get a bunch of other ones and play the matchups.

Nothing's stopping you from doing the same thing with both positions, except for roster space. Which is why potentially streaming a receiver from week to week might be an even better option, especially since a lot of people in your league don't view No. 3 receivers as stream choices like they might tight ends or DSTs.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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