2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Five big questions at wide receiver
To kick off our wide receiver preview, our trio of Fantasy football experts take a look at five key questions hanging over the position in 2018.
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We've covered running backs already. We got to quarterback and tight end, too. As we finish up our weekly position preview series, it's time to turn our eyes to maybe the most interesting position in Fantasy these days: Wide receiver.
Running backs are more valuable these days, of course, but that's why WR is so key these days. For a few years, receivers dominated the league landscape, but a couple of key changes to the way teams run their offenses has had a big impact on the position. Are those changes here to stay? How early should you plan to target the core of your receiver group in this new landscape?
Our trio of experts will go deep on the position all week long here on CBS Fantasy, but we'll start simple. Five big questions, and an answer from each.
1. How many WR do you feel comfortable with as your No. 1 option in non-PPR?
Jamey Eisenberg: There are 10 receivers who should be considered as No. 1 options in non-PPR leagues. It will be 11 if Doug Baldwin (knee) is healthy and ready for Week 1 as Seattle coach Pete Carroll as said. You will see all 10 receivers drafted by the end of Round 2.
Dave Richard: 11.
Heath Cummings: Assuming Andrew Luck stays healthy, there are nine receivers I feel really confident in, and then it starts getting iffy. Can Tyreek Hill come anywhere close to last year's efficiency? Is it time for Mike Evans to have another big touchdown year? After that it gets even murkier with veterans like Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, Adam Thielen and Doug Baldwin. The one caveat I'll add is this doesn't mean I'm uncomfortable if I start RB-RB-TE at the start of the draft. You can be weak at receiver if you have studs everywhere else, because guys will emerge.
2. Would you prefer to focus on WR early, or do you think you can find options later in the draft?
Jamey: It's probably in your best interest to take one of those top 10 guys given their upside. You know what Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones and A.J. Green are capable of when healthy; Keenan Allen is amazing when healthy, and he should get a boost with Hunter Henry (ACL) out; And Michael Thomas (Drew Brees), Davante Adams (Aaron Rodgers) and T.Y. Hilton (Andrew Luck) all play with elite quarterbacks. Mike Evans also will rebound from last year's down campaign, and these guys are the best in the NFL coming into the season.
Dave: I know I can find options later, but that's not the reason why I'll pass on going heavy with receivers early. I just can't pass up the big-time running backs! Furthermore, I think I'll have a harder time finding good bench running backs later while good bench receivers will be plentiful.
Heath: It really depends on my draft position. If I have pick 1-3 I'm not that worried about my receivers because I'm going to start with at least one stud running back and I'm more likely in that position to take another back or a tight end in the second round. But if I'm picking in the last three or four spots I would much rather take a true No. 1 like Odell Beckham or Julio Jones instead of the mid-range RB1s.
3. Do you have any concerns about Odell Beckham coming back from injury?
Jamey: No. There's not really much to say after that.
Dave: Nope. He's been a regular participant in training camp and doesn't seem hampered in the least. That's good for Fantasy owners, and it's good for him since he'll get paid a ton if he has a big season.
Heath: I had more concerns about his contract situation, but it sounds like that's going to work itself out. He's out there on the field and unless he has a set back I'm going to assume health. Maybe he's more of an injury risk this year than someone like DeAndre Hopkins but you have to weigh that against Beckham's absurd 16-game pace since he entered the league (107-1,506-13).
4. Which Mike Evans are we going to get this season - 2017 or 2016?
Jamey: Probably somewhere in between, which makes him a top 10 receiver. He'll get 140-plus targets, he's a candidate for double digits in touchdowns (he's done that twice in four seasons) and he should get about 75 catches and 1,100 yards. He also played well with Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. Draft Evans in Round 2 without hesitation.
Dave: I'm optimistic Evans will be just fine, so I'll say the 2016 version. He's not getting lost in the Bucs offense, and has nowhere to go but up in terms of red-zone work.
Heath: I'm not even sure the two are that different. Evans caught 55 percent of his targets in 2016 and averaged 13.8 YPR. Last year he caught 52% of his passes and averaged 14.1. The two differences, touchdowns and targets, may not under his control. I expect the the touchdowns will even out — I project eight — but with all the talent surrounding Evans in Tampa I expect a target total closer to 2017. Barring significant injuries it's not fair to expect anything close to the 173 targets he saw in 2016.
5. Which WR in the 15-25 range in ADP has the best chance to finish as a top-5 WR?
Jamey: I'll give you three: Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Allen Robinson. All three have finished in the top five at least once in their career, and all three should be in good situations this season. Thomas gets an upgrade at quarterback with Case Keenum, and Robinson should be healthy after last year's torn ACL. Gordon could have a monster season if he shows up prior to Week 1, and that's what we're all hoping for in 2018.
Dave: This one's easy: Josh Gordon. He should be the most explosive option in a Browns offense that should be just as aggressive as it's been. The improvement to Tyrod Taylor at quarterback mixed with Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator puts Gordon in position to carry a strong receiving average and pile up the touchdowns. Honestly, it's that potential that's kept him where he is in my rankings even though he's missed the early part of training camp.
Heath: In PPR, it has to be Larry Fitzgerald. He's caught at least 107 passes three years in a row, and there's not much competition for targets in that receiving corps. In non-PPR I'll say Amari Cooper. As disappointing as 2017 was, his 2,903 yards through age 23 are still the seventh most of all time. If he picks up some of the red zone targets Michael Crabtree left behind this could be a true breakout season.
So which receivers do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.
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