Can you make an argument for a wide receiver as the No. 1 pick in Fantasy drafts? The top four is pretty much cemented for most Fantasy players and all four are running backs, but it's not that long ago that running backs were on the decline and wide receivers seemed like they might take over the Fantasy world. Could that happen again?
Last season was one of the best ever for wide receivers. They caught an NFL-record 532 touchdowns, and the top-12, top-24, and top-36 all collectively outscored their running back counterparts combined in 2019. The top of the running back position may still be king, but the core of your team is probably going to be made up of wide receivers.
And the good thing is, no matter where you pick in the draft, you're going to get an elite wide receiver if you want one. Last season saw eight WR rack up at least 1,300 yards and 12 with at least 1,200 yards; 2017 and 2016 saw just four and six of each, respectively. Additionally, while only five wide receivers had 10-plus touchdowns in 2016 and just two managed it in 2017, 2018 had seven reach that mark. Including three (Tyler Lockett, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Williams) who figure to be even better in 2019.
Wide receiver is as deep as it's ever been, which makes for some interesting strategic options. You could double up on No. 1 wide receivers with your first two picks, locking in elite production without the volatility of investing heavily in running backs. Or, you can ignore wide receivers early, go RB-TE-RB, and go after upside from that point on. That trio I mentioned earlier — Lockett, Ridley, Williams — wouldn't be a bad group to target if you go this path.
Ultimately, while wide receiver is as strong as it has ever been as a Fantasy position, how you approach it will likely depend on where you end up on Draft Day. Picking in the first four picks means you might miss out on the elite-tier of WR; picking at the end of the first round might mean you end up with two. There's no shortage of options, and with pretty much every elite WR besides Antonio Brown and Julio Jones on the right side of 30, you probably won't be taking on much risk in your investments, either.
To provide even more context on the state of the wide receiver position, our Fantasy Football team is tackling six big questions about the position as we head into 2019. We'll be giving you a look at our process for attacking the position, some of our favorite picks, and who we might be worried about in 2019.
Here's who will be answering those questions:
- Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Dave Richard, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Heath Cummings, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Adam Aizer, Fantasy Football Today host
- Ben Gretch, CBS Fantasy Editor
- Chris Towers, CBS Fantasy Senior Editor
1) How many WR do you feel confident in as your No. 1?
- Jamey Eisenberg: There are nine guys that are slam dunk No. 1 options, in this order in PPR: Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans and Keenan Allen.
- Dave Richard: OK, if I'm answering honestly, the number's like 10. However, I'm winding up with one of my top-17 receivers as my No. 1 (pretty much through Kenny Golladay) and another two or three receivers drafted soon thereafter. It's not ideal, but it's the byproduct of my choice to focus on running back and tight end in the first three rounds.
- Heath Cummings: As a true No. 1 receiver? I'll say nine. But if I started RB-RB or RB-TE, there are 16 I feel fine with.
- Adam Aizer: I think there are seven elite wide receivers, but I'm fine with Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown or Keenan Allen being my No. 1 wide receiver. My amazing math skills lead me to say that there are 11 wide receivers I'm cool with as my No. 1 guy.
- Ben Gretch: This is a challenging question because it greatly depends on format and how my roster is structured, but typically I want depth at the position and that almost requires a No. 1 in the top 10-15 of my positional ranks. In non-PPR, I'm willing to wait a bit longer. In a format like an auction, it's possible I'd grab three or four options in my 20-25 range without a true No. 1. But waiting too long at WR is, in my opinion, a bigger mistake than waiting at RB.
- Chris Towers: I'm much less likely to wait for my No. 1 receiver than my No. 1 running back, so I can't justify going more than 10 deep before I take my No. 1, with Keenan Allen representing the end of that tier in PPR.
2) How many offenses do you think can support multiple starting WR for Fantasy?
- Jamey: I may be missing one or two, but I think there are 12: Green Bay, Houston, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Chargers, Patriots (if Josh Gordon gets reinstated), Vikings, Rams, Bengals and Panthers.
- Dave: How many can support multiple starting receivers? About as many as there are capable Fantasy quarterbacks in the league, which I believe is roughly 19 or so. How many might truly be able to do it? Maybe 12 or 13. Still a lot.
- Heath: I expect the Falcons, Buccaneers, Vikings, Rams, and Bengals will support a pair of top-25 receivers this year. The Packers, and Texans could join them if the targets are consolidated enough. The Chiefs and Raiders are close too.
- Adam: If "starting" includes a flex or a No. 3 WR, then we've got a lot of offenses. Probably too many to count! Houston, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay. Those are the ones I'd be most excited about. Did I forget anyone?
- Ben: Typically four teams will support two top-24 receivers, per research Jacob Rickrode has done. But there's a widening gap between up-tempo, spread passing offenses and teams still committed to the run, and I'm comfortable targeting the No. 2 on the better offenses before the No. 1 on worse ones in several cases including the Rams, Bucs, Falcons, Chiefs, Chargers, Texans, Browns, Vikings, and probably Bengals (A.J. Green's injury complicates things).
- Chris: I can see the Steelers, Texans, Colts, Chargers, Vikings, Packers, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Rams pulling it off, and I'm fine doubling up on WR in any of those offenses except maybe the Vikings. The cost is too high to get both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for a team that wants to run the ball more than they did last year.
3) Which player currently being selected outside of the top-10 at WR has the best chance to make the leap to the elite tier?
- Jamey: Based on the CBS Sports Average Draft Position, I'll go with Amari Cooper, who is the No. 13 receiver off the board. He was great once he got to Dallas last year, and I hope the Cowboys don't give him a contract extension this season, providing some extra motivation to get paid.
- Dave: Cooper is ranked inside of my top-10 because I loved his fit with the Cowboys last year and I love the creative direction of the Cowboys offense this year. Their veteran additions might lift heavy double-teams from him and open him up for big plays, and he had seven-plus targets in 9 of 11 games with the Cowboys in 2018. I'm aggressively projecting him for 1,300 yards.
- Heath: Keenan Allen is a top-10 WR for me right now and his ADP is outside of the top-10, but that wouldn't exactly be a leap. I think Kenny Golladay may fit the question better.
- Adam: I see less potential for this kind of jump among wide receivers compared to running backs, but Calvin Ridley comes to mind. Why can't he be this year's Juju Smith-Schuster?
- Ben: D.J. Moore. He didn't play more than 50% of his team's snaps in a game until Week 8 last year and still posted 960 yards from scrimmage, but with just two touchdowns. He could make a year two jump similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster's last year.
- Chris: As the Fantasy community continues to get sharper, it's hard to find true undervalued breakouts like this. I'll go with Tyler Lockett, No. 22 and rising in FantasyPros.com's consensus ADP. He won't average 13.8 yards per target again like he did last season, but I feel pretty comfortable expecting him to see a big boost in targets to make up for it. If Lockett can get to the 105-115 target level Doug Baldwin was at pre-injury, a top-12 season isn't hard to imagine, given how wildly efficient he and Russell Wilson are together.
4) Who is the top-10 WR you aren't touching this season?
- Jamey: Antonio Brown is the easy one to avoid. He loses all around going from the Steelers to the Raiders, and now he's battling a foot injury. I'll only settle for Brown in late Round 2.
- Dave: Adam Thielen is really in the top-10 receivers on our ADP right now? Really? Yeah, I'm not going to get him as an early third-round pick.
- Heath: I haven't drafted Antonio Brown yet and I don't think that will change. Too many questions surrounding a new offense, his age, and his quarterback.
- Adam: I don't think I am avoiding anyone in particular, but I find myself passing up Odell Beckham Jr. because of his injury history. I don't think he's clearly better (for Fantasy purposes) than Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas or Juju Smith-Schuster, so why risk it?
- Ben: Antonio Brown. He's obviously a star, but changing teams at 31 is tough. The targets will be there, but even in an optimistic scenario it would be hard to argue the connection with Derek Carr will be on the same level as what he's done with Ben Roethlisberger.
- Chris: As you'll see, a couple of my colleagues are very high on Davante Adams, but I just can't justify taking him as the second or third WR off the board. It is taken as a given that he will score 10-plus touchdowns, and I'm fine with that expectation, but that's pretty much the only way Adams stands out. He's an inefficient receiver who had never had even 1,000 yards before last season's breakout. We expect Aaron Jones to breakout. We expect at least one of Geronimo Allison or Marquez Valdes-Scantling to break out. And we expect Adams to get the 160-plus targets he needs to compete to be the No. 1 WR? No thank you.
5) Make a case for someone besides DeAndre Hopkins as the No. 1 WR.
- Jamey: Adams is my No. 1 receiver, and he was better than Hopkins last year on a per-game basis. Adams would have been the No. 1 receiver in total Fantasy points as well if he played Week 17. Aaron Rodgers gets so much production from his No. 1 receiver (see Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Adams throughout the years), and I expect that to continue this season, even in a new offense. I love Hopkins, but Adams will be better in 2019.
- Dave: The Falcons may want to run the ball, but I think they're going to end up in some high-scoring shootouts. That's perfect for Julio Jones, who should rack up nine targets per game and be a factor in the red zone. Dirk Koetter's aggressive passing tendencies don't hurt either.
- Heath: JuJu Smith-Schuster could see 190 targets if history is any indicator. He was remarkable last year and is now entering his famed third year. Pittsburgh may still have the best receiver in football.
- Adam: It's not hard to make the case for Davante Adams. Aaron Rodgers's history with his top wide receiver is absolutely incredible and Adams was better than Hopkins on a per game basis in 2018. Also, if Julio Jones catches 12 TDs he's going to destroy everyone at the position.
- Ben: JuJu Smith-Schuster enters the season at just 22 years of age, younger than some rookies from the 2019 class, and has been highly productive for his age since enrolling at USC. With Brown gone in Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster goes from 166 targets last year to potentially leading the NFL in 2019. I have him projected to do that, and within a point of Hopkins in PPR.
- Chris: One of the explanations often proffered for why Julio Jones' touchdown numbers are so consistently low is that opposing defenses have made a point of taking him away in the red zone. Well, he had his best touchdown rate since 2012 last season, and scored eight times in the final nine games, after Ridley had established himself as a red zone option worth worrying about. Jones' pace in those nine games: 110 catches, 1,538 yards, 15 touchdowns. Yeah, that's the upside.
6) Who is one WR drafted outside of the top-150 overall everyone will be adding at some point this season?
- Jamey: Let's go with Trey Quinn. He's the slot receiver for Washington, and Case Keenum loves his slot receiver for as many games as he starts at quarterback. I'm buying a lot of Trey Quinn now.
- Dave: As soon as John Brown makes a big play in the preseason or early regular season, receiver-needy Fantasy managers will flock to him. Reports out of Buffalo have been glowing about the chemistry he's developed with Josh Allen. I'm looking forward to seeing it.
- Heath: John Brown's ADP is 171st overall! Everyone needs to rectify that immediately.
- Adam: Ravens rookie WR Marquise Brown! We'll be adding him in Week 2 after he goes nuts at Miami in Week 1. It's a homecoming game and we'll get to see his elite speed and it'll be love at first sight!
- Ben: Josh Gordon is an obvious answer, because all it would take is him being reinstated. Andy Isabella is the answer more in line with the spirit of the question.
- Chris: Since I've been able to snag John Brown in a bunch of our mock drafts, I didn't think he'd end up being such a popular answer to this question. Injuries have always been the issue for Brown, but he's an effective deep-ball receiver playing with an erratic-but-cannon-armed quarterback. Plus, Brown has reportedly outplayed everyone in training camp, and it hasn't been particularly close. There's poor man's Tyler Lockett potential here, and it's available for free.