When it comes to how to approach the wide receiver position in Fantasy football, most analysts will tell you it's one position you can really just let come to you on Draft Day. Running back carries so many landmines, while the elite options at tight end can give you such a huge edge, that going into the draft with a plan for how to attack those spots makes more sense than trying to shoehorn your wide receiver spots.
And that's pretty much the conclusion the Fantasy Football Today team arrives at for the position here. It's deep enough that you don't really need to extend yourself, though I would argue that means getting as many of the true difference makers as possible is actually more valuable at wide receiver. True difference makers don't come around on the wire as often at wide receiver as they do at running back — handcuffs aren't really a thing here either — which means if you've got a weak spot, it becomes a lot harder to upgrade on it at wide receiver.
It's totally reasonable to end up with three wide receivers who project for 15 or more Fantasy points per game with your first five picks, which makes a lot more sense to me than trying to figure out which of those running backs in the 20-25 range are actually going to hit — especially since you might find yourself tempted to reach for the next tier of wide receiver to fill out the spot, which is where the depth of the position means your starter may not be much better than a waiver-wire option. It is, if nothing else, a strategy worth considering, even if our experts aren't quite with me.
To kick off our preview of the wide receiver position this week on CBS Fantasy, I've taken the biggest questions about the wide receiver position for the 2020 season to our Fantasy Football Today team to see what they have to say. First up, Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings, and Ben Gretch break down the state of the position and then give their thoughts on how to approach two- vs. three-WR leagues, the elite tier, and their top breakout picks, among other things. .
1. What is the state of the WR position in 2020?
Jamey Eisenberg: Amazing. It's extremely deep this season, especially the group of No. 2 wide receivers that you can argue extends from No. 20 through No. 40, depending on the rank list you look at. It's why I keep saying to try and get two standout running backs early, because the wide receiver talent in Rounds 3, 4 and 5 is awesome.
Dave Richard: Good news: There are so many talented players with prime opportunities to top 100-plus targets. Bad news: There aren't so many players with a shot at 150 targets. Blame the rise of spread offenses that utilize third- and fourth-receivers along with tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Heath Cummings: Deeper than I can ever remember. But there's still enough upside at the top to make you want one in the early rounds.
Ben Gretch: Misunderstood. It's a deep position through the middle rounds, but there is a substantial dropoff around Round 8, after about the first 40 or so receivers are off the board. That mid-round depth leads to a common strategy of waiting on receiver, say in Round 3 because the drop off to Round 4 isn't far. That can make sense, but kicking that can down the road too many times becomes a problem when that tier drop hits. I try to get at least four receivers in the first eight or so rounds of every draft. Also, consistency is overrated at what is the most high-variance position on a week-by-week basis, in part because "boom-or-bust" is frequently a label we apply retroactively. Guys become regarded as stars when they string boom weeks together (or outright busts when they don't). Plus, having multiple true boom-or-bust options won't lead to as much overall variance as many fear, meaning all the different players on your team actually booming or busting on the same week might only happen a few weeks per year.
2. How does your strategy change in two vs. three-WR leagues?
Jamey: I'm more inclined to wait on wide receiver in a two-receiver league. But again, the talent pool is so deep this season that I can also justify waiting for my third receiver in a three-receiver league. If I can get breakout options like Will Fuller, Marquise Brown or Diontae Johnson as a third receiver — or even sleeper options like Jamison Crowder, Sterling Shepard or Anthony Miller — I'm fine with that if I've already landed quality running backs, with a good quarterback or tight end as well.
Dave: It doesn't. Sorry, not sorry. There are too many good receivers out there. The difference between the No. 10 receiver and the No. 36 receiver in PPR per-game scoring was 3.6 Fantasy points a week. That's negligible. So theoretically, you shouldn't be in a rush to cover all three starting receiver spots if there's no big difference. I may press to cover two starting receiver spots, but I'm going to do that in two-WR leagues as well. Putting it another way: I am confident I can easily find a No. 3 receiver off the waiver wire most weeks, provided the league has 12 managers and 15 roster spots.
Heath: There's virtually no chance I'll start WR-WR in a two receiver league that doesn't start any flexes. But it's also important to note that in PPR most additional flex positions will likely be wide receiver positions. Last year the No. 36 wide receiver outscored the 36th best running back by 25 Fantasy points and the difference grew as you move further down the rankings. So a two-receiver league with two flexes I'd treat similarly to a three receiver league with one flex.
Ben: In two-WR leagues, there's a greater likelihood I will be a bit thinner at WR before Round 8 or so — meaning I may only take three by that point. I'm also more likely to use more bench spots on RB depth.
3. How many elite WR are there?
Jamey: While wide receiver is deep, the guys at the top are still elite for a reason. I'm going to say just four guys are elite: Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Julio Jones and Tyreek Hill. DeAndre Hopkins has fallen from that class, and Chris Godwin is just outside of it. After that, guys like D.J. Moore, Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Evans, etc. will be great. But they don't qualify as elite coming into the year.
Dave: At least eight. I'd throw Moore in there if it's full PPR scoring. So yeah, not as many as you'd like, but the tiers after the first two are pretty loaded with guys who could become elite without much of a target bump.
Heath: There are only four (Thomas, Adams, Jones, Hill) I'd put for certain in the elite tier. But there's another dozen-plus who absolutely could be.
Ben: There are only three receivers I feel totally confident will be elite this year: Thomas, Adams and Hill. Jones definitely deserves consideration, but I have a small concern about his age, a bit of a dip in his explosiveness last year, and a dip in target share through the first 13 games of 2019 before three massive target games to close the season when the rest of the Falcons' receiving corps was out. Hopkins is another who could make me look stupid for being concerned about a team change.
4. How important is it for you to have one of the elite WR?
Jamey: I don't put a priority on it. Like I said, there are four elite wide receivers and then about 15-20 you can put in that next tier. If I can get a standout running back or two and then potentially two of those other 15-20 guy, that's the way I'd prefer build my team.
Heath: It's not so much importance as it is positioning. If I'm drafting in the back half of the draft, I'm very likely to draft an elite receiver, and given the opportunity I may draft two. But it's not important enough for me to take Thomas as a top four pick and it's not important at all in a non-PPR league.
Ben: Considering how small that tier is for me, it can't be particularly important or I'd be targeting the position in the first or early second round in every draft. Also, while I don't think the clear elite tier is big this year, I do think we'll see other players play like it. Part of my goal in taking several wide receivers in the Round 3 to Round 8 range of most every draft is to hopefully identify the guy who makes that leap a la Godwin in 2019 or Smith-Schuster in 2018.
5. Who has the best chance to join the elite WR?
Jamey: I'm going with Moore, Smith-Schuster or Calvin Ridley. Moore just needs to score more touchdowns (he's averaged three in two seasons), because he could lead the NFL in receptions. Smith-Schuster gets Ben Roethlisberger back at 100 percent, and he was excellent in his first two years before a third-year slump with Roethlisberger out in 2019. And Ridley, like Moore, is ready for a third-year breakout while playing for a Falcons offense that could lead the NFL in pass attempts for the second year in a row.
Dave: In PPR, I'll say Thielen's got the best chance because his target share should solidify with Stefon Diggs out of town. Any disruption in Dalvin Cook's efficiency or availability will give him a major boost. In non-PPR, you could make the case for Ridley or A.J. Brown — and maybe they'll get enough targets after all to be as impactful in PPR.
Ben: Moore has the best chance, and he was basically just a few touchdowns short of being there last year even with poor quarterback play before he missed most of the final two games with a calf injury. Brown has paths to elite upside, though his offense could hold him back. Calvin looks poised for a monster season, and Smith-Schuster rebounding and establishing himself as an elite post-Antonio Brown Steelers wide receiver would not be surprising. Diggs, Terry McLaurin, Fuller and Brown are some darkhorse candidates.
6. Who is your sleeper pick at WR?
Jamey: I gave you three already in Crowder, Shepard and Miller, but let's add one more: Henry Ruggs. If the Raiders do what they talked about in the early part of training camp and play him in the slot then he should be the No. 1 rookie receiver this season, ahead of guys like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Jalen Reagor. I continue to move Ruggs up in my rankings by the day.
Dave: Washington needs playmakers. McLaurin especially needs a teammate to help take pressure off of him. It's beginning to feel like Steven Sims will get moved around the formation and become a consistent contributor in D.C. I love how he finished last season and think he can help out again this season. Half of the people in your league don't even know who he is.
Heath: Crowder was pretty good when playing with Sam Darnold and the slot receiver has pretty much always been the feature role in an Adam Gase offense.
Ben: Christian Kirk and Mecole Hardman are my favorite options as drafts start to approach more uncertainty at the wide receiver position around Round 8 or 9. In the later rounds I'm finding myself favoring rookies now that they have soft ADPs with no preseason. Don't forget, this was an incredible class with big investments in draft capital, with a whopping 13 receivers being selected in the first 60 picks of the NFL Draft. We don't know what the lack of offseason might mean for their development, but the sheer volume of teams who invested a premium pick on Fantasy-relevant rookies makes me believe we'll look back and think our concerns were a bit overblown, and that several will have played a big role in the 2020 season. My favorite rookie wide receivers are CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, and Laviska Shenault.
7. Who is your biggest bust?
Jamey: Hopkins. His target share will come down going from Houston to Arizona, and he's no longer worth drafting as a top-five receiver in the first round. I'd settle for him in late Round 2, but he's usually gone by then. Hopkins will be good, but he's no longer an elite Fantasy wide receiver with the Cardinals.
Dave: I have a lot of familiar names I'm leery of drafting, but the biggest is Odell Beckham. Yes, he's an amazing talent, but he's seen each of his past three seasons get impacted by injuries, leading to three straight seasons with under 1,100 yards and no more than six scores. Is that elite? The Browns also added to their receiving corps with tight end Austin Hooper and hired a conservative-minded offensive playcaller in head coach Kevin Stefanski. I'm nervous Beckham, who saw a career-low 8.3 targets per game in 2019, will continue to be impacted by issues that negate his one-of-a-kind talent.
Heath: I'm pretty worried about Hopkins in the spread offense in Arizona. He has a less accurate quarterback and probably fewer targets as well. Hopkins has only topped eight yards per target once in the past five seasons and I don't think it's fair to expect an increase in efficiency in a year when he changed teams. That's why I have him projected for 1,125 yards on 141 targets (eight yards per target), which would be his worst year since Brock Osweiler.
Ben: I don't feel strongly about many early-round busts, but I'm not likely to draft Amari Cooper often as I'd rather target the other weapons in that Dallas attack at a lower price. I'm also lower on Thielen than most; if I want to make a bet on a talented player in a low-volume passing offense, there are better options like Brown and Diggs who aren't coming off a soft tissue injury at 30 years old, like Thielen is. I'll also note Emmanuel Sanders in the middle rounds, who was held under 45 yards in 13 of 20 games last year, including the playoffs. At 33 years old and perhaps not as explosive after his late-2018 Achilles injury — and also joining an offense where no one other than Thomas or Kamara has seen 75 targets in any of the past three seasons — Sanders is the clearest "name value" pick in 2020 at any position. I'm not sure he has enough Fantasy value this year to justify a pick in any round in most leagues, but there are far better options across positions in the 10th round, where Sanders' ADP currently sits.
So which Fantasy football busts should you completely avoid? And which running back going off the board early should you fade? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that called Baker Mayfield's disappointing season, and find out.