Here's an interesting trend I've noticed in Fantasy drafts this offseason: Wide receivers seem to cost less than usual this season. With quarterbacks being pushed up boards, tight ends seeing a bit of inflation at the top end, and the No. 2 running back tier especially costing more, it's only natural that wide receivers would be the ones to lose out, and that's what we're seeing.
And it's pretty much across the board at the position, at least among the starting tier. The No. 1 WR has an ADP of 10.6 since the start of May in NFC drafts, compared to 5.92, 5.75, and 6.5 in the previous three seasons. The No. 6 WR has an ADP of 22.68, the highest of the past four years, No. 12 (34.69) is lower only than 2020 (36.84), and the No. 18 and No. 24 WR have higher ADP than the previous three seasons, too. It's only once you get to the WR40 range where prices start to get in line with previous seasons, as the chart below shows:
It's an interesting time for the position. We've seen a ton of potentially elite young players enter the league, but we're still waiting for a lot of them to truly prove themselves. Meanwhile, the group of WR who have proven themselves at the top of the position are mostly in their late 20s -- and receivers tend to peak at 28, so we could be in for a changing of the guard in the near future.
That makes for an especially interesting situation for those of you in Dynasty leagues. The best players at the position are likely about to hit their decline phase, but we don't know exactly which of the young receiers are going to take their place. Heath Cummings updated his WR Dynasty tiers this week, highlighting three young wide receivers who could be in line for a significant increase in value over the next few months:
- Henry Ruggs, Raiders: "Ruggs was a massive disappointment as a rookie, but that's one of my favorite ways to find value in Dynasty. Ruggs was actually good when Derek Carr threw him the ball, averaging 10.5 yards per target, but he never earned more than five targets in any one game. That can be taken one of two ways. Earning targets is a skill, but also, you probably shouldn't write off a former first-round pick with that little exposure to opportunity."
- Mecole Hardman, Chiefs: "Reporting from Chiefs OTAs indicates Hardman is the favorite to take over for Sammy Watkins, which could provide all the opportunity Hardman needs based on his elite efficiency. Watkins averaged around seven targets per game the past two seasons in Kansas City if you take away the games he left early due to injury. That would work out to 119 targets over a full season. In his career, Hardman has seen 103 targets and he's produced 67 catches for 1,098 yards and 10 touchdowns. He can take quite an efficiency hit and still be a No. 3 receiver if he can just earn the targets."
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions: "If Ruggs and Hardman are both low volume/high efficiency breakout candidates, Brown is the exact opposite. He's seemingly the only receiver on the Lions roster who profiles as a short area target and his new quarterback, Jared Goff, doesn't exactly have a monster arm. Goff and St. Brown have already been working together with St. Brown saying Goff is trying to teach the rookie some of the "things Cooper Kupp did"."
Dynasty WR rankings
You can check out Heath's full Dynasty rankings by heading here, but for those of you focused on 2021, you'll want to keep reading today's newsletter, as Dave Richard has his strategy for the position along with his full tiered rankings for WR -- which we broke down on the Fantasy Football Today podcast Wednesday. We covered the quarterback and running back positions over the last few days, too, so make sure you check those out.
Here's how Dave is approaching wide receiver:
Dave Richard's WR Strategies and Tiers
If running backs are top-heavy and tight ends are in short supply, wide receivers are the all-you-can-eat buffet of the century. The position is insanely deep and not particularly topheavy, meaning you can find starters you'll feel good about with plenty of your picks.
All the more reason to focus on other positions early on. Hint hint.
College football has spawned so many exciting new receivers, and they're adapting to the pro game faster than their predecessors. Not that their more recent predecessors are getting pushed out the door — plenty of really good veterans are still big-time factors.
But if we're looking for 15 PPR points per week from a starting Fantasy receiver, we should be able to find someone who has the outlook to deliver it pretty easily. On average, 25.9 wide receivers averaged 15 PPR points per week in 2020, 17 receivers averaged 15 PPR points per game and another 15 averaged between 13 and 14.9.
It's understandable to go after these guys with, say, two of your first four picks. They're safer — wide receivers tend to stay healthier than their running back counterparts and can provide some good consistency. Plus the game is changing in their favor — teams are passing more and the league is loaded with exciting quarterbacks. But as has been the case for a few years, offenses are employing more spread formations, meaning that wide receiver target shares are getting watered down a little. Maybe that changes as the league moves to a 17-game slate, but it's unlikely to alter anything greatly.
The rush to draft running backs early will push some great values into your face at receiver. Take advantage. You should feel comfortable drafting anyone into the fifth tier, or Round 6, as a startable part of your lineup. You might even feel OK with a couple of other receivers you'll find a round later. And even if you don't, there are always players out there, both later on Draft Day and on the waiver wire, who should at least provide a floor of 10 PPR points.
But even if that makes you nervous, you could always choose just enough wide receivers from the first five tiers to cover your league's lineup requirements. Chase a couple of other receivers later, namely those who you believe can pick up at least six targets per game and/or have early-season breakout potential (good role, good quarterback, friendly schedule).
DAVE'S FAVORITE STRATEGY: Bake your receiver picks into your strategies at other positions. Don't force yourself to take one when there's a better value at running back or tight end early on. Assume you'll be able to find a receiver you'll like until you get to Round 8.