I've spent a lot of time this week talking about how wide receiver is seemingly weaker than it has been in years past, but it's interesting to note that it doesn't seem like that is actually reflected in prices right now.
I looked at ADP data dating back to 2017 on NFC to identify where wide receivers are being drafted, and it turns out, for the most part, wide receivers are neither much cheaper nor more expensive than they've been in recent years:
I find that legitimately surprising, because it feels like the position has more question marks than it has in a long time. There's still incredible depth at wide receiver, of course, but it feels like it's more in the WR3 types than in high-end options. However, as you can see, the top 12 WRs are going a little earlier than they did in 2020 or 2021, and that trend mostly holds up through the top 24.
I'm not entirely sure what to make of that trend. It could just be that my sense of the position's lack of high-end options is off; it could be that sense is entirely right, and drafts are reacting to it by making sure they get multiple higher-end options early to make sure they are set.
Whatever it is, it's an interesting trend, not at all what I expected to see when I first started looking into the data. And I know this: It's easier to talk myself into things going wrong for this year's crop of high-end wide receivers than it typically is.
And that's what today's newsletter is all about. I'm taking a look at the top 12 WRs in ADP and trying to put together a story of how each one could bust this season. I did the same exercise with the top 12 running backs last week, and I think it's something you should do in your own prep -- even if you like a player, try to figure out what could go wrong, just to see if there's something you're missing.
One thing you want to make sure you don't miss -- how's that for a professional transition? -- is your chance to draft with the FFT team. We have three of those spots currently up for auction in our EBay storefront, as part of our annual fundraiser with St. Jude Children's Hospital. We also have opportunities to chat with the FFT team and some of our friends from around the Fantasy industry plus a bunch of cool other prizes all leading up to our Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon coming later in the month.
We'll have more details for you on that soon, but for now, don't miss your chance to draft with us this week. Now, read on for how the top 12 WRs might bust plus the latest news you need to know before Week 1 of the preseason kicks off tonight.
I'm not saying things will go wrong for all of these high-end wide receivers ... but if they do, here's why it could happen.
Cooper Kupp – WR1, 3.26 ADP since Aug. 1
Kupp's massive breakout was tied to the level of immediate trust he developed with Matthew Stafford, so if things were going to go wrong for Kupp, something going wrong with Stafford would seem like the likeliest explanation. And, given that Stafford is dealing with an elbow injury that has lingered since last season and is limited in camp as a result, it's certainly not inconceivable that things could go wrong here. Of course, he outscored the No. 2 WR by nearly 100 points last season, so there's a lot of room for things to go wrong and still work out pretty well for him.
Justin Jefferson – WR2, 3.26 ADP
It's pretty hard to make a case against Jefferson. Kirk Cousins is a good enough QB, and the Vikings offense figures to be a lot more pass heavy than last season after replacing Mike Zimmer with Kevin O'Connell at head coach. Jefferson has been historically productive through his first two seasons, and there's no real reason to expect him to take a step back.
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Ja'Marr Chase – WR3, 5.62 ADP
Anytime you have a player with historic rookie season efficiency, you should bet on at least some regression. Jefferson went from 11.2 yards per target to 9.7; A.J. Brown dropped from 12.5 to 10.1. Chase was at 11.4 last season, so some regression is to be expected. Jefferson and Brown overcame that with increases in usage, and it's fair to assume we'll see something similar from Chase, though it's not a guarantee, seeing as he's playing alongside another alpha wide receiver in Tee Higgins, and in an offense that has been less pass-heavy than we've wanted during the Zac Taylor era. If Chase regresses but doesn't see a huge target increase, it's possible he'll disappoint.
Stefon Diggs – WR4, 10.07 ADP
It's kind of surprising to see Diggs leap Adams in ADP, especially after we already saw Diggs regress in 2021. He had 24 fewer catches and 310 fewer yards than in 2020 despite only two fewer targets, so 2020 is really looking like the massive outlier on Diggs' track record. He's turning 29 and potentially has more target competition in the form of a fully unleashed Gabe Davis, so if Diggs can't recapture some of that 2020 form and Davis is as good as many think, Diggs might actually have some target competition here. Add in that the Bills lost their offensive coordinator from last season, and there's certainly some risk that Diggs disappoints, even if he remains a high-floor player.
Davante Adams – WR5, 10.32 ADP
Adams is changing teams and quarterbacks for the first time in his career, and there's no guarantee he'll see the same quantity or quality of targets that he got used to in Green Bay. Derek Carr is a fine quarterback, but he's no Aaron Rodgers, who routinely fed Adams league-high target shares over the past few seasons. Carr's career has been defined by good-not-great production and a reputation for not taking as many deep shots as he probably could, and it's not hard to see how that could lead to disappointing production from Adams. Especially if the Raiders opt to spread the ball around more than the Packers have in recent years. Ninety catches, 1,100 yards, and eight touchdowns wouldn't be a bad outcome, but it's not difference-making production from a first-rounder.
CeeDee Lamb – WR6, 14.28 ADP
Well, it wouldn't be the first time Lamb has failed to live up to expectations, that's for sure. A significant segment of the Fantasy populace has been giving Lamb the benefit of the doubt as an elite wide receiver, and he just hasn't lived up to that yet. He's been fine, but hasn't earned the kind of targets needed to be a Fantasy difference maker. Sure, there's no Amari Cooper, and likely no MIchael Gallup for the start of the season, but the Cowboys have also never had a player with a target share over 21% in the Kellen Moore years as offensive coordinator, and that was even true before Lamb was drafted. Maybe they'll change things this season, but we've given Lamb a benefit of the doubt he hasn't earned before.
Deebo Samuel – WR7, 17.61 ADP
And now we get to the first player I could see being an outright bust. Samuel was incredible last season, but he really needed that production as a rusher to make up for a vastly diminished role as a pass-catcher in the second half. Over his final 10 games, including the playoffs, Samuel had just 33 catches for 580 yards and only two touchdowns. If the rushing role isn't there or is diminished from that late-season run where he averaged 7.5 carries per game over the final 10, he could struggle to stand out in an offense that probably won't be as productive throwing the ball as it was last season with the more mobile (and potentially more erratic) Trey Lance taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo. Reports that Brandon Aiyuk has been the best receiver in camp don't do much to assuage my concerns.
Tyreek Hill – WR8, 22.07 ADP
Hill goes from playing with one of the best young quarterbacks we've ever seen, a thrilling athlete with a rocket arm who routinely found Hill open down the field on broken plays, to a guy who ran one of the hand-holding-est offenses in the league last season. I tend to think Tua Tagovailoa has a pretty good chance to be a lot more than what he showed last season, but he was more dependent on easy, schemed RPO throws than just about any QB in the league last season, and there are fair concerns about whether he has enough arm strength to consistently get the ball to Hill down the field. Hill will also be playing with Jaylen Waddle, who is coming off a historic rookie season, in what could be a pretty run-heavy offense. Hill will likely still be very efficient, but if the big plays aren't as consistent and he isn't seeing as many targets as he did in Kansas City, it's not hard to see how he could disappoint.
Mike Evans – WR9, 22.99 ADP
Evans is probably one of the safest of the high-end wide receivers, what with being tied to an elite QB and sporting eight straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards. The knock on him is more about a lack of upside – he's averaged 62.9 and 64.7 yards per game in two seasons with Tom Brady, so while there's no doubting he's a must-start Fantasy WR, it's fair to wonder if he has the 1,400-plus yard upside some of the other guys in this range have. Maybe when Chris Godwin is out, but let's also remember Brady is 45 and may not be able to outrun Father Time forever.
Keenan Allen – WR10, 27.97 ADP
Allen is about as safe as they come in a PPR format, with five straight seasons of at least 97 catches, but there hasn't been a ton of demonstrated since his 1,393-yard season in 2017. Allen requires a lot of volume to maintain his top-12 value, but he's also 30 and might not be the best wide receiver on his own team, so how secure is a 150-target projection for him? Drafting for safety in Fantasy Football can often lead you astray, and that's the strongest case for Allen at this point.
Michael Pittman – WR11, 27.99 ADP
Pittman already proved a lot of doubters wrong last season, and there aren't many of them left. The assumption is that the level of QB play in Indy is going to improve with the change from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan, and while that may be true for the offense as a whole, it's worth remembering that Ryan's top target in Atlanta routinely underperformed when it came to touchdowns. You might remember it just being a Julio Jones problem, but Calvin Ridley has also played 14 games without Jones and has a 3% touchdown rate, and Kyle Pitts had just one as Ryan's top target last season. That trend isn't fate, but it's hard to ignore when you're talking about a top-12 WR in ADP on a run-first offense.
A.J. Brown – WR12, 28.73 ADP
Speaking of run-first offenses, the Eagles were the most run-heavy in football last season, and while we're assuming the acquisition of Brown signals a change in their intentions, it's not a certainty. Especially if, like last season, they get off to a slow start – a schedule that features the Lions, Commanders, and Jaguars in their first four games should help prevent that, but you never know. We've seen this team react to struggles by defaulting to an incredibly conservative approach on offense that would make it very difficult for Brown to stand out – Hurts averaged just 23.8
Injuries, news and notes
The preseason officially kicked off with the Hall of Fame game last week, but the rest of the league is just getting started. We probably won't see many of the starters for the Giants, Patriots, Titans, or Ravens tonight, but I'll want to keep an eye on whether rookie Wan'Dale Robinson is sitting with the rest of the Giants starters or if he plays more than the already entrenched guys like Kenny Golladay. It'll also be interesting to see if Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris carry their training camp battle into the first game action -- if one of them is inactive and not the other, that would be a pretty big tell as far as who is in the lead.
In addition to those games, here's the news you need to know about from Wednesday around NFL camps.
Melvin Gordon is dealing with a foot injury
All signs indicate it isn't a big deal, and Gordon is enough of a veteran that he probably doesn't need more than a couple of weeks to get acclimated even to a new system, so he probably isn't at risk of losing much even if he does miss some time. However, if this injury does linger, it's going to send Javonte Williams' price skyrocketing. Right now, there's no reason to move him up – he's a late second-rounder for me – but if Gordon looks like he's going to miss some time, it'll be worth considering a move for Williams. He has top-five upside if Gordon is out.
DeVonta Smith is dealing with a groin injury
Smith has missed five days of practice as a result of the injury, though it isn't considered a serious issue right now. Smith is in an interesting spot, coming off a very solid rookie season but sort of treated as a Fantasy afterthought after the acquisition of A.J. Brown. He could still matter for Fantasy, so hopefully he gets back on the field in the coming days.
The NFL is moving ahead with its appeal of Watson's six-game suspension, and is pushing for a much more harsh penalty for the dozens of allegations of sexual assault levied against Watson. Whether that appeal will successfully overturn the initial suspension remains to be seen, and there is reason to believe we'll find out sooner rather than later. But if we don't find out by Friday, Watson will be in uniform for the Browns preseason opener vs. the Jaguars. Watson has been taking his reps in training camp and will be allowed to play in the preseason despite the suspension, though if he is ultimately suspended for the full season, as the NFL is reportedly pushing for, they may opt to give those reps over to Jacoby Brissett in full.
- Geno Smith will start the first preseason game for the Seahawks – Smith is in a competition with Drew Lock, but this probably only indicates Smith's incumbency advantage rather than anything else about where the competition stands. This one will play out on the field, but I'm not excited about what either winning would mean for the offense. Lock probably has more upside, but he also might just be a worse player.
- Russell Gage left practice with a hamstring injury – It doesn't sound like a serious one, but hamstring injuries have a way of lingering, so we'll keep an eye out. Chris Godwin is questionable for Week 1, so even after signing Julio Jones, there are some depth issues here.
- La'El Collins (back) was activated from the NFI list – The Bengals have worked to upgrade their offensive line, and a healthy Collins figures to be a big part of that. We'll see how quickly he can get up to speed, but the Bengals will have their entire starting offensive line available for practice now.
- Jakeem Grant suffered a torn Achilles – The return ace's season is over before it begins. A tough break.