Has the football season snuck up on anyone else? I thought I’d have way more time to go through all the positions before week one, but it looks like that’s a bit of a pipe dream. In fact, I did nearly all of the drafting for my fantasy season’s Wednesday. Still, some of you guys are probably still drafting, and even if you’re not, maybe I can inspire some offseason trades. On we go then, with the five wide receivers I’m not a fan of. If you want to read about guys I love, check out last week’s article.
Rankings in no particular order.
This is a very soft dislike, as I think A.J. Brown is extremely talented. The problem is the situation and his draft slot. He’s currently going as WR eight, and I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to live up to that ranking.
There’s a lot to like, as Brown finished WR 15 his rookie year, and in year two finished WR 11. Another jump is very possible as he gets even more acclimated to the NFL, but I’m not sure he’s going to get the opportunity.
Some might view Julio Jones’ addition as a benefit for Brown, and it very well could be. Less defensive attention is good, and Jones’ teammates have historically done incredible in the red zone. To me though, Jones is really going to cut into Brown’s target share, more than the possible uptick in red zone targets will help. The Tennessee Titans will always be a run-first team with Derrick Henry, and Ryan Tannehill isn’t a guy that throws the ball 40 times a game.
An example one could look to is Calvin Ridley. With Julio Jones in the mix his first two years, Ridley averaged 92.5 targets, 63.5 catches, 843 yards and 8.5 scores. Good, but not WR 1 level. Then, in year three when Jones was injured for half the season, all of a sudden his targets, receptions and yards ballooned upwards.
Brown will be a top 24 WR, there’s no doubt about it, but eight is too high for me when he could see a serious cut in targets, receptions and yards this year. Not to mention the Titans will have a new OC, which probably won’t have that huge of an effect on an already established offense, but it probably won’t help either.
Aiyuk is currently projected as a WR 2 at WR 21, which is absurdly high for a guy that finished as WR 33 last year. In a vacuum that isn’t a problem, but Aiyuk had one of the best situations he could’ve asked for and didn’t produce much outside of a six week stretch where he was basically the only receiver left standing.
This San Francisco 49ers’ team is going to be completely different from the one that saw Aiyuk “break out” in 2020. A new QB (whether it’s Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppollo) two major receivers returning from injury (George Kittle and Deebo Samuel) and what will probably be a renewed focus on running and defense. The 49ers won’t want to throw the ball much, and whatever passes that do come will probably be going to George Kittle. That leaves scraps for the rest of the receivers (and RBs). In the six games that Aiyuk and Kittle played together, Aiyuk averaged 5.5 targets and 3.8 receptions per game. That is nowhere near enough work to even come close to being a top 24 WR.
Aiyuk’s usage will be way too inconsistent to trust. Sure he’ll probably have a few games he pops off as he showed playmaking ability in spades, but the opportunity on this team, as long as it’s healthy, simply won’t be there for Aiyuk to make his mark.
Higgins was one of the biggest surprises amongst rookies last year. The second round pick quickly overtook A.J. Green as the number two receiver on the Cincinnati Bengals, and finished with a solid 67/908/6 line, good for WR 30. A full offseason (and season) with Joe Burrows could mean bigger things for Higgins, and he’s being drafted as WR 27.
Similar to A.J. Brown though, I’m concerned about Higgins targets. Tyler Boyd hasn’t gone anywhere, and the addition of Ja’Marr Chase could cut into Higgins receptions in a big way. Joe Mixon returning doesn’t help matters either, as a major boost in the running game could be in order to protect Joe Burrows.
Higgins is now going first amongst the Bengals receivers, significantly higher than teammate Tyler Boyd in fact, but to me he’s got a similar ceiling and floor to the other two.
Just like A.J. Brown, this is very soft hate on McLaurin for pretty much the same reasons. I think McLaurin is extremely talented and he could be getting into that “top 10 wide receivers in the NFL” company soon, if he isn’t already. I just don’t like his QB situation enough to think he can return top 10 WR value which is what he needs to do if you draft him at his ADP. Despite his talent, he’s also never finished even close to WR 10. He was WR 27 in 2019 and WR 21 in 2020.
First off, the season starts in less than a week, and we still don’t even know who the QB is in Washington. The signs are pointing hard to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and everyone assumes that it means McLaurin will have a great year. It’s extremely possible, as Fitzpatrick has presided over a number of huge seasons for multiple receivers. If there’s one thing Fitzpatrick is not, it’s gunshy. He will find a receiver he likes and force him the ball, and it wouldn’t be crazy to see him get 150 targets this year, something multiple Fitzpatrick WRs have done.
A Tale of Two Fitz
My only fear is the return of Fitztragic. It’s been awhile since we saw him, and if you haven’t forgotten there’s a reason Fitzpatrick is a journeyman that’s been on half the teams in the league. At the end of the day, he’s not that good. If he struggles out the gate, that could hurt McLaurin. If the Fitztragic persists long enough, we could see Taylor Heinecke, and if that’s the case McLaurin doesn’t have a chance to finish top 10.
Once again, I don’t hate McLaurin, and if Fitzmagic shows up McLaurin could honestly finish WR 1. There’s just too many questions and questionable circumstances for a guy that has untold potential, but also hasn’t finished higher than WR 20 yet to draft him amongst guys like Keenan Allen and Allen Robinson II.
Again, I really don’t mind Lockett at WR 20. I think that’s actually a very fair spot for him, but I could see potential owners “reaching” for Lockett and think they are still getting a good deal. If you look at the raw numbers, you probably are. Lockett finished WR 9 last year, but is getting drafted as WR 20. He had 100 catches, 1054 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is a heck of a season. He’s on the same team, with an explosive passing offense and one of the best QBs in the league. So what’s the problem?
Digging into the numbers, Lockett’s season was really carried by three massive performances. In fact, half of his points came in those three weeks, and one of those weeks you wouldn’t have been able to use him since it was week 17 where he scored 27. As for the other two performances, in week three, Lockett went for 32.5 and in week seven he went for an astonishing 45.5. Those three games he scored eight of his ten touchdowns.
For a guy that finished ninth, he finished under double digits a crazy amount of times. In half-point PPR, a receiver going under 10 is a terrible performance, and Lockett did it 10 times out of 16. For some reason or another, Lockett was oddly touchdown dependent, as he only went over double digits one time without finding the end zone at least once.
For all intents and purposes, Lockett was unusable last year for 75% of the season, and even worse because of his raw points you probably played him every week and he burnt you badly. His playoff performances he got 7.7, 5.4, 5.9. Getting to the playoffs would’ve been hard with Lockett on your team as a starter. Sure he won two games single-handedly, but outside of those two games he was overall a negative. For comparison with other receivers, Mike Evans (WR 10) finished under double digits five times, and Adam Thielen (WR 8) did it six times.
How Worried Should You Be?
To his credit, in the three seasons that Lockett has been playable he’s only had that boom or bust problem once. In 2018 (finished WR 15) Lockett had a very consistent season and only went under 10 six times. He did the same in 2019 and finished WR 14. Lockett is a pretty safe pick for that reason but he also has a questionable ceiling, and with D.K. Metcalf becoming more and more prominent in the passing game I don’t think that changes.
With Metcalf in the mix, Lockett might be too touchdown dependent, and he also seems much more affected by Russell Wilson’s whims than Metcalf was last season. The past five years have seen Wilson have a ridiculous half of a season and a terrible one, and which half is which changes year-to-year. Lockett was a beneficiary of his great first half, ranking as WR 3 in that time period, before finishing as WR 49 in the second.
For those guys in the back, I don’t hate Lockett, especially at WR 20, but he’s ranked earlier in both Yahoo (WR 17) and ESPN (WR 18) and I think those positions represent Lockett’s realistic ceiling. In general, you don’t want to be drafting a guy at his ceiling as it’s not great value.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin scare me a bit. There’s just so many weapons in Tampa that it will be very hard for either of them to finish in the top 12 or 13 which is where they are ranked.
In a bit of a course reversal from my articles before, Adam Thielen has shot up boards, and his reported anti-vax status scares me a bit. Whatever your beliefs, it’s due to NFL protocols being unvaccinated puts you at a huge risk to miss games. Right now, Thielen is functionally injury-prone. Combined with the higher ranking amongst receivers, I don’t think Thielen is a good deal anymore.
Courtland Sutton is a solid player, but I love Jerry Jeudy’s talent, and when Teddy Bridgewater is the QB I’m just not sure there will be enough targets to feed both. To be fair, Bridgewater had two guys finish in the top 24 last year, but (factoring in Christian McCaffery being out) I think there are a lot more receivers in Denver than in Carolina. Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, KJ Hamler and Javonte Williams along with the aforementioned Jeudy all figure to factor in the passing game, and that’s assuming Bridgewater is the guy all year which is far from a guarantee.