The wide receiver position is my favorite to analyze, discuss and draft in fantasy football.
Not only because your picks in the mid-rounds can help make or break your fake football team but it’s also because I believe talent truly rises to the top here when compared to the running back position. As such, it’s one of the most important positions to get right on draft day, and when forming a waiver-wire speed-dial list.
Luckily, this season more than ever, there feels like a clear plan of attack for wide receivers on draft day.
Current wide receiver landscape
Deep; the state of the wide receiver landscape begins and ends with that word.
The wide receiver class from the 2020 NFL Draft was billed as an extremely strong group for ages. That class lived up to their reputation in Year One — and perhaps even exceeded the depth expectations.
On the other hand, the prior classes weren’t nearly as hyped. And yet, the stars of today and tomorrow came from the 2018 and 2019 NFL Draft classes. A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, and Terry McLaurin weren’t the first players drafted at the position in 2019 but they’ll all be early-round fantasy picks this year. Calvin Ridley cemented himself as a top-five option just three years after being taken in Round 1 of 2018. Even guys like DJ Moore and Diontae Johnson have cemented themselves as Top-25 positional players.
And those are just the early rounds.
The depth of the previous three years’ draft classes as well as the anticipated contributions from 2021 rookies has flushed the wide receiver position with a bevy of enticing options. It’s the primary reason you can get almost all the way down to the WR50-60 range in ADP and tell yourself a convincing story about those players seeing significant volume.
The chief strategy is to take advantage of the depth of the position as laid out above.
Our strategy here requires us to further break down the word "depth." It does not mean loading up on running backs early and waiting until Rounds 7-10 to start trying to pluck starting receiver options. That’s a sure way to create a hyper-fragile, low-floor roster.
While it’s true that the depth of quality options at the position has created more viable options in the later rounds, more importantly, it’s increased the number of high-end options available in the early- to mid-rounds.
Several potential difference-makers will be available between Picks 30 to 70. Players to come from this range can easily swing the tide of your team. You don’t want to pass them up.
So far in drafts, I’ve moved to select a pair of running backs I like in Rounds 1 and 2 and then shift my focus to the receiver position. While it's difficult to pass up players in my first- and early-second tier of receivers in this range, the fact that you can grab multiple guys with crystal-clear outlooks in the next few rounds tilts the scales toward WR.
I guarantee you’re going to like the wide receiver options at the Round 3 to 4 turn, Round 5 to 6 turn, and so on, more so than the running backs staring back at you.
With two quality players in tow at RB, you can safely turn your focus to receivers in the meat of the draft. Your game plan should be to select at least four receivers from Round 3 to 8.
Wide receivers to target (sleepers and must-haves)
Tyler Lockett (My rank: WR14)
The Seahawks star receiver is being pushed outside the top-20 players at the position for entirely dense reasons. He was “inconsistent” last year ... that is true. But unless you can project Lockett to lose any of his 24 percent target share from last season — and you really can’t reasonably do so — then it just doesn’t matter when projecting forward.
Brandon Aiyuk (My rank: WR20)
Don’t over-focus on the volume from a small handful of games where Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel all played together. Aiyuk’s rookie season looks like that of a typical ascendant player. As the team relied on him to handle more volume, the more he thrived. Passing volume is difficult to project in San Francisco but we should be betting on a player like this in the middle rounds.
Michael Gallup (My rank: WR32)
The reports of Dallas moving their receivers around is a huge win for CeeDee Lamb, but don’t forget what it’s going to do for Michael Gallup. Stuck at the X-receiver spot, Gallup had to run the most difficult, low-percentage routes on the team. Moving around will give him more layups. His snap share and routes run should be right there in line with Lamb and Amari Cooper.
Curtis Samuel (My rank: WR35)
Now that he’s off the PUP, it’s full steam ahead for the Curtis Samuel hype train. He’s back in an offense that’s going to use him as a vertical receiver, not just a bunnyhop gadget guy. He would have had a breakout season in 2019 if Kyle Allen was a good quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick will make the most of those downfield chances with Samuel.
Jakobi Meyers (My rank: WR49)
Played every snap with the first team in the preseason, which makes sense. Meyers is likely the best receiver on the team and certainly the only one on the upswing of their career. He could see 100 targets as this offense’s primary slot man and you’re getting him at the very end of drafts right now.
Terrace Marshall Jr. (My rank: WR68)
It’s difficult to project major volume in Year 1 for Terrace Marshall with Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Christian McCaffrey in place. However, the rookie is an impressive size/speed prospect who has drawn nothing but rave reviews through camp and preseason. He’s a perfect stash.
Wide receivers to fade
Courtland Sutton (My rank: WR33)
One of Noah Fant, Jerry Jeudy, or Courtland Sutton isn’t going to meet ADP expectations as long as this offense is captained by Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater. The defense is too good for Denver to not operate in mostly run-heavy situations, so volume and efficiency are both concerns. Sutton is a bit less appealing than Jeudy because he draws more high-degree of difficulty targets and is still working his way back from an ACL tear.
DJ Chark (My rank: WR39)
Taking Chark where he goes in drafts makes zero sense when Marvin Jones goes 30-plus picks later. I’d be zero percent shocked if Jones becomes Trevor Lawrence’s favorite receiver from the jump in 2021.
Brandin Cooks (My rank: WR42)
We know Cooks is going to see a sizable slice of the Texans passing pie. We also know the Houston offense is likely to produce one of the least appetizing dishes in the NFL. Cooks’ ADP is fine; I’d just almost always rather target a player operating in a better environment.
DeVante Parker (My rank: WR71)
Of the (likely) top-three receivers in Miami this season, Parker carries the most antithetical fit with Tua Tagovailoa’s playing style. Projecting enough volume for all three to thrive is impossible.
Gabriel Davis (My rank: WR72)
Nothing from his rookie season indicated he was ready to make the jump to a full-time starting outside receiver. The Bills’ actions in the offseason by making a one-to-one replacement of Emmanuel Sanders for John Brown indicates they aren’t truly sold either.
Top 12 fantasy wide receivers
You should hammer wide receiver picks in Rounds 3 to 8 this year.