Davis Mattek is a contributor to Rotoviz.com.
You’ve heard it all offseason. “Wide receiver is deep, you can wait and wait and still get guys who will produce.” Unfortunately, that statement doesn’t hold up under closer examination. Every single tier of fantasy football wide receivers is fraught with players with dangerously low floors and perilous levels of risk.
Nailing the wide receiver is going to be the most important part of your draft, because it is a position that doesn’t ‘come into the league’. Unlike running backs, rarely does an injury clearly open the door for opportunity that previously didn’t exist. When a wide receiver injury does happen, it can take a whole month for a patter of usage to materialize. Out-of-nowhere wide receiver studs can happen (think Miles Austin in 2010) but it’s much less likely than for running backs.
Therefore, nailing each and every wide receiver selection becomes incredibly important. A little study on players available in each round revealed 5 guys to target for your redraft squad. If you end up selecting these players, you will roster flexibility, depth at running back, and nary a dark mark anywhere on your roster.
Demaryius Thomas: ADP 3.01
Thomas is the end of the elite WR’s. After Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J Green, and Brandon Marshall, Demaryius is the only truly elite option left. Julio Jones and Roddy White have to split with one another, Larry Fitzgerald may have a better quarterbackbut that offensive line is terrible, Andre Johnson just doesn’t get the redzone looks need. While Eric Decker is undervalued and Wes Welker is WAY overvalued, Demaryius’ role will likely stay the same. DT comes as the cheapest of the elite WR’s and you can likely have him after you have already selected 2 top 20 running backs; he will likely be the #1 wide receiver of many championship teams.
Torrey Smith: ADP 5.08
First, Anquan Boldin gets shipped out town. Then Dennis Pitta goes down, and after that Ed Dickson’s hamstring tears. Smith is legitimately the only game in town and for the first time in his career, he’ll be used all over the field. He hasn’t ever failed as an intermediate receiver, he just hasn’t been given the chance. Even with a subpar catch rate, so many of Smith’s targets are high value, down the field throws that he can produce. If Smith’s targets creep up into the 160-180 range and he keeps an average depth of target of greater than 14 yards, fantasy superstardom awaits.
Cecil Shorts: ADP 7.05
After only playing 86 snaps for the first games of the 2012 season, Shorts became a starting wide out and posted only one game without double digit fantasy points over the final 10 games he played. Shorts ADP is being driven down by two things: fear over his concussions and Blaine Gabbert. While the concussions are scary, Blaine Gabbert isn’t. The new leadership isn’t tied to Gabbert and can move on to Henne easily, and even if Gabbert retains the starting job, he produced a 10.31 A/YA when throwing to Shorts which was easily the best on the team. No matter what happens in Jacksonville, Shorts is being undervalued as a fantasy commodity.
Josh Gordon: ADP 8.11
If you manage to snag the 3 players above Gordon this list, you will have no need for him until he comes back from his suspension. Then, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of someone whose ADP was sneaking all the way up to the 6th round before the news of his suspension came down. Gordon is by no means a perfect route runner, but he is big, tall, strong and fast. The exact type of receiver that is going to succeed in Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski’s vertical offense. Brandon Weeden’s gunslinger mentality lead to 3 20+ yard touchdowns for Gordon in 2012, and that number should increase in 2013 with a move away from a west-coast style offense.
Alshon Jeffery: ADP 11.03
The Chicago Bears finally have an offensive coordinator that is offensively-minded in Marc Trestman. Said offensive coordinator loves to throw the football, but more importantly, has a system predicated on balance. While Brandon Marshall owners in 2012 loved that he received 39% of the teams total pass attempts, that isn’t going to happen again. Jeffery is clearly the 2nd best pass catcher on the team (not including Matt Forte) and it would be an upset if Jeffery doesn’t receive at least 90 targets. Being drafted as a WR5 gives him nothing but upside for a blue-chip prospect who had a disastrous senior college season, but is clearly NFL material. Drafting high-pedigree, prototypical WR1 players late in redraft leagues is a consistent strategy for finding sleepers and Jeffery is the best example of that in 2013.