At a certain point in the off-season all of the research and thinking you’ve been doing should start to crystallize in the form of a draft plan. The first part of my draft plan usually starts with wide receivers so I thought that now might be a good time to go through the list that has slowly been developed by using the apps and reading the various articles on the site.
I generated the list below by running some Similarity Score projections and then comparing my WR ranks with ADP. The list will seem familiar to regular readers because a lot of these guys are players we’ve already written about.
- Marques Colston. We may as well call Colston “Mr. RotoViz” at this point. He’s pretty much the posterboy for the kind of oversized, undervalued WRs that we always write about here.
- Roddy White. I tend to think that almost all the parts of the ATL offense will continue to be high functioning, so White is actually the relative cheapest of the group. Depending on how you draft you can actually get him as your WR2, which I think is a great situation to be in.
- Vincent Jackson. I don’t usually go back to the well on players after I’ve hyped them in one year… oh wait, I actually do that all the time, nevermind. But Jackson still offers some value at his current ADP. When you take your first of a position, you’re generally paying for production that you hope will repeat and Jackson might offer the best chance of repeating his production of the guys who share similar ADP.
- Andre Johnson. Andre Johnson and Roddy White offer the same value in my mind. They both had very good 2012 seasons and you can get both of them as a WR2 in some cases. The potential for an age based decline is already priced in.
- Eric Decker. See the multitude of posts that we’ve written on Eric Decker.
- Stevie Johnson. Again, we’ve spilled a lot of pixels on Johnson, but with good reason. You’re getting a team’s best receiver, with a history of production in less than optimal circumstances, and you can get that in the 7th round. What’s not to like about that?
- Danario Alexander. DX is an illustration of why I like to wait on QB. We know DX has really high upside. But we also know that he has some risk. So pulling the trigger on him means that you want to have some insurance in the way of a deep WR group. I wouldn’t want to roll with DX as the WR2 in a thin/shallow WR group. But if I can have him as one of a few guys and then go QB later, I have an opportunity to capture his really high upside and all I’ve had to give up in exchange is a slightly weaker QB (which I have to give up every year because I do something like this every year).
- Josh Gordon. Fantasy football is a game of weekly scoring, not seasonal scoring. Gordon’s ADP is now down in the range where it makes some sense to gamble on him again. I would almost rather see him suspended and going at WR38 than I would see him play all 16 and be drafted at WR30. I know that the WR I take in that part of the draft isn’t going to start every week for me anyway, so getting a guy that has really big weeks in his range of outcomes is attractive to me.
- Lance Moore. Moore will make it onto my teams in instances where I’ve already drafted 4 WRs and the rest of the league just lets him sit out there forever. It’s not that I don’t like Moore, it’s that I really want to have 4 true #1WRs on my team (or at least I want to believe they are). But when I can get Moore as my WR5, I’m going to be very excited about it.
- Mike Williams. See the previous posts we’ve written.
- Jeremy Maclin. Here’s a mental exercise I’m trying to go through regularly: When I see Mike Williams and Jeremy Maclin in the board, I’m trying to select Maclin in some cases. Whereas Williams is essentially tied for being the best WR on his team, I actually think Maclin is easily the best receiver on his own team. I don’t think DJax is returning to relevance any time soon. Maclin is also a somewhat rare case of a small-ish receiver that is also good in the red zone. Maclin has turned 28% of his career red zone targets into touchdowns. It’s true that we don’t know what the Eagles offense will look like, but Maclin is going to be just 25 this year and he’s never caught fewer than the 773 yards he caught as a rookie. He’s a sneaky pick I think.
- Brian Hartline. Hartline is purely on this list because it needed a gym-rat/crafty guy at some point. Seriously though, it’s going to take a deeper WR format for me to own Hartline, but when I’m playing PPR and starting 5 WRs, I’ll be glad to pick a guy up for WR50 prices who was also targeted 100+ times last year.
- Denarius Moore. Close your eyes and imagine an Oakland offense that treats Denarius Moore like the MIN offense treated Percy Harvin last year. I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibilities as OAK is likely to be ill suited to throw the ball downfield. I could see them doing things like getting the ball in the hands of their playmakers, of which they have few. I own Moore as my 5th WR in one league and that’s about where I’ll be really happy to own him. He has WR2 upside I think and if OAK is just a total disaster, you won’t feel bad about that missed pick.
- Andre Roberts. Sort of just an interesting name here. I have Roberts projected much higher than his ADP based on his 2012 performance, which might be irrelevant with the emergence of Michael Floyd. But I left Roberts on this list because until we know who the Cards are going to play, it’s premature to take his name off the list. This is a wait and see situation.
- Davone Bess. This is actually a name to really pay attention to. If you’re in a PPR league I think you would be stupid to not use a late round pick on Bess. While your leaguemates are taking “high upside” – which is only their perception of high upside and honestly how many times have they gotten that right and really shouldn’t they try to stop guessing on upside because they’re so terrible at it – you can take Bess, a guy that the Browns actually traded to acquire because they wanted a slot receiver. I realize that I have 3 Browns WRs on this list and that might seem excessive, but they were all warranted based on their Similarity Scores. Bess’ Sim Score comes from his work with the Dolphins, but I still like him with the Browns. Bess is also another under-rated red zone threat. He’s smallish, but has a career red zone TD% of 24%. That’s not terrible at all.
- Brandon LaFell. LaFell is being totally overlooked and I think it’s irrational. When people say “Oh, is this the year that LaFell breaks out. Yeah right.” They’re doing the equivalent of Mark Twain’s analogy about the cat and the hot stove/cold stove. They can’t tell the difference between the mistake they made by overdrafting LaFell in the past, and the value that he offers today. LaFell is a starting WR on a team whose #1WR is in his mid-30s, and that same #1WR plays the young man’s position of deep WR.
- Jeremy Kerley. This is a pure target based pick. See Ryan Gilmore’s work on the topic as well.
- Greg Little. I’m reasonably optimistic about Josh Gordon, although Gordon’s absence in the first two weeks really opens the door for Little. If you’re looking for a big bodied WR that improved as last season went along and is still 24 years old… oh yeah and who you can pick up for free on almost every team, then Little is your man.
Just to clarify my list here a little, I typically draft these guys in the order that I think they’ll be drafted on the site I’m playing on. I do that so that the other guys still have potential to fall to me later, which doesn’t always happen. But that’s why I have a large list. I know that if I take the guys in their relative ADP order, I can hope that some of the other guys fall to me a round later. That also has the benefit of allowing me to hedge against my own fallibility because I’m substituting ADP for my own judgment in some sense. An additional benefit to coming up with a target list and then drafting the guys in the order of their ADP is that the biggest “fallers” on draft boards also end up being the greatest values. This draft strategy is not far off from James Goldstein’s Don’t Give a F%ck strategy. It’s also worth noting that the top half of the list is dominated by guys that have the bodies of true #1WRs. I’d love to have 4 of this big bodied WRs on my team in an ideal world.
I should also say that while this article only includes my WR targets, almost my entire draft strategy starts here. I’m going to come up with WRs I like first, then figure out where I can draft them. After that I’m going to back into the RBs on my team through a volume based approach which addresses the injuries inherent to the RB position. So this article really does reflect a good amount of my draft strategy.