Periodically I like to step back and take a big-picture look at opportunity. Today I’m using a wisdom of the crowd approach to look for WRs who are cheap but whose dynasty value is likely to appreciate.I grabbed our Wide Receiver Dynasty Rankings and then looked at each team’s depth chart. A player’s dynasty ranking condenses in a single number the analysis of multiple experts and includes a synthesis of the player’s talent, draft capital, age, contract status, quarterback, team offense, etc. Therefore, a team with no highly-ranked wide receivers should represent an easier breakout opportunity1 for an off-the-radar receiver.
I like to screen for vulnerable depth charts like this because it illuminates opportunities for big swings in dynasty value. Some of these names may surprise you.
Dynasty Wide Receiver Depth Chart Rankings
|NOS||Ted Ginn Jr.||109|
|GBP||Equanimeous St. Brown||131|
|SEA||Brandon Marshall/Jaron Brown||150|
I used this data to create the following graph.
The number of ranked WRs per team is on the x-axis, and the team’s average WR dynasty ranking is on the y-axis. You can use the table tools to sort and filter and do your own analysis.2 Here’s how I’m looking at it. Green dots represent the eight most vulnerable depth charts; the number of ranked WRs and their average ranking is shown in the data labels.
Arizona Cardinals – 5 WRs ranked; Average Rank 87.2
The Cardinals top WR, Larry Fitzgerald, is ranked just 39th overall. He’s near the end of his career, so Christian Kirk should have a big role from the beginning with more in store when Fitzgerald is finished. Even though he’s pricey now, his price will go way up if he performs well and Fitzgerald retires.
With no dominant players atop the depth chart, it doesn’t seem far-fetched for one of the others — all ranked outside the top-100 — to move up. Whoever occupies the WR3 spot in Arizona is next in line for either Fitzgerald or Kirk’s slot, which would have much more dynasty value than any of the remaining three currently possess.
Of them, J.J. Nelson has best ball utility but not game-to-game consistency, and Brice Butler appears to be a journeyman. I prefer Chad Williams because he’s younger and less of a known commodity than the other two, and therefore has a wider range of outcomes.
Baltimore Ravens – 6 WRs ranked; Average Rank 96.3
Michael Crabtree (71) is Baltimore’s highest-ranked WR. He was he a top-24 WR last year in points per game (12.9), and even if we ding his scoring by 13 percent to account for being a year older and on a new team, he still would have finished last year in the top 36. It’s also true that he won’t be competing for targets with anyone of Amari Cooper’s stature. On a per-game basis, the inexpensive Crabtree also stacks up well with some higher-profile names over recent seasons.
After Crabtree, it’s hard to figure out which of the others is worth targeting. John Brown is already 28 and hasn’t averaged double-digit PPR points per game since 2015. Willie Snead is much younger and has had more recent success; I’m still rostering him in a couple leagues, and I think he’s a good target. I also like Chris Moore … again. Moore is just 25, and two of the top three WR spots in Baltimore seem up for grabs.
Buffalo Bills – 4 WRs ranked; Average Rank 115.3
The Bills have just four ranked WRs, the highest of whom is Zay Jones (87). Their second-ranked WR barely makes the top 100. I’m wondering why Kelvin Benjamin isn’t on more buy-low lists. As long as he’s healthy, he’s almost certainly Buffalo’s top WR, so for little cost, you could get a player with weekly utility.
Jones’ off-field incident and injuries remain concerning, but he’s younger and under team control for longer. Here’s a thought exercise comparing a few recent rookie seasons.
Nobody is discounting Corey Davis yet, despite what superficially looks like a disappointing rookie campaign. Davante Adams and Nelson Agholor are now valuable commodities despite stumbling in their first seasons. Jones had as much expected usage as any of them as a rookie. There’s no guarantee he improves like Adams and Agholor, but if he does, you’ll earn a good return on your investment.
Chicago Bears – 5 WRs ranked; Average Rank 94.4
Much like Christian Kirk, Anthony Miller looks poised for an immediate starting role. Miller didn’t fare well in Anthony Amico’s projection model, but there’s no denying the weakness of this WR corps.
Beyond Miller, I’d like to get Kevin White very cheaply. I doubt he breaks out, but he has age and draft pedigree on his side when compared to Taylor Gabriel and Javon Wims. Since Miller is a rookie and even Allen Robinson can’t be considered a sure thing, White offers exponential (if unlikely to be reached) upside.
Green Bay Packers – 6 WRs ranked; Average Rank 101.2
Randall Cobb makes a good cheap target because he’s clearly the most accomplished non-Davante Adams WR in Green Bay. His past three seasons haven’t measured up to his early career, but he’s still averaging about 11.5 points per game since 2015, a useful number. However, Cobb is already in a walking boot, isn’t getting younger, and is in the last year of his contract.
That means there are a few pathways one of the other WRs could take to relevance. For my part, I’ll side with Hasan Rahim and target J’Mon Moore.
Miami Dolphins – 5 WRs Ranked; Average Rank 99
Parker may not hit the heights we’d hoped for when he was a rookie, but there’s plenty of opportunity. Parker’s comps over his first three years are also intriguing.
RotoViz loves Stefon Diggs, and Agholor, Jamison Crowder, and Tyrell Williams have had utility as well. None has yet established themselves as a bona fide dynasty stud just yet, but Parker is cheaper than Diggs, Crowder, and Agholor, and so is on the acquisition radar too.
Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson slot in ahead of Leonte Carroo, but neither looks like an immovable object. Carroo’s impressive collegiate comps don’t matter much anymore, but he’s still younger, cheaper, and has a higher ceiling than Amendola or Wilson. Put him on your list as a super cheap dart throw.
Seattle Seahawks – 4 WRs Ranked; Average Rank 92.8
It’s a big jump from 20th-ranked Doug Baldwin to 76th-ranked Tyler Lockett. But it’s an even bigger jump from Lockett to the rest of the depth chart.3 Lockett boasts an unimpressive list of early career comparables but should remain relevant based on the lack of competition.
Long-term, Lockett has the most appreciation potential but in the short term, I might rather snag Brandon Marshall or Jaron Brown off waivers or as a trade throw-in. Marshall is at the end of the line, but would it be that surprising if he has a better 2018 than Lockett? For that matter, would it be surprising if Brown had a better season?
I’m going with Marshall. I think the future Hall of Famer has a higher ceiling than Brown. But it’s possible Marshall is finished, in which case Brown would make a worthy dart throw.
New York Giants – 3 WRs Ranked; Average Rank 78.6
Sterling Shepard is valued in the top 32, but I still think he’s worth acquiring. Although he was just WR43 in points per game when Odell Beckham also played, he was last year’s WR21 in points per game without the Giants superstar on the field. Beckham has managed a full season just once in four years and is in the final year of his contract, meaning Shepard could get more than expected volume both this season and in the future. Also, there’s little competition behind Shepard, so he should manage steady usage even if he struggles for a while.
I also like Roger Lewis.4 Still just 24 years old, Lewis is heading into his third season. He managed to hit double-digit PPR points three times last year, not bad considering what could have been Eli Manning’s career-worst season. For fun, here’s Lewis’ rookie profile, from RotoViz alumnus Matthew Freedman. Lewis should see some action as the team’s third WR, with opportunity for more usage if Beckham or Shepard miss time.
The goal here is to find players who could offer surprising production and/or a big increase in dynasty trade value. Here’s the list:
|Christian Kirk||Chad Williams|
|Michael Crabtree||Snead, Moore|
|Kelvin Benjamin||Zay Jones|
|Anthony Miller||Kevin White|
|Randall Cobb||J’Mon Moore|
|Stills, Parker||Leonte Carroo|
|Tyler Lockett||Marshall, Brown|
|Sterling Shepard||Roger Lewis|
The players in the “Likely” column seem more likely to offer steadier immediate production (and most are young enough to offer a few years of value), while the “Longshot” column includes players less likely to break out now, but who have enticing potential ceilings.
- Or at least an opportunity for an increase in trade value. (back)
- Hint: there are other interesting opportunities on other teams. (back)
- Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown are currently unranked; I gave them a default value of WR150. (back)
- Like Marshall, he’s unranked and thus assigned a default value of WR150. (back)