Volume is king at the wide receiver position when it comes to fantasy value in PPR leagues. And if you’ve been reading RotoViz for any significant amount of time, you’ll know that we typically advocate for drafting the WR positions in the early rounds. But if you get uncomfortable passing on early round running backs and can’t select six elite WRs, there will be a need to find safe options in the middle rounds.
So today I’ll be identifying three WR options available in the middle rounds of drafts 1 who are strong candidates to have consistent starting value due to volume.
Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 6.08)
It’s completely reasonable that Demaryius Thomas is considered the high-volume WR in Denver, but that doesn’t exclude Sanders from also commanding well over 100 targets. 2017 was the first Denver season for Sanders with fewer than 100 targets, and that was in only 12 games.
From 2013 to 2016, the WR2 for Denver averaged 137.75 targets per season, an 8.6 target per game average. Sanders dipped below that threshold for the first time in 2017 since arriving in Denver. However, 2017 was also marked by a shift away from the passing game. The team total of 566 pass attempts was their fewest in five seasons despite running more total offensive plays than the two prior years. With the arrival of Case Keenum, Sanders should also benefit from better QB play, particularly on deeper routes.
Sanders is coming off of a down season during which he finished as the WR60 and played only 12 games, but at his reasonable price and with improved QB play, he’s a strong selection in the back half of the sixth round. Using the FFDraftPrep Projection Machine and his career averages, I came up with the following projection.
Pierre Garcon (ADP 8.11)
Even with the rise of Marquise Goodwin at the end of 2017 and the additions of Jerick McKinnon and Dante Pettis, there’s no question about who the top receiver is in San Francisco. It’s been quiet on all fronts in 49er training camp, but the reports from early in the offseason indicated no concerns about his readiness for the season. And Garcon has proven capable of being a target hog in the past.
Kyle Shanahan offenses have gone back and forth between a well-distributed passing attack and leaning heavily on the WR1. In 2013, with Shanahan as the Offensive Coordinator, Garcon was among the league leader in targets. Julio Jones nearly set a reception record with Shanahan as the OC in Atlanta in 2015. In 2014 and 2016, his offenses were significantly more balanced, but his WR1 still managed more than 20 percent of the targets. Garcon’s 16 game pace would have represented only 22 percent of the total targets, but 134 targets would have ranked 12th in the league.
Assuming that he is going to be healthy at the start of the season and Shanahan continues to give his WR1 a healthy share of the passing offense, Garcon should be in line for well over 120 targets. And while his lower yardage efficiency and touchdown rate limit his ceiling slightly, he projects as a fringe WR2 because of his high reception potential.
Robert Woods (ADP 9.07)
If you read Jeremy Marin’s preseason article, Woods’ breakout campaign wouldn’t have been a big surprise, as he appeared to be a Golden Tate doppelganger. Like Tate, he thrived after changing teams. The addition of Brandin Cooks and continued progression of Cooper Kupp will likely cap Woods’ target ceiling, but he was the team’s WR1 when he played in 2017.
At 7.1 targets per game, his 16 game total would have been 23.8 percent of the team’s total pass attempts. While Kupp has been the talk of camp and had a strong rookie campaign, he only managed 9 targets more than Woods despite playing three extra games. Woods had the best season of his career in 2017, improving his yardage and touchdown efficiencies, but injuries kept him from eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
The Rams traded significant draft capital to add Cooks before signing him to a massive extension, indicating that he’ll likely be used more than Sammy Watkins was in 2017. But if anything this should help to keep Woods affordable. If the offense begins to shift more towards the passing game, there should be plenty of volume to make both Woods and Cooks valuable.2