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What If We’re Right? Part 5: Strong Buys at WR

This article is part of a series on dynasty WRs looking at the RotoViz redraft rankings and asking “what if we’re right?”1 After all, our rankings are trying to determine the most likely outcome for the upcoming season. So what if we look at each WR in the top 40 of our redraft ranks, and ask: what happens to this WR’s dynasty value if they finish at exactly this spot in 2019? How would the dynasty market react to them hitting these expectations? In other words, where is their 2020 dynasty ADP likely to be, compared to where it is now?2

Predicting a player’s future value based on their 2019 finish is obviously a subjective exercise to a large degree. But the history of the dynasty market is instructive here. There are clear trends we can identify on when and how players increase or decrease in value.

Therefore, this exercise can help clarify what we’re actually hoping for when we roster a WR. Does your WR need to drastically exceed expectations in order to increase in value? Or can they maintain or even increase in value by simply meeting 2019 expectations?

Part 5: Strong Buys at WR

PlayerRV Redraft WRFFPC Dynasty WRDynasty Premium
JuJu Smith-Schuster541
Stefon Diggs910-1
Kenny Golladay16142
DJ Moore18162
Calvin Ridley25214
Keke Coutee3946-7

*Dynasty Premium = Redraft ranking minus Dynasty ADP

Juju Smith-Schuster

  • A top-five finish after his breakout 2019 will put Smith-Schuster in the conversation as the top WR in dynasty.
  • For those who properly value the fact that he will enter 2020 at just 23, while coming off a top-five finish, there will no question about who the first WR off the board should be.
  • Ben Roethlisberger is a potential red flag. He’s 37 and is a threat to fall off or retire after the season.
    • But even a Roethlisberger retirement likely would only keep Smith-Schuster’s ADP in it’s current range. Smith-Schuster is a young, high-pedigree player who will have just achieved superstar status with a WR5 finish. Those guys get drafted in the first round with literally anyone throwing them the ball.
      • In 2015, DeAndre Hopkins posted a WR4 season in his third season.
      • And in 2016 Hopkins was the third overall startup pick.
        • This is despite the fact that drafters knew full well that Brock Osweiler would be throwing him the ball.
          • I did say literally anyone.
  • Bottom Line
    • Smith-Schuster is the only top-tier WR under 25. He has upside as the consensus ADP WR1 in 2020, and his youth and past production give him an extremely high floor.

Stefon Diggs

  • A WR9 finish in 2019 — Diggs’ second top-12 finish in a row — would solidify Diggs’ reputation as one of the best young WRs in football.
  • Diggs is signed through 2023 and will be just 26 entering 2020.
  • Kirk Cousins is only signed through 2020, which is a concern.
    • However, Adam Thielen can be cut after the 2020 season, saving nearly $10MM/year over 2021-2022.
      • Entering 2020, Diggs will have both upside and downside for his 2021 team situation. This could ding his ADP, but is unlikely to be a major drag on it.
  • With a WR9 finish, Diggs’ dynasty ADP will likely climb into the WR5-WR8 range.
    • If Cousins is extended, he could make his way into the top-five WRs.
  • Bottom Line
    • Diggs is a 25 year old coming off back to back top-20 finishes who is being drafted at a discount to his projected WR9 finish. He has upside to be a consensus first-round selection in 2020, and has limited downside based on his age and production.

Kenny Golladay

  • A WR16 finish represents a solid improvement on Golladay’s 2018 and will solidify his status as the Lion’s long-term WR1.
  • This finish should move Golladay into the top-10 WRs.
    • Golladay would see about a 25% increase in value with this ADP.
  • Golladay is also relatively insulated from downside risk.
    • He posted a WR21 season as a sophomore, so even a down season in 2019 won’t have have drafters bailing on him.
    • He’ll also still be on his rookie deal in 2020 and so will retain situational stability.
    • Marvin Jones can be cut after the season for a savings of $6.5MM.3 So Golladay could be looking more entrenched as the target leader in 2020, even if he underperforms expectations.
  • Jones’ contract status also provides upside for Golladay, who would look primed for a monster 2020 with a WR16 finish in 2019 and a Jones departure.
  • Golladay entered the league late, and so will turn 27 during the 2020 season. This alone probably keeps him out of the top-five WR discussion without top-10 WR season in 2019.
    • But he’s plenty young enough to be considered a dynasty WR1 without beating expectations in 2019.
  • Bottom Line
    • Turning 26 in 2019, and entering his third year, Golladay lacks the elite breakout profile of the next WRs on the list. But he stands to gain quite a bit of value just by finishing as the WR16. His widening moat as the Lions’ target leader also provides a high floor. Yet Golladay is being priced at just a small premium to his projected finish, despite being a third-year player with upside for a secondary breakout, and relatively little risk as his team’s current and future WR1.

D.J. Moore

  • A WR18 finish in 2019 would deliver on hopes of a second-year breakout and set up D.J. Moore for third year secondary-breakout-star hype heading into 2020.
  • To help gauge our future value expectations for Moore, lets look at what other first-round WRs have done historically:

PlayerRookie YearRookie FinishPost-Rookie ADP2nd Year FinishPost-2nd ADPADP Increase
Calvin Johnson200738123210
Hakeem Nicks200933188414
DeAndre Hopkins2013482614118
Dwayne Bowe20072219151115
Sammy Watkins201427121413-1
Brandin Cooks2014561614133
Santanio Holmes20064033241518
Jeremy Maclin2009362414168
Kelvin Benjamin20141518N/A180
Corey Davis201785202723-2
Percy Harvin2009242122231
Anthony Gonzalez200763244023-3
Kenny Britt2009513034246
Michael Crabtree200960113630-19
DeVante Parker2015783050355
Kevin White2015N/A1912139-20
Cordarrelle Patterson201344128258-46
Justin Blackmon201229309363-33
Corey Coleman201683259277-52

  • The table above includes all first-round WRs dating back to 2006 whose ADP was between WR10 and WR35 in their second years.
  • Exceeding Expectations
    • Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks both put together seasons quite a bit better than Moore’s projected WR18 finish.
    • As a result, their ADPs skyrocketed.
      • Calvin Johnson was the second WR drafted after his WR3 finish in 2008.
      • Hakeem Nicks was the fourth WR drafted after his WR8 finish in 2010.
        • The Nicks comparison is especially bullish for Moore.
          • Like Moore, Nicks was 22 years old for his sophomore season.
          • Like Moore, Nicks’ QB play was not considered elite.
          • Moore was actually drafted five picks ahead of of Nicks.
    • Moore was a fantastic prospect, and Curtis Patrick recently made the case for why Moore is poised to break out into elite company.
      • Do not discount his potential to break into the 18-19 PPG range that we saw from Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks.
    • Moore has top-five WR ADP upside with a breakout 2019.
  • Meeting expectations
    • DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin, and Santonio Holmes all finished within range of Moore’s WR18 projection.
    • On average these WRs were drafted at WR15 the following season, ranging from ADPs of WR11 to WR23.
    • Moore’s ADP is likely to be relatively stable if he meets expectations.
  • Failing to reach expectations
    • The WRs in the table who finished outside the top-24 WRs in their second year were drafted at just WR39 the following season.
      • However, these comps include Justin Blackmon, who was indefinitely suspended from the NFL during his second season.
      • Moreover, unlike many on the list, Moore has already recorded a top-40 season in the NFL.
        • Looking at the remaining under-performing WRs who recorded at least one top-40 season in their first two years brings the following year ADP to WR24.
    • Moore’s value is highly unlikely to crater.
      • Even with a bad or injured season he’ll likely be drafted in the top-30 WRs in 2020.
  • Bottom Line
    • Moore is a premium breakout target whose elite prospect profile is not properly priced into his ADP. In the event that he underperforms expectations, owners are very likely to run it back in 2020, making him a ultra safe investment with elite upside.

Calvin Ridley

  • With a WR25 season, Ridley will have fallen short of his rookie campaign of WR20, but still produced a solid season. And despite already being 25 for 2020, Ridley will likely spend the offseason as a premier candidate to make another leap, which should keep his ADP in the WR18-22 range.
  • As with Moore, we can look at the table above to get a better sense of Ridley’s range of outcomes.
    • Exceeding Expectations
      • The WRs who had a top-15 season or better — markedly better than Ridley’s projected WR25 finish — had a combined ADP of WR10 the following year.
      • Bowe is a particularly bullish comp for Ridley.
        • Bowe was drafted as WR11 after a WR15 finish in his 2nd year.
        • Like Ridley, Bowe was a late first-round pick.
        • Like Ridley, Bowe had a top-25 season as a rookie, despite being second in receiving yards on his own team.
        • Bowe then broke out for 14.4 PPG, but still finished second in yards on his team.4
      • Ridley does not have to have an elite-level season to significantly increase in value.
        • Even excluding the Johnson and Nicks mega-breakouts, the WRs who exceeded expectations had a combined ADP of WR13.
    • Meeting expectations
      • Corey Davis, Percy Harvin and Santonio Holmes were drafted as WRs 20, 21 and 33 after their rookie seasons. They went on to finish as WRs 27, 22 and 24 — right in line with Ridley’s projected finish of WR25.
        • The following year, these WRs had a combined ADP of WR20.
          • One the one hand, this is disappointing for Ridley.
            • Smith-Schuster, Diggs and Golladay all stand to significantly improve their ADPs just by hitting expectations.
          • But on the other hand, as with Moore, the reason to buy Ridley is to bet on a secondary breakout in Year 2.
            • Even if he only returns a WR25 season, you’ll still be able to exit at roughly the price you paid for him.
    • Failing to reach expectations
      • We’re looking at essentially the same group of WRs here as we were for Moore.5 So the analysis for Moore holds true for Ridley as well. But I’d like to draw your attention to two points:
        • Ridley has the same floor as Moore in this analysis — WR24 — despite being drafted five WR spots later.
        • The case of Kelvin Benjamin
          • Kelvin Benjamin is the only first-round WR since 2006, besides Ridley, who had a top 20 season and wasn’t drafted top-10 the following year.
          • After tearing his ACL before playing a game in his second year, his third-year ADP was WR18 … exactly where it was 12 months earlier.
  • Drafters are not yet ready to anoint Ridley as the next superstar WR. But his price obscures the fact that drafters are also likely to retain a high level of interest in him almost no matter how his 2019 season plays out.
  • Bottom Line
    • Ridley is primarily a secondary breakout play, so make sure to read Shawn Siegele’s definitive case for an elite-level breakout from Ridley. But Ridley is also an extremely safe investment. As we saw with his comps, while owners aren’t fully pricing in his upside, they’re unlikely to bail on him in 2020 no matter how 2019 plays out. His current ADP essentially allows you to get a free look at a potential 2019 breakout. Even Ridley skeptics should be investing at his current cost.

Keke Coutee

  • With a WR39 season in 2019, dynasty owners may start to wake up on Keke Coutee.
  • Coutee will enter 2020, his third NFL season, at just 23 years old.
    • He’s tied to Deshaun Watson through at least 2021.
  • Given his strong first 2 years, there will be optimism that he can overtake Will Fuller as the No. 2 in the offense in 2020.
    • In fact, Fuller can be cut in 2020 without any dead money, for a savings of over 10MM, and is a free agent in 2021.
    • With a promising young QB, Coutee’s ADP could get out of control if Fuller disappoints in 2019 and/or departs before 2020.
  • Coutee is a similar, but superior play to Curtis Samuel.
    • Like Samuel we’re betting on a secondary target on his own team.
    • Coutee and Samuel both have terrific prospect profiles that went under the radar in dynasty drafts.
    • But Coutee is a year earlier in his career than Samuel.
      • As just a second-year player, Coutee has more value upside with a top-40 finish.
  • Coutee’s likely floor is fairly close to his current value.
    • He’s already barely going in the top-50 WRs.
    • If he simply retains his current target expectations in 2020, he’ll likely be top-50 again, even in a down 2019.
      • There are usually takers for a third-year player seeing good volume from a good QB.
  • If Coutee hits his WR39 projection, his ADP will likely settle in the WR35 range — a healthy profit from his current WR46 ADP.
  • Coutee also has under-appreciated breakout upside in 2019.
  • Bottom Line
    • Coutee’s price belies his tremendous upside. With great QB play, a profile indicative of a second-year breakout and the potential for a Fuller departure, Coutee has upside for a Tyler Boyd level value increase. At the same time, he’s so cheap and young that he poses very little investment risk.

Previous Installments:

Image Credit: Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: JuJu Smith-Schuster.

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  1. I’m using the royal we here since I don’t actually contribute to our rankings. Many thanks to our redraft rankers: Blair Andrews, Curtis Patrick, Dave Caban, Hasan Rahim, Monty Phan and Shawn Siegele.  (back)
  2. For ADP, I am using WR positianal ADP from FFPC startup drafts. These leagues are shallow and have a slight preference for older WRs than MFL leagues, but that preference is fairly muted and we can be sure that the data is built from high quality drafts.  (back)
  3. There are even reports he may not make it through this season as a Lion.  (back)
  4. Bowe was outproduced by Tony Gonzalez in both years.  (back)
  5. The only difference being Corey Davis, who is a “met expectations” comp for Ridley and a downside comp for Moore.  (back)
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