The NFL is constantly evolving and yet history continues to repeat itself. You may have noticed most of the same wide receivers finish in the top producing spots every year. I wrote about this in 2016 and the trend hasn’t changed. I researched the top-24 PPR WRs since 2000 and discovered a small percentage are responsible for the overwhelming majority of fantasy production. A lot of these WRs are connected to elite quarterbacks. Some, like Brandin Cooks, produced with several different QBs. To put it simply, the WRs that finished top 24 had a high(er) likelihood of doing it multiple times.
What follows is an unorthodox approach to targeting WRs. Recognizing WRs that continually finish top 24 has redraft and dynasty applications. These are the obvious outliers that may be overlooked.
How to Profit from Consistent WR Stardom
Here are the WRs with three or more top 24 PPR finishes since 2000.
These 71 WRs have dominated fantasy scoring. Let’s call them the “Elite 71.” All players with an * indicate three or more Top 12 (WR1) finishes. With around 700 drafted and undrafted NFL WRs since 2000, approximately 10% of NFL WRs own almost all of the top fantasy scoring spots.
Here is the breakdown by year from the grid above.
Roughly 85% of the top-12 seasons are listed in the grid. I found this percentage staggering, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing.
The next are in very good position to break into the grid (3+ top-24 finishes) are these.
If all three accomplish this, the top-12 percentage jumps to 86.4% and top 24 to 77.2%. Randall Cobb has two top-24 finishes but has not finished there since 2014. Smith-Schuster still may not have the ADP he deserves.
It’s notable that there are currently several Elite 71 WRs on the same team. Odell Beckham/Jarvis Landry and Alshon Jeffery/DeSean Jackson. Landry, Jeffery, and Jackson have ADPs outside of the top-24 WRs.
There have been 20 team WRs to both finish top 12 since 2000. Fourteen of those WRs are part of the Elite 71. Three of those 20 are Smith-Schuster, Diggs, and Thielen.
During their mid-20s, Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin and Chad Johnson/T.J. Houshmandzadeh maintained three consecutive top-24 seasons while sharing the field together. This is a heavy endorsement of OBJ and Landry.
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the active WRs that have one top-24 season.
Kenny Golladay, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Marvin Jones, Josh Gordon, Devin Funchess, Nelson Agholor, Tyrell Williams, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Sammy Watkins.
There are some dynasty darlings from years past that never put it together past one magical year: Lee Evans, Braylon Edwards, Torrey Smith, etc. These players carry some risk. Woods is competing with Cooks and Cooper Kupp. Golladay and Jones could siphon targets from one another. Ridley is still in Julio’s shadow. Funchess has TE and rookie WR competition behind T.Y. Hilton. It’s been 6 years since Josh Gordon was truly relevant. It’s been awhile for Watkins and Robinson too. That said, no one should be surprised if several of these are top 24 in 2019.
How is this actionable?
Consider loading up on as many as possible from the grids above. Take shots on those that seem undervalued. Dynasty leagues are won by rostering undervalued WRs or catching them in the middle of a perennial stud career.
Not all of these will continue to produce but history does have a way of repeating itself. The Obvious Outliers might be staring us in the face.