As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into the starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
Markus Wheaton — WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown might be the single greatest force in fantasy football at the moment, so when you think about the Steelers offense it all starts with Big Ben finding Brown. But there are definitely openings for a second receiver to be productive in that offense.
Martavis Bryant worked his way up to become Pittsburgh’s second option in the pass game … when he’s on the field. After being limited to 11 games last season, Bryant was slammed with a drug suspension that will cost him the entire 2016 season.
Markus Wheaton is the next man up.
Wheaton is walking into a pretty juicy fantasy situation given the high-powered Pittsburgh offense and the big names missing. Keep in mind that Le’Veon Bell (a great pass-catching RB) is also suspended for the first four games (hello DeAngelo Williams) and long-time Steeler TE Heath Miller retired.
Even with Bryant missing the beggining of the 2015 season, Wheaton was still an afterthought for the first half of the season (27.3 yards per game through 10 games). His lone fantasy worthy play came on a 72 yard bomb for a TD — his only catch during a MNF game in San Diego.
It was a game late in November in Seattle when Wheaton really became fantasy-relevant, hauling in nine passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. Although he didn’t explode again, Wheaton finished the last five games of the season averaging 55 yards per game and catching three more touchdowns (the TD against SD was his only score in the first 10 games).
However, Bryant was on the field for the Steelers during Wheaton’s six-game breakout to finish the season, but definitely wasn’t as productive.
In Bryant’s five games prior to the Seattle game, he averaged 83.2 yards and snagged five touchdowns. Although his productive went down when Wheaton got rolling, Bryant still stole 50 targets over those final six games (good for an average of 54.2 yards and just one total touchdown catch).
You could even argue that Wheaton was making a push at the No. 2 WR spot even if Bryant was set to suit up this season. But at 6’4”, Bryant is a nice fit alongside the significantly smaller Brown. Now it will be the 5’11” Wheaton stepping into that role.
The production won’t look the same way with the undersized Wheaton in the WR2 slot, but when it comes to the numbers in the boxscore, he has the potential to be more productive than Bryant ever was.
It’s worth mentioning that second-year WR Sammie Coats will be in the mix as the No. 3 WR for Pittsburgh this season. At 6’1” his size will get him on the field on a lot of passing downs and Pittsburgh may slot him into Bryant’s spot on particular plays, but the WR2 job is Wheaton’s to lose.Find me on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.