Don’t miss out on fantasy value just because someone is not at the top of the depth chart right now. Here are 10 WR position battles worth your attention:
10. San Diego Chargers
Depth: Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Tyrell Williams, James Jones
Allen is a known commodity, but beyond him, this is not a big-name receiving core. Benjamin’s known for his work in the return game, but did breakout as a WR last season (68/966/5 TD). He left the Browns to play with a better QB, so he appears ready to step in as the No. 2 option for Rivers. Then things get tricky. Inman grew in his second season last year, but newly signed James Jones has the experience to leapfrog up to No. 3 — probably the best option. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Benjamin and Jones end up as equals in the passing game.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
Depth: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham
The Eagles have so many scattered parts it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Randle should be a really nice add as a No. 3 option for Philly, and Josh Huff will be in the mix too. The real “battle” I see is between Agholor and Green-Beckham. DGB might already be the most talented WR on the roster, but there’s a reason the Titans moved on so quickly. If a fresh start is all he needs, though, watch out for a quick climb up the depth charts.
8. Tennessee Titans
Depth: Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright, Andre Johnson, Justin Hunter
Moving on from Green-Beckham means a few things for the Titans. 1. Matthews and Sharpe were impressive enough to win the two starting jobs very quickly. They both make for great sleepers. 2. Justin Hunter now has room to grow as the team’s top deep ball option. 3. This team is going to pound the rock behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The running game does scare me a little bit, but at their current value Matthews and Sharpe are the least heralded starting WR duo in the NFL. They already won their position battles, so feel comfortable moving forward with them.
7. Cleveland Browns
Depth: Josh Gordon (SUSP), Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore
I’m buying into RG3 being at least a capable QB, and when Gordon returns in Week 5, I think they’ll have a good connection. Behind Gordon we’ve got a ton of question marks, starting with Coleman (a rookie) and Pryor (a converted QB). Weeks 1-4 without Gordon will be interesting, but the bomb Pryor caught from Griffin in Week 2 of the preseason was encouraging. What I’m watching out for is Coleman creating a Garcon-esque vibe with Griffin and becoming his top target. They’ll have four weeks to build that chemistry before Gordon plays catchup, which could prove extremely valuable.
6. San Francisco 49ers
Depth: Bruce Ellington, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, DeAndre Smelter, Jerome Simpson
Who? Smith might be the only name you recognize/only name with any success in San Fran. Blaine Gabbert’s options are seriously limited, but we’ve learned one thing: Ellington is beating out Smith as the top option. Injuries have plagued Ellington throughout his young career — he’s currently sidelined with another ankle injury. I can’t blame you if you want to avoid the 49ers’ passing game for the most part this season, but if you get involved, Ellington’s going to be the main attraction … he has to be.
5. Detroit Lions
Depth: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, Jeremy Kerley, T.J. Jones
I covered Marvin Jones in a “Next Man Up” feature you can check out here, but Detroit’s WR core is worth another mention. When you lose a guy like Calvin Johnson a lot of production has to open up for more than one person. In short, Jones is beating out Tate for the No. 1 WR role. This doesn’t mean Tate isn’t in line for a great season, though. In terms of value, Jones is a much better target, but the duo could both be in for career seasons. Boldin won’t beat out either of these two, but he’ll be involved.
4. Indianapolis Colts
Depth: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Tevaun Smith, Kevin Graf
There’s a pretty big drop off after the top-3 here, but Indy is expecting big things from Moncrief and Dorsett this season. The main difference from last season will simply be having a healthy Andrew Luck. As long as that’s the case, watch out for Dorsett. Hilton should remain the top option in this offense, but the feeling is Dorsett (called “the most improved player in camp” by the Indianapolis Star) should overtake Moncrief (who hasn’t fallen off his game at all). This is great news for the Colts as a pair of receivers they’ve taken high in the last two drafts seem to be developing nicely. There’s potential for the top-3 WR to be much closer in value than they’re currently ranked/priced.
3. Carolina Panthers
Depth: Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, Kevin Norwood
Obviously Carolina overcame an atrocious WR group last season and were very successful. Greg Olsen was Cam Newton’s main target, but the ground game and defense really stole the show. This season will be different. Benjamin is back from a torn ACL and Funchess now has a season under his belt. Ginn is the No. 2 WR right now; however, it’s not a matter of if, but when Funchess will take his job as a starter. Benjamin will keep his No. 1 WR job all season, but Funchess easily has the potential to become an equal fantasy option.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
Depth: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Brandon Tate, James Wright
I wanted to avoid covering offenses with clear-cut top-5 NFL receivers, but these next two teams have a lot of questions marks behind their studs. Green is going to have a monster year for Cincinnati, but there’s plenty more to go around in this offense. In past years, Marvin Jones and Muhammad Sanu have been fantasy relevant behind Green. Now those duties fall on LaFell and Boyd. LaFell was a solid veteran free agent signing, but much like Ginn, it’s probably just a matter of time until the talented rookie overtakes him on the depth chart. And thanks to some injuries, that time could be now. With LaFell (and TE Tyler Eifert) banged up at the moment, Boyd could be a great Week 1 value as the No. 2 option in the offense already. If he plays well, it’s unlikely he gives that role back.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Depth: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers
Brown likely will live up to his billing as the best fantasy football player in 2016. He’s a beast. But the Pittsburgh offense has plenty to go around this season. Without Martavius Bryant all season and Le’Veon Bell for the first three games, there’s only so many options the Steelers have. Wheaton and Coates have no choice but to become major weapons this season. Wheaton will be the guy that gets the first crack behind Brown based on experience and readiness, but Coates is coming in hot behind him. The second-year WR has a shot to get on the field just based on his combination of size and skill. Brown and Wheaton are both under 6-feet tall, so the bigger Coates is the obvious fill in for Bryant (who’s 6’4”) even though he may remain third on the depth chart.
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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.