The wide receiver position has always been important on DraftKings because of the site’s PPR scoring. Well, the position took an even bigger bump in significance this season when DraftKings replaced the kicker spot with an addition receiver position. That means that if you decide to put a wide receiver into your flex spot, you could potentially start four in a week.
With such a significant portion of your lineup dedicated to receivers, there’s a really big potential edge to be had if you can identify wide receiver production on a week-to-week basis. I personally center every DraftKings lineup I create around the wide receivers because I believe people treat the position incorrectly, and that’s where I can gain an edge.
There are all sorts of little tricks you can use to find the right wide receivers for each particular league (the “right” ones depend on your goals, how much risk tolerance you have, and so on). I’ll discuss those throughout the season, but for now, let’s concentrate on the top Week 1 plays at the position.
Top Five Wide Receivers
Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs New York Giants, $8800 – Megatron is always in play, regardless of the opponent. One of the reasons he makes for such an awesome tournament play is that you can stack him with Matthew Stafford and be fairly confident that if Stafford goes off, Johnson will do the same. The fact that Johnson is $700 more than Demaryius Thomas is going to drive down his usage, which adds to the GPP allure.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver vs Indianapolis, $8100 – On the surface, Thomas looks like a much better play than Megatron because the two are in fairly similar situations long-term, but Thomas’s team is projected better by Vegas. The Broncos-Colts game has the potential to become a real shootout, which makes Thomas arguably the best bet to score a touchdown this week.
In a cash game, you probably want to side with Thomas because of the value. In a tournament, I’d argue Megatron’s (expected) lower usage and obviously high ceiling is going to make him an underutilized player in Week 1.
Dez Bryant, Dallas vs San Francisco, $7800 – Bryant is very clearly the top option in the Cowboys’ offense and this is our first opportunity to see how new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will utilize him. Linehan’s history suggests he’s going to be a big positive for Bryant. I believe his arrival gives Bryant a higher week-to-week floor since Bryant won’t get taken out of so many games, which makes him a superior cash-game play than ever before.
Julio Jones, Atlanta vs New Orleans, $7700 – According to Sports Injury Predictor, players who break their foot have a 63 percent chance of injuring an ankle and a 59 percent chance of tearing their hamstring in their first season back. Those are pretty ridiculous percentages that suggest Jones is a major risk this season.
Much of that risk is limited because we need Jones to stay healthy for just one week, but it’s still enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable placing him in cash games. Also, it makes sense that players who are likely to get injured are also likely to see reduced efficiency even when on the field, so that could reduce Jones’ ceiling as well.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago vs Buffalo, $7600 – The Bills’ defense is pretty good as a whole, but they had trouble keeping up with opposing receivers in 2013, allowing the eighth-most fantasy points in the league. Marshall is a really unique combination of high floor and high ceiling, meaning he’s very much an option in every league type. His combination of short, reliable targets with game-breaking ability give him easy access to big-time performances without being much of a risk.
Five More to Consider
- Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh vs Cleveland, $7500
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati at Baltimore, $7400
- Alshon Jeffery, Chicago vs Buffalo, $7100
- Keenan Allen, San Diego at Arizona, $6800
- Jordy Nelson, Green Bay at Seattle, $6800
Five Mid-Priced Wide Receivers
Andre Johnson, Houston vs Washington, $6600 – Johnson probably won’t have very high usage in Week 1 because of his quarterback situation and the fact that he probably doesn’t come at a huge discount. He’s always had massive upside, though, which makes him worth a look in GPPs. And it’s not like his quarterback situation was ever ideal, so it’s tough to forecast much of a drop in production based on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s presence behind center.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco at Dallas, $6100 – We haven’t heard much about Crabtree this year, which might be a good thing for his value. You could arguably find a lot of success by targeting any receiver who plays the Cowboys this season, but Crabtree is definitely worth consideration. In relation to his season-long ADP, Crabtree might be slightly overpriced ahead of Michael Floyd and Vincent Jackson, but this is the sort of matchup in which he could go for a 8/150/2 sort of line.
Michael Floyd, Arizona vs San Diego, $6000 – Speaking of Floyd, he seems to be a pretty obvious value against the Chargers in Week 1. San Diego was the third-worst defense against opposing wide receivers in 2013, and Floyd figures to take over the reins from Larry Fitzgerald as Arizona’s No. 1 option in the passing game. His ability to score with consistency makes him a very attractive play in all league types.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay vs Carolina, $5900 – Jackson probably isn’t the best option in cash games, for a few reasons. First, the matchup isn’t ideal. Second, his quarterback situation is a potential issue. And third, he sees long targets and is somewhat dependent on touchdowns for production.
All of those question marks make Jackson a high-variance play, however, which gives him value in a GPP. Against the Panthers, Jackson has an extremely wide range of outcomes. If you’re willing to accept the occasional dud, you should be able to increase your lineup’s ceiling with Jackson.
And then of course there’s this: pass defense doesn’t carry over very well from one year to the next—the best pass defenses in Year X aren’t typically among the same in Year X+1—so it’s often smart to be bullish on players in seemingly difficult matchups early in the season because, in all likelihood, the matchup isn’t quite as challenging as the previous year’s numbers suggest.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota at St. Louis, $5800 – One of the concerns with Patterson in his rookie year is that he averaged only 10.4 yards per catch despite catching just 57.7 percent of his targets. His 6.0 yards per target was also poor. Typically, you’d like any receiver who doesn’t have a high yards per catch figure to compensate with a high catch rate (a la Kendall Wright).
The question is how much Patterson’s role will change with Norv Turner in town, as well as how much progress he makes as a second-year receiver. I’m willing to take a chance on him given his ability as a runner and return man, which gives him some “hidden” upside.
Five More to Consider
- Marques Colston, New Orleans at Atlanta, $5900
- Roddy White, Atlanta vs New Orleans, $5900
- Kendall Wright, Tennessee at Kansas City, $5700
- Mike Wallace, Miami vs New England, $5600
- T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis at Denver, $5500
Five Value Wide Receivers
Eric Decker, New York Jets vs Oakland, $5200 – The fact that Decker is on this list of cheap value receivers is crazy. For some reason, Decker’s talent goes overlooked, with many arguing that he was simply a beneficiary of Peyton Manning’s talent.
Certainly Decker benefited from Manning, but the opposite is true, too; Decker is a tremendous athlete who has played at a high level through his football career. He was highly efficient as a scorer in college and at Denver, even with Tim Tebow at quarterback. This is a pure value play based on Decker’s underrated talent alone.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis at Denver, $5100 – I mentioned Andrew Luck as a value quarterback play because he’ll be leading an offense that’s projected to score a bunch of points, but still a touchdown underdog in Vegas. That’s ideal for passing stats.
Wayne isn’t the target monster he once was, especially with all of the new additions in Indy, but that’s priced into his salary. I don’t think he’s such an obvious play that you must have him in your lineup, but he’s definitely worth consideration when you want to play Luck in a tournament.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants at Detroit, $5000 – One of the best ways to get value early in the year is to identify players who haven’t yet produced at a high level (at least in terms of bulk points) who are set to see changes in usage. Randle, who will be moving into the Giants’ No. 2 receiving role, is one of those players.
In Detroit, the Giants figure to air the ball out often. For his touchdown upside and the matchup, you’re getting a nice price.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina at Tampa Bay, $4200 – I’m typically very bearish on rookie wide receivers, particularly early in the year. Rookies develop as the season progresses, both in terms of efficiency and opportunities.
But Benjamin isn’t your typical rookie because of his situation. Despite perhaps being over-drafted, he’s basically the Panthers’ No. 1 wide receiver. That’s scary for Carolina, but you aren’t going to be able to get a true No. 1 workload for his price tag very often.
Benjamin also has a good matchup and is very red zone efficient.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee at Kansas City, $3800 – Hunter is a 6’4”, 204-pound receiver with 4.44 speed and a rich history of production. He scored seven touchdowns on 16 catches in his freshman year at Tennessee and hasn’t looked back since. If there’s one receiver who I think can replicate Alshon Jeffery’s breakout 2013 campaign, it’s Hunter.
Five More to Consider
- Greg Jennings, Minnesota at St. Louis, $4500
- Kenny Stills, New Orleans at Atlanta, $4100
- Kenny Britt, St. Louis vs Minnesota, $4000
- Miles Austin, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, $3600
- Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati at Baltimore, $3200