Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
Statistically speaking, I think the top-priced wide receivers on DraftKings are the worst values at any position. Both the top tight ends and running backs offer more dollar-per-point value.
However, that’s clearly not all that matters when creating a lineup. I still love to use a wide receiver in the flex, even if the strict value isn’t there, because they offer the most upside of any position. I think this is where different methods of analyzing anticipated production are important. In cash games—especially 50/50s—risk-minimization might be the most important thing, in which case the overall risk profile of your lineup might be minimized by using a running back in the flex and generally paying up for quarterbacks. In tournaments, you want exposure to an elite ceiling, in which case it’s okay to “overpay” for guys like Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas.
Wide receiver is also a unique position because of how volatile their play can be on a weekly basis, specifically how much more volatile certain players are than others. Guys like Julian Edelman and Julio are probably nearly as consistent as any running back in the league, whereas someone like Vincent Jackson—who I think is underpriced this week—is such a roll of the dice, regardless of how value.
We group all receivers together, but take a minute this week to think about what type of player each guy is, how he’s utilized in his offense, and how the nature of his game fits with your goals for a particular league.
Cream of the Crop
Julian Edelman, New England (at DAL) – $7000
The Cowboys get a bunch of defenders back this week, including two pass-rushers, but I don’t think it’s going to matter. They lost their best cornerback—Orlando Scandrick—in the beginning of the season, and he’s the one who would have matched up on Edelman. I think Edelman is gonna #ballsohard in this game. Not sure if he’s worthy of GPP consideration, but he is going to be in every one of my cash lineups.
Julio Jones, Atlanta (vs WSH) – $9200
The ‘Skins have a decent run defense, but one of the worst pass defenses in the league. I’m not confident they’re going to be able to take Jones out of this game, even if they double him. I think you could make an argument that, with Ben Roethlisberger out and Antonio Brown thus sacrificing value, Jones has the highest floor and the highest ceiling of any receiver in the league.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver (at OAK) – $8100
Thomas has just one touchdown through four games, which should be seen as a positive because he’s not a 0.25-touchdown kind of guy—even in this particular Denver Broncos offense. He’s still seen his regular 11 to 14 targets per game this year, and both his efficiency and touchdowns are likely to regress (in a good way). I’m betting it’s this week in Oakland.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay (vs JAX) – $5000
Jackson represents a unique proposition this week. Normally I don’t think using players like him in cash games—that is, those who are dependent on big plays and touchdowns for production. That’s why I love Edelman; he has such a narrow range of outcomes given his short target length. Jackson is underpriced, however, which makes this a tough choice. I still think I will find three cash receivers I like more, but he’s on the table in GPPs.
Middle of the Pack
Keenan Allen, San Diego (vs PIT) – $7200
The Steelers have allowed 2.3 points per game above salary-based expectations over the past year. That’s the worst mark in the league by 0.5 points per game (the Eagles are second-worst). In short, they’re awful. Allen is not. His targets have been a bit shaky and he’s probably too pricey for cash games.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston (vs IND) – $7200
If you’re playing in the Thursday night slate, the injury status of Vontae Davis is going to be pivotal to your approach. As of right now, it looks like he’s going to miss this game. Yeah, I’ll take DeAndre Hopkins and his roughly 100 targets per game against a Davis-less secondary all day.
Willie Snead, New Orleans (at PHI) – $3300
I’m really not sure what to do with Snead. In the past three weeks, he has received 19 total targets, and he’s caught all but four of them. That catch rate won’t continue, and Snead also has limited upside. Still, I could very well be going big at running back this week, in which case I might actually punt one of the receiver spots with Snead.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay (vs STL) – $7500
Cobb has a difficult matchup against the Rams, although I’m not as concerned about it with a player like him who sees a lot of short targets and screens—and also plays in Green Bay’s offense. St. Louis has a sick pass-rush, but they’ve actually been slightly below-average the past 12 months against receivers (after adjusting for their DraftKings salaries). This could be a sneaky good play.
Rest of the Field
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh (at SD) – $3800
This is the play that will be a pretty pivotal one in tournaments, I think. A lot of people will likely be on Bryant at this price, even with Vick at quarterback, because of the big-play ability he demonstrated as a rookie. I might have minimal exposure to him, but for the most part I think the loss of Roethlisberger hurts this offense more than most believe. The funny part is I kind of like Vick at the price, but for his rushing ability. Nonetheless, this is the type of fade that can make or break you.
Pierre Garcon, Washington (at ATL) – $5300
I do think Garcon is priced too low relative to his median projection, but my problem with using him in cash games is a lack of upside. I know cash games are mostly about risk-minimization—specifically 50/50s—but it’s not like a high ceiling is a poor thing; it’s just bad if it comes with greater risk. Garcon offers perhaps a somewhat high floor, but his low ceiling does scare me off him because it’s not like any receiver is guaranteed anything on a weekly basis.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit (vs ARZ) – $7400
This matchup isn’t great for Megatron, although it’s not as poor as people might think against a defense that makes a lot of big plays but surrenders a lot as well. Everyone is so down on Johnson, but this feels like a Fitz 2.0 situation to me. I’m on him in GPPs.
Leonard Hankerson, Atlanta (vs WSH) – $4000
There’s no cash-game value here, but Hankerson is seeing decent targets and has big-play ability in one of the NFL’s top offenses. If Washington sells out to stop Julio, we could see Hankerson get behind the defense a couple times. There is a bit of a lack of target upside here, perhaps, but I do think you’re going to see much lower ownership than on Bryant.