Figuring out the top-end guys (click here) is relatively easy. The low-end wideouts are much harder — and more valuable. Each week, I’ll discuss five wide receivers $5,000 or below who I project for at least five targets.
Corey Davis, TEN vs. NE, $4,500 — Davis continues to run as Marcus Mariota’s clear-cut favorite target. His usage has particularly spiked without Delanie Walker this season, as he’s seen at least seven targets in 5-of-8 games and has been at 10+ targets three times. We simply don’t see extremely talented players like Davis with a 29 percent target share priced at $4,500 often. Davis was at $6,400 just five weeks ago.
This week’s game sets up well for volume as Tom Brady will force an aggressive gameplan from Matt LaFleur, and the Patriots’ fast pace has allowed opponents to run the fifth-most plays per game. The concern for Davis is likely shadow coverage from star corner Stephon Gilmore, who is Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 CB among 120 qualifiers. Gilmore has played a huge part in the Patriots slowing down DeAndre Hopkins (8-78-0) and Davante Adams (6-40-1) this season.
Projection: 8 targets
Christian Kirk, ARZ at KC, $4,900 — The start of the Byron Leftwich era at OC back in Week 8 was encouraging from a creativity standpoint. Now he and the Cardinals have had the entire bye week to get an even better plan in place. We should expect a big part of that plan to go through Kirk, the darting second-round rookie who has at least five targets in six of his last seven games.
In that Week 8 win over the 49ers, Kirk ran a route on 35 of Josh Rosen’s 45 dropbacks (77 percent) and saw a 20 percent target share. With the Cardinals almost certainly trailing for much of this week’s game at Kansas City, we can project a bit of a volume rise and some chances for garbage-time catches against prevent defenses. While 35-year-old Larry Fitzgerald is unlikely to stay in for that garbage time, Kirk is very likely to play until the final whistle.
Projection: 7 targets
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB vs. MIA, $5,000 — Things are trending up in a big way for Valdes-Scantling ahead of Sunday’s game vs. Miami. Geronimo Allison (groin) is out again, and Randall Cobb is showing serious signs of being donezo. Top Dolphins CB Xavien Howard will almost certainly spend all day shadowing Davante Adams, freeing up MVS to tee off on Torry McTyer and Bobby McCain. This is a 6’4/206 wideout with 4.37 speed that Aaron Rodgers is putting to use.
In the Week 9 loss at New England, MVS ran a route on 40 of Rodgers’ 48 dropbacks. He’s now seen at least five targets in four straight games, averaging 7.0 during that span. Expect Valdes-Scantling to be more popular than Cobb, even at $100 more expensive.
Projection: 6 targets
John Ross, CIN vs. NO, $3,900 — The Bengals have been devastated by injuries this season with the latest victim being A.J. Green (toe). Gio Bernard (knee) is also very questionable and every-down tight end C.J. Uzomah is struggling badly. It leaves Andy Dalton with very few options who can threaten the defense.
Enter 2017 No. 9 overall pick John Ross, whose NFL career has been devastated by injury so far. But Sunday marks his biggest chance to date, as he’s the receiver most likely to get the first crack at filling Green’s outside receiver role. Ross (groin) practiced full Wednesday and is that threatening piece Dalton needs thanks to ridiculous 4.22 speed. If Ross isn’t fully healthy or effective, look for Alex Erickson or Cody Core to get chances as well.
Projection: 6 targets if healthy
Josh Doctson WAS at TB, $4,300 — On paper, this spot sets up perfectly for former first-round pick Josh Doctson. Paul Richardson (shoulder) is out, the Bucs purposefully funnel volume to the air, and the Redskins’ devastating offensive-line injuries make it far less likely they’ll be able to employ a prehistoric run-based plan. Of course, the Bucs are one of the best possible matchups for opposing pass games as they rank 31st in pass defense DVOA and 31st in yards per pass attempt allowed.
Doctson ran a route on 100 percent of Alex Smith’s dropbacks last week. All that said, the floor is always going to be low here as there’s a reason Doctson hasn’t topped 59 yards in a game all year. Smith and this offense is just far too conservative to generate big games through the air. The hope this week is the matchup plus Bucs’ offense will force a different attitude.
Projection: 6 targets
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