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Fantasy Football 101: Everything to know about drafting wide receivers

In this installment of our fantasy football series, we look at the wide receivers you should be considering this year in your draft.

Cincinnati Bengals v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Fantasy football is right around the corner. Today we look at the wide receiver position.

Way back when I started playing fantasy football, every draft had that interesting moment where one brave soul would interrupt the run of running backs to select a wide receiver in the first ten-to-fifteen picks of the draft. Usually that receiver was Randy Moss. A few years later that lone receiver became Calvin Johnson. Today, it’s common to find not one receiver, but five or six like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins gracing the first round or early second round of most fantasy drafts.

This represents the changing landscape of fantasy football. Gone are the slew of 300 carry bellcow running backs, who have been replaced by the dreaded “RB by committee”. As fantasy players look to replace these tried and true fantasy running back point generating studs, two competing theories have emerged.

  • There are few great, high volume RB’s – get what you can at RB while you can
  • There are few great, high volume RB’s – go after WR’s instead

Is one of those strategies better than the other? And how should that affect your wide receiver drafting?

If you look at any of the various fantasy football sites online who do projections, you will find a pretty sharp drop in expected scoring from the top group of wide receivers. The drop from the top wide receiver to the ninth wide receiver is three points per game. That’s an impressive drop when you consider that the drop in projected weekly scoring from the ninth best receiver to the 48th wide receiver is also three points per game.

The key takeaway – after those top nine or 10 guys, it really doesn’t matter who you draft at wide receiver. Basically the guys you can get in the fifth, sixth, seventh rounds are projected to get you the same amount of points as the guys getting selected in the third and fourth rounds.

Guys like Amari Cooper, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Stefon Diggs and Larry Fitzgerald project to score about the same amounts of points as guys like Devin Funchess, Robby Anderson, Nelson Agholor, and Michael Crabtree. But the first grouping is being drafted roughly four rounds higher than the second grouping.

This leads us to an obvious conclusion: if you don’t end up with a wide received in that top, elite group, you can comfortably wait a few rounds before addressing the position because the drop in production allows for it.

This takes us back to our diverging strategies of grabbing RB’s early while you can, because there are few great ones vs going after WR’s early because of the lack of great RB’s. It turns out that both strategies have merit.

With that large drop-off in receiver production, selecting an elite WR gives you an advantage if your WR1 is scoring 12 points a game, while your competition is only getting nine points from their WR1.

But, that large drop-off in receiver production from the top few, and the relatively similar production from the next 40 WR’s also means you can pile up on other positions early, knowing that if you aren’t missing out on much at the wide receiver position by waiting until the fifth or sixth rounds instead of starting in on the position in the third or fourth rounds.

Yeah, but when should I draft my wide receivers?

Seriously, how can I answer that? Unless I’m sitting in your draft and seeing all the picks, that is a hard question to answer. The ultimate answer is VALUE. Look at the value of what you get for selecting one vs. what you miss out on by not selecting one.

For example if you can get Mike Evans at pick 3.01 vs Demaryius Thomas at pick 4.12, wait for Thomas, because they are projected to score the same amount of points, and that third-round pick can be used on a solid running back (which you can never have too many of).

For example if you are sitting there at the end of round 2 and A.J. Green is still there (with his 2.10 average draft position), you make that selection without hesitation, because he is in that elite group, and you aren’t going to miss much at running back at that point.

Can you name some guys I should draft?

Well, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones aren’t bad choices. Neither are A.J. Green or Antonio Brown. But in reality, you aren’t going to get to pick from all of them, so let’s look at some guys who are undervalued, overvalued, and sleepers.


Tyreek Hill - The addition of Sammy Watkins has lowered expectations from Hill. But Hill is still the top target in the Chiefs offense. If you are in a non-ppr league, his draft position near the end of the third round is far below his point projections.

Robby Anderson - Under the radar because the Jets offense is not good on paper. But Anderson is the only legitimate receiving option, coming off a quiet 940 yards, seven TD season.


Stefon Diggs - Yes he got a big contract and yet the Vikings got a new quarterback. But he is projected to be the 21st highest scoring WR but is being draft as the 11th wide receiver off the boards. Something doesn’t add up. Also, his QB upgrade wasn’t Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, it’s only Kirk Cousins. And he has to fend off Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Kyle Rudolph for targets.

Larry Fitzgerald - One of the best to ever play the position, but his projected scoring does not align with how high folks are drafting him in a Sam Bradford led offense.

Josh Gordon - This one makes no sense. He’s projected as the 36th best WR, but is going in the 4th/5th rounds of drafts. He’s the #2 receiver on the Browns with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, and may not even play right away.


I have mentioned this top wide receiver group several times. They include (based on compiled projected points from various sites) Hopkins, Brown, Beckham, Jones, Green, Thomas, Adams, Hill.

Disclaimer: In the past 17 years I’ve won the championship in exactly 50% of the leagues I’ve participated in. Over that span, I’ve been able to learn what some of the key factors are in building a good team that will give you the best chance for fantasy football success. In these posts, my goal is to share some of what I’ve learned with our readers to help them build better fantasy football teams.