By: Pierre Camus (Twitter: @pfunk00)
Note: Projected starters and depth charts are current as of July, 2017.
Keeper sleepers: receivers with two or fewer years of NFL experience that are currently not being drafted within the top 100 WR in dynasty drafts. These players aren’t locks to make the 53-man roster but could present upside as a late-round value pick if things break just right.
Starters: Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones
Watkins will continue to be a divisive pick due to his extraordinary big-play ability and his extremely poor health record. Watkins averages 16.1 yards per reception and averages nearly 0.5 TD per game. He’s also missed 11 games in three seasons and barely catches more than half his targets. The upside is a lower-tier WR1 who will be just 24 years old entering this season. The downside is a disappointing WR2 who misses more time and has a QB who doesn’t have full support from the organization.
Jones should be an early to mid-second round pick in rookie drafts due to his nearly assured playing time. He should enter the season as a starter unless he struggles mightily in the preseason. Jones was a beast at the combine, ranking in the top 10 percentile of catch radius and agility score while posting a 4.45 40 time. He’s among the most likely to make an immediate impact, so if you’re in win-now mode, you might prefer him over John Ross or JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Next in line: Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, and Jeremy Butler
With no suitable in-house candidates to replace Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, the Bills signed a couple of cheap veterans in Holmes, Brown, and Butler. Holmes has had the most success in a five-year career, but was gradually phased out in Oakland. Philly Brown wasn’t part of a prolific passing offense in Carolina, so he may not have gotten the most opportunity. Then again, he’s now downgrading to the most run-heavy offense in the league. He may occasionally break free for a long TD, but there is little dynasty value here. Butler is merely a roster fill-in.
Long Shots: Rod Streater, Walter Powell, and Brandon Tate
It’s hard enough to envision the top tiers of Buffalo’s receiving corps making any sort of significant contributions outside of Watkins. At this point, you’d have to be in a really, really deep league to consider rostering any of these players. Streater is a journeyman who was signed in late-May for veteran depth and Brandon Tate is strictly a return man who has 65 career receptions over eight NFL seasons.
Keeper Sleeper: Dezmin Lewis
Lewis has only appeared in one game each of his first two seasons, registering no catches. He’s a lanky 6’4” receiver with good speed for his size. The signing of veterans Holmes and Brown put a damper on his chances to contribute this season, but if Zay Jones proves unready for the league or the new coaching staff isn’t happy with their current receiving corps, he could have the chance to impress in camp.
Starters: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills
PPR stud Landry and perennial tease Parker are the headliners here. What you see is what you get with Landry – a ton of targets, 100+ catches guaranteed and not many scores. His value drops in half-PPR and goes down much further in standard scoring, but he’s as reliable as you can get. Parker is the ultimate risk-reward play this year. He is a first-round talent who doesn’t play like one. The biggest issues have been health and dedication to his craft, both of which are supposedly changed for the better this offseason. Parker only averaged 3.7 receptions per game last year and his yards per catch dropped by almost six in his second NFL season. While he definitely has the ability to put it all together in his third year, the real concern should be how much the team will spread the ball around and focus on the run. Kenny Stills is a great best-ball (MFL10) play due to his home run ability (17.3 Y/R and nine TD). You won’t get enough total catches or yards to make him anything higher than a WR3 or flex play, but he’s only 25 years old and can fortify the back end of a fantasy receiving corps.
Next in line: Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant
Last year was a big letdown for Carroo truthers, but it was just year one for him and new coach Adam Gase. He is a physical specimen and a standout on our own DynastyGuru’s (@DynastyGuruFF) Guru Score, charting No. 1 in the 2016 WR class. In reality, he’ll need an injury to Parker or Stills to earn significant playing time. Had Stills left town, Carroo’s stock would be much higher. There’s still enough talent to hold onto in dynasty leagues, but he’ll likely be at the back end of benches or on taxi squads in 2017. Jakeem Grant is the speedy little return guy that teams love to use on gadget plays, but not much else. OC Clyde Christensen has said they want to get him more involved on pass plays this year, but you know how that usually goes.
Long Shots: Drew Morgan, Rashawn Scott, and Malcolm Lewis
There’s some competition brewing for the chance to earn a spot on the final roster. UM alum Rashawn Scott has decent size and ball skills, but has never been a standout. Fellow ‘Cane Malcolm Lewis doesn’t have physicality on his side, so he will have to excel in his route-running to earn a chance, but is probably destined for the practice squad. UDFA Drew Morgan has impressed in OTAs and could be the real sleeper here, although he projects to be a possession receiver and nothing more.
Keeper Sleeper: Isaiah Ford
As a seventh-round pick, Ford isn’t a lock to make the team, but they certainly like his potential. Ford picked up over 1,000 yards receiving as a sophomore and junior at Virginia Tech before coming out for the draft. He didn’t run well at the combine and doesn’t have great speed, but he’s young and has time to develop his skills if given the chance.
New England Patriots
Starters: Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, and Chris Hogan
Brandin Cooks certainly is spoiled. He started his career playing with Drew Brees, although the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye on the field. He now gets to catch passes from Tom Brady in what could be one of his final seasons. Cooks has improved his Y/R each of his three seasons, up to 15.0 last season. He will still be used as a deep threat, but chances are he will see more intermediate routes in New England and be far less of a boom-bust play each week. At the age of 30, Julian Edelman set a career high with 1,106 yards and fell two receptions shy of 100. He’s never been a red zone threat and that won’t change, especially if Gronk actually stays healthy. He needs to be discounted in dynasty leagues, as do many of these players, because Tom Brady just can’t play forever. Chris Hogan may see the biggest decline with Cooks on board, as he was often used to run fly routes to catch defenses off-guard. His 17.9 Y/R led the league, making him a great best-ball pick, but it’s hard to see him repeating that success.
Next in line: Malcolm Mitchel and Danny Amendola
Malcolm Mitchell showed up out of the blue in Week 9 and put up four TD in a four-week period. He ultimately failed to help fantasy teams during the playoff stretch, but he showed glimpses of potential that could make him the team’s future WR2. Mitchell ran a 4.45 40 and came from an established program in Georgia, both positives in the eyes of scouts and dynasty owners. He’s certainly worth a roster spot in hopes he can gain a bigger role next year. Contrary to reports, Danny Amendola should stay on the Patriots in 2017. That doesn’t make him appealing to fantasy teams in any way. He put up a pathetic 23 catches for 243 yards last season, but will stick around to produce more mediocre numbers that should be ignored.
Long Shots: Andrew Hawkins, Devin Street, and Devin Lucien
Andrew Hawkins will make a case to jump from the lowly Browns to the Super Bowl champs, but it seems the team will stick with Amendola instead. He had a decent 2015 with Cleveland, catching 63 catches for 824, but that was more a matter of Josh Gordon’s suspension and few other options in the receiving corps. Street couldn’t hang with the Cowboys or Colts and probably won’t do so with the Pats either. Lucien has decent speed, but will need to standout in camp to draw consideration.
Keeper Sleeper: Austin Carr
An undrafted free agent that has a chance to stick, Carr made a name for himself at last year’s Cinderella team, the Northwestern Wildcats. He set the single-season school record in his senior year with 1,247 yards and tied for second with 90 receptions. He also tied the school record with 12 touchdown receptions. He doesn’t jump off the page with metrics scores, but he could man the slot if any of the regular succumb to injury.
New York Jets
Starters: Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson
The question remains whether anybody in this offense will be worth starting in fantasy as the Jets currently have three backup quarterbacks fighting for a starting job. Quincy Enunwa exemplified the third-year WR breakout theory by catching 50 balls for 857 yards as the No. 3 receiver on the team. He’s got a good size/speed combo that should make him worth holding onto in hopes that the Jets can figure things out in the next season or two. If Bryce Petty manages to win the starting QB job, pickup or trade for Robby Anderson immediately! In the four full games Petty played, two of his three touchdown passes went to Anderson, which represented his only TD receptions on the year. He was also targeted a ridiculous (for him) 35 times in those four games, which was half his total for the season. Otherwise, Anderson was fairly pedestrian in his rookie campaign and will rely on heavy volume to make any impact.
Next in line: Ardarius Stewart, Charone Peake, and Marquess Wilson
Charone Peake possesses great speed (4.45 40-yard dash time) and length, making him an ideal deep threat. This could work in his favor if Josh McCown is the starter, as he’s shown the ability to connect on the deep pass throughout his career. The wild card is Stewart, who has the highest ceiling of any current Jets receiver, but must find his niche. He wasn’t asked to do much heavy lifting in the ‘Bama offense, but as a four-star recruit on a championship team, it may not take long for him to adapt to the NFL game. “Brother” Marquess flashed some talent in his four-year stay with the Bears, but wasn’t healthy enough to make a permanent impact and is simply a desperation flier in both reality and fantasy.
Long Shots: Quinton Patto and Jalin Marshall
It seems (and looks) as if Patton has been around longer, but he’s still just 26 years old heading into his fifth NFL season. He couldn’t make a name for himself in San Fran, so it’s unlikely he’ll distinguish himself in the Big Apple with younger talent at the position. Marshall is strictly a kick returner who will start the season on a four-game suspension for PEDs.
Keeper Sleeper: Chad Hansen
Hansen doesn’t stand out in terms of speed or size, but has quickness out of his breaks and catches most of the balls thrown his way. He’s been called a poor man’s Cooper Kupp, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the way Kupp is revered in some fantasy circles.