Below is a table providing a snapshot of the receiver position in 2015.
Key columns to note…
FP: Fantasy Points (PPR)
PPG: Points Per Game
Playoffs: Total FP in Weeks 14-16
RV: Relative Value (difference between that player’s points and the positional baseline, or WR24)
ADP: Approximate round in which the player was drafted
Positional ADP Rank: Rank at his position on draft day (e.g. A.J. Green was the 8th WR off the board, on average)
2015 Actual Relative Value (PPR): Wide Receivers
|#||Player||Team||G||FP (PPR)||PPG||Playoffs||RV||ADP||Pos ADP Rank||ADP Diff|
|52||Steve L Smith||BAL||7||131||18.7||0||-78||–||–||–|
It was a good year for early-round receivers. Of the first 15 receivers off the board, 11 finished within 12 spots of their positional ADP. Of the eight receivers drafted in the first two rounds – Antonio Brown (WR1), Dez Bryant (WR81), Julio Jones (WR2), Demaryius Thomas (WR11), Odell Beckham (WR5), Calvin Johnson (WR12), Randall Cobb (WR26), A.J. Green (WR8) – six finished with WR1 numbers.
Assuming a 12-team PPR league with a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 TE, no one had a higher relative value (169) than Antonio Brown, my #1 PPR pick in 2015. Making Brown’s season even more impressive, Ben Roethlisberger missed four games and was limited in a few others. In the 11 games in which Roethlisberger attempted at least 25 passes, Brown averaged 9.8 catches for 136 yards and 0.91 TD. That translates to 157 catches for 2,176 yards and 14.6 touchdowns over a full, 16-game season. So yes, Brown will once again be my no-brainer #1 pick in 2016 even though his numbers tend to dip a bit with LeVeon Bell in the lineup.
Julio Jones (160) and Odell Beckham (110) also returned elite production after being drafted in the 1st round. Both players are shaping up as very solid top 5 picks next year.
As always, there was good value available in the middle rounds, with Brandon Marshall, Allen Robinson, Eric Decker and (personal favorite) Larry Fitzgerald offering WR1-type value at a 6th- to 10th-round price.
The best late-round values were Doug Baldwin (14th round ADP, WR9), Michael Crabtree (13th, WR16) and Allen Hurns (16th, WR18), who all turned into every-week starters in 2015. These three players are poised for similar seasons in 2016, though Baldwin’s year will be tough to repeat with the return of Jimmy Graham and the development of Tyler Lockett. Baldwin was WR45 through the first nine weeks, but from Week 10 to Week 17, he was the #1 overall receiver. It would be hard to trust him with an early round pick given that wild swing in production.
Let’s not forget about Kamar Aiken (19th, WR27), Tavon Austin (17th, WR28), Travis Benjamin (undrafted, WR29), Willie Snead (undrafted, WR34), Donte Moncrief (15th, WR36) and Lockett (15th, WR44), who all had stretches of starter-caliber play and are under the age of 27.
The Bottom Line
While there is always wideout value in the middle and late rounds, stud receivers generally provide safer return than stud running backs. The 2015 season only served to support the two offseason studies (1, 2) that convinced me to go WR-early in PPR formats last year. This offseason I plan to take a closer look at standard scoring systems to see if a WR-early strategy is the best way to go in those formats as well.
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