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So now you’ve figured out the quarterback and tight end spots, and you’ve figured out that running back is a complete battle if you hope to land both talent and depth at the position. The final position is the fun one. Passing games in the NFL are, more than ever, spreading the ball around to multiple targets in their offenses. As a result, the wide receiver position is staggeringly deep, and despite there being some elite options, once you pass the top nine or ten receivers, the next 25 to 35 receivers (depending on how you have them ranked) are very similar in their talent, opportunity, and upside. That being the case, the dollar values at the position will, at some point, fall off a cliff during the auction. One minute, Amari Cooper will be going for $28, and 30 minutes later, Brandon Aiyuk could be going for $8. Now, more than ever, you should be paying attention to the moment that the cratering of prices begins to happen at the wide receiver spot, and you should have enough money to exploit it. In fact, it is a feasible strategy to wait until that happens and then scoop up three to five guys during that portion of the draft. However, this article argues that the optimal play is to get one or two Top 12 guys and then fill out your other wide receiver and flex spots with value at the position. The depth allows your team to take off once you add a group of wide receivers in the ADP range of WR10 to WR40. The separation between that bank of 30 players is so small that taking whatever is the best price you see is the way to stack your roster.
Now, you can decide if certain guys in that range are more attractive to you than others. Everyone’s personal player evaluations should drive their strategy, and that’s also part of the fun of doing auctions – getting the guys you like. But when talking about the best game theory approach to landing wide receivers, the most positive expected value comes from landing as many players at a discount that can perform at the WR2 level or higher. A good example of this last year was Adam Thielen, who had the price of a middle-to-low WR2 in most auctions but performed as an elite player. If you play the game right, landing three or four of those players behind your WR1 is likely in 2021 because of the depth at the position. That means that you should be compiling a list of targets of the players you do like so that when the value hits, you don’t have to think too much about whether you want the player or not. You act. This target list is where you should start. It has a mixture of low hype, high upside players that aren’t getting a lot of attention and should make for good value compared to similarly ranked players around them.
DeAndre Hopkins – The lack of excitement for Hopkins so far this draft season is something auction drafters should be monitoring. It is tempting to call Hopkins a bit of a glorified possession receiver as his average depth of target was just 8.9 yards downfield, according to Pro Football Reference. But he still demanded 160 targets and hauled in 115 receptions making him a PPR league monster. Although he only averaged 16 points per game over the second half of the season (PPR WR18!), it’s a mistake to dismiss Hopkins as an elite option. He will yet again command 150+ targets, and he plays on a team that likes to throw the football. Fantasy managers noticed how Hopkins finished the year in 2021, and his auction price is faltering as a result. Don’t think twice about grabbing Arizona’s top option if he comes at a discount like he is right now. His AAV of $34 is a solid price for a wide receiver who is one of the best in the game, and that number could fall even more with a well-timed nomination.
Keenan Allen – Through his first 13 games, Allen had 99 catches and was the PPR WR5. He barely played in Week 15 due to an injury and then ended up sitting the rest of the season. If he had finished off the season as he started it, his auction price would surely be higher than the $27 he’s drawing right now. Keeping with his 13-week average would’ve netted him a final line of 121 receptions, 1,202 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns. Those numbers would’ve made him the #8 non-QB points scorer in 2020. Not the eighth-best wide receiver, the overall eighth-best fantasy points producer. Fantasy drafters will be enamored with names like Calvin Ridley, D.K. Metcalf, and A.J. Brown on draft day. That’s understandable. But if you call out Allen before those elite wide receivers leave the board, you’ll likely end up with a solid WR1 with similar potential at a much lower price.
ELITE QUALITIES…QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
Allen Robinson – The quarterback situation in Chicago never seems to improve. Similarly, the string of quarterbacks Robinson has had to play with during his career never seems to improve either. But is 2021 giving fantasy drafters hope in that regard? Andy Dalton might be the best quarterback Robinson has ever played with, and rookie Justin Fields has all the tools to be a difference-maker at the position. So why is Robinson’s AAV only $23 in auction drafts? Whatever the reason, if you see it happening in your auctions you should be ready to pounce. If anyone in their career has proven they are not quarterback dependent to produce, it is Robinson. Draft him with confidence, and he has a real shot to finish the year inside the Top 12 at the position.
Robert Woods – Woods finished the year as the PPR WR14 in 2020, and that made his third straight year finishing in the Top 15 fantasy wide receivers. Although he did finish as the WR19 in points per game, he caught another 90 passes in 2020 and has averaged 89 receptions per year in the last three seasons. Unfortunately, Woods has been increasingly held back by the Rams offense, and the performance of Jared Goff, as Woods’ yardage totals have also fallen each of the last three years. Injecting Matthew Stafford’s energy and experience into the equation should allow Woods’ numbers to jump back up and let him challenge for a Top 12 finish. Since he’s being drafted in the mid-WR2 territory with an AAV around $20, he is shaping up to be a value. For a player who is a lock for the Top 15, it is curious to see him drafted below that in a situation that has improved markedly since last season. Woods may not have massive upside, but he’s the definition of a fantasy player with a rock-solid floor, so he is an excellent WR2 in auctions. It is even possible for you to work your budget so that Woods is your WR3, which usually can’t be done in a snake but can send your auction roster to another level.
Tyler Lockett – Lockett finds himself on this list for the second year in a row. Fantasy drafters seem to fixate on Lockett’s inconsistency last year, which has left his ADP well below what it should be. Has any receiver put together a 100-catch season and been so disrespected the following season in fantasy drafts? One doesn’t come to mind. Lockett finished 2020 as the PPR WR8 which was just one spot behind his much-ballyhooed counterpart D.K. Metcalf. But Metcalf has an AAV of $32 while Lockett is going for just $15. Even if you look at Lockett’s points per game he still ranked as the PPR WR12. What has changed in Seattle that makes auction drafters so hesitant? Yes, inconsistency can hurt you, but the argument that “he let me down at the end of the year” is a poor reason to fade a receiver with his upside and two straight years of fantasy excellence. Lockett is what auction dreams are made of as he can feasibly be rostered as a WR3 to make your roster pop.
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