Last week was a review of the major changes my rankings since the preseason at the quarterback and running back positions. This week, the lens shifts to the pass-catchers with wide receivers and tight ends:
I was high on the 2014 rookie class of wide receivers the entire offseason, at a minimum in the top tier of dynasty rankers out there. When a young talent presents himself, I rank him aggressively out of the gate as early talent acquisition is paramount to stockpiling an all-star depth chart. I had Sammy Watkins at WR7, Brandin Cooks at WR10, Mike Evans at WR13, Odell Beckham at WR18, and three other rookies on the board prior to getting past WR27. Add in another trio in the WR30-35 range and I was essentially all-in on the 2014 crop. Turns out, I was not high enough. Since, I have moved the ‘big three’ (Evans, Watkins, Beckham) into the top tier of dynasty receivers with five more inside the top-20. That does not even include Jarvis Landry or Martavis Bryant who have flashed as well. While they are bound to be far more expensive in startup drafts come January, a core of three or four of them sets up a new dynasty team to compete in 2015 plus maintain roster value in the initial years of the league.
Cordarrelle Patterson was firmly a top-10 dynasty receiver in the preseason and was earmarked by many, including myself, for a 2014 breakout campaign. Not only did that not happen, Patterson has been completely irrelevant from a fantasy sense and has barely seen the ball over the past three weeks for the Minnesota offense. I watched the last 10 games worth of targets and touches for Patterson this week and discussed it on the most recent Under the Helmet podcast. I have seen a variety of pass routes from Patterson and he has gained separation on all of them. Add in the few deep plays that were clear missed opportunities by Teddy Bridgewater as Patterson beat defenders down the field and I remain one of the more optimistic dynasty analysts on the Vikings wide receiver. While not in my top-10, I expect to see Patterson sold in the offseason for a fraction of his 2014 summer price and be a quality buy.
Was the community at-large a year too early on Michael Floyd? Like Patterson, Floyd was earmarked for a breakout 2014. He has underwhelmed with the quarterback rotation in Arizona plus the bulk of the defensive attention as the lead receiver. Like Patterson, the upside remains, but uncertainty surrounds Floyd heading into his fourth NFL season. Doing a quick career arc search in my wide receiver age database, here are the PPR PPG peers for Michael Floyd based on his first three seasons:
- Mike Thomas
- Brian Hartline
- Tedd Ginn
- Mark Clayton
- Reggie Brown
- Nate Burleson
- Deion Branch
- Quincy Morgan
While Branch and Burleson were long-term starters in the NFL (more than 100 starts each according to the ProFootballReference.com data), none of the listed players had more than a single season of value above baseline (VBD) in their career. Floyd’s projection model score (for more information on the model check this page) is matched only by Nate Burleson of this group, making him more likely historically-speaking, to break the low ceiling of these third year drop-off receivers. At a minimum, the brakes need to be pumped on Floyd as having top-shelf upside.
Going back even further, Art Monk, Chris Chambers, Irving Fryar, and Brian Blades were slow to develop into fantasy starters in their mid-to-late 20s, similar to the start of Michael Floyd’s career. On the flip side, Hakeem Nicks, Ashley Lelie, and Charles Johnson were receivers that saw their early-20s peak devolve into a rapid decline. With all that information, Floyd moves behind plenty of the 2014 rookies and expect at least one or two 2015 rookie receivers to open above Floyd in the rankings.
T.Y. Hilton is a notable riser in the rankings. I was late to the party as I was skeptical Hilton would remain heavily-involved in the Colts passing game. That skeptical ranking has changed with another strong season nearly complete.
Percy Harvin, Justin Hunter, Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree are all receivers that have fallen at least 10 positional spots since August. Smith and Crabtree are about to hit free agency. While I have optimism that Smith finds a situation with more upside than Baltimore, Crabtree has more downside than upside this coming offseason. Harvin went to the Jets were fantasy options go to wither away and the affordable price tag Seattle accepted to jettison Harvin away after minimal playing time was jarring. Justin Hunter has flashed, but will his situation be any different in 2015? Hunter had a below-average age-weighted production score in college, making him more boom-or-bust than the typical second round receiver in the NFL draft.
Moving down the rankings, Pierre Garcon continues his decline off a volume-based career-year in 2013. Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, and Roddy White have seen the expected age decline adjustments with the focus shifting to 2015 and beyond. Plus all have been a shell of their former productive selves.
Victor Cruz is a question mark with his injury recovery – not exactly a run of the mill ACL repair – plus Odell Beckham has grabbed a stranglehold on the Giants’ lead spot. I have tempered Cruz’s remaining upside significantly.
Markus Wheaton moves down 10-20 spots. His opportunity looks to have passed in Pittsburgh and he was a middling prospect at the outset. I hold out hope for Aaron Dobson, but even as one of the last remaining supporters have moved him down substantially from his preseason position inside the top-30.
Finally, Hakeem Nicks and Mike Williams were two middling options from the preseason that were hanging on to short-term value by a thread. Now, they are valueless in the dynasty marketplace and will struggle to find meaningful playing time in the NFL.
Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham mark where the ‘chalk’ tight end rankings end. The next five or even 10 players could be ordered a number of ways based on team direction or even the whims of that day. Jordan Reed has moved up since August, mostly because the rest of the ‘best of the rest’ has not shown the PPG upside that Reed has when healthy. Travis Kelce is another riser from the TE12-15 range, now into the top-10.
Tyler Eifert has maintained his top-7 status as he was off to a hot start before his injury and first-round tight ends rarely fail to produce VBD. With the consensus cooling on Eifert heading into the offseason, plus the concept of gobbling up injured talents, make Eifert a strong buy.
Coby Fleener has moved down during the season, but still remains a mid-TE2 at best. Dwayne Allen will be back and Fleener is still an inconsistent option. Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Dennis Pitta, Charles Clay, and Heath Miller are all veteran options that have either under-produced, near their expiration date, or are a middling talent entering free agency. The 2015 rookie crop is lackluster – there is not Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, or even Jace Amaro entering the dynasty landscape – expect the top-18 or so to remain unfettered come next summer.