News & Analysis

Dynasty dart throws: Wide receivers

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 02: Malcolm Mitchell #19 of the New England Patriots reacts from the sideline in the first half during a game with the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He was involved with an altercation with Robert Blanton #26 of the Buffalo Bills before the start of their game. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

One of the most appealing parts of playing in dynasty leagues is rebuilding a team from the bottom up. Taking a basement-dwelling roster and transforming it into a perennial powerhouse is one of the most rewarding accomplishments you can get out of dynasty leagues. Rostering the right type of players is a near-necessity if wanting to pull this move off successfully. Your end-of-bench players, or your “dart throws,” should be players that are poised to gain value in the near future. Deciding whether to let them keep gaining value or flipping them for future assets is your decision, but these “dynasty darts” should present some upside in the near future.

We kicked off this series last week with quarterbacks and running backs. We will now take a look at wide receivers that are worthy of rostering at the end of your bench. The learning curve at the NFL level combined with the longevity at the position allows us to be a bit more patient with our dynasty wideouts. Few are able to explode on the scene as valuable fantasy contributors in their rookie year. Subsequently, playing time and targets are often at a premium for these developing wide receivers. Exhibiting patience and buying low from disgruntled, impatient fantasy owners that want immediate production has proven to be a rewarding venture. I’ll start with the player that’s likely available in the fewest number of leagues, then move down to the deeper dart throws.

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, New England Patriots

The Brandin Cooks trade has opened 114 targets for New England’s offense heading into 2018. Mitchell spent the entirety of 2017 on IR, but prior to that, he was pretty much on par with the fantasy efficiency Cooks displayed in 2017. While their average depths of target differed, their fantasy success was fairly similar:

Wide Receiver Year aDOT PPR PPO WR Rating YPRR
Brandin Cooks 2017 15.9 0.35 106.9 1.78
Malcolm Mitchell 2016 10.5 0.35 118.8 1.30

Mitchell tied Cooks in fantasy points per opportunity and was able to best him in WR Rating, which shows the passer rating when a particular receiver is targeted. Despite Mitchell’s limited sample size in 2016 (48 targets compared to Cooks’ 114), his high efficiency makes him a target worth acquiring — especially considering he’s likely scheduled for an uptick in targets in New England’s highly efficient offense. Chris Hogan can take over the deep receiving routes vacated by Cooks, while Mitchell can slide right into the flanker role garnering intermediate targets. Mitchell brings above-average athleticism as a perimeter receiver, and with Tom Brady likely not going anywhere for the near future, the time to buy is now.

Cameron Meredith, WR, TBD

When dynasty waivers opened for the 2018 season, Meredith may have been a highly sought-after target in some leagues. In deeper leagues, perhaps there’s still a chance he can be had at a discounted rate. After spending all of 2017 on IR, Meredith’s 2016 success may not be at the forefront of most dynasty owner’s minds. In 2016, Meredith racked up a 66-888-4 stat line with a carousel of quarterbacks throwing to him. By carousel, it was a near circus-level of quarterbacks throwing, reminiscent of what DeAndre Hopkins had to endure in 2015. As of this past Friday, Meredith signed an offer sheet with the Saints, leaving the Bears a week to decide whether they want to match. Both teams offer an immediate opportunity in the slot, where Meredith ran the plurality of his routes and saw the majority of his targets in his 2016 breakout. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, Meredith has the requisite size to run routes across the middle and bully slot defenders. I’m taking advantage of the ambiguity of his landing spot and inquiring with Meredith owners in every league to see what the current cost for him would be.

Carlos Henderson, WR, Denver Broncos

After selecting Henderson in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Broncos essentially red-shirted him following a thumb injury suffered during the team’s first preseason game. Head coach Vance Joseph is anticipating a big step up from the sophomore receiver, stating, “we’re counting on that kid to come in and play for us, especially in the slot.” Henderson was a massive stat compiler during his junior year at Louisiana Tech, finishing the year with 82 receptions, 1,535 yards, and 19 touchdowns. He was also one of the most elusive receivers in the class, leading the position with 48 missed tackles en route to a hefty 9.2 YAC. After seeing how well slot receiver Adam Thielen fared with new Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, now’s the time to bribe the Henderson owner with late rookie picks.

ArDarius Stewart, WR, New York Jets

If you can’t get your hands on Henderson, take a shot on the arbitrage version of him in Stewart:

Wide Receiver YAC/Rec WR Rating YPRR Missed Tackles/Tgt
Carlos Henderson 9.2 112.7 3.45 33.9%
ArDarius Stewart 11.5 114.1 3.09 25.4%

Stewart was another after-the-catch monster during his collegiate days, and quite adept at forcing missed tackles while sporting a healthy 3.09 yards per route run at Alabama. Stewart’s situation isn’t quite as rosy, with significant questions at the quarterback position between Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, and a potential third option with the Jets holding the No. 3 overall draft pick. Offensive coordinator John Morton ran a balanced offense last season, so while there won’t be a projected boost in volume, there isn’t much competition for Stewart for targets. Robby Anderson emerged on the scene as a fantasy force thanks to 114 targets, but the rest of the depth chart still needs to shake out in preseason. If Stewart can get the nod starting opposite of Anderson, he could turn into quite the return on investment for those stashing him.

Jaron Brown, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Perpetually labeled as “the other J. Brown” during his time in Arizona, Jaron Brown has moved onto Seattle after signing a two-year, $5.5 million deal with his former divisional rival. Despite playing on over 73 percent of the Cardinal’s snaps last year, Brown was often a decoy and rarely involved in the passing game. Brown was targeted on just 12.1 percent of his routes run last year, but he excelled on the deep ball (targets of 20-plus yards) where he caught 6-of-6 “catchable” balls for 178 yards and three touchdowns. That deep ball success could do wonders in Seattle on broken plays with Russell Wilson. Listed at 6-0, 205 pounds with 4.45 speed, Brown could be a potential late bloomer in Seattle as the replacement for Paul Richardson.

Chad Williams, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Inheriting Brown’s role in Arizona is last year’s third-round draft pick, Williams. Williams didn’t get much run as a rookie, but he’s an athletic superstar that could take off if given an opportunity. At Grambling State’s Pro Day, the 6-2, 190-pound Williams posted a 40-yard dash in the mid-to-upper 4.3s and netted a 35.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-3 broad jump. Working with a hyper-efficient Sam Bradford at quarterback, Williams has a chance to take off this year and emerge as a legitimate playmaker and fantasy asset. The Arizona offense has plenty of targets up for grabs making Williams a worthy roll of the dice in lieu of a late third-round rookie draft pick.

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