News & Analysis

The fantasy wide receiver landscape heading into free agency

Nov 26, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Sammy Watkins (12) runs onto the field during an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams defeated the Saints 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before the craziness that is free agency begins, we’re running through the potential fantasy football implications for all possible landing spots on position-by-position basis.

Yesterday we took a peek at the running back landscape. Today we’re covering wideouts.

High impact potential

These receiving corps could see some major fantasy-relevant changes via free agency.

Carolina PanthersDevin Funchess proved everyone wrong by being a solid No. 1 wideout for the Panthers in 2018, but after trading Kelvin Benjamin last year, Carolina is devoid of bankable talent behind Funchess. Wideout is a big need for the Panthers, and a new addition would be fantasy relevant from day one in this offense that oozes with upside.

Dallas CowboysBrice Butler is heading to free agency, Dez Bryant’s best days appear behind him, and Terrance Williams hasn’t ever been on fantasy radars. All of this means that the door is wide open for a free agent wideout to come in and make an immediate impact.

Indianapolis Colts The “high” potential here is entirely predicated on the health of Andrew Luck. The Colts have one notable free agent wideout (Donte Moncrief), and although Moncrief did virtually nothing last year, he was the team’s leading wideout in terms of touchdowns in 2015 and 2016. The Colts are looking for help outside of T.Y. Hilton, and any starter-caliber wideout paired with Luck in what should be a pass-happy offense is worthy of our attention.

Jacksonville Jaguars Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are free agents, and the team isn’t likely to bring back more than one of them if that, which means there will be a ton of targets left on the table in 2018. This is a run-first offense, but a new No. 1 wideout could have a large fantasy impact. Four different Jacksonville wideouts saw at least 49 targets last year; they were one of only three teams to spread the ball around this much within their receiving corps. If that target distribution thins out and a true No. 1 emerges, the potential fantasy impact is legitimate (and underrated).

Seattle SeahawksPaul Richardson is primed for free agency, He posted strong numbers in 2018, catching 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns as Seattle’s No. 2 passing option. Whoever the Seahawks tap to replace Richardson as Seattle’s primary outside threat will immediately find themselves in a good position to succeed from a fantasy perspective.

Medium impact potential

These receiving corps could see some meaningful, but not game-changing, fantasy-relevant changes in free agency.

Arizona CardinalsLarry Fitzgerald is coming back, but John and Jaron Brown are both free agents this year. There’s a big need at wideout for the Cardinals, but Fitzgerald and David Johnson will vacuum up a significant portion of the looks, so a newcomer is unlikely to be featured to a significant capacity. Even still, assuming the No. 2 role on any team is notable from a fantasy perspective. The potential would be higher here if the Cardinals had a better quarterback situation on hand.

Atlanta FalconsI want to put the Falcons higher, but they are only losing Taylor Gabriel. Julio Jones eats up so much of the passing attack, and Mohamed Sanu is a serviceable No. 2. A new No. 3 is likely to have an impact in fantasy — just not a massive one.

Baltimore RavensMike Wallace — Baltimore’s 2017 wideout leader in targets (87), receptions (52), yards (748) and touchdowns (4) — is primed for free agency. The passing attack itself is so poor that even a new top wideout won’t make too much noise in fantasy. Joe Flacco gained a career-low 5.7 yards per attempt last year.

Chicago BearsThe wideout-starved Bears are losing a slew of receivers to free agency, including Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman, and Josh Bellamy — the three target leaders among this receiving corps from 2017. Cameron Meredith is also a restricted free agent. A new No. 1 could gobble up a lot of work right from the start.

Cincinnati BengalsCincinnati has A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell, but Year 1 of the John Ross show was forgettable (he had just one catch for 12 yards). The Bengals could give him another year. They might also look to sign a veteran in free agency. It’s not unreasonable to think a solid veteran could assume LaFell’s role as the No. 2 option on this team.

Cleveland BrownsThe Browns have young receivers with upside (Corey Coleman, Josh Gordon — if it’s still reasonable to call him “young”), but nobody has been able to stay on the field for them. No Cleveland receiver gained more than 400 yards last year. A free agent addition could push Coleman to the slot.

Kansas City ChiefsAlbert Wilson is a free agent, and he’s probably more important to the Chiefs than you think. If Wilson skips town, the Chiefs have no real No. 2 behind Tyreek Hill.

Los Angeles RamsThis team led the NFL in scoring last season, and their “No. 1 wideout” (Sammy Watkins) needs to be replaced. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both gained significantly more yards on more targets and receptions than Watkins, so it’s hard to say that Watkins’ void will make a significant impact on this offense, which keeps them in the “medium impact” category rather than “high impact”

Miami DolphinsThere are a ton of Jarvis Landry trade rumors, which leaves the door open for the Dolphins to scoop up a new wideout in free agency to pair with DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. If Landry does find a new home, that leaves a 112-987-9 line on the table for the taking. The Dolphins could promote from within (Leonte Carroo, anyone?), or they could try to fill this hypothetical void via free agency. Either way, a Landry-less Dolphins offense in 2018 would certainly open some fantasy doors for whoever “replaced” him.

New England PatriotsDanny Amendola is set to be a free agent, but the vibe is that he’ll stay in New England. This team is loaded at wideout, especially with Malcolm Mitchell and Julian Edelman returning from injury, so even if Amendola leaves and the Patriots replace him via free agency, there are so many mouths to feed that it’s hard to see someone new making a huge fantasy impact.

New Orleans SaintsTed Ginn Jr. was excellent in 2017, catching 53 of 69 passes for 787 yards and four scores and Michael Thomas’ wingman. Brandon Coleman filled the No. 3 role, scooping up three touchdowns and an additional 384 yards. With Coleman (and Willie Snead) set for free agency, the Saints are in need of a No. 3, or even a more traditional No. 2.

San Francisco 49ersPierre Garcon is on track for 2018, and Marquise Goodwin flashed excellent rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo down the stretch, but the 49ers still need additional pass catchers, and the arrow is certainly pointing up on anything potential related with this offense.

Tennessee TitansEric Decker is a free agent this season, but the Titans do have a budding one-two punch in Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews already. Taywan Taylor’s role in 2018 is unclear; he did play in all 16 games last year, but he drew just 26 targets. In any event, an additional wideout gained via free agency would find themselves in a crowded situation. That’s not to say there’s no fantasy goodness to be had here. The path to unlocking that goodness is just a little cluttered.

Washington RedskinsWashington is losing Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant to free agency. Grant was quietly second among Washington receivers last year in catches (45), yards (573), and touchdowns (4). Pryor was an obvious dud, but he was supposed to be the team’s No. 1, and technically that role is still there for the taking. Josh Doctson has flashed the potential to be that guy, but it hasn’t quite all come together yet for him. A new wideout gained via free agency could make a modest fantasy impact if Doctson doesn’t make a meteoric leap forward in 2018.

Low impact potential

These receiving corps probably won’t see a fantasy-relevant change as a result of free agency.

Buffalo BillsThe Bills are losing Jordan Matthews and Deonte Thompson, but they already have Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones in town.

Denver BroncosThere were some rumors that Emmanuel Sanders could be traded, but those have subsided a bit. If he stays in town, there’s little potential impact for a free agent receiver in Denver.

Detroit LionsThe Lions are losing T.J. Jones, but they are set with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay. Tate and Marvin Jones both had over 1,000 yards last season.

Green Bay PackersGreen Bay’s core receivers are getting older, but the usual gang should be back together for 2017, limiting the potential for a free agent addition to make some fantasy noise.

Houston TexansDeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller will dominate market share.

Los Angeles ChargersTyrell Williams is a RFA, but Los Angeles still has target-hot Keenan Allen, speedster Travis Benjamin, and the young-but-unproven Mike Williams.

Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings are more than set with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen at wideout.

New York GiantsThe Giants appear to be in good shape with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard at wideout. The team made a splash at wideout last year (Brandon Marshall), but that didn’t work out.

New York JetsRobby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse were a low-key good duo last year, as both caught at least 60 passes, gained at least 800 yards, and scored at least five touchdowns.

Oakland RaidersIt looks like Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, and Seth Roberts will all be back with the Raiders in 2018.

Philadelphia EaglesThe Eagles are losing no wideouts to free agency, and while none of their receivers gained over 800 yards, they seem set at this position for 2018.

Pittsburgh SteelersA newcomer will find it hard to break into Pittsburgh’s offense in 2018. The void that needed to be filled seems to have been filled by JuJu Smith-Schuster.

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